Arc’s winning stories: Deborah Walker’s Drink Deep and Long the Circean Poison

19 Nov

Must artists suffer? The novelist and poet Thomas Hardy thought so, quipping that “light writes white”. Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World  is a narcotised shopping mall, its zombie denizens, blissed into political quiescence.

Deborah Walker (@deboree), a runner-up in our recent short story competition, broadly agrees – but her story, set in a world where pleasure has been harnessed and commodified, is altogether more mischevious. There is no conspiracy here, no attempt to defraud humankind; only a technology that speaks to some very deep, politically uncorrect (and largely male) assumptions about what greatness is, and how it can be achieved.

It’s also a playful period piece that, in its attention to detail and speech rhythms, knocks all that steampunk malarkey out of the court. 

Read the whole story here, or scroll down for a short extract.

“May I have the honour of reading your work?” I asked

“Here,” Dunstable said, rummaging in his voluminous garments to produce a battered manuscript

“What are the themes?” I leafed through the pages, many closely written with many deletions and underscores, sometimes ripping the page.

“Love, war, wilderness and loss. What it still means to be a man in a world dominated by women.” Dunstable cast a particularly unpleasant and meaningful stare at Circe.

“I am not a woman,” said Circe mildly. “I only wear a shell.”

“Women are concerned with happiness, nurturing, mothering. That’s what you are. You have emasculated the world. You have ripped the balls off a generation.”

“I say, steady on old boy.” I laid a friendly hand on Dunstable’s shoulder.

“Where’s your woman, then?”

I placed my fist to my mouth. “She is gone,” I said.

Dunstable smirked.

“Reginald is very attractive to women,” said Circe. “I’ve no doubt that he will attract another woman when his muse allows.”

He smirked again.

Read all our winning entries here

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