Violence, obsession, addiction: these themes thread together the new Mini Shots series, with often disquieting results. Each pocket-sized story - individually bound with striking cover art by Melbourne photographer Bronwen Hyde - is absorbing, but taken together they tend to the bleak. In Emmett Stinson’s ‘Something So Helpless’, David rallies against a seedy society of hostility and decay to rescue a kitten: “He was Pandora in reverse - this shoebox contained the last bit of innocence in existence. It was the evil of the world that was trying to get in.” David’s life is claustrophobic and cruel; there are stabbings and shootings on his doorstep. His concern for the kitten reassures us that he isn’t wholly inured to it all.
In Lucy Lawson’s ‘Juice’, two lovers try to hold a toxic world at (matchstick-thin) arm’s length through fasting. Rachael quarantines herself from “plastics, power lines and pesticides” in a claw-footed porcelain bathtub in the backyard. In their self-imposed isolation, these characters are “half-awake”, “unbalanced”, “dizzy” - wanting finally to be “empty of everything”. Similarly, the characters in Ed Moreno’s ‘Pine’ long for escape. Theirs is an olfactory journey, where pine-perfumed disinfectant only thinly veils the stink of a less salubrious reality: grubby video booths in a strip club, drugs, desperation. Riikka longs for the warmth and familiarity of her “gran’s jasmine-scented perfume” and resents the “cardboard pine tree dangling from the rear-view mirror”, which has “lost all its scent”.
But there is, happily, also some hope: in Sarah Jansen’s ‘Dragon Dust’, Velvet itches and chafes against a world where she is tethered to the “hunger and noise and dirt” of her children, moored to a town in which the “wooden houses and buildings all seemed directed inwards”. She escapes to the hills to breathe and swing her arms “in wide, exaggerated arcs”, where she is finally, gloriously, released.
Each Mini Shot resonates in its own haunting key. These stories, all of them by emerging Australian authors and released across the year by a small independent publishing house, are often raw and demanding: ten-minute fiction with a lot to say.
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