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London Literature Festival, Southbank Centre

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An evening at the Southbank Centre is always going to be enlightening and entertaining – this is never more true than during the London Literature Festival, which runs 5 – 16 October. This year, it featured events with Margaret Atwood, Louis Theroux, Richard Dawkins, Iraqi science fiction and a reading of H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine with Christopher Eccleston, all focusing on the theme of ‘Living In Future Times’.


H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine reading with Christopher Eccleston, Nikki Amuka-Bird and Emma Hamilton, 5 October

To mark the opening of The London Literature Festival there was a reading of H. G. Wells’ early science fiction classic, The Time Machine. Acclaimed actors Christopher Eccleston, Emma Hamilton and Nikki Amuka-Bird, were accompanied by internationally renowned organist James McVinnie, playing the famous Royal Festival Hall organ, to give a eerie and marvellously performed reading.

Time travel has long been one of the great tropes of science fiction, but it was this 1895 novella that lodged the concept firmly in the public imagination, popularising the idea that one might travel through time much as we travel through space.

H. G. Wells’ novel is a dystopian adventure and a political commentary of late Victorian England, offering a vision and indeed a warning of a troubled future. Nevertheless, the reading was thoroughly enjoyable, and brimming with an insight into how, in our own unsettled times, the power of storytelling can connect us all.

Nikki Amuka-Bird, Emma Hamilton, Christopher Eccleston will perform a live reading of The Time Machine, Wed 5 Oct in Royal Festival Hall to open Southbank Centre's 10th London Literature Festival. Credit Helen Maybanks
Photo by Helen Maybanks

Margaret Atwood in conversation with Short Story Competition 2016 judge, Erica Wagner, on her retelling of The Tempest, named Hag-Seed, 6 October

Also in attendance at the festival was the Booker prize-winning Canadian novelist Margaret Atwood, who was in discussion with author, critic and our very own Short Story Competition 2016 judge Erica Wagner. The discussion was centred around Atwood’s new novel Hag-Seed; a characteristically skewed re-imagining of The Tempest which is filled with surprises and wonders all of its own. She deftly shows how the tales of Shakespeare are universal even now and adds her own magic and twist of fun to this retelling. Atwood is an author that presents her work with warmth and humour; and that evening was no exception; her and Erica at one point were wholeheartedly rapping out a section of the book!

During the talk, Atwood also spoke of her participation in the project, Future Library. a project set up by Scottish perceptual artist Katie Paterson. Over the next 100 years, 99 more authors – one a year – will contribute a text to the library. In 2114, the 1,000 trees planted last summer in the Nordmarka will be cut down and all the texts made public. The preservation of the written word symbolises how must all, even in times of fear and darkness, preserve our souls. “I am sending a manuscript into time,” notes the author, in a short piece written for the event. “Will any human beings be waiting there to receive it? Will there be a ‘Norway’? Will there be a ‘forest’? Will there be a ‘library’? How strange it is to think of my own voice – silent by then for a long time – suddenly being awakened, after 100 years. What is the first thing that voice will say as a not-yet-embodied hand draws it out of its container and opens it to the first page? I picture this encounter – between my text and the so-far nonexistent reader – as being a little like the red-painted hand print I once saw on the wall of a Mexican cave that had been sealed for over three centuries. Who now can decipher its exact meaning? But its general meaning was universal: any human being could read it. It said: ‘Greetings. I was here.’”

While listening to Atwood speak, one was reminded how there is a strange comfort in consuming her dystopian stories. They are reminders, despite reflecting a dire present, that it’s never too late for us. This inherent hope at least allows people to imagine a better future- maybe they are a kind of litany for survival, that humanity will continue despite our best efforts to destroy ourselves.

Photo: Pete Woodhead
Photo by Pete Woodhead

Screening of Louis Theroux’s ‘My Scientology Movie’ and Q&A with Louis Theroux, Adam Buxton and John Dower, 10 October

Following this year’s London Literature Festival theme ‘Living In Future Times’, a screening of Louis Theroux’s ‘My Scientology Movie’, exploring the religion based on a science-fiction writer’s work, kicked off the second week of the festival. A relatively young audience filtered into the stalls, balcony and boxes of the Royal Festival Hall. A screen hangs; a poster of ‘My Scientology Movie’ by Louis Theroux is projected onto it, complimented by an instantly-recognisable illustration of Theroux.

The lights dim and Adam Buxton walks on-stage to introduce the evening. The film starts, opening with a tweet by Louis Theroux:

‘Open call to any #Scientologists out there. I would love to speak to you for a documentary I am working on. About Scientology.’

The film continues with this borderline sarcastic tone, a tone very true to Theroux’s entertaining and lighthearted documentaries in the early days of ‘Weird Weekends’. Later, in the Q&A, director John Dower explains this was one of their main aims: to give the documentary that ‘early Louis’ feel.

One of the main reasons Dower and Theroux decided to make the documentary rather humorous was because another film on scientology, Alex Gibney’s ‘Going Clear’, came out whilst they were filming. Gibney’s documentary was highly informative and serious, so they decided ‘My Scientology Movie’ had to contrast this.

This is something they certainly achieved. The documentary is structured around actors who play Tom Cruise, David Miscavige and other members of scientology. Marty Rathbun (former Senior Executive of the Church of Scientology) directs a mix of scientology-based workshops, improvisations and the re-enactment of real-life footage, allowing him to visually express what he experienced during his time at the church, both to Theroux and the viewers.

As a whole, the evening was informative, daring, but was also scattered with entertaining moments which bring a classic ‘Louis’ humanity to a very serious subject.

Photo: Pete Woodhead
Photo by Pete Woodhead

#LLF’s 10th Birthday Event, 10 October

Up in the Weston Roof Pavilion, poets and literature lovers alike met to celebrate Southbank Centre London Literature Festival’s 10th anniversary. The event was attended by John Agard amongst others. and was centred around speeches by Senior Programmer, Literature and Spoken Word Ted Hodgkinson and Artistic Director Jude Kelly. They spoke about the futuristic, science fiction theme of this year’s festival, reviewed some of the events which had taken place so far and thanked the staff for their hard work. Behind the backdrop of the London Eye, the OXO tower and the other glistening lights of the southbank’s skyline, Southbank Centre staff and LLF guests cheered, celebrating the fine production of one of London’s most important events.

To read more on this year’s London Literature Festival, read our interview with Senior Programmer, Literature and Spoken Word Ted Hodgkinson.

Photo: Abi Lofthouse
Photos by Abi Lofthouse

 

By Lucy Binnersley and Abi Lofthouse


Artwork by Harriet Cheney, Southbank Centre

‘Living in Future Times’
Southbank Centre
5 – 16 October 2016

Short Story Competition 2016 | An interview with Max Porter

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With just over a month until our Short Story Competition 2016 closes, we spoke to judge Max Porter and found out about which writer never fails to inspire him, which three books he’d take if he were stranded on a desert island, and what advice he’d give to this year’s competition entrants.

 

What are you currently reading? If it’s not fiction, what fiction have you recently read and enjoyed?

I’m reading Lian Hearn’s Japanese adventure series Shikanoko, Eileen Myles’ I Must Be Living Twice, and some Peter Stamm short stories.

And what specifically did you like about it?

I like the very controlled and worthwhile magic realism in Lian Hearn’s books, and the sex, and the painterly way she has with violence. They’re hugely entertaining and I need that because I ‘literary fiction’ all day every day.

What is your favourite short story, and why is it your favourite?

That’s a horrible question and I refuse to answer it. Oh OK. On Monday it was The Lottery by Shirley Jackson. On Tuesday it was The Swimmer by John Cheever. On Wednesday it is The Country Funeral by John McGahern. Thursday The Early Deaths of.. by Jesse Ball. And so on.

I’d choose The Lottery for a space capsule I suppose. Because it is devastating, exquisitely well designed, witty, political, mythic. It tells vast truths quickly and with poise. It is perfect.

Which writer’s work can you always rely on to inspire your creative process?

Angela Carter.

If you were stuck on a desert island and you could only take three books, which three would you take?

Refuse to answer. Ok, Odyssey, Shakespeare and a massive cheat Poetry anthology.

What advice can you give entrants to the Short Story Competition 2016?

You should let the story do what it needs to do and not corral it harmfully into another shape. Stories are lethal tools, let it be. Consider how many we’ll have to read and show us quickly why we need to pay attention to yours. Do not waste one single word. Finish well, all the greats do.

 


Max PorterMax Porter is an editorial director of Granta and Portobello Books. His authors include Han Kang, Eleanor Catton, Ben Marcus, Sarah Moss and Caroline Lucas. His debut novel Grief is the Thing With Feathers was published in 2015. It won the International Dylan Thomas Prize and will be translated into 23 languages. He lives in South London with his family.

Short Story Competition 2016 | An interview with Angus Cargill

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With just over a month until our Short Story Competition 2016 closes, we caught up with judge Angus Cargill and found out about his favourite short story, what he’s currently reading and what he sees as they key elements of a short story (take note, competition entrants!).

 

What are you currently reading? And what specifically did you like about it?

The three last novels I read, away from work, were My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout, Transit by Rachel Cusk and Willnot by James Sallis – three short novels that would be said to be from different genres (the first two ‘literary’, the third ‘crime) but were similar in many ways – spare and enigmatic, and yet they all manage to be both gripping and intensely moving. I’ll be doing well to read anything else as good this year, and would highly recommend all three.

What is your favourite short story, and why is it your favourite?

‘Two Boys and a Girl’ by Tobias Wolff, the perfect story (with the perfect title), about the confusion, pain and excitement of adolescence, which still, whenever I re-read it, seems truthful and alive.

Which writer’s work can you always rely on to inspire your creative process?

Lorrie Moore’s short stories, and Raymond Carver’s, anything by David Peace, George Pelecanos or Megan Abbott, Robert Cormier’s YA novels, Adrian Tomine’s graphic novels.

In your opinion, what are the key elements of a good short story?

I love stories that feel like you’re just getting a moment or window onto something, almost like a glance, and that the author knows what not to write, what to hold back, as much as they choose to put in.

What advice can you give entrants to the Short Story Competition 2016?

Be brave.

 


Angus Cargill is Editorial Director at Faber & Faber, where he was worked since 2000. He edits and publishes writers such as Kazuo Ishiguro, Sebastian Barry, Jane Harris, David Peace, Nadeem Aslam and Lucy Caldwell, as well as non-fiction authors Peter Pomerantsev, Nick Kent and Barney Hoskyns. He also runs Faber’s crime list – which includes Peter Swanson, Chris Pavone, Laura Lippman, Stav Sherez and Alafair Burke, among others – and has published a number of graphic novels, by Emily Carroll, Craig Thompson and Adrian Tomine.

Short Story Competition 2016

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This competition is now closed.

Thanks to all who entered. The longlist, shortlist and winners will be announced over the next few months. Keep checking our ‘Competitions’ section and sign up to our newsletter for updates.


Autumn is here, which means The London Magazine‘s Short Story Competition 2016 is upon us.

The London Magazine has published short stories by some of the most well-respected literary figures over the course of long history. Our annual Short Story Competition seeks out new voices to join them. Established to encourage emerging literary talent, the award provides an opportunity for publication and recognition, as well as rewarding imagination, originality and creativity. The London Magazine is looking for unpublished short stories under 4,000 words from writers across the world. The story that wins first-place will be published in a future issue of The London Magazine. The second and third place stories will be published on our website. Prize winners will also be invited to a reception in early 2017.

Entry fee: £10 per short story (there is no limit to the number of entries you can submit)

Opening date: 1st September 2016
Closing Date: 31st October 2016
Deadline Extended To: 14th November

First Prize: £500
Second Prize: £300
Third Prize: £200


Judges:

Erica Wagner is an author and editor. For 17 years literary editor of The Times, and twice a judge of the Man Booker prize, she is now Lecturer in Creative Writing at Goldsmiths, University of London, a contributing writer for the New Statesman and consulting literary editor for Harper’s Bazaar. She is the author of Gravity: Stories; Ariel’s Gift: Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath and the Story of Birthday Letters and Seizure, a novel. Pas de Deux/A Concert of Stories, co-written with storyteller Abbi Patrix and musician and composer Linda Edsjö, tours around the world. First Light: A Celebration of Alan Garner, has just been published by Unbound, and her biography of Washington Roebling, chief engineer of the Brooklyn Bridge, will be published by Bloomsbury in 2017.

Max Porter

 

Max Porter is an editorial director of Granta and Portobello Books. His authors include Han Kang, Eleanor Catton, Ben Marcus, Sarah Moss and Caroline Lucas. His debut novel Grief is the Thing With Feathers was published in 2015. It won the International Dylan Thomas Prize and will be translated into 23 languages. He lives in South London with his family.

 

Angus CargillAngus Cargill is Editorial Director at Faber & Faber, where he was worked since 2000. He edits and publishes writers such as Kazuo Ishiguro, Sebastian Barry, Jane Harris, David Peace, Nadeem Aslam and Lucy Caldwell, as well as non-fiction authors Peter Pomerantsev, Nick Kent and Barney Hoskyns. He also runs Faber’s crime list – which includes Peter Swanson, Chris Pavone, Laura Lippman, Stav Sherez and Alafair Burke, among others – and has published a number of graphic novels, by Emily Carroll, Craig Thompson and Adrian Tomine.

Read The London Magazine’s interviews with the judges here.


Submission:

As of 1st September, you’ll be able to apply via Submittable here:

submit
Alternatively, you can download the Short Story Competition 2016 Entry Form to fill in and post with your entry. (N.B. There is no need to complete an entry form if entering via Submittable)

Important:
Please read our competition rules carefully before entering.
If you have any questions, please contact Abi at competition@thelondonmagazine.org.
To receive competition updates and all the latest news and offers, sign up for The London Magazine‘s Official Newsletter.
Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and Facebook for updates!

 

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