A Night to Remember by Lee Burgess

I dedicate this blog to the loving memory of my grandparents Les and Maureen Derrick who never ceased in their support of my creative work, but passed on just a little before I was able show them the stories in which I take great pride, I further dedicate both Brain Drain and to whomever it may concern (before the end) to them. I wish you could read them.

I just want to begin by stating that some Crip folk might be reading this and may decide to get all huffy and outraged on my behalf by some of the things in this post. That’s cool, because at least you’re reading and I didn’t just almost burn a hole in my keyboard for no reason.

However, if by chance you do decide to get a little upset, just remember, I am at peace with my words and opinions and my medical conditions, because they are my own. People getting huffy on my behalf just remember, this always has and always will amuse me greatly. Who knew there was such a thing as disability or “carer” horror?

I have been recovering from a whirlwind trip to the big smoke (London), where a bunch of crazy arsed writers, headed up by the equally nutty Chris John Jones (I included his middle name because I learned it whilst waiting for my first ever Uber) were celebrating the launch of two very special short story collections published by Create50 and sold via Amazon UK.

Twisted50 Volume 2 and Singularity50 were joint initiatives in which the Create50 community were invited to come up with tales of darkness, depravity and the invasion of AI in the hope of making it into these bumper editions. Not only were we to write the stories, but then we were to advise and inform on the editing and redrafting process. Hundreds of writers set out on an epic trail up yonder track to literary mountain. This was a time of feverish creativity, an army of experienced and new writers all battling as one for a place inside these books of dark fiction. All of us gave support, all of us toiled for days and nights, and some of us probably threw our laptops out of tower-block windows as we inched towards our ultimate goal, TO GET SOME BLOODY SLEEP!

Then, after all stories were thrashed, beaten and kicked into shape there was silence…

We had time to reflect as the stories were judged by a collective of respected judges. The Create50 community waited patiently, well, some of us did, others yelled, “Come off it, some of us have got lives to live you know!” and stamped on the floor smearing Fromage Frais through their hair in an act of youthful defiance. What a weird image, and not entirely truthful.

Finally, we were given a shortlist, the wait was over. Some had made it, others were not so lucky, but all of us celebrated the massive achievement of each author. What followed was a solid list of authors who were all singularly twisted.

There was to be a long, drawn-out wait for the publication date and launch party venue confirmation. The Create50 team kept their cards very close to their chests and it wasn’t until late in the year that we had our first glimpse of the published work. First came the Kindle editions, then, the long-awaited paperbacks.

I had been fortunate enough to be included in both books with my tales of disability (Crip) terror. Both stories had come from a place of real fear, either from memories of my past given the horror treatment, or my vision for a possible future in which people with disabilities, (or “disabled people” depending on your stand-point on such matters) are plunged into a grim world of cybernetic advances in technology in a bid for military supremacy. Both stories had been heaped with praise by the writing community and I had a sense of real personal pride, which is something I had been struggling with. I have since been asked by producers if there is a chance, I may think about adapting at least one of the tales for film, and to that I say NOPE, sorry, I’m far too busy playing PS4 and clipping my toenails. Of course, this is my little joke, I never clip my toenails.

Then, there was a snag. Boo! Hiss! The audience cries in anguish!

It suddenly dawned on me that the amazing venue the team had picked for the launch may be a little less than wheelchair friendly. This being London didn’t surprise me. My fears were confirmed as the venue had little/no wheelchair access. I informed Create50 that without the correct access I would be unable to attend. Major pain in the arse or what! Chris got back to me and told me that I WAS GOING. The venue was scrapped straight away and the hunt began for a new place.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I was proud that the inclusion of access was that high on the agenda of the launch, but I really don’t expect whole parties to be moved, not in London, but perhaps I should. Chris Jones certainly wasn’t going to take no for an answer. I had never been in that position before, this was most unusual.

Trust me, the plot thickens.

I have been very busy writing my own projects and don’t usually do well at these social gatherings.

So, I buried myself in my work and plodded on as we awaited the news on the venue and the new date. Then it came, news of a spooky new launch at the Cinema museum near Waterloo. It had a lift and a wheelchair friendly crapper, RESULT! The date was set for December 18th.

Some of you will know that I suffer from lots of self-doubt and all things depression based. I had been going through a right tosser of a time resulting in a trip to the GP to confess that I feared I was losing my shit. I was placed on the waiting list for yet more talk therapy and told to look to the positives in life. I had three goals, a final draft of my feature screenplay (done), Christmas (done) and the all-important book launch and awards night (Hell-yeah, and done).

Well, it seems somebody had a fuck-off great sack of fairy dust, because this year was just about to end on a massive high…

Imagine the scene if you will. I am sitting among some very well-respected fellow writers, some of them award winning published novelists. The beer is flowing and everyone is getting photos taken with Betty the bloody bride on the red carpet. The atmosphere is warm and happy. Everyone is suddenly called to sit by the stage and I am ushered to the front row. Chris Jones takes to the stage and delivers a barn-storming performance as tonight’s host for the Twisted/Singularity awards. We get going and some good friends are awarded for their brilliant works of twisted terror and mind-bending science fiction. The judges seemed to have really taken onboard the diverse nature of these stories and the style of all writers. It was so great to see them getting the respect they deserved. We were even treated to a special preview of a rough-cut Chris and the team had been working on for a feature called The Impact 50. I had indeed been involved in the early stages of this project and it was awesome to see its progress.

Chris and all the award winners rattled through each speech and soon it came down to the prize everyone was after, best story in Twisted50 Volume 2. Chris made a few quick quips and gave reasons why the award was to be given. The lucky writer had managed to impress the judges with such a twisted and original tale. The big one was finally here. The name of the literary genius was, um, wait, no, that couldn’t have been right, surely not…it was me!

Slightly bewildered and with a swell of both IBS and pride, I rolled to the stage. Now, as a bloke who uses a wheelchair to get around these days, I was surprised that my disability-based tale of graphic horror was chosen for the top prize, because I had become accustomed to hearing phrases like “Disability? Sorry, no market”, or “We can’t work with the disabled, there are too many variables, it’s too complex”. Suddenly those phrases went out the window. I had won an award for a piece of writing in which the main theme is disability and all the pain and discomfort that can come with associated medical issues. Mind. Blown. In addition to my surprise, was the unknown plan Mr. Jones had hatched….

There was I, a plump guy in a wheelchair coming to get an award for my work. I went forward, Chris came forward. I reached the stage. Chris then proceeded to wave his arms around wildly yelling at everyone to get to their feet. This is where Crips devoid of humour may begin to grumble. I was approaching the stage and people were clapping and cheering. Chris appeared to be laughing, but what was funny?

To those who haven’t quite grasped the gag, Mr. Jones was signalling for the audience to stand, for a wheelchair user. Yes, you get it now, don’t you? It’s a joke about disability, or rather this bloke, and Chris knew that I’d find it funny as hell. What Chris doesn’t know is that a very well-known singer in heavy metal circles had pulled a gag about my chair over a year before the awards evening and this made me smile as anyone who knows me will also know that I have a somewhat dark sense of humour. Jokes like this, and the fact that most of my friends were now also in fits made my night almost as much as the award. This didn’t stop me from playing the grump, but we all know I love a good giggle.

I would like to thank Chris, Bob, Judy and everyone involved in Create50 for all their dedication and hard work. I also give thanks and massive respect to all the writers who worked so hard to give horror and science fiction a much-needed voice that screams out originality and more than a smidge of risk.

This all brings me back to my grandparents and their unwavering support for my creative talents. From when I was a tiny lad, I used to spin yarns about all things fantastical. Giants were a specialty apparently. So, from the get-go I was allowed to tell the stories that would be the building blocks for scripts, screenplays, outlines, treatments and yes, short stories. It was my grandparents who took me to the final of the Bridport young-writers competition to receive my first writing award from Lynne Reid-Banks, so it is to them a say a massive thank you. I will miss you, but your energy and support in all my creative endeavours will live on as I progress and grow.

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