Following on from the longlist announcement of the 2016/17 GBP Short Story Prize, we asked each of the thirteen writers three questions about themselves, their story, and their inspirations. Here's Gordon Collins, whose longlisted short story War Ina Babylon is available to read as a digital single.
Tell us a little about yourself – how long have you been writing? Any publications?
I’ve been writing fiction for 12 years. I graduated from UEA’s renowned MA in creative writing six years ago. Then I got a job teaching maths at UEA part time. I’ve had various things published by Unthank Books and others. I was longlisted for the Galley Beggar Press prize last year too with my story Do Not Fall Asleep In The Bath.
Specifically, tell us a bit more about your longlisted story – the inspiration behind it, the writing of it…
(1) Queuing in the supermarket, fantasising about grabbing the bargain basket and running about with it but noticing it was attached to the floor by a cord.
(2) It’s hard to have an uprising in the suburbs. Where will it come from? A rock star? A politician? A writer? No. A supermarket manager who can hand pick his most radical customers, put them together and form a movement.
(3) I was reading Borges' “Library of Babel” and Max Bloch’s amazing book about the mathematics in it. But I was thinking of Pieter Bruegel’s painting of the Tower of Babel which is like a hierarchical supermarket for languages. I expect that mathematics is a language near the top of the tower.
4) Another time, my wife saw a woman walk out with a trolley of unpaid-for goods. Three supermarket staff members followed her at a safe distance and tried to reason with her to come back.
I went home and wrote all this down.
Name three short story writers you especially admire – why?
Program for short story writers to provoke an uprising in the suburbs:
(1) Well, first we need to reunite our left and right hemispheres: “The mathematical sciences wield their particular language made of digits and signs, no less subtle than any other” - Jorge Luis Borges.
(2) Then we should tackle what is going on behind the net curtains of our own minds: “In a completely sane world, madness is the only freedom” - JG Ballard.
(3) Going forward we should be looking to… “Do those things that incline you toward the big questions, and avoid the things that would reduce you and make you trivial” (George Saunders)