You need to be very afraid. The future looks bad, but the good news is that there will still be writers to inspire, and scare, us.
Two or three of you might recall there was a short story competition launched during the Manchester LitFest in October last year? Julie Bertagna came and talked about her futuristic writing and the idea was that Manchester’s young hopeful writers would come up with stories featuring their city in the future.
On Friday at the Museum of Science and Industry we saw the results of the competition, and it was impressive. Julie was back to meet the winner, and she and Saci Lloyd and Jane Rogers talked about their own writing, and read excerpts from their books to an audience of participating teenagers from various schools.
Julie felt the day was prophetic, with all the rain and floods everywhere. Her Exodus trilogy is all about flooding, and here we were, practically washing away. She had even travelled to Manchester a day early to make sure she’d arrive in time, while leaving behind a flooded kitchen at home. But we are the children of survivors (or we wouldn’t be here at all), so it’s good. She even managed to fit in Higgs Boson into her talk.
Jane Rogers had a scary story about humanity being wiped out, and I believe it’s set in Tameside, so is uncomfortably close to home. Saci Lloyd likes laughter, and feels her books are ‘quite nice stories.’
After the readings, there was a short panel discussion on science fiction. Julie feels that outdated science is all right (cf Mary Shelley), and knows of scientists who have been inspired in their work by fiction. Saci is worried that the young today have lost too much, and have little to look forward to.
It has to take time to write books. Jane said she needs four years for a book, and her last one took five. Turning off the internet is useful. Saci is simply very jealous of Suzanne Collins and the Hunger Games.
Then it was time for the 31 shortlisted teenagers to have their names read out, and the two runners-up were given signed copies of Julie’s and Saci’s and Jane’s books. There is an anthology printed, containing all 31 stories from the shortlist.
The overall winner was Josh Degenhardt, with When the Rain Falls They Talk of Manchester, which is a story about a very dry Manchester. Julie read it to us, and if there are more teen writers like Josh we needn’t worry about the future of fiction. His story was exceptionally good, albeit scary and frightening. And I always knew the Hilton building would fall down one day.