“His fingers crawled across the keys, spiders weaving webs. Following suit. It beat yesterday’s article on the most recent celebrity to get butt implants or the one after that about which couple is now in splitsville. He also wrote the heavier stuff, “judge orders rehabilitation for man without phone.” He stopped to pause every now and then, looked at the others, until their manager would walk by and he’d adopt the same glazed over expression.
“We print the news,” his boss had said when he first got the job. “You get the headlines and you write the news.””
The seemingly innocuous routine of a media copywriter opens up to reveal a word of pan-optic control. In a small act of defiance, Samantha Lee’s Oscar enacts his own revolution. Can he break free, or are the revolving glass doors just a stand in for the hamster wheel?
Lee’s News of the State occupies a dystopian space on this week’s shortlist. It’s relevant, symbolic and speeds along in a whirlwind of machine gun dialogue and exhaustive media overload, and kicked off our shortlist for the Fake News Real Fiction Award
“I perched on the edge of the hotel bed, gripping the newspaper. The edges of the pages crumpled between my fingers as I absorbed the image plastered across the tabloid spread. There was no mistaking the person in the photograph. My boyfriend was enjoying himself a little too much, pictured with his arms wrapped around a young girl in her lacy underwear.”
So begins The Camera Never Lies, a vignette of trust, truth and deception. A single scene in which Josh and Shelley confront the price of fame and the pressure it takes on relationships and media intervention strains their relationship.
Written by Jeanette Stampone, this tale puts us front and centre in the lives of celebrity musicians. The newspaper itself and the off screen Marc, Josh’s demanding tour manager, become characters that round out the story, lifting it from more than just two talking heads. Read the full story and decide for yourself if Jeanette is this week’s winner.
“We’ve been married thirty-five years,” he grinned, welcoming me to the family’s sprawling dairy farm.
“I’ve strummed the same guitar, nearer forty. It’s surreal that three minutes’ worth apparently comprises my sum career output.”
That’s the voice of Twang Plunktoons, erstwhile country and western singer and star of Ian Harrison’s It Takes All Kinds.
Presented as an editorial draft article for publication at a magazine, Ian weaves an entertaining tale in a strong voice that is replete with dusty tones and humorous winks that satire the music industry and the relationship between American / Western and Australia.
Taking a similar perspective, Joey To delivers a trademark theatre of the absurd in Journalist Diligently Commits Suicide:
“We will miss him,” said UNYT spokesperson Janine Goldman. “Our material is usually horse manure but he was very talented.” However, she did not comment on his current assignments except that he was working on “small and mostly routine local stories”.
Some of Veritas’s peers indicated that he was investigating money laundering involving local pasta restaurants.
It’s always a pleasure to see Mr To back in on the shortlist. And with both Ian and Joey competing in the same competition, readers are spoilt for choice when it comes to signature satire and narration.
It was also a competition of lengthy titles. Perhaps authors are finding a way around the word count by making their story names long and limber, as was the case with Mhairi Campbell, an author who has intrigued us this year with a versatility, range and the exuberance to take on any challenge.
Language assistant has breakdown despite school saying job is “quick and easy” is the name of the story and an apt description of what it is about. Still, those who venture past the title (and I hope that is all of you), will find the that it’s the author in question that has a breakdown (despite school saying job is “quick and easy”):
“When asked why Miss Campbell had been heading for the town hall after class, another teacher said that it was to “build a game” for the entire class, despite the said twenty year old having no history of DIY.
“I mean, all the other assistants do it.” Principal Alain Boulanger said. When asked for the contact details of these other people, the principal seemed uncomfortable, and responded with “Well, I don’t really know. We’ve never had one but I can’t say we were unprepared.””
It wouldn’t a shortlist in 2017 without Ash Warren. The author, who made a name for himself back in 2015, has returned after a hiatus to continually wow us with tales of (slightly magical) realist, fable and fantasy. This time around, Ash showed us political satire is also in his repertoire:
‘The idea was to run a fast, small campaign, but you know how these things tend to morph into something much bigger. So we explained we had half a million soldiers to protect the borders. Make Canada Safe Again. Shift the capital to Vancouver, no one knew where Ottowa was anyway. And after a while people agreed it would just be polite to have the Dear Leader on the ballot! And wow, that’s the great thing about Canadians, being polite is very important here.’
It was a tightly competed contest, with only 5 points separating the spread. Jeanette Stampone took second place, narrowly edging out Ash Warren who took third only 0.3 points behind Jeanette.
But it was another returning champ who captured the hearts and minds of our judges. Please congratulate our winner, Joey To, for his hilarious Journalist Diligently Commits Suicide.
Joey receives the standard Needle In The Hay prize of 5000 word edit and feedback, and all shortlisted authors share in the Patreon funding. Thanks everyone and check out our next short list, part of of the Historical Faction Serial Award.