‘Talent’ by Niven Govinden

I know it’s tiny. I know that Niven Govinden is a tour de force of a novelist, voguing and slaying with every friggin’ long-form sentence. But this story, though. Given how much more he has done since this small slice of struttin’ perfection was published, I’d understand him being affronted that I chose this. But the criteria here is what stays with me, and this series of sentences from a gloriously fat Lancashire lass on the pole – Gypsy Rose Lee of Blackburn! – echoes, especially when as a fat woman, I feel less than fabulous. Flash fiction is a true skill, and Govinden’s ability to create multidimensional character, a world that convinces and bounces and glitters, to eviscerate limited ideas of female beauty, and to fashion a whole damn plot in just over 350 words has me bowing down every time. Some work exists to help mend our broken hearts and this is one of them.

First published in Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine, Volume 2, No. 2, October 2009. Read it online here

‘Animal Heart’ by Niven Govinden

I am of course including one of my own stories, because my ego knows no rest. I wrote several short stories around this time with the resurgence of global violence towards LGBTQ+ people very much on my mind. These stories informed something of the collective trauma I would later explore in This Brutal House. In this piece, dealing with a teenager arrested in a clandestine gay dance in an unnamed country and subsequently thrown from a tower, the brutality and cruelty is laid bare.

First published in A Kind Of Compass: Stories on Distance, ed. Belinda McKeon, Tramp Press 2015