Open Call for Submissions: Stories of Inequality and Struggle

Deadline February 5, 2020

The ‘20s have arrived with a roar. Another global recession looms before many have even recovered from the last. Millionaires flaunt their wealth on Instagram while delivery drivers work from apps on multiple smartphones to afford the increasing rent on their shared room. Housing, education, and everything except technology has grown more expensive while wages have flatlined. Austerity has led to more urban rough-sleepers as billionaires leave luxury flats empty for their investment portfolios. The gap between the rich and the poor has grown the widest it’s ever been since the 1920s, and everywhere there’s the feeling: this cannot last.

The London Reader is looking for short stories, minifiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, and art that reveals the human stories behind inequality (in all its forms: between classes in cities, between generations in communities, between rural and urban regions, and between countries), poverty, end-of-an-era (fin de siècle) decadence, billionaire indifference, millennial survival, any form of wealth gap, and other experiences of living poor on the growing bottom rung.

Possible story prompts…

  • A sleepless gig-economy employee stretches themselves thin to pay for their second degree.
  • Two women suffer as their flatmate turns her room into a holiday destination rental.
  • A street musician has mastered urban survival strategies for the under-employed.
  • A narrator contrasts the characters of a stock-broker and a rough-sleeper on the same street corner.
  • An unpaid internship requires applicants to jump through absurd hoops.
  • Poor doors in posh buildings divide characters who hear but never see their neighbours at the same address.
  • Rioters loot a luxury home and are aghast at what they find.
  • A migrant from a low-income area moves to a megacity looking for work while a migrant from a megacity working online moves to a low-income area to afford living expenses.
  • A retiree struggles returning to minimum wage work but finds commonality with their teenage coworkers. 
  • A delivery driver living in their van tries to balance their dating life and work life.
  • A posh couple at a roaring-twenties-themed party in the California hills flees an encroaching wildfire but ends up stuck in traffic.
  • An online influencer hides their fake wealth with their front-facing camera.
  • An indebted millennial’s only retirement plan is an apocalyptic feeling the economy will collapse.
  • All other personal or human stories that explore low-income struggles or the gaps of inequality.

What to submit: Creative works can be stand-alone pieces or collections, but should generally be fewer than 5,000 words or no more than 3 poems or visual works per collection. Multiple submissions, simultaneous submissions, and reprints are welcome. Artwork should be favourably viewed on a tablet or single A5 page.

How to submit: The London Reader submission portal for this issue. If you have any questions or difficulty submitting, email coordinator@LondonReader.uk

The deadline for submission on this theme is February 5, 2020.

Motherhood Cover

Motherhood

Stories of Love, Loss, & Life

Motherhood can be all consuming, and yet it is all too often ignored. Why do strangers think they know a bad mother when they read about one incident online? What is the first week of motherhood like, holding a new life in a hospital ward? What do you tell a child who asks about death? What can you do when insomnia and your child’s crying drive you toward the breaking point? Who would you choose if you could magically foresee your future children in every relationship? What are the lengths people will go to have children on a harsh and inhospitable planet? And what would you tell your own mother if you had one last chance? All these stories and more fill the pages within. This issue of the London Reader turns its focus to the trials of motherhood to illuminate the beating heart at the centre of the human experience.

Stories of Love, Loss, & Life features a new story from Emma Donoghue, the award-winning and best-selling author of Room, which has been made into a film of the same name, as well as short stories, personal reflections, poetry, and art from Jayme Koszyn, Louis Evans, Diana Reed, Ewan Morrison (the author of Nina X and Swung), Stacey May Fowles (the author of Infidelity), Micaela Maftei, Laura Tansley, Joanna Streetly, Kay Bolden, Rosaleen Lynch, Nora Nadjarian, Suzanne Skaar, Clare O’Brien, Wilda Morris, Glenna Meeks, Ella Otomewo, Laura Marija Balčiūnaitė, Julie Blankenship, Cynthia Gregorová, and Zena Blackwell. The Motherhood issue is introduced by Kate Everett and includes an interview with Kim Thúy, the award-winning author of Ru and Mãn.

What is motherhood? Can the answer be found in stories of community and isolation, belonging and rejection, hope and fear, love and loss and life? Open this issue, and find out.

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Existential Dread in the Digital Void

Ominous Horror Stories for the Present Moment

A second face appears in the dark of your phone’s screen; a web search for life’s purpose comes up blank; and your next right swipe might be your last. We stand on the edge of catastrophe and try to ignore the existential crisis by escaping into our devices, but our dread only deepens. This collection of ominous horror stories for the present moment sharpens its focus on the digital void.

Existential Dread in the Digital Void brings together twenty writers and artists who shine their mobile’s dying light down the darkened hallways of our times. The short stories and minifiction in this issue draw us in, like a foreboding buzzing in our pocket, and don’t let us go until their tragic or twist endings satisfy our digital itch. With a guest introduction by Ann Dávila Cardinal, author of Five Midnights, this issue features fiction from Jeff Noon, the award-winning author of Vurt; Bridget Penney; Michael Marshall Smith, winner of the British Fantasy Award for Best Short Fiction more times than any other author; Clare O’Brien; Simon Bestwick (with a guest foreword by Niwar Ameen Obaid); Tobias Wade; Emma Helen Reid; Claire Holahan; James Dorr; Jennifer Companik; Marie Argeris; and Ramsey Campbell, Britain’s most respected living horror writer according to The Oxford Companion to English Literature. The visual art in this issue comes from Elizabeth Barsham, Michael E Tan, Javier Rodríguez Corpa, Lyssa Omega, Joe Roberts, and the duo d’Ores&Deja. Finally, looking at the horror genre in the current era, this issue also interviews Ellen Datlow, editor of The Best Horror of the Year anthologies, and Tananarive Due, award-winning author and executive producer of the groundbreaking documentary Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror.

The chilling visions in this issue look both inside our minds, at our existential worries reflected in our devices, and outside into the dark, at the faces of strangers lit only by the screens of their phones. These ominous stories warn us of what we should have already feared, and their intimate touch, like a fingernail under the skin, will make you shiver.

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After the Flood

Stories and Poems for our Changing World

Tides reclaim coastal cities, forest fires choke the sky, heat waves scorch the plains, and in the eye of this catastrophe are the stories of families and communities—of fear and hope. The world faces a crisis, and we must search our souls for answers.

How can climate change fit into our stories? This issue of the London Reader re-maps the Earth with new and alternative visions of the present and the future. Stories and Poems for our Changing World faces crisis head-on, but the authors within come to many different conclusions. The cli-fi creative writing in this issue begins with pessimism, revealing the extent of natural disasters. It then revisits and re-evaluates our connection to the natural world. Finally, it finds a path forward, through calamity, with renewed ambition to make a difference.

After the Flood features an interview and fiction from Kim Stanley Robinson, the award-winning author of New York 2140 and the Mars Trilogy. The other creative works within include thought-provoking short stories from Elle Wild, Steve Carr, Hannah Wright, Kai Thomas, Katherine McMahon, Bell Selkie, and Omar El Akkad, author of American War; moving poems from Memye Curtis Tucker, Janette Ayachi, Ivy Archer, Colleen West, Matthew Gwathmey, Alice Mills, Robbi Nester, and Jill Evans; and stunning artwork from Artem Mirolevich, Christina Riley, Claire Price, David Ambarzumjan, and Ira Joel Haber, featured in the MoMA and Guggenheim.

We face a flood of unprecedented destruction. What will come after is up to us.

“A powerful intervention in our moment.”
Kim Stanley Robinson

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Down & Out in Time & Space

Stories and Poems of Time Travel

What happens when the most practical of limitations—time—is overcome? The time traveller faces one of the most difficult challenge: the temptation within. Stories of time travel revel in the impossible, visiting alternate pasts, and reveal the uncannily familiar, like warnings from your future self.

Introduced by Mike Chen, author of Here and Now and Then, this issue of the London Reader travels through time with the stories, poetry, and ideas of twenty different writers and artists, and it examines our humanity through the portholes of their time machines. Find out what makes time travel writing really tick in our interviews with award-winning author Audrey Niffenegger of The Time Traveler’s Wife and co-authors Neal Stephenson and Nicole Galland of The Rise and Fall of DODO. Next, explore love lost and love found, the horrors of the past and the horrors of the future, and even a mission to kill Hitler in the short stories of BH Birtwhistle, Arthur M Doweyko, Jess Flarity, Robert L Kaspar III, Veronique Kootstra, Guy Prevost, AB Quinn, and Graeme K Talboys. Experience meeting your mother or yourself in another time and meet the quintessential 20th century time traveller themself in the poetry of Lana Hechtman Ayers, Matt Bryden, Sarah Law, d’Ores&Deja, and the author of the popular TEDx Talk “Everything You Need to Write a Poem (and How It Can Save a Life)”, Daniel Scott Tysdal. Finally, enjoy the accompanying visual art recreating time’s anachronistic ages from Maroula Blades, Emilie Oblivion, and Artem Mirolevich.

Whether you travel in a blue police box or a gull-winged DeLorean, settle in and allow these stories from across time—from these writers’ pasts transported to your reading present—to carry you into a future yet to be written.

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#MeToo

Stories of Survival

The #MeToo movement has begun to reveal just how many people have been affected by an often-ignored and unfortunately all-too-common culture of sexual entitlement and violence. Survivors are standing up, telling their stories, and getting the world to listen. This issue of the London Reader confronts this challenging topic through the stories of pain and survival of the authors, poets, and artists within.

Fiction, poetry, and art by Alix Edwards, Catherine Graham, Corinne Lestch, Jill Yonit Goldberg, Katherine James, Kaylin Amabile, Laura Holtz, Laurie Rosen, Max Scratchmann, Miriam Schlesinger, Natalie Rose Richardson, Patty Somlo, Rachel A.G. Gilman, Sheree La Puma, Siv Prince, Suzanne LaFetra Collier, Syd Shaw, Tamar Weiss, TH Belcourt, and Triny Finlay.

#MeToo: Stories of Survival features a guest foreword by Christina Dalcher, author of the best-selling novel VOX, and an interview with the award-winning novelist Emma Donoghue, author of the Man Booker-shortlisted novel Room, and the Oscar-nominated screenplay based on it.

This is a topic for which it is important to listen, to hold space for the speakers, and to give a platform for their voices. We readers should be listening. It is their stories that need to be heard. This issue is dedicated to them.

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Drama & Dragons

Drama & Dragons: Stories about Games and Growing up

From their humble beginnings a half century ago, pen-and-paper roleplaying games like Dungeons & Dragons have gone on to become a global cultural phenomenon and inspired many generations of writers to think deeper about the stories they create. This issue of the London Reader delves into the worlds of these games and the stories of the people who play them.

Guest introductions by Emily Care Boss and Steve Jackson give insight into the connections between games and literature. Short stories, poetry, and art by Jeff Noon, author of Vurt; Bridget Penney; PK Merlott; Innes Smith; Jesse Gazic; Christine King; Rachael Arsenault; Ian McLachlan; d’Ores&Deja; Kevin Oberlin; Paul Carrick; Inbal Breda; Stefan Poag; Eric Quigley; and Nicolò Maioli all explore roleplaying games and the lives of their players. This issue also presents an interview with the New York Times best-selling author of the Dragonlance series, Margaret Weis.

Drama & Dragons includes a Bonus Feature with three one-page, ready-to-play roleplaying games that walk the line between literature and games, as well as a Bonus Feature on LitRPG fiction, a new genre of fantasy and sci-fi, where the stories take place within a computer game and the rules of the game impact the characters. This bonus section includes interviews with the founders of LitRPG—Vasily Mahanenko, Alex Bobl, and D. Rus—as well as excerpts from LitRPG novels by Holly Jennings and Ember Lane.

Join these storytellers on their adventures as they explore the dungeons of our collective imagination and confront the troubles that lie within.

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Truth, Lies, & Fiction for a Post-Fact Age

Our lives are based on the fictions we tell ourselves and each other. Every new friendship grows out of the characters we present and perceive; every social media status and photograph we upload narrates the way we see the world; and every politician has a story they want us to believe. How can we navigate the truths and lies of our lives in this post-fact age?

In 2016, ‘post-truth’ was named the word of the year, and Matthew d’Ancona makes the case that we are living in a post-truth era. The short stories, poems, interviews, and art in this issue interrogate truth, lies, and the role of fiction in these trying times. Whether they deal with the big political lies we hear on TV or the little personal lies we tell about ourselves or our sexuality, the subtle and thought-provoking stories in this issue of the London Reader explore our difficult relationship with the truth—how we bend, break, and mend it—and they offer a pleasant reprieve from the swirling pandemonium of lies in our increasingly digital lives.

Truth, Lies, & Fiction for a Post-Fact Age features: new minifiction from Jeff Noon, author of Vurt; interviews with Yann Martel, author of Life of Pi, and Matthew d’Ancona, author of Post-Truth; as well as stories, poetry, and art from AJ Berasaluce, Ruth Brandt, Rachel Bullock, Nicholas Gurewitch of Perry Bible Fellowship fame, Kat Hanula, Barbara E. Hunt, Wes Lee, Andrew Lloyd-Jones, Scott Stavrou, Laura Theis, Daniel Uncapher, Mike Wilson, and Christopher Woods.

Whether from a timeless or decidedly 21st century perspective, all of the writing in this volume considers the role of truth and lies in our lives today. At a time when the news is called into question, fiction can help us rediscover the truth.

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After Words: Animal Reflections

Stories, Poetry, and Essays on the Lives of Animals

We live side by side with animals. A flock of pigeons roosting on a rooftop is as apparently ordinary a scene as cats scrapping down the street or squirrels teasing their would-be chasers before turning tail to safety. How often we forget that we, too, are animals, and that our relationships with other animals can help us better understand the world we share with them. How often do we remember that as our ambitions and cities keep growing, the lives of animals among us keep changing? After Words: Animal Reflections questions our place in the world by exploring how animals have visited and haunted our lives and writing.

Curator Christina Claudia Galego frames the issue with new fiction by Meg Elison, winner of the Philip K. Dick Award, and critical poetry by Daniel Scott Tysdal, a ReLit Award recipient and TEDx speaker. Alongside these selections are creative essays, short stories, and poems by Ed Ahern, Mikki Aronoff, Janette Ayachi, Sarah Barr, Evan J. Coleman, Matt Daly, AJ Huffman, Matthew Hollett, Tom Larsen, Wes Lee, Janet McCann, Christopher M. McDonough, Cecile Rossant, Benjamin Paynter, David F. Shultz, Dan Veach, and Melanie Whipman, as well as affecting artwork by JJ Paynter, Dan Veach, Severine Richardson, and Jagoda Woźny.

After Words: Animal Reflections also presents a timely exchange with Pulitzer Prize-winner Elizabeth Kolbert, author of The Sixth Extinction, and a thoughtful interview with Giller Prize-winner André Alexis, author of Fifteen Dogs.

For those who wonder where their dog goes at night, what it’s like to see an elk in the wild, or whether animals are people too, this issue of the London Reader is for you.

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Wish You Were Here

Writing and Reflections on Travel

This issue of the London Reader invites you to pick a date, book a ticket, and step out your front door into the words of travellers from around the world. Wish You Were Here: Writing and Reflections on Travel is a collection of stories, poems, and thoughts about life on the road, in the big city, and even in our own backyards as seen by a visitor from somewhere else.

This issue features interviews with prolific writer and traveller Don George, who wrote Lonely Planet’s Guide to Travel Writing, and Mary Morris, author of The Jazz Palace and multiple travel memoirs and editor of The Virago Book of Women Travellers. The issue is introduced by travel writer and academic Mark Anthony Jarman, and it features travel stories by Sneha Abraham, Lucas Abrahão, M. M. Adjarian, Mia Gaudin, Nancy Ludmerer, Clare O’Brien, Fiona Sibley, Elen Turner, and Alexis Wolfe as well as poetry by Allison Adair, Rose Condo, Ben Fagan, Charles Leggett, Lindsay Reid, and Kaz Sussman.

If you miss the sea, especially if you’ve never been before, if you want to get lost with an old friend and find yourself somewhere new, if you want go where there’s no mobile reception or where you can hide in the crowds, if you want to set out for thirty days on a river and feel the ache in your shoulders under the pale northern lights, if you want to remember your honeymoon or remember that restless spring in Madrid when even the buildings were sweating in anticipation of the night, if you want to travel, next week or next year, this issue of the London Reader is for you.

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