The second Random Writers anthology of short stories, which I have co-edited with J.A. Ironside, is to be released soon – ‘Something Rich And Strange: The Past Is Prologue’ will be available for download on 12 December, and as a paperback shortly afterwards.
‘It started with the Zhar-ptitsa, the Firebird, as these things must. No, let us say it started again with the Firebird.’
A group of researchers open a door in the present day that has been closed for centuries – and should have stayed that way. In 1840s Ireland, starving children face desperate measures to avoid the crisis consuming the land. A visitor to 19th Century Japan learns what it takes to fan love to life. A girl struggles to rise above the walls that surround her in Georgian England. In 7th Century Britain, a scribe translates the true value of a legend. Fourteen surprising, moving and compelling tales, weaving the next steps in the telling of famous events and stories from Greek myth to English folktale, via fairy tales and real historical events.
Something Rich And Strange takes the idea we played with in the first anthology, A Seeming Glass, and moves it on a step or two. We developed the brief along the lines of ‘what happened next?’ in existing stories. The ‘beginning, middle and end’ of the conventional story is essentially arbitrary – life doesn’t happen in episodes – so what happens after they all live happily ever after? To add to the idea of real life being a place where stories happen, we asked that each story be set in a period of human history. It could be an alternative or fantasy version, but had to be recognisable and traceable to a date roughly from the end of the Roman Empire to the end of the First World War.
Once again, the verve and variety with which the Randoms responded to the brief was wonderful to behold. The stories each chose to use as a jumping off point vary from the instantly familiar to the exotically obscure, from fairy tale to historical events. The ‘what happened next’ ranges from a direct sequel to tales of how the story came to be recorded, or hint at consequences unforeseen in the original narrative. The historical settings are beautifully realised.
I won’t say any more in case I give too much away – I recommend the collection to anyone who loves short stories, and it can be pre-ordered from Amazon for a very reasonable £2.99 (and will be on other platforms in due course)
The beautiful cover art produced for us by Mat Sadler can be purchased as a print from his website