Gelowiges, oopkopmense en brose eenspaaiers sal hierdie afdeling loutere plesier vind om te lees, selfs inspirerend. Dis ook nie Botha se skuld dat ek die pad byster geraak het nie, hy was ’n goeie Sondagskoolonnie wat die Bybel se stories poëties en genietlik aangebied het.
En dis dié stem van hierdie melancholiese en tog stuitige storieverteller van destyds uit my kinderjare wat ek regdeur die boek duidelik hoor.
Joanne Hichens – editor of the Adults Only, the second annual Short.Sharp.Stories Awards anthology – interviews Sean Mayne. His story “Bring On The Clowns” won the Judges Choice Award for Loudest Laugh.
Sean Mayne started his writing career as a travelling salesman, meaning he can fib straight-faced with the best of them. This, together with an inclination for daydreaming, means he is perfectly suited to the world of fiction. He currently writes newsletters persuading people to purchase things they don’t really need. The few times he was actively employed he disappeared into the internet, only to pop up in disguise as a friendly troll on his boss’s dime. (In fact, if you need someone to run your company at a loss for tax purposes, he’s your man.)
Your story “Bring on the Clowns” was described by the judges as a “belly-laugh, a feel good read that offers the luxury of laughing out loud…” Did you purposefully go the route of humour?
Regarding the erotica theme, I chose the humorous route to avoid frightening my wife, Kim, with the reality of what goes through the average male mind.
And now that you are not only a published, but a prize-winning writer of ‘erotica’ – your story came in second to Nick Mulgrew’s “Turning” – how does Kim feel about that?
Unfortunately, she won’t let me run for head of the Porn Writers Guild of South Africa, which is a shame. She didn’t even know I had entered the competition until you told me I was a finalist, Joanne, so I have been getting the skeef eye since, like What else are you going to spring on me, dude?
I still have difficulty explaining to friends (and family) that I am not a porn writer per se. I just write according to whatever the theme is. Yeah sure.
Has Kim turned you into a sex toy now that she knows what you’re obsessed with?
Well, she has always liked candles, so hot wax was the logical next step. I’m going to be in trouble for saying that. I mean I hope I am going to be in trouble for saying that. Just last night I was whipped for making eye contact while I was doing the ironing, so I’m interested to see why she has ordered me to bring jumper-lead cables home tonight.
Heh heh. And for you, was it a surprise of sorts? To be a prize-winner?
It was a complete surprise as this was my first story ever. I must admit it took me a long time to write, over 6 weeks. I am also a slow reader because I like to go over bits that I enjoy. I suppose that certain stories will not appeal to everyone and that there is a bit of luck involved regards the judges’ tastes. Winning a prize has made me focus on finding more time to write, but I think I need to take some lessons. Professor Google gives useful tips, but I’m such a bloody beginner.
But you did it, you wrote and sent in a story!
My five cents for anyone hoping to get published in Short.Sharp.Stories is to at least buy the book. It helps to examine what the finalists have produced and it also gives an insight to how the judges may see things.
What inspired you to write “Bring on the Clowns”? How did the story evolve?
My starting point was a block of flats. For some reason I associate people living in close proximity with voyeurism, probably because even though they are neighbours they are still mostly strangers. I battle to walk past an apartment window without sneaking a peek. What are people up to? Why is number seven’s door open? Who’s that in the shower? Hey, don’t call the police, it’s only me from number three!
Many years ago a friend told me how his builder did some ‘accidental’ building work. I love stories like that because they immediately make you picture an outcome – in this case the neighbours face as he arrives home to see the changes. I shelved that incident in the back of my mind and when I contemplated the theme of Adults Only it came in use. I focused on voyeurism because it’s so prevalent over the internet these days, so I’ve heard. And I like absurdity in a story, where the reader is not quite sure whether they are supposed to take the yarn seriously or not.
Were you purposefully wanting to ‘send up’ erotica?
I created a really seedy character who fancies himself as honourable, but in reality is a scaly little weasel. His attempt to get closer to the woman next door takes a turn after an ‘unfortunate’ incident. Or was it all an accident?
I kept things subtle, and because I’m not a Lindsay Clarke or Barbara Kingsolver, I wrote within my means, which is a bit of absurdity spiked with odd-ball humour: perfect for a send up of erotica. I had no idea how the yarn would end, so I played around with a couple of scenarios until one fit.
So what’s next for you?
My next step is to write more short stories. Short story writers I look up to include Darrel Bristow-Bovey, Garrison Keillor and Ellen Gilchrist. I can read all of their work again and again and that is my measure for a good story. My go-to guy for inspiration is David Sedaris, but unfortunately he makes it look so easy.
I also have a rough draft complete of a novella set in Pietersburg (the pre-Polokwane town that liked to call itself a city) around 1989. I was a sloppy chef in the Far North army intelligence base there and I feel I witnessed (and caused) enough buffoonery to write about it. Besides, ‘army intelligence’ is an oxymoron that needs some dismantling.
As long as you keep us laughing, Sean…
“Die bloemlesing is ’n voortvloeisel van ’n doktorale proefskrif oor waterslangverhale in Afrikaans wat ek reeds begin 2000 voltooi het. Agterin bedank ek Hennie Aucamp en George Weideman vir hulle hulp, veral met die insameling en keuse van tekste vir bespreking.”
Só het Jean Lombard aan Naomi Meyer vertel oor die oorsprong van haar bloemlesing, Die ding in die riete, wat vanjaar by Tafelberg verskyn het.
“Ek wou naamlik baie graag met lesers deel hoe wydverspreid hierdie wonderbaarlike waterverskynsels in die wêreldmitologieë en -letterkundes voorkom,” het Lombard gesê.
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Slange is volop in mites en verhale. Wat was vir jou die belangrikste aspekte om in hierdie boek te beklemtoon en waarom?
Wat vir my die verrassendste was om vas te stel, was die feit dat daar soveel waterslangverhale – oor dieselfde wonderslang as waarvan die Khoekhoen en die Boesmans vertel – in Afrikááns bestaan, mondeling en skriftelik. Ek kon dus die afleiding maak dat die waterslangargetipe deel uitmaak van Afrikaanssprekendes se onbewuste, dalk selfs van ’n bewuste geloof – hoewel baie mense dit as bygeloof sal dui.
Maar ek het ook gevind dat die grense tussen geloof en bygeloof nie altyd so fyn te onderskei is nie. Wat vir die een geloof is, is vir die ander by- of ongeloof. Linda Rode het in ons bekendstellingsgesprek ’n vriend aangehaal wat haar daaraan herinner het dat wat tans vir baie mense mite is, vroeër as waarheid gegeld het.
Ben-Ed’s note: The latest torment afflicting people who run websites is what I call the “SEO spam machine” – a vast mass of individuals and companies that either hawk dodgy search engine optimisation services, or offer to write free content for you that contains links which boost other peoples’ sites.
The offers usually come from shady Gmail accounts, so are hard to filter out. I delete up to 10 emails a day. In short, the SEO spam machine is a black hole from which no website is likely ever to escape.
Sometimes you drift in willingly, however, for a lark, replying to an email to see whether you can lead your spammer on a merry chase. Call it “spameating” (after the well-known scambaiting project, 419eater – and of course to ensure it’s quite distinct from “eating spam”, which many people do every day, right out of the tin).
Recently, a spameating exercise undertaken in an idle moment by Books LIVE bore unexpected fruit, in the form of the story below. The ingredients that brought the story to life included our rather ludicrous demands that the free content on offer – initially a non-fiction article centred on online gambling – include references to bookshops and first edition works, plus an Ernest Hemingway quote.
After some back and forth, the story we were sent – within 24 hours! – not only met our requirements, but also turned out to be, well, good. So we’re running it here, and as our part of the bargain we’re leaving the casino link that drove the entire transaction intact.
We don’t know who wrote it, but we think its bizarre provenance makes it special: this fiction would not exist without the pressure-cooker competition bred by SEO and its darker arts. Perhaps, by inadvertently commissioning it, we’ve stumbled upon an entirely new genre.
Here, then, is an original short story generated by Books LIVE in collaboration with the great SEO spam machine – factory-produced, link-salted, manufactured to spec and possibly the first of its kind.
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Two Queens and Two Books
Forcing his mind to cut through its boozy lethargy the Player focussed on his cards – two queens. He raised narrowing eyes towards the whiskery bulk of the man across the table – his oldest friend supposedly – and felt a visceral undercurrent of hatred. “Fat bastard,” he thought.
He’d got that knowing smirk going and, loosened up by the booze, he was starting to turn nasty. He’d always had an ugly side.
He couldn’t be trusted, the Player thought, recognising familiar signs in the intensity of the big man’s concentration and his darkening eye. This was getting out of hand.
“Okay,” the speech was thick and slow, laden with something close to mockery, “Let’s play properly. Never mind all this little girls’ confetti,” he gestured contemptuously at the one hundred and twenty dollars on the table, “Let’s see what you’re made of big boy. My Tender is the Night for your Hemingway and I’ll see you.”
Internally the player reeled. Both books were first editions, and much as he coveted the Fitzgerald, The Old Man and the Sea meant more to him than anything else in his collection. He cherished and adored its battered green cover, its heavy yellowed paper and its beautifully crafted lithographs.
“Grace under pressure”, he told himself as he attempted to mask the jolt of tension that had shot through him. He swallowed heavily as he registered the full weight of the call. He felt suddenly bilious.
He said nothing and swallowed a second time.
“Hemingway wouldn’t have flinched,” he told himself, and the words from the Old Man’s battle with the great fish came into him, ““Let him think that I am more man than I am and I will be so.”
His eyes slipped again to the two queens as he tried to remember what the www.onlinecasinobluebook.com/za website had said about betting on a pair. The recollection escaped him.
“Let him think that I am more man than I am and I will be so.” He was talking himself into it.
His thoughts raced: That sadistic fat fuck, he’d like nothing better than to win with a buff. It would be so like him. Hemmingway wouldn’t have let himself be suckered like that. He’d have rather died than back down. What was it he’d said about the worst kind of luck was being born a coward? Only a strong man could think like that. Hemingway was talking him into it.
But glancing down at the queens in his hands his instincts broke cover. Did he want the Fitzgerald that much? Did he want to be pushed around by that great bully, just to save face? What sort of crazy courage would that be? Look where it got Hemingway!
The Queen of Hearts looked gentle and kind, he thought.
“Well girly, what’s it to be?” The ugliness was spreading insistently.
That hard-faced philistine didn’t care about the books. It wasn’t a fair bet. He was taunting the Player out of badness. And if he were to take The Old Man he’d make it a lasting torture.
His words seemed to come from somewhere outside of him, and even as they did he recognised the mealy-mouthed quality of his surrender, “But it was my mother’s…”
The big man roared in laughter.
Die Eugène Marais-stigting in die Paarl beoog om die taalerfenis van Eugène N Marais behoue te laat bly. Joernalis Francois Lötter het die doel van die stigting uiteengesit tydens ’n onderhoud met Jean Oosthuizen vir LitNet.
“Die doel is om die ou geskiedkundige skool- en koshuisgeboue van die ou Paarl First Class Public School op die landgoed van die Zomerlust-gastehuis in die hartjie van die Paarl te restoureer en te omskep in ’n omgewing waar Marais se lewe en werk op ’n interaktiewe, praktiese en leersame wyse vir die grootste moontlike gehoor toeganklik gemaak kan word.”
Lötter is verantwoordelik vir die fondsinsameling, bemarking en kommunikasie van die stigting. “Die groot plan is om dit ’n interaktiewe plek te maak waar mens nie net 100 jaar in die geskiedenis sal teruggaan in Marais se besonderse lewe nie, maar sy lewenservarings in hedendaagse situasies kan toepas,” het hy gesê.
Lötter het met Oosthuizen gesels oor die ambisieuse projek, die sakeplan en wat hy hoop om met die stigting te bereik. Lötter het gesê die stigting is veel meer as net ’n museum. Hy hoop om mense op ’n moderne en interaktiewe wyse aan Marais se werk en lewe voor te stel. Hy het gesels oor die stigting se toekomstige planne, insluitend ’n konsert of deur groot kunstenaars.
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Marais was veel meer as net ’n digter en skrywer. Hy was ook natuurnavorser, koerantredakteur, geneeskundige en regsgeleerde. Gaan julle slegs op hom as skrywer fokus of beplan julle om al die ander fasette van sy lewe in ag te neem en hoe wil julle dit doen?
Die meeste mense, veral ouer Suid-Afrikaners en Afrikaanstaliges, ken Eugène Marais as die skrywer van gedigte soos “Winternag”, “Mabalêl” en “Skoppensboer” wat ons op skool geleer het. En natuurlik van sy navorsing oor miere en bobbejane, waaruit Die siel van die mier en Die siel van die aap gebore is.
Toe die direkteure my verlede jaar gevra het om betrokke te raak by die projek, het ek ook nie veel meer as dit van Marais geweet nie. Nadat ek Leon Rousseau se boek oor Marais se lewe, Die groot verlange, gelees het, het ek ’n heeltemal ander siening oor Marais en sy vele lewensfasette gekry. Ek sal elkeen aanbeveel om hierdie boek te lees.
Marais se besonderse lewe word ook treffend saamgevat deur Robert Ardrey in die voorwoord van Die siel van die aap: “Eugene Marais was a human community in the person of one man. He was a poet, an advocate, a journalist, a storyteller, a drug-addict, a psychologist, a natural scientist. He embraced the pains of the many, the visions of the few, and perhaps the burden was too much for one man. As a scientist he was unique, supreme in his time, yet a worker in a science then unborn. He was a freak, spawned by the exuberance of mankind, an immortal who speaks from his grave.”
Alert! Diane Awerbuck has been named the winner of Short Story Day Africa‘s Terra Incognita short story competition for her entry “Leatherman”.
Namibian author Sylvia Schlettwein’s story “Ape Shit” comes in second place while Kerstin Hall, also South African, claims the third spot with her story “In the Water”. An honourable mention has been made of Kenyan author Sese Yane’s his story, “The Corpse”.
Before every inch of the world had been explored, cartographers denoted uncharted territories as terra incognita. This year, Short Story Day Africa asked writers to look deep into their imaginations to draw out fantastical and mythical stories, also classified as speculative fiction.
Judge Samuel Kolawole, who was joined by Richard de Nooy and Jared Shurin, said of Awerbuck’s story: “The winning entry is among the most engaging pieces of short fiction I have read this year. A tale of longing and dark adventure, “Leatherman” draws the reader into its rhythm and mystery through scalpel sharp details and sly wit. A deserving winner.”
These stories will be published with others on the longlist in the next SSDA anthology, set to be released next year. Keep an eye on Books LIVE for the Awerbuck’s short story as well as the cover reveal.
Congratulations to all!
Short Story Day Africa is proud to announce this year’s winning stories.
This year’s competition encouraged wild imagination and new frontiers with the theme ‘Terra Incognita’. Writers were urged to delve into the genres of speculative fiction: horror, fantasy, dystopian, sci-fi, alternative history and magical realism.
The winners are:
1st Place – “Leatherman” by Diane Awerbuck (South Africa)
2nd Place – “Ape Shit” by Sylvia Schlettwein (Namibia)
3rd Place – “In the Water” by Kerstin Hall (South Africa)
Honourable Mention – “The Corpse” by Sese Yane (Kenya)
Many thanks to Jared Shurin, Richard de Nooy and Samuel Kolawole for generously donating their time and efforts to create the shortlist, and to Samuel for taking on the mantle of head judge at the eleventh hour.
Samuel had this to say about the winners:
“The work I have chosen show a commitment to language and coherent narrative. They are ambitious and highly imaginative, exploring uncharted territories and provide a refreshing outlook to our stories
The winning entry is among the most engaging pieces of short fiction I have read this year. A tale of longing and dark adventure, “Leatherman” draws the reader into its rhythm and mystery through scalpel sharp details and sly wit. A deserving winner.
“Ape Shit” is riveting, surreal and beautifully crafted.
“In the Water” is a thump to the heart. A great horror story with a satisfying ending.
Finally, wonderfully stylistic and quirky “The Corpse” deserves an honourable mention.”
Thank you to our prize sponsors; Books Live; All About Writing; Paige Nick; Louis Greenberg; The Caine Prize for African Writing; and Modjaji Books.
Terra Incognita, an anthology of the 2014 long list, is due for release later this year.