I’m pleased to announce that the winner of the Carmel Bird Short Fiction Award 2013 is Alex Cothren, for his wonderful story ‘A Cure’. ‘A Cure’ stood out for me due to its imaginative speculation on the limits of ‘misery’ entertainment (and potential abuses of brain-tech), and questions it raises around the effects of saturation and over-stimulation. It’s an entertaining, smart and emotive story. It ticks all the boxes. I wasn’t surprised to hear that Alex took the competition/anthology brief very seriously.
‘A Cure’ will be published in The Great Unknown (Spineless Wonders, December), alongside other spooky and strange stories by established and emerging Australian writers. Alex has also won $500.
We collected some info from Alex when he was shortlisted, about himself and the story, so I’ll share a couple of answers with you here to celebrate his win:
What did you enjoy/find challenging about writing to this particular brief or theme?
As with any type of speculative fiction, the joy is in the speculating – creating a world recognisable, yet slightly twisted by the introduction of a ‘what if…?’ I had a lot of fun researching the advances in brain-computer interfacing, trying to figure out how these could one day become part of the everyday, in the same way wi-fi has now become mundane. The challenging aspect was attempting to write something that could do justice to the creativity, intelligence, and insight of The Twilight Zone. In that respect, the brief was an impossible one.
Tell us about your story in The Great Unknown.
I wanted to write a story exploring the issue of how the suffering of the unfortunate has become a global commodity consumed by the privileged. It was initially inspired by Amy Wilentz’s Farewell, Fred Voodoo, in particular a passage in which the USA-born author tells a Haitian friend how much she loves visiting that impoverished country, to which the friend responds: ‘well, then, I will give you my Haitian citizenship, and you give me your U.S. passport. You can stay here, but I’m leaving’. As Wilentz writes, ‘her point was that poverty, or even just some discomfort, is not so bad when you know that with a snap of your fingers, it can come to an end’.
How authentic can our empathy really be when the subject of pity disappears with a turn of the page, flick of the channel, click of the next link etc? I wanted to explore what would happen to a character who, aided by advances in technology, became stuck in the tragic world she was accustomed to entering and exiting at her leisure.
Readers, I hope you’re as excited to read it as I am to publish it. More Q&As with authors in The Great Unknown will appear on the Spineless Wonders website and on LiteraryMinded in the lead-up to publication.
I want to say thank you to Bronwyn Mehan and Spineless Wonders for letting me judge the Carmel Bird Award for 2013. It’s been an honour and a pleasure. I’m also incredibly grateful to be given the opportunity to edit the anthology, and bring the invited and shortlisted stories together in one strange, memorable, meaningful bundle.