Since winning the Edge Hill Prize for ‘The Turing Test’, Chris Beckett has published another collection of short stories, The Peacock Cloak, and has also published three novels, one of which (Dark Eden) won the Arthur C. Clarke award for 2012. All his published work to date, whether in the long or the short form, can, at least to some degree, be categorised as science fiction, but he is currently branching out in his short story writing and has plans to publish a third story collection (late 2016 or early 2017) which will include stories written in a range of styles and registers, but none of them SF. It will also be a new departure in that the stories will have been written especially for the collection. Chris Beckett is now a full-time writer. He lives in Cambridge.
Chris Beckett’s ‘Monsters’ was originally published in Interzone (2003) and featured in The Turing Test, by Elastic Press. It begins with Mr Clancy taking dinner, surrounded by artists, and over the course of the narrative, it transpires that we are peering into a world of fire horses, sky-ball, stables-as-prisons, and monsters…
‘I poured out idea after idea while the muffled screams of the tormented monster kept on and on…’ – Monsters, Chris Beckett
Commentary by Chris Becket:
‘When readers pick a favourite from my Turing Test collection, they don’t usually pick this one (the one they mention most often is ‘Piccadilly Circus’), but it’s a personal favourite of mine. Hard to put my finger on why, but to me there is something particularly satisfying and complete about this story. Among other things, it’s a good illustration of one of my favourite ways of using science fictional elements in a story. I could have written a similar story in which the fire horse was purely metaphorical, or existed only in the imagination of one of the characters. But it’s fun, and I think more vivid, to put it right out there on the stage where the story takes place, and make it as solid and real as the characters themselves. In real life, after all, people’s demons are real and powerful players, at least as influential in the story of their lives as any actual living person.
I’m very pleased to give it another outing in this anthology, and to celebrate the Edge Hill Prize in so doing. Winning the prize, from a shortlist that included some very eminent people, was a truly life-changing event for me. From that point onwards, I began to think of myself as a writer first and foremost.’