‘Defending the Pencil Factory’ by Adam Marek

Adam Marek’s stories are very approachable, but there’s also an odd quality to them that makes you not entirely sure what you’ve just read. ‘Defending the Pencil Factory’, a one-off chapbook, is a good example of his work. The situation is that a small group of martial artists are holed up in a pencil factory. They are under constant attack by an army of monsters, but it turns out that they have accidentally discovered that the monsters’ only weak point is their skulls, which can be pierced by something sharp – say, a pencil.

Suddenly our situation changed. We were no longer in a pencil factory, but in a weapons store.

The only problem is that the gang only have one pencil sharpener and it takes 32 turns to make it sharp enough to kill. So when the next wave arrives, will they be ready or will they finally be overrun?

I have absolutely no idea whether this is a martial arts story or if it’s a story about metaphorical monsters being slain with writing implements, or even – given that there is a long sequence at the end describing the controversial finale of a martial arts film that their leader is particular fond of – if it’s a story about how we tell stories. I don’t think it actually matters, because it’s massively entertaining either way.

Published as a Guillemot Press chapbook 2018

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