London’s Open Pen

The Open Pen Issue Nineteen is an austere brown. We’ve ditched the uncoated covers this time round for a satin laminate. It is an ode to the eighties. Cover author Rob True said it remind him of his runaround Vauxhall Viva from that decade. I too had a brown car in the eighties. Or at least my mum did. When I think of that Skoda I think of sitting in a queue of smog waiting for the Woolwich ferry, dad’s smoke plumes filtering back, our little bodies baking, improbable orange sponge but ursting out of torn black pleather seats like record breaking tumours. Shining Happy People compounding our misery. All day afternoons. Endless queues of cars.

It’s quite by chance that Issue Nineteen is so very eighties to look at. Yet there is something of retrospection in its fiction. Holly Watson’s ‘Coventry Conch’ blog is an ongoing gonzo memoir of childhood in the nineties. We’re chuffed to have taken the instalment ‘Aunty Mandy’, which sees little Holly at the centre of a real life adult break up.

Leo X. Robertson’s ‘The Other Half’ is a jarring account of a woman who wakes up to discover that her boyfriend now has half a face. There’s a sort of  The Thing-like quality to this yucky tale.

‘A Little Action’ by Craig Ledoux comes to us from New Hampshire, USA. Sexuality and death gets all mixed up in this brutalist short.

Siobhan Denton provides a flash recollecting an occurrence in youth in which “the rumour long outlived the reality.”

Susannah Heffernan’s speculatively fictional transcript ‘Computer Says’ imagines a world in which criminals are counselled by Intro-Neural Behaviour Therapy devices.

And it’s a flash fiction story that takes the cover spot too (for the first time since Issue Thirteen). A congratulations to Rob True. He’s our kind of writer: he has his own voice, and is writing from a place that we’re rarely afforded the opportunity to read. ‘Up the Silver Cord’ is a dank little thing, its protagonist in Theron a deranged abuser, haunted by a sneak of an extra terrestrial in a deck chair.

N Quentin Woolf is our regular contributor. It is, by now, we imagine, no shock that we’re really into Woolf’s writing. “Death Star” is brilliant. Abyss to bliss in under 1000 words. Brilliant. Read it and tell us otherwise. Double dare yas.

Should also thank our cover illustrator Josh Neal. There are few illustrators that get on with the job in hand as gleefully when the job in hand is to be bordered in poo brown.

Farhana Shaikh writes our guest editorial. Shaikh is the Penguin/Travelex Next Great Travel Writer of 2017. We hope her guest ed gets through to you. “Scare yourself,” she advises writers. She’s right.

Finally, bookshops do us and our writers a very un80s like favour: they stock Open Pen, a free short fiction magazine. If you can afford it, buy a book when you pick up a free copy of Open Pen. Keep us stocked. Keep giving us the opportunity to provide a platform for up-and-coming writers with something to say.

If you can’t get to one of our stockists, you can now subscribe to Open Pen (free, but cost of post and packaging).

It’s worth pointing out that Open Pen is not-for-profit. We do this out of our own pocket, by selling space to advertisers (like the awesome Mslexia), and selling copies of our book, The Open Pen Anthology. We are not backed by anyone other than ourselves. We are not funded by any arts council. Nor have we ever been. We have just about enough time to make this mag. We choose that over the time it takes filling out funding applications because we have to choose. Maybe one day we will be funded, but for now we’ll go about publishing short stories with bite from writers outside of the usual pool the way we always have down, with a determination to see these writers in bookshops. Help keep our mag free and affordable. Buy the book if you don’t have it, and shout far and wide about Open Pen. Read, write, SUBMIT.

Sean Preston.

Editor-and-a-bit of-a-chief

Beter than all that… Consider this:

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