Introduction by Eamonn Sweeney
Most wrtiers have been subjects of the brown envelope. The poem, the short story, the novel is completed and then dispatched in the aforementioned container to take its chances in the world of magazines, competitions and publishers. You have done all you can for it, now it’s on its own. Now you wait, for months mainly although a period of a year or of infinate time is not unusual,for the virdict.
There were hundereds of entries for the Fish Publishing competition and the ones that appear in this book have journeyed from brown envelope to paperback publication. It goes without saying that there is an arbitary dimentions to competitions such as this. A different set of judges would have all probability chosen differently. Having said that competition success has to be regarded as a benchmark of some standard.
Look at the Booker Prize ceremony. One of the first things the successful novelist will dois point out that any one of his fellowshort listees could have won the prize. The winner will then usuallygive their theory of fiction or their views of the state of the world. At the back of it all, they do feel that being a winnerentitles them to do this. They feel that the prize is an award for superiority.
So, winning a prize is not all a matter of luck. If you look at winners of short story competitions, some names will constantly crop up. They have been chosen by different judges with very different temperaments. There is something about their writing that demands attention even though it arrives in the same dull envelope as everyone else´s.
Prizes such as the Fish Publishing Prize, the Francis MacManus Prize and The Hennessy Award can be used by writers on the verge of publication to messure their progress. If you are constantly on the winner’s rostrum you’re probably doing something right. And in the end this is why prizes serve such a useful function. Read the biography of any writer and you come across a dbilitating time in their life when they lost faith in their talent and did not trust their ability. Prizes are there to assure people who take their writting seriously that someone can see what they’re getting at. And if the Fish Publishing Prize encourages just one writer who has felt tempted to lose faith to keep going, then it has served its purpose.
The stories in this book generally fulfilled the originality criteria. There were many well written stories which did not make the cut. They did not possess the difference, the quirkiness the spark of the ones in this selection. The winners for this year gave the impression of following their own road and of tackling their own ideas in their own way. It is a valuable quality. They appealed to me because, although some of them were not the most polished or well-wrought, you could see the writers thinking constsantly of getting across their stories in the most interesting way. This makes the collection a varied one. Read it. I hope you’ll say to yourself like I did on many occassions,’That’s deadly. How did they think of that? I wouldn’t have thought of it.’
There could have only been one winner of the competition. I don’t know anything about Richard O’Reilly or how much writing he has done but I do know that he is a very talented writer. The man knows what it is all about. Scrap Magic is the tale of a charlatan exorcist who suddenly slips into the spirit world where he encouters a not particularly impressed ghost. So far so simple. But O’Reilly makes the story special by giving the ghost his own spirit world language which is funny and also completely consistant. You can only sympathise with a spectre when you know that in, ‘crismas eev 1774, i came charging down for the carol singing, riding blind drunk. theyd jussed finished hark the herald aynjels wen i ran mi hors strate into the wall and tuk a hedder thrue the frunt windoe. i was ded wen i hit the grownd and ive been heer ever sinse.’
Richard O’Reilly’s voice is funny and sophisticated and I hope we hear a lot more of it.
Ian Wild is crazed. I’m sorry but there is no other way to put it. Garcia’s Moustacheis just not the kind of story you read in most anthologies. The crazed tale of a low rent Bohemian and his misbehaving facial hair is very funny and like something from the outer limits of Monty Python crossed with Spike Milligan. And by the way we hear the heart-warming tale of Garcia’s father who, ‘had all his teeth knocked out by the Civil Guards in Seville. It saved him a lot of money, because they were all rotten. He wrote and thanked General Franco every week. I won’t wait for you. I must go and weep on my father’s grave.’
Fractal by Tim Booth is an example of how a writer’s originality of mind can create a memorable story. What starts as a pretty ordinary encounter in Florida becomes the tale of a surreal island where the dead stars of Tinseltown linger in the hope of adoration. And it’s beautifully written.
Samantha Howard shows the value of subtlety and of confidence in your own storytelling ability in A Special Seceret. The domestic backgrounds and trivia make the story seem on the surface to be trivial but an undercurrent of unease is skilfully evoked the whole way through until the quietly chilling conclusion. Like most pieces of writing, it look simple but it isn’t. Its main character, a mother at the end of her tether, stuck in mind for some time.
I mentioned the influence of Raymond Carver on the American short story. Well there is something of Raymond Carver in William Wall’s Etty Fitz an Jack Crow but it has been transformed completely by the writer. The first line, ‘Etty had tall hair that built up like a picture of the Empire State Building and stopped at a gleaming tortoiseshell comb,’ is pure perfection. And what Wall does is make a small Cork town into a place of great human drama where the time passes and dreams are broken as lives are changed by the arrival of an oil refinery. This is originality, taking a specitic spot which seems located off the map of literature and invoking its particular ghosts.
Shakespear Lives by John Moralee is a different story. It’s funny, prescient and also against-the-odds poignant in its detailing of the dramatic rise and fall of the Bard when he’s brought back from the dead by genetic engineering. Fittingly enough for a story set largely in Hollywood, it would make a great film.
All the stories in this book are worth reading. I enjoyed reading them and I’m grateful for Clem Cairns of Fish Publishing for giving me the chance to do so. Flannery O’Connor once said that ‘the short stort is one of the most natural and fundamental ways of human expression’. It is also one of the most difficult and poses a challenge to any writer. The writers in this anthology have met the challenge with some vigour.
The practitioners of the art of brevity and super-brevity whose work is in this book have mastered the skills and distilled and double-distilled their work like the finest whiskey.More
€12 (incl. p&p) Sunrise Sunset by Tina Pisco Surreal, sad, zany, funny, Tina Pisco’s stories are drawn from gritty experience as much as the swirling clouds of the imagination. An astute, empathetic, sometimes savage observer, she brings her characters to life. They dance themselves onto the pages, and waltz around your mind long after […]More
How do we transform personal experience of pain into literature? How do we create and then chisel away at those images of others, of loss, of suffering, of unspeakable helplessness so that they become works of art that aim for a shared humanity? The pieces selected here seem to prompt all these questions and the best of them offer some great answers.
– Carmen Bugan.
What a high standard all round – of craft, imagination and originality: and what a wide range of feeling and vision.
I was struck by how funny many of the stories are, several of them joyously so – they are madcap and eccentric and great fun. Others – despite restrained and elegant prose – managed to be devastating. All of them are the work of writers with talent.
The writing comes first, the bottom line comes last. And sandwiched between is an eye for the innovative, the inventive and the extraordinary.More
A new collection from around the globe: innovative, exciting, invigorating work from the writers and poets who will be making waves for some time to come. David Mitchell, Michael Collins, David Shields and Billy Collins selected the stories, flash fiction, memoirs and poems in this anthology.More
Reading the one page stories I was a little dazzled, and disappointed that I couldn’t give the prize to everybody. It’s such a tight format, every word must count, every punctuation mark. ‘The Long Wet Grass’ is a masterly bit of story telling … I still can’t get it out of my mind.
– Chris Stewart
The perfectly achieved story transcends the limitations of space with profundity and insight. What I look for in fiction, of whatever length, is authenticity and intensity of feeling. I demand to be moved, to be transported, to be introduced into other lives. The stories I have selected for this anthology have managed this. – Ronan Bennett, Short Story Judge.More
I sing those who are published here – they have done a very fine job. It is difficult to create from dust, which is what writers do. It is an honour to have read your work. – Colum McCannMore
The entries into this year’s Fish Short Story Prize were universally strong. From these the judges have selected winners, we believe, of exceptional virtue. – Carlo GeblerMore
I was amazed and delighted at the range and quality of these stories. Every one of them was interesting, well-written, beautifully crafted and, as a short-story must, every one of them focused my attention on that very curtailed tableau which a short-story necessarily sets before us. – Michael CollinsMore
These stories voice all that is vibrant about the form. – Gerard Donovan. Very short stories pack a poetic punch. Each of these holds its own surprise, or two. Dive into these seemingly small worlds. You’ll come up anew. – Angela Jane FountasMore
Each of the pieces here has been chosen for its excellence. They are a delightfully varied assortment. More than usual for an anthology, this is a compendium of all the different ways that fiction can succeed. I invite you to turn to ‘All the King’s Horses’. The past is here. Begin.
– Michel Faber
Literary anthologies, especially of new work, act as a kind of indicator to a society’s concerns. This Short Story collection, such a sharp and useful enterprise, goes beyond that. Its internationality demonstrates how our concerns are held in common across the globe. – Frank DelaneyMore
From the daily routine of a career in ‘Spoonface’, to the powerful, recurring image of a freezer in ‘Shadow Lives’. It was the remarkable focus on the ordinary that made these Fish short stories such a pleasure to read. – Hugo HamiltonMore
In a world where twenty screens of bullshit seem to be revolving without respite … there is nothing that can surpass the ‘explosion of art’ and its obstinate insistence on making sense of things. These dedicated scribes, as though some secret society, heroically, humbly, are espousing a noble cause.
– Pat McCabe
It’s supposed to be a short form, the good story, but it has about it a largeness I love. There is something to admire in all these tales, these strange, insistent invention. They take place in a rich and satisfying mixture of places, countries of the mind and heart. – Christopher HopeMore
There are fine stories in this new anthology, some small and intimate, some reaching out through the personal for a wider, more universal perspective, wishing to tell a story – grand, simple, complex or everyday, wishing to engage you the reader. – Kate O’RiodanMore
I feel like issuing a health warning with this Fish Anthology these stories may seriously damage your outlook – Here the writers view the world in their unique way, and have the imagination, talent, and the courage to refine it into that most surprising of all art forms the short story. – Clem Cairns.More
Every story in this book makes its own original way in the world. knowing which are the telling moments, and showing them to us. And as the narrator of the winning story casually remarks, ‘Sometimes its the small things that amaze me’ – Molly McCloskeyMore
The stories here possess the difference, the quirkiness and the spark. They follow their own road and their own ideas their own way. It is a valuable quality which makes this collection a varied one. Read it, I hope you say to yourself like I did on many occasions, ‘That’s deadly. How did they think of that?’ – Eamonn SweeneyMore
Really good short stories like these, don’t read like they were written. They read like they simply grew on the page. – Joseph O’ConnorMore
The writers in this collection can write short stories . . . their quality is the only thing they have in common. – Roddy DoyleMore
This is the first volume of short stories from Ireland’s newest publishing house. We are proud that fish has enabled 15 budding new writers be published in this anthology, and I look forward to seeing many of them in print again.More
12 Miles Out was selected by David Mitchell as the winner of the Fish Unpublished Novel Award.
A love story, thriller and historical novel; funny and sad, uplifting and enlightening.
You only know who you can’t trust. You can’t trust the law, because there’s none in New Ireland. You can’t trust the Church, because they think they’re the law. And you can’t trust the State, because they think they’re the Church And most of all, you can’t trust your friends, because you can’t remember who they were anymore.More
A memoir of urban life, chronicled through its central character, Mackey. From momentary reflections to stories about his break with childhood and adolescence, the early introduction to the Big World, the discovery of romance and then love, the powerlessness of ordinary people, the weaknesses that end in disappointment and the strengths that help them seek redemption and belonging.More
Ian Wild’s stories mix Monty Python with Hammer Horror, and the Beatles with Shakespeare, but his anarchic style and sense of humour remain very much his own in this collection of tall tales from another planet. Where else would you find vengeful organs, the inside story of Eleanor Rigby, mobile moustaches, and Vikings looting a Cork City branch of Abracababra?More