Reading Seems Only Right
My piece that won the 2008 British Fantasy Society‘s Short Story Competition finally sees the light of day this month – some three and a half years after it was originally written.
I wrote Seems Only Right for entry into the 12th Chiaroscuro short story contest back in 2006, which was won by Gemma Files. Chiaroscuro, or Chizine, is a great online horror and weird fiction magazine sponsored by Leisure Books in the US. There were first, second and third placed stories, and Seems Only Right was given an Honourable Mention along with five others, out of a total of 307 entries, so I was pretty pleased. For a moment; until I realised it wouldn’t be seen by anyone, as only the first 3 stories were published. So near and yet so far!
The story sat on file as I considered what to do with it until I joined the BFS last year. I decided to enter the annual competition. Then silence. Then a congratulatory email from Andrew Hook of the BFS. I immediately went about finding an illustration to accompany the story, and artist Robert Elrod came up trumps for me. A big thanks again to him.
In May I attended the first couple of dates in London on the Horror Reanimated tour with Joseph D’Lacey and Bill Hussey. I read Seems Only Right in front of REAL people for the first time. I re-wrote the story for the readings, shortening it, leaving certain details out, whilst keeping the chronological chain of events, and making the decision to change the sex and name of the main character – as I am not a girl, seven years of age, or American…
Then it occured to me that I’d written the story taking liberties with the accurate grammatical way of doing things, and tried to develop a more phonetical representation of how the character would think – okay, I dropped the ends off some of the words. But this did mean I had real difficulty reading the story aloud, so they had to be reinserted for the readings.
Here’s a picture of us at The Big Green Bookshop in Wood Green, North London on May 6th. From right to left: Lee Casey (who designed the Horror Reanimated: Echoes chapbook we gave away); Joseph D’Lacey, me, and Bill Hussey.
The next evening we read in front of a whole bunch of people at Borders on Oxford Street in London. Nerve-wracking, but we think it went pretty well.
So now Seems Only Right will be in the third issue of New Horizons, out this month. I hope you can track down a copy and let me know what you think of it.
Here’s an excerpt from Seems Only Right:
We’re like mice hidin up here inside the walls. Louisa talks to me in whispers, like she don want her pop to hear us talkin together. Talkin in whispers is plain silly cause he can be inside her head if he wants to. I hear him walkin around downstairs, peein, walkin around again. Louisa’s House is always quiet and the walls we’re in are paper-thin and us mice can be heard if we talk too loudly. So I whisper to Louisa, even though it is silly. “Why don we talk outside?” Louisa looks at me like I’m stupid, which I am. I’m only seven so I must be. Only grown-ups aren’t stupid. That’s what they tell us in class. Louisa, who has a bit of green pokin from her nose and who is in my class, tells me what she knows. “It’s because they say so.” Louisa looks happy she’s got that straight with me and she whispers some more, “it’s because grown-ups do what they want and we do what they want.” And she’s right. I know the answer before I ask the question and I am trickin her. None of us talks outside our Houses. The bible class makes that rule. I decide not to tell her about the green on the end of her nose, which makes her look stupid in another way, but she must be able to feel it cause she picks it and eats it. To me, it seems only right that Louisa is as stupid as me: she is seven too. When I’m grown-up I’ll make lots of rules and do whatever I like, pee a lot. If I can I’ll look into the heads of my children to see if they’re happy. I want to ask Louisa if her pop can be in her head like my daddy and mommy. But I don. First I need to get my question right, cause mommy can see in my head, but daddy is inside my head, and sometimes he ain. If I’m ready I will ask Louisa next bible night. Or I won, cause then she will know my secret, and she will most likely tell on me. Louisa is the Teacher’s pet.
Mommy and Elizabeth say nothin to me or to Louisa’s pop. He stares at all of us until we have left him alone on his porch. Louisa is upstairs bein a mouse cause she don like Elizabeth’s hair. Mommy’s face is red. The road is dusty with no rain. There is William Reed standin by the side of the road. Mommy and Elizabeth don spot him. If they did they would stop and take him home. As we go by I look at William Reed and he looks away. He ain in my class so he ignores me, as he always does. His hair is yellow as the fields we go past. He don care about that dust in his face or on his baggy clothes. William Reed shouldn be outside and alone like he is. We don go out alone, not near the woods.