© Midnight Street Press
Jim Mountfield, the name under which I write much of my fiction, has a new short story called New Town Tours featured in Strange Days, a 500-page, 36-author anthology that’s just been published by Midnight Street Press.
The writers submitting work to this anthology were asked to consider and build stories around the following theme: “The world is in a mess. It seems that from a human perspective, we’re pretty well screwed… Greed, political imperatives, narrow-minded thinking, poverty, ignorance… we are experiencing very strange days. There’s a mass extinction happening and it may well include our species.” Thus, the fiction featured in its pages should “reflect the strange times we are living in and… sum up the precariousness of modern existence.”
Ironically, the deadline for submissions to Strange Days at the end of February coincided with the growing international panic over the Covid-19 virus. It came just before many governments imposed lockdowns and curfews to thwart the virus’s spread. Thus, the three months between that deadline and the publication of the anthology itself, in late May, have witnessed some strange days indeed.
To promote Strange Days, its editor Trevor Denyer has invited the contributors to record themselves introducing and reading extracts from their stories. The resulting film clips have been placed on a webpage that is accessible here.
You can hear me – as Jim Mountfield – talking about how New Town Tours, my dystopian contribution to Strange Days, was based on experiences I had years ago living in Edinburgh. Scotland’s capital city has always struck me as a perplexing place because it has a famously grand, affluent, historical and cultural city centre but also a periphery of housing schemes “which were built in recent history… suffer from a lot of poverty, from a lot of social problems, and for a lot of the people living on them, they’re not easy places.” And I point out that Edinburgh was, appropriately enough, “the hometown of Robert Louis Stevenson, who wrote Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde… it always seemed to me like a Jekyll and Hyde town.” I also mention that when I stayed in Edinburgh, I was working on what would be called today a zero-hours contract, I wasn’t a particularly happy bunny at the time and New Town Tours was coloured by the negativity I felt. It takes a bleak view of humanity and none of the story’s characters, whether they’re from the poor side of the tracks or from the rich side, come out of it well.