I’m the fantasy writer without a home.
I don’t write the kind of genre that people can pretend is literary (Science Fiction, basically), but I’m also not endlessly rewriting The Lord of The Rings, so I can feel rather lost and overlooked. Too fantasy for “real” readers and not fantasy enough for “fantasy” readers. I also made the mistake of selling YA and children’s books so yanno, obviously not a proper writer.
Ha! This was meant to be a YAY COOL SHIT HAPPENED TO ME post and instead it became me eyerolling at speculative fiction/lit fiction divides.
Anyway, there was a point to this. OH YES. So there’s a short story writing prize in Africa, which I never submitted to because, yanno, Not Literary Writer Person. Then, for last year’s anthology, Short Story Day Africa decided to concentrate on a speculative approach, and as luck would have it, I ended up on the long list and my short story Mouse Teeth was included.
When this year’s theme came around (Water) I debated sending something in. After all, Not Literary Writer Person. But I knew that the organisers were actively trying to widen the net for the kinds of stories that were being submitted, so I thought welp, okay, I have nothing to lose. If they don’t take it, it goes back on the submission mill.
I wrote Serein, realised it was too short for the SSDA guidelines and sent that in to Shimmer (who bought it, because they rock). I still needed to write something to submit to Water, and as usual, I ended up telling a story about people who turn into things because hey, I pretty much love that shit. So. A girl whose family slowly become fish people, until they are drowned and “rise from the dead” as something not human. It’s about liminal space; of being human but not human, fishperson but not fishperson, caught between dry land and water, and belonging to neither. You can read it as a metaphor for many things but it’s about not fitting in, and about choosing a side.
Anyway, luck was with me again, and I made the long list, and then, even more bizarrely, the short list.
And then I got a phone call which more or less went like this:
“Rachel (Zadok) is in Nigeria right now, at AKE, announcing the SSDA winners.”
“Yeah, I know, I’m on the shortlist.” <<<this is me being confused, like, yeah….
“No, honey. You won.”
“Oh.” <<<me, looking for candid cameras. “Are you sure?”
As it turns out, it was not an elaborate joke. So yeah, my first actual award for anything and it is pretty swell and I am chuffed. 😀