I’m shamelessly stealing the following blog format from the excellent B.R. Sanders, who’s been posting these about their own short fiction. (Seriously, I’ve even stolen the title.) Partly this serves as a shameless announcement (Hey you! Go read my story!), partly a record of my writing along side the record of reading that this blog exists as. But I also think that writers don’t always talk about the industry as much as they should, and I find it fascinating to read about when other writers so perhaps someone will enjoy it in return. (It sure helps when you receive your 27th rejection note to be able to read of other stories that have met the same fate.)
Publication date: December 2015
Completion date: May 2015
Number of times subbed: 1
Placing the story: This story was written directly for a themed call for submissions from the Manchester Speculative Fiction Writing Group. It was provisionally accepted with edits requested before a final decision, and then later definitively accepted.
The story of the story: As I live in Manchester it was hard to resist a call for submissions asking for ‘speculative fiction stories set in Manchester’. Firstly, if I was going to write a Manchester story, it would undoubtedly be set on Canal Street, and as I had just binge-watched eight seasons of RuPaul’s Drag Race, it was also fairly undoubtedly going to be about a drag queen. Then the title suggested itself to me, so I wrote to fit that, and the story was born: the last drag show on earth, on Canal Street.
In the tone of the story I was trying to evoke the mood of Canal Street Gothic and the stunning scene with Hazel in Russell T. Davies’ Cucumber — pairing frivolity with underlying sadness and pathos. And I had to work within the spec-fic guidelines, so I created a future society in which electronic gadgets mean we can choose our entire appearance on a whim, which played into parallels of the ‘not-what-you-looked-liked-in-your-pictures’ and ‘its-not-true-drag-if-you’re-not-cinched’. And to this far-future bar I had the many ghosts of Canal Street come from throughout history, which meant I got to tell a whole bunch of different stories.
I wrote the whole thing over a weekend, with multiple drafts. Fast for me, but I had a clear idea of the story. When it was provisionally accepted, the editor requested that some of the ambiguities were cleared up (mainly about the ghostly characters), though I tweaked very little, and I like to think some of the mystery remains.