Sneaky, Slimy and Full of Swears: 20 Years of Short Fiction in Broken Pencil

FEATURES_Little Train Pyjamas Illo

 “Little Train Pyjamas” illustration by Jayesh Bhagat, issue 64.

Presenting five of Broken Pencil’s most notorious/memorable pieces of short fiction, as chosen by fiction editor Richard Rosenbaum.

Beaverland 

by David Burke (Issue 36 —2007) 

“Funny that, with all the girl trouble, Ben should find himself underneath a moose rack staring at a long, pointed antler and the pink cotton of a dangling pair of panties.” In that first line alone you’ve got images of Canada, coitus, and confusion—all important elements of so many Broken Pencil stories. A kid from the city ending up at a northern lodge searching for he-doesn’t-know-what and not finding it; minimal and moodily familiar. Read it here.

Camp Zombie

by Ian Rogers (Issue 40 — 2008) Ian Rogers is best known today as an award-winning horror author, but when we published “Camp Zombie” the awards hadn’t yet been won, and Ian was just a great writer. He counts this among his favourite stories (and so do we) because, despite the “zombie” in the title, it was one of his first non-horror pieces. In fact it’s a comedy about sleepaway camp for insomniacs, and we loved its unexpected realism and paradoxical sweetness. Read it here.

Some of This is True

by Janette Platana (Issue 42 — 2009)

The Clash are playing in Edmonton tomorrow night and Mom is dying of cancer. This piece (reprinted in Janette’s collection A Token of my Affliction, reviewed in Issue 68) proves that remembrance doesn’t need to appeal to the cliché of nostalgia, that writing can be substantial and serious and at the same time urgent and humane. It’s also punk as fuck. Read it here.

Field Guide to Kleptoparasitism

by Braydon Beaulieu (Issue 51 — 2011) 

“I stole my neighbour’s newspaper this morning. He has never noticed my compound eyes or mandibles.” This Indie Writers Deathmatch semifinalist has something else of which we just can’t get enough: super weirdness. Broken Pencil stories thrive in that zone where genres collide (because it gets harder every day to tell the difference between science fiction, psychological horror, and realism…and I don’t mean in fiction, I’m talking real life.) It’s risky and bizarre and uncommonly relatable for all that. Makes your head buzz a little.  Read it here.

Little Train Pyjamas by Leita McInnis (Issue 64 — 2014) 

“My neighbour, Cheryl. I often wonder what she would do if she knew what kind of games Alex and I play while she works double shifts. She trusts me. Because I’m a woman.” Like Lolita or American Psycho, “Little Train Pyjamas” is legitimately dangerous, but that’s also exactly why it’s necessary — and why we knew it belonged in Broken Pencil. Sometimes art will make you feel bad, you know? And then what are you supposed to do when empathy seems more frightening than indifference? Read it here.

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