This Featured Writer slot was an experiment. I’d never run a competition like this before, and I wasn’t sure how many people would respond. The initial reaction was tremendous, with a range of submissions varying from epic poetry (there’s no other way to describe it), short stories and novella submissions. Even within these different forms the genres varied widely from Fantasy-Romance to subtle displacements of reality.
I’d like to thank everyone that sent work and bios in. I can honestly say that you were all good, and it was a tough decision.
However, without further ado, the winner is…
Guy Bishop! who took the prize with his astonishing series of short stories on Gonzo’s Laws.
Guy Bishop is a Student from a village in the South of England, near Reading, currently studying Medical Product Design at the University of Hull (while taking an elective in Creative Writing Skills). He teaches Sailing at a watersports center during the summer and has been writing casually for a few years. His intention is to weave together his own experiences and the experiences of others to give detail to the world of vice he perceives and insightfully reveals. Most of his current short stories can be found in a less-traveled corner of the internet.
The thing that really makes Guy’s work stand out for me is the detail. One senses an entire world behind the brief glimpses into the lives of the characters that we see in these short stories. We come to appreciate the deep bond between the characters in Night to Forget, Mornings to Regret because of the way they talk, the assumed knowledge between them, the stories they share, and their behaviour towards one another. We sense the powerful, supernatural (and a fraction sinister) motivations of Frank in Remorseless. The details of a noir-London both ground the fantasy in a reality we recognise, but also create a mood of mystery. Just as Guy knows when to give us information, he knows when not to spell things out. The story ends with us just as enticed but ignorant about Frank’s true nature and motivations as at the start, but to explain Frank away would be a failure of the mood, the mystery, the tension of the piece.
In terms of “fantasy”, or rather what I like to term “slipstream”, Guy’s pieces vary. The first few stories are far more “realistic” (if such a term has any meaning in our ridiculous world), and in fact, could well be dubbed Realism by some critics. But in creating this down-to-earth, frighteningly insightful depiction of our world, Guy also subverts our ideas of Realism. As the narrator of Loud Smoke says:
“it did have its moments when the kind of shit that only happened in movies or transgressive novels happened to us.”
The comment is meta-narrative, which grounds us even deeper in “Realism”, as the fictional characters are thinking like us and comparing their lives to stories. The narrator then gives us a memory as an example of these moments when our lives seem more outlandish than fiction. In the memory their car is stopped by a gang and a surreal fight ensues.
However, there’s more to come. At the very end of the story, the doorbell rings and someone arrives, someone mysterious, and just at the moment when the door opens, the story ends.
The story is a double bluff. It tells us life is one harsh reality of “just passing time”, but that sometimes weird stuff happens. Then it proceeds to pie us in the face when something far more unsettling and genuinely enigmatic happens, something that goes beyond the narrator’s conception of what happens in “transgressive novels”. Tension mounts as the character makes their way to the door, but we never get to see who the shadowy shape is or why they are there, but the sense of someone arriving to collect a debt, in a much greater sense than the purely financial, broods under the surface.
But don’t take my word for any of this, you might read these stories completely differently, and that’s the joy of writing. Please check out this link and read/share/like Guy’s work: http://gonzoslaws.blogspot.co.uk/?view=flipcard
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Thanks for reading everyone. Until next time!
You can follow Joseph Sale on twitter @josephwordsmith.