Author Archives: London Reader

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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Open Call for Creative Writing: Mothers and Motherhood

Deadline November 4, 2019

What does it mean to be a mother in today’s changing world? How does the absence of mothering shape someone? How do mothers change their children, and children their mothers? Mothering today is hard. Instead of relying on the consistent advice of community, mothers are bombarded with values and theories by loved ones and strangers: breast is best, attachment parenting, forest schools, tiger mums, and elimination communication, to name a few. Becoming a mother is about more than being responsible for a life; it is also about learning how people now see you differently, and about choosing where you belong.

The London Reader is issuing an open call for short stories, true stories, creative nonfiction, flash/mini-fiction, poetry, photography, painting, and any other writing or art that explores the topic of mothers or motherhood. From challenging assumptions about mothers to revisiting the tradition of motherhood, the London Reader seeks personal and intimate stories about mothers and motherhood written by mothers themselves and by those reflecting on the impact of mothers on their lives.

Submissions to this issue can include:

  • Childhood memories of mothers and grandmothers
  • Poetry and stories about being a mother
  • Difficult family stories
  • Piecing together scraps of memory of a lost mother
  • Experiences of mothers who have had to move away from their extended family
  • Stories of pregnancies lost or terminated
  • The changing relationship between a mother and child over the decades
  • Stories about mothers’ lives outside of motherhood
  • Perspectives on LGBTQ+ or non-binary motherhood
  • Pregnancy and birth stories
  • Stories about being unable to be, or choosing not to be, a mother
  • Stories about the difficulties of relating to your children
  • And stories of fathers as well

Authors from international or marginalized communities with under-represented stories are especially encouraged to submit to help create a multifaceted portrait of motherhood in this issue.

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 5 poems or visual works per collection. Multiple submissions, simultaneous submissions, and re-prints 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 November 4, 2019.

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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“When I came to the United States…”

South Texas Detention CenterMore than 90 Somali nationals were deported from the United States at the end of January. They are being returned to a country of strife that they crossed an ocean to flee.

Writing in the most recent issue of the London Reader, Somali-born Ali Dahir tells the story of his persecution in Somalia and later Ethiopia as well as his detainment as a refugee in the United States, where he was held at the South Texas Detention Center.

Read more about the issue, “Home: Stories of identity, belonging, loss, and migration”

“When I came to the United States, I never expected a situation like I experienced in detention. Perhaps I expected a warmer reception. I faced a lot of problems in the immigration jail: racism, discrimination, and abuse both at the hands of the officers and the other detainees. I had no dignity left after being terrorized by the police in Ethiopia, but I was not immune to the words hurled at me in the detention centre.

“Behind the razor wires, steel bars, and concrete walls of the prisons, the Muslim inmates are treated the worst. We were the objects of sarcasm and ridicule by other inmates. If you tried to complain to the officers, they normally sided with the detainees. I regularly heard mocking calls and jeers, like ‘Hey Osama! Did you come to bomb the US or do you just want to bomb the cell?’ Muslim detainees are the longest-serving detainees.”

He was deported from the United States in the summer of 2016.

You read more of the Dahir’s story alongside other writers and artists exploring the concept of Home in PDF through Patreon.com or on Kindle through Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com.

“Nobody Knows”

CHILD: “Mother, where is our house?”
Mother: “Son, it’s been crushed. But don’t be scared. We will build another one.”
Child: “Mother, where is my school?”
Mother: “Son, the tent became your school.”
Child: “Mother, what is the future?”
Mother: “My son, the future’s unknown — nobody knows it except God.”

Girls painting“Nobody Knows” was written by a 14-year-old Syrian refugee and is featured in the latest issue of the The London Reader, “Home: Stories of identity, belonging, loss, and migration”.

These stories, drawings, and photographs come from a small group of Syrian girls aged 11 to 16. The girls are living in Akré Refugee Camp, a former-Suddam Hussein intelligence centre, in Kurdistan, Northern Iraq. The refugees’ houses are former holding cells. The camp has a heavy presence. When the building was first opened, all you would have seen, in every direction, was the peeling, yellow walls and, hung large on the 2nd floor, the Kurdish flag. Standing in the centre of the camp, turning in a circle, you would have seen the same image, again and again. The bareness. The despair.

When the children arrived in the camp, this scene of desolation and misery is all they had left to call home. The children had fled the Syrian war, some on horseback, many on foot, across the desert. They had been lined up at checkpoints, counted, told where to avoid landmines, and sent to the camps. Many of the children had lost relatives, and some had seen bodies scattered in the streets. Here, at the camp, the horrors that these young children witnessed are not spoken of. They are dealt with silently, gently, and personally.

The children, however, transformed the camp, reclaimed the space, called it their own. Over the last two years, the children have covered nearly every available wall with their thoughts, their feelings, their anger, their misery, their longing for the past, and their hopes for the future.

You can see more of the girls’ artwork and stories alongside other writers and artists exploring the concept of Home in PDF through Patreon.com or on Kindle through Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com.

Fiction in the Facebook Era

zuckerberg-facebook-dead

“A glitch on Friday afternoon led Facebook to declare two million users, including Zuckerberg himself, prematurely dead. People logged in to their accounts to find that they had been ‘memorialized'”The Guardian

Our lives and technology have intertwined with often uncanny fallout. In the Autumn issue of the London Reader, #cyberpunkNOW, a piece of minifiction by Benn Ward looks at the eerie cybershade that lives on in social media after a person’s death:

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Contrails
by Benn Ward

I HAD WORK in the morning, my first day back after the funeral, but I sat awake in the light of my computer screen, clicking through Dad’s Facebook page.

Condolences and prayers were still popping up on his wall—“You were the best coach I could have asked for. Thank you,” and, “Steve and I will always remember you. Love, Cherryl”—as if they were writing to his smiling profile picture taken at the top of Mount Rundle.

All of his Likes were in the present tense too. Curling. Hiking. He hadn’t played cribbage in years, but it was listed there. His most recent photo was from a friend’s retirement party in February at the Westwood Lodge, when he could still walk.

His last status was just beneath the condolences, asking if anyone had a spare 20 litre pot they could lend our family for Easter Dinner. He had trouble chewing solid foods, and Mom was going to make a soup.

These photographs, these words, this contrail of his life, is all that’s left. But none of the pictures showed him in his hospital bed, unspeaking, shaking, as he grasped my hand.

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To read more of the #cyberpunkNOW issue, including another piece of minifiction in the “Facebook Family Furnishings” series by Benn Ward, subscribe or donate to the London Reader.

Feature Contributor: Shinji Toya

toya-2“In the project ‘3 Years and 6 Months of Digital Decay’ developed in association with the Arebyte gallery, I set up an online platform where a digital video will be more and more fragmented as time passes until the image disappears entirely three and half years after the launch of the website. Vicktor Mayer-Schonberger has talked about how digital media remembers so much information that we know less than the digital remembers. Because digital media can identically duplicate memories (unlike analogue), digital memories are immortal to begin with. If this immortal memory reaches every aspect of our lives (like search engines that can track every click we make online), the information may become beyond our control. Through my artwork, I want us to observe and think about how technologies of forgetting (or auto-decay) can be implemented in our lives and consider whether this technology is desirable for us.”

Shinji Toya’s artwork is featured in the latest issue of the London Reader, #cyberpunkNOW

“3 Years and 6 Months of Digital Decay” is a digital art project that Toya exhibited at the Internet Yami-Ichi event at the Tate Modern in London in association with Arebyte Gallery.

Toya is a multimedia artist originally from Japan, now based in London. He has been awarded the Contagious Nova Award in Lowe and Partner’s Nova Award Series. Toya’s practice is predominantly digital, and involves a range of diverse creative approaches such as moving-image, print, painting, computer programming, digital installation, and website. You can find him online at cargocollective.com/stoya

See more of Toya’s artwork alongside contemporary voices in creative writing exploring the theme of #cyberpunkNOW

Coming Soon: Autumn 2016

Cover Image

In the next issue of the London Reader, Alexander Maurice introduces us to the works and voices of the cyberpunk genre and interviews two of its founding authors: William Gibson and Bruce Sterling. Autumn 2016 releases this September.