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Nuwe skryfwerk | New writing > Fiksie | Fiction > English > Published authors

Genre-bashing on National Short Story Day: Chain by The Edge of Things writers


Colleen Higgs - 2011-06-17








In celebration of National Short Story Day (21 June), LitNet invited The Edge of Things short story writers to bash genres.


Authors’ brief, by Janet van Eeden

“Each person’s contribution must take its lead from the previous piece while changing his/her paragraph to another genre completely.

Some examples of genres which I’ve nicked from film as well as literature are: Action, Adventure, Comedy, Urban (Dystopia), Thriller, Horror, Romantic comedy, Chick lit, Drama, Crime, Film noir, Slice of life, Science fiction, Satire, Political, Mystery, Kitchen sink drama, Epic saga, Historical, Faction, Fantasy, Erotic, Documentary, Western, Gangster, Cowboy, Coming of age and Hospital drama.

I’ve started the chain off with my own take on a Film noir genre of sorts. The next person has to change the tone completely, but not lose the thread of the story if possible. I can’t wait to see what we come up with in the end!

And here we go ...”

***

The furnace of her fury had cooled into a bullet-shaped lump, lodged into her very core. She wondered if she’d ever wake up without feeling the primal urge to kill him, to bludgeon his brittle bones into a pulp. She imagined herself smiling at the limp sack of his bloodied flesh as she’d watch the light leave his eyes. She desired his death as she’d never desired anything before.
(Film noir, Janet van Eeden)

 ***

Angelique sighed, closed the Word document she had been reading, and ran her fingers through her strawberry blonde hair. It needed washing; she just hadn’t had time this morning, late, frantic, running for the Tube, as bloody usual. These wannabe authors, all so self-important and full of hot air, thinking they were going to make it in the big literary world. Only a handful of the submissions that ever came through into her inbox were good enough to make it, and this example, well, it was good, it fitted perfectly into the noir genre the publishing house she worked for was launching next year, but truth was, she was tired – tired of reading, tired of life, tired of the grey cold damp London weather ...
(Slice of life, Arja Salafranca)

 ***

She made it into the Tube just as the doors were closing. The metal floor dissolved beneath her into a thousand shining circles, like globules of oil on water. She clung to the strap overhead and let herself sway in the monstrous steel cradle in which she found herself. It was terrible and beautiful, like death itself, coffin and cradle, ruby-red droplets of blood hanging like pendants in the air. Words floated out of her laptop case and circled her head slowly before pasting themselves against the glass of the windows and doors. People were reading them, some even adding to them, telling a story that would outshine all stories.
(Magic realism, Jeanne Hromnik)

 ***

Just then the bomb rocked the Tube station and Angelique was turned into 473 thousand lumps of inanimate clotting that co-existed with similar lumps from the hundreds of thousands of dead Tube-goers that would never need to pretend again that they were enjoying their jobs and having good days. London was over, the West was over, consumerism was over and, however impossible it seemed to those who loved reading them, the short story itself was over. Kaput.
(Dystopian, AK47 [aka Aryan Kaganof])

 ***

“Aaargh! You see, this is the kind of crap I have to read every damn day!” Angelique spat the words out at Jim, sitting on the couch, drinking a beer as news credits rolled. She had her laptop open in front of her. “People being nuked and turned into fuck knows what ... We left South Africa for this?!” She was practically screaming now and Jim didn’t know where to look. At least she had a job, even if it was reading through slush piles of writers’ submissions. All he’d been able to get was occasional work packing shelves at Tesco – he with his newly-minted honours degree, who had held down a responsible, high-paying job in Johannesburg. She stormed off to the bedroom in the house they shared. He heard the door banging and winced.
(Kitchen sink realism, Ari Migdale [aka Arja Salafranca])

 ***

He winced again, Angelique forgotten, as the front door buzzer sounded and he recognised Shorty’s staccato signature. Shorty never came alone. This time it was Fingers and The Butcher who flanked him, pushing their way in. “Jimmy-James!” The Butcher was nightmarishly jovial. Jim’s mouth was dry. How had he let himself get sucked into this?
(Gangster, Brit version, Jayne Bauling)

 ***

“Well, well, well,” went Fingers.

“Well?” asked Jim, stalling.

“Well enough,” said The Butcher.

“He wouldn’t be here if he wasn’t well, would he be?”

“No, he wouldn’t be.”

“Would like to be –

“But he’s not.”

“Of course.”

“Being well is what I do.”

“And he is.”

“Is he?”

“Always have been.”

“Always will be.”

“Good to hear it.”

“Got me a little something here for your missus.”

“He does.”

“You do?”

“That’s what I said. Hand it over, Fingers.”

Fingers handed Jim an unmarked brown parcel rustling with sheaves of A4 paper.

“Little submission we was wanting to hand over to her, hearing as she’s now gone into the literature game,” said The Butcher.

“The literature game,” Fingers echoed.

“Uh ... thanks.” They regarded each other suspiciously.

“Be seeing you then, little Jimmy.” The Butcher tweaked Jimmy’s cheek painfully and gleamed a gold tooth at him before turning and moving off, Fingers in tow, leaving only a faint dry whiff of talcum powder behind him. 
(Absurdist, Anton Krueger)

 ***

Jim strode into the bedroom as if he owned the place. Angelique swivelled around to tell him to go away, but the words died on her lips. Jim’s gaze blazed through her. A tremor shot down Angelique’s spine. Jim began to walk closer. Angelique knew she must flee, or tell him to stop, but she all she could do was stare at his broad, hard chest and those strong thighs encased in tight blue jeans. Before she could utter a protest, Jim’s lips came crashing down on hers. Angelique moaned. The wolf inside her wanted him. But how? She had never wanted to mate with anybody but a fellow werewolf before.
(Paranormal romance, Tiah Beautement)

 ***

Angelique always knew when things would happen to her. But she failed to see Jim’s punch or understand why their relationship had quickly switched to hate. He wasn’t what she wanted him to be or anything she knew. Suddenly he had claws and his eyes had turned green and he was scratching every part of her body. She knew she had to be swift to defeat him. She quickly spat in her palm and placed it on his chest. She watched as his body began to crack into tiny pieces and build again.
(Fantasy, Beatrice Lamwaka)

 ***

It was his smell that gripped her. Fresh blood. That was it. She knew that though he was no werewolf he had ripped the carcasses of both men and animals to pieces. I must run, she thought to herself as she got lost in the tongue dance that mingled saliva and blood lust in their mouths. Mustering up what was left of her strength she pulled herself free and leapt through the window. The forest welcomed her. Shit, and I thought the big bad wolf was sexy, she exhaled, making her way down the yellow brick road.
(Fabulation, Gillian Schutte)

***

When I count to three your eyes will open. The sun filtering through the lace curtains cast a filigree of warmth across her face. She opened her eyes. Green flecks lit up in her eyes. My God, Angela what a journey … What was that all about, Doctor? I’m not sure. I know you’re doing your best to get into “The Edge of Things”. So many short stories buzzing in your head. So many beginnings, so many endings … I’m intrigued how vampires got involved somehow. Kind of insinuated themselves into the fabric of your fantasies. Well, that’s it, Angela. I will see you next week.

She slowly stood, gathered up her bag from the floor. As she passed the mirror near the consulting room door, she did her usual rapid repair routine. Lipstick, fluffing her hair. She arched her neck. Behind her the Doctor smiled. His lips slowly parted. For a brief moment his long, terrifyingly long, incisor teeth were visible …
(Horror, Bernard Levinson)

***

Nurse Hitchcock pressed the emergency button. The patient was flat-lining, her oxygen levels plummeting. Nurse H tried to dry her palms a little on her white cotton uniform; she hoped Dr House and his team would come and save the day. The lovely blonde woman, early 20s, was brought in last night. She’d jumped from the top of a department store in Oxford Street. She fell on to the roof of a taxi, which saved her life, but only just. No one knew her name, or anything about her. She had no ID on her, wearing only a long fur coat, and nothing else.

“Please hurry, please hurry.”
(Hospital drama, Colleen Higgs)

 ***

Of all my dreams, the dream of being in the hospital had to be the strangest. I sat in my therapist’s office and read from my hard-covered black Croxley notebook in which I had recorded the morning’s fragments – the panicked voices of the nurses, the calm doctor’s hand on my forehead, and, always, the roar of the sea outside, drawing up in all its power to create a wave that towered above the building, about to crash. “But what does it mean, June?” I asked the old woman. “I know Jung thought the sea symbolised the unconscious.”  She smiled at me cryptically and said, “Dreams draw the veil sometimes. It’s not always instantly apparent what they mean.” I scrutinised the faded mohair curtains that hung stiffly at the sides of her windows, summoning up memories of a Catholic Sunday School I attended as a child, where our weekly meetings were held in a prim convent sitting room. A swallow swooped from the eaves, flew across the pale winter sky. Was it searching for its flock and warmer climes, I wondered, and was it not in some way symbolic of my search for psychological safety?
(Confessional, Sarah Frost)

 ***

Angelique put away the notebook. Enough self-examination for one decade, she thought. She lifted her eyes from her handbag and suddenly – there he was! Right across the room from her. The man who’d bludgeoned her to near death when he ploughed into her with his red Porsche 911, crushing her pelvis against a brick wall. Two long years in hospital while her nemesis faced not a single consequence. Wealth ensures that lawyers always find loopholes. Through her long recovery process, learning to walk again, he lived in her thoughts. It was only after the first year that the furnace of her fury cooled into a bullet-shaped lump, lodged into her very core. Now here he stood – unaware of her presence. She’d longed for this moment, dreamt about it, planned for its eventuality. Now she reached into her bag, her hand comforted by the cool metal in its depths. 
(Melodrama, Janet van Eeden)

 ***