Tuesday, 20 April 2010

"Hence, 421."


My new story is published today in Perigee: Publication for the Arts. It’s titled Foreword to Volume 421. The story is a meta-fictional narrative which is supposed to be the foreword of the 421st volume in a series.
I originally wrote this story for a short fiction competition in The Guardian back in August. They didn’t accept it and so I sent it elsewhere. This was an interesting example of being forced to write a story: I wanted to enter the competition but hadn’t written anything approximately 2000 words long. I’d just finished Last Orders which is 4100 words and I didn’t feel like going back to it to make such a drastic edit so I needed to come up with something new. The story grew out of the idea of a chair which makes whoever sits in it write compulsively. I couldn’t make it work – the story kept getting stuck in a clichéd antiques shop where the protagonist finds the chair – so it evolved into a book which makes whoever reads it continue to write its story. This raised the question ‘what if the book fell into multiple hands’ and I got the idea of the collaborative universe of a single story and its potentially infinite narrative threads (very much like Borges’ The Garden of Forking Paths). That latter idea I actually found far more interesting than the idea of the ‘magic book’ but with the competition deadline looming, I just forced the two concepts together.
The numbers of the volumes are entirely arbitrary – except for the title which was originally Volume 423 until I decided it might be more significant to make it a prime number.

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