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‘Pigskin’ by David Hartley, ‘PowerPoint Eulogy’ by Mark Wilson, 'Muscle and Mouth’ by Louise Finnigan; ‘Hassan’s Zoo’ by Ruth Brandt, ‘How To Bring Him back’ by Claire HM, and ‘The Guts of a Mackerel’ by Clare Reddaway, are all stories which erupt like a shaken bottle. Six fresh narrative voices bustle for space, inextricable from each other. Delving with nuance into provocative themes such as expectation, identity, and relationships (whether romantic, platonic, familial or aloof), this Short Story Season has been carefully curated to examine and question the society we accept around us. Captivating when read apart, or world-blowing if invested in as a collective, join these six talented writers and their many characters on short journeys that will last longer than anyone could expect.
- Pigskin by David Hartley
Something strange is happening to the animals on the farm.
A pig becomes bacon, chickens grow breadcrumbs, a cow turns to leather, a goat excretes cheese. As food becomes scarce and the looming ‘pot-bellies’ threaten to invade the safety of the sty, Pig knows he must get to the bottom of this strange phenomenon or face imminent death. Reminiscent of Animal Farm and darkly satirical, David Hartley interrogates the ethics of farming and the potential problems of genetic engineering, asking important questions about our relationship to the food – or animals – we eat.
“Pigskin is a knife-sharp, knowing fable about animal instincts and human ingenuity. David Hartley has a gift for creating stories that leave scars.”- Aliya Whiteley, author of The Loosening Skin
- PowerPoint Eulogy by Mark Wilson
“He painted two pigs with the numbers ‘one’ and ‘three’ on them and turned them loose in the office. One spent twenty minutes painfully choking on a dry eraser, before finally dying outside of the boardroom. The other remains unaccounted for, but the office smells like rot.”
Three corporate hours have been allotted to commemorate the life of enigma, Bill Motluck. Employee memories of his life are crudely recounted onto a dusty projector. No one has ever been quite sure of his purpose. No one is quite sure who wrote the PowerPoint...but it seems to be exposing them all, one by one.
“In his wildly imaginative chapbook, PowerPoint Eulogy, Chicago writer and visual artist Mark Wilson paints a picture of corporate culture—and humanity at large—that is both soul-crushingly bleak and hilariously demented. Divided into forty-four presentation “slides”, the story centers on the memories a group of unnamed employees have of their recently deceased co-worker, Bill Motluck—a man so bland he enjoyed small talk about skim milk, and so desperate to fit in he once rented a newborn for Bring Your Kid to Work Day. Should we give in to the impulse to laugh at poor Bill, or feel sympathy for his plight? As the stories and little revelations pile up, it becomes harder and harder to decide—and the tension this creates is what ultimately makes this one-of-a-kind collection so impossible to put down. I laughed, I winced, I loved it”- Mark Rader, Author of ‘The Wanting Life’
- Muscle and Mouth by Louise Finnigan
“A beautifully written and compelling story”- Kerry Hudson, Award-Winning Author of ‘Lowborn’
‘Muscle and Mouth made me feel the fracture of my own northern identity deep in my gut. It made me ache for home. It reminded me that leaving a place means giving pieces of yourself away; your rawness, your language and a certain kind of love. Louise Finnigan is a writer to watch.’- Jessica Andrews, Author of ‘Saltwater’ and Winner of 2020 Portico Prize
This investigation will record, transcribe, and analyse the language of young men talking about their hometown and the extent to which they want to leave it. The speakers are long- term inhabitants of one of Manchester’s most deprived housing estates, notorious for high levels of crime and low levels of employment. The analysis will focus on the presence (or absence) of features typically associated with young men from layers of society which might be described as ‘the underclass.’
Jade is prepping an A-Level assignment, all her sights set on Durham University. She’s told she has to ‘prove herself’ and keep her away from the unsavoury types she calls her best friends. Yet Jade is reluctant to shun her corner of Manchester, where she finds the land rich, ‘dark with energy’
- Hassan’s Zoo by Ruth Brandt
When American soldiers invade Iraq searching for weapons of mass destruction, Kesari the Bengal tiger and other wildlife are at the mercy of guns and keeper, Hassan.
Entrenched in perpetual fear, Hassan must exercise Godly powers over his creatures in his attempts to save them - and himself.
A Village in Winter
“Mrs Gregory said to leave Frizz and his mum be for a while. Stop pestering. That poor woman with that lad.”
In the chill of winter, the villagers play by the river, their play as harsh as the ice.
- How To Bring Him Back by Claire HM
‘If I was going to cast a spell tonight, this night of a full arse moon as stark and crunchy as a ten-day crust of snow, I’d start by telling the earth to spin in the opposite direction.
By what power?
By the power of my pen.’
‘How to Bring Him Back’ is a journey into a darkly humorous love triangle. It’s 90s Birmingham and Cait is post-university, aimless and working in a dive bar. She’s caught between Stadd, who’s stable, funny, compatible as a friend, and her compulsive sexual attraction with Rik. Present day Cait picks up her pen, on her yearly writing retreat to Aberystwyth, and addresses an absent Stadd with the lessons she has learnt from her past.
Exploring the dynamics of desire and consent while reflecting upon the damage people can inflict on each other in relationships, Claire is an exciting and bold writer for the modern age.
- The Guts of a Mackerel by Clare Reddaway
“Who’s Bobby Sands?” she asked, as she laid the fish on the face of a smiling young man with long wavy hair. “And what’s a hunger strike?”
On a family holiday to her dad’s Irish homeland, Eve’s concerns about impressing local boy Liam are confronted by the stark reality of political and personal divisions during the Troubles. Former friends have turned into enemies, and this country of childhood memory is suddenly a lot less welcoming.