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Ballardian/Savoy Microfiction competition winnersAuthor: Simon Sellars • Feb 2nd, 2010 •
Lord Horror (1997). Image by John Coulthart.
Back in November, we announced our first microfiction competition, to promote our three-part series of interviews with luminaries from Savoy Books. As the second interview, with David Britton, is due online within a couple of weeks, we thought now’s the time to announce the prizewinners.
There were three judges: Michael Butterworth, John Coulthart and myself. We each took what we thought to be the top ten and ranked them. Then, we each assigned points to our top ten: 12 for 1st, 10 for 2nd, 8 for 3rd, then 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.
And so, in first place with the most points: ‘NW3, wet, dark, cold, two days after Christmas, 1968′ by Rob Keery. In second place: ‘Escapology’ by Craig Hughes. And third: ‘Catchgirl’ by Jim Donnely. Congratulations to Rob, Craig and Jim! We hope you enjoy your booty. And many thanks to all who entered — microfiction’s not the easiest form to master, but there were many great entries.
Following are the stories from the top three, followed by the honourable mentions (the remaining stories that received points from at least one of us).
‘NW3, wet, dark, cold, two days after Christmas, 1968′
by Rob Keery
As the big blue pig pushed him to the ground JTS reached for the small penknife in his sock, the one they missed, the mordant gift from the Guinness rep he met outside the bankrupt’s court that time. They brayed and snorted high above him, haloed in exaltation of dominance by the cell light glare. He lurched on the floor like a brokeleg cane toad and opened the flat blunt blade. That stopped them, quiet for a second, till he reached for the nearest ankle.
When they opened the door next morning, it was like the lift in ‘The Shining’.
1) A copy of Lord Horror (yes, the very rare, extremely notorious and long out-of-print novel, currently fetching over US$800 for second-hand copies; Savoy has kindly decided to sacrifice a file copy for Ballardian.com).
2) A really special, rare Lord Horror book, The Truth About Horror (Savoy’s second-rarest gem, published for private circulation only).
3) A Tea Dance at Savoy, by Robert Meadley.
by Craig Hughes
I suppose you could say I’ve found him. We’re always being told we are our ID cards, that we are no one and nothing without them, so here he is, lying in a cold, gritty puddle in an underground car park. All six, square, laminated inches of him. Could they really tell me I’d let him get away? Not by their own rules. Not that they’ll see it that way. Is that blood in the water? Here they come. That engine, Benedict’s car, no mistaking it. He won’t be happy. Safety off. I’m not taking the blame for this.
by Jim Donnelly
Rosie Idolwound, a catchgirl, rainbow hunter. She has spent most of her, so far, short life looking for pots of gold, and credit it or not she has found some. Admittedly they have been small pots, barely enough to make a living from, but then again rainbows are a life not a living.
Today, undercover of driving horizontal rain, which would make most bleed, she crawls, digging deep with broken fingernails toward the necessary end. As the arc of the rainbow emerges she digs deeper, but she is simply too slow this time. Another ray of hope gone.
1) Savoy Wars CD. Compilation of Savoy’s ‘greatest hits’;
2) The Waste Land CD, TS Eliot read by PJ Proby; and
3) Fuck Off and Die. Another ‘luxury’ item from Savoy – a 160-page hardback comic book in b/w and colour, the follow-up to the notorious Adventures of Meng & Ecker. Written by David Britton and illustrated by Kris Guidio, with an introduction by Alan Moore and an afterword by Dr Benjamin Noyse. Jacket design by John Coulthart.
by Ben Soper
Nowhere was hit harder during the great storm than the library. Soon after a committee was formed and by winter enough money had been raised for the library to be rebuilt. The librarian was immensely grateful but being a man of small means he knew that kindness would have to be its own reward. However after the re-opening he noticed a change in his patrons. Books were returned damaged or late, small talk was hurried and gradually people stopped visiting him altogether. The librarian realised the community despised him and decided to leave town that night without saying goodbye.
by Matthew Sheret
Mister Murray wondered if, should he drag the mirror over the granite corridor, the occupant of the opposing cubicle would notice the difference. Mister Murray wondered idly if, by hiding himself in the image of another, he may perhaps render himself invisible to the directions of another. Mister Murray wondered if, by reconciling the differences in communication protocol suggested by a mirror and the absence of activity behind it via application of clippers, grit and a hand-axe, he might find himself removed from the burden of interaction entirely. We know Mister Murray wondered this, because we found the yellowing notepaper.
by Kevin Clement
Candice awakes to a loud BANG! Then another and another. Thin walls shake to a sinister rhythm. Beside her, an assembly line softly chugs. Pulleys and gears turn; rubber conveyor belts contort around a bulbous, concrete column.
She rolls to the door and pushes it open. The grommet in her neck squeaks as her lens peers into a dim, steamy enclosure. She processes the scene and recoils in disgust.
Amidst a cacophony of smashed vacuum tubes, strewn diodes, and rusted hydraulic rams, two humans embrace. Their hips gyrate in tandem, pumping like a defective riveting machine.
‘Breathe on the window’
by Mark Noonan
Breathe on the window Evelyn, give the glass a bit of life. Squeak your name into it with your finger, make a smiling face. Lick it. For the love of all that’s Holy, I command you to lick that window Evelyn, it’s my last desperate wish to see your tongue touch the sweet drops of your condensed breath on the glass – I can’t even *articulate*. What I have to do is watch, and hope that among this room’s pumping machines and peeling paint you will take it upon yourself. ‘Cause what’s killing me now is the fucking tension.
‘Purlin Obstructs The Passage Of Time’
by James Dibley
A small dragon scales the bedroom wall, unheeded by coupling bodies below.
One of these, Purlin, has the upper hand. His radiant limbs shift through Sadowitz sleights. A high-gain antenna still has to be tuned, and his is the long wavelength. The signal that endures. The auction block shuffle. The girl can’t help it. She prays with her knees upward.
Terrible violence should follow, but compression doesn’t allow for release. It can only sustain. Unbearably. Not one inch of skin is parted. No keloid dares bloom in these jaws.
The dragon falls stupefied to the floor. It dreams of eating clocks.
by Mat Ranson
Saturday: it had cracked on impact and the car had driven away. But the lamp-post stood, angled, grey and resolute, a soldier in a town that ignored it. Saturday evening: from its wounded, brutalist, concrete core, long forgotten memories began to seep into the air like invisble vapour. Curious dogs approached, barking and snarling. Pedestrians walked close by and were visited by phantom memories of sun-blazed mornings, the rain-soaked windscreens of car crashes and of the tides of dark nights. Sunday morning: it was all over. The lamp-post had split, fallen and shattered across the road.
‘Wrecked and Wasted’
by Tim Maly
He bought the wine at auction. Included, was a certificate of authenticity showing the bottle’s lineage traced backward from auction house to warehouse to boathouse. Before that, the ocean floor. It had lain there for decades, wedged in the doomed ship’s hold.
He opened the wine at home. The bottle had aged gracefully, he decided. He admired the worn label and salt-textured glass. The cork was decisively intact. People had been dancing on deck when the torpedo hit.
He drank the wine alone. Exquisite. The last of his fortune was spent tracking down beer from the Hindenburg.
by Jesse Thrall
Led through the heat shimmer to the dais where the banyan tree shattered the tiles, bound standing with arms outstretched. A necklace of broken silicon thrown over his neck. By sundown, a noticeable grey tinge to his naked calves, a dust flaked off with his sweat when he shifted.
Morning. They came to see his pillared legs, the jagged silicon penumbra of his collar bone, links of chain that merged with the tendons of his wrists. His eyes looked inward.
by Will Wiles
“After the crash, all the money went out of urban renewal,” said the property developer, Maxinalon. “This warehouse conversion was slumming itself anyway, so …”
He had moved in the dealers and the people-traffickers. The live-work units were now meth labs, and the niche coffee outlet was a burned-out husk. The redundant creatives had adapted marvellously, because the hours were flexible.
To the sound of the exhausted police beating down the period-feature, iron-braced doors (wires trailed from the smashed entryphone), Maxinalon smiled a smile that was all percentages. “We’ve exhausted the potential of regeneration; the future is obviously degeneration.”
‘My despair at the demise of Willow Run’
by James Mansfield
I looked towards the soon-to-be-closed factory at Willow Run, Michigan. A great brown rectangle, I couldn’t see how far back it stretched. Throughout the war it had spat out B-24 bombers. I wondered where the metal, plastic, leather of these aircraft now existed? Burnt, shredded, reused? Cologne, Manchester, Dubai? Of course, my grandfather’s plane was now embedded in a skyscraper overlooking the Persian Gulf. At this moment, a British couple were consummating their marriage on the very wings which carried the bombs that killed Hans Naumann, my wife’s great uncle. What would Henry Ford think?
by Damien MacIntyre
They met in person at a conference in Tampa. They both worked in teleconferencing. He was from London. She was from Denver. They found this ironic, and joked about it over drinks at the hotel bar the first night. The second night they spent together in his hotel room making more than just jokes. The thrid night they both caught flights back to their separate cities. His flight was still aloft when the terrorist seized control of her plane. Fifty flights over fifty states rained-down that evening. All hijacked with empty soda cans. All cleverly orchestrated using his teleconferencing software.
by Poppy Varela
He nervously embodied events, his taut body a choreography of micro-spasms in concert with his surroundings. Watching him, I increasingly longed to inhabit this microanatomical dance, to penetrate his jerking trembles. Imagining his body twitch around mine, I felt a wet pool gathering, a tingle swelling into a mass of vibrating balls in my groin, like a gelatinous raft of quivering caviar. The contours of nearby laughter flickered through his gestures. I felt every micro-shudder of this rhythmic transmission vibrate my throbbing mass of balls. Sitting demurely on the couch, I quietly spasmed in orgasm. Inhumanly divine.
by Greg Marsh
Leonard Krest began to climb the brutalist remains of the hospital, his Colt Diamondback revolver wedged awkwardly within the breast pocket of his dinner jacket. The detritus of the shattered building had now settled, and with each step he levitated upwards with increasing ease, his feet finding footholds without effort. In the higher slopes, beige plastic computer monitors and telephone handsets poked through the steel and concrete avalanche, the dusty pages of medical textbooks flickered silently in the breeze. At the summit, Krest found the slumped body of his wife, a single bullet hole punched through her temple.
‘Eaters of Time’
by Simon Machine-Cooke
England frayed most at the edges: the border towns, the rural pile-ups.
No love. No law.
Diana spun her dansette a final time, pressing her legs into the quilted satin bedspread.
The party’s over now
Bundled clippings grew yellow and mildewed under the staircase cupboard.
Unspeakable crimes in empty rectories. Gothic manses crumbling to dust,
Intermittent gunfire replaced the rattle of commuter trains passing out from the greenbelt.
A murder of crows banded the vegetable patch, eyes the colour of curdled yolk.
‘A New Pornography’
by Martin Gillespie
Hunter considered his recent past as he stood before the Bauhaus building. The failure of his NO/cGMP system, or so-called arousal function, his wife’s obsession with conventional pornography, the makeshift institute where he had rediscovered desire as a by-product of architecture.
Or was architecture the externalisation of male function?
He followed the lines of the building; it rose like the perfect representation of his arousal. He felt himself respond to the structural demands for purpose. He would attempt to embrace this architecture with his own physicality, growth. The ultimate union.
He pressed himself against the grey exterior.
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