I have a new story, titled 'The School Project', in the latest issue of The Shadow Booth, the UK's premier book-shaped journal for the sort of weird, creepy fiction I love to both read and write.
Although, yeah - okay - technically, it's not really a new story. It is in fact an old story, one which I've slightly neatened up for publication. In its original iteration it was titled 'School Report' and was joint-winner of the 2011 Manchester Fiction Prize. I've made a few minor cuts, smoothed out a few sections and sorted out my simply unforgivable inconsistencies with em- and en-dashes.
Back in 2011 when I first wrote this thing I was newly unemployed, having been made redundant from my job as a bookseller, and found I unexpectedly had the time to write in between desperately looking for another job, so decided to work on an idea I'd had for a short story and submit it to a competition, which turned out to be a good idea. If you've not read it before - any why should you have? - it is written from the collective first-person perspective of a group of children at a rural school and is takes poverty and collective delusion as its loose themes. I later spent a not inconsiderable amount of my time trying to turn it into a novel, which turned out to be a less good idea.
Although at the time my mind was full of Anders Breivik and the then fairly new culture of austerity, eight years down the line the mindset which vaguely linked those two things feels if anything more concrete and more prevalent: tribal groupthink and ideological violence seem set to be the hallmarks of 2019.
Perhaps now is the time for me to attempt a convincing suggestion that, despite all this, it's not quite as horrendously grim a story I've no doubt indicated. There is, for instance, also sneezing and beanbags and (something which somehow eluded me until I re-read and re-edited it) more of than a dose of Wicker Man to the proceedings.
And, in any case, despite the inclusion of my story, there are wonderful contributions from the likes of Robert Shearman and Verity Holloway, among others, which I highly recommend.
You can order a copy of The Shadow Booth here.