This anthology came out of the Kraken Rises event at this year’s Bristol Literature Festival in partnership with Jared Shurin of The Kitschies, and Lee Harris of Angry Robot. The whole event was organised and co-ordinated by Pete Sutton. I was one of the three authors who designed the creative brief, and one of the six around on the day to provide story prompts and (hopefully) inspiration for the writers/contestants. I had nothing to do with the actual writing, judging and selection, or editing, so I was very interested to see the anthology and read what people had been inspired to write. The result is impressive.
Kraken Rises is a flashmob book, true popup publishing. Stories were written in 24 hours using a creative brief not released until the day of the event. Entries were judged and selected the next day – and the anthology was created. This makes it, I believe, the fastest book in the world. As Pete Sutton says in his introduction, these stories, “were written under extreme pressure and in a very short period. Many of the participants hadn’t written before or hadn’t written for a long time … Due to our self-imposed deadlines there hasn’t been time to ask for redrafts or to do much more than correct typos.”
From this you might expect a rather scrappy collection of half-realised projects. It’s a pleasure to say the collection is no such thing. Considering the ferociously tight deadline for writers, editing and production, the anthology is remarkably well put together. From the absurdist and surprisingly mature humour of The Kraken Rises: The Dragon Slayers, by Jake & Riley Bailey (Aged 8 & 5) to my first encounter with a Politician as Hero in Ian Millstead’s Kraken Rises (There’s a theme to this anthology you know) there is consistently good writing, imaginative story-telling, and a real sense of fun.
There are two text/mail stories in the collection. Kraken’s Go d, by Elspeth Penny is a complex and ambitious gem I really enjoyed. Competition runner-up Kevlin Henney’s #KrakenEvent twitter-feed is witty, irreverent, and sadly poignant. One day we will all write about the end of the world in 140 characters.
It’s not all doom and gloom. Return, Rosie Oliver’s mythic tale of trees, time-travel and transcendence is charming and uplifting, a complete contrast to the joyfully apocalyptic tales forming the rest of the anthology.
Scott Lewis’s Kitty McLure and the Cult of the Kraken is a deserved competition winner. In Lewis’s richly inventive steampunk adventure the resourceful Miss Felicity Hartnett-Bly takes the role of Watson to Kitty’s Sherlock. Together they fight dastardly cabals. I sense a novel brewing in Mr Lewis’s cranium.
The second collaboration, The Kraken Binding by Claire Fisher and Helen Elliot-Boult is playfully rooted in genre fiction. The only Lovecraftian tale in the book, it also includes doomed redshirts, an opinionated view of Bristolian architecture and a hybrid guardian spirit of Mary Shelley and Frankenstein’s monster. If Ballard every wrote whimsy he surely would have written this.
A book in 48 hours. I don’t think it’s ever been done before. Should it ever be done again? Absolutely!
All profits go to support the Bristol Literature Festival, which receives no external funding.
Kraken Rises, £1.53
Pub:The Bristol Festival of Literature with assistance from Angry Robot