'Inescapable Fete' by Rob Edwards is one of the stories in Gods of Clay a new anthology crafted by the knights of the Sci Fi Roundtable. It features twelve brilliant stories that answer the question what if it were the gods are just more advanced beings? Would they be as fallible as the rest of us?
Helen wasn’t sure why they needed a raffle and a tombola, but Tinsley seemed set on the idea, redundant though at least one of them was. It provided another excellent opportunity to tune the proceedings out. She let her pen roam across her notepad, as she studied the newcomer.
Paul was working his way around the table, taking a moment to talk in hushed tones with each member in turn. His expression was… intense and earnest, he spoke with his hands in motion. He was looking for something, some answer, but he wasn’t getting it. His shoulders drew in, his brow furrowed, and each conversation was shorter than the last.
“Find any seat Paul, please,” Tinsley said. “We need to focus on the task at hand, we can’t afford any slip-ups.”
“Sorry, sir,” said Paul and slid into the chair next to Helen.
“Quite all right, quite all right. In fact, perhaps you can offer some useful insights on the conundrum at hand? Should the raffle be before the tombola? Or, and I do not wish to prejudice your opinion, but I would rather broadly hint that the raffle should be after?”
“Er, after, sure.”
Helen’s pen tore through the top three pages in her notebook. She ripped them all out, crushing them into a ball and hurled them at the ground.
“Insightful, Paul, thank you. Show of hands? Thank you all, excellent, motion passed.
“Next, we should turn our attention to the question of which colour we should use for the raffle tickets…”
Paul leaned close in towards Helen and whispered, “I notice you don’t vote.”
Helen unclenched her jaw. “I try not to engage, unless I absolutely have to. They get on fine without me, and if all twelve of us vote, there’s a chance for a tie.”
His eyebrows rose. “You’re different from the others.”
“Thanks for noticing. You seem an odd fit too. That’s a compliment.”
“Thank you. You’re Helen, right?”
“I don’t… yes, yes, that’s right. May.”
Paul squared his shoulders, leaned in very close and whispered “Lieutenant Helen May? Navigator First Class?”
Helen’s chair screeched across the floor as she pushed herself away.
Tinsley paused mid-exposition. “Problem, Ms May?”
“No, no. No problem.”
“Well and good then, commit thy works unto the topic at hand, perhaps?”
Helen nodded and shuffled her chair back in place.
“You remember,” Paul whispered. “You remember something.”
“Shut up Paul, I’m trying to concentrate.”
“But you’re not, are you?” He was practically bouncing. “In fact, that’s exactly what you’re trying not to do!”
Tinsley cleared his throat loudly. “Ah, Verger, excellent. Might you have a word with the kitchen, please? I would suggest a five-minute break for the necessities, the natives are getting a little restless. Ha ha.”
A Bite of... Rob Edwards
Q1: What time of day do you write best?
I am an excellent procrastinator, I usually write best in the twelve hours before a deadline. To be (marginally) less flip about the answer, I have two writing modes. When the inspiration is in, I can write anytime, anywhere: balancing a notebook on my knee as I commute to work, or long Sunday afternoons where the words just flow. But 98% of my writing is done in the other mode, where I bash my head against the desk at 1am, occasionally type the word “the” before deleting it and writing “a” instead.
Q2: Have you ever invented a language?
Veedlep’rit. (That means ‘no’. Or does it?).
In my teenage writer years, I did create phrases in my own take on elvish, but not with any sense of coherent vocab or syntax, and lo, these many years later, I couldn’t tell you one word of it. These days I have enough problems with Finnish, the language that surrounds me, I don’t need to add to that linguistic bafflement, thank you. I suppose my own attempts at Finnish are so far removed from the actual language, it could almost count as inventing my own.
Fun fact, Tolkien based his elvish languages on Finnish. Se on totta, mutta auttaako se minua? Veedlep’rit.
Q3: Are you ticklish? If so where?
I am extremely ticklish, but weirdly only in Geneva.
Q4: How much of your writing is autobiographical?
Not much directly, but I like to add a little flavour from my life. But no, I don’t generally include events or people from my life in my stories, though I might steal a name or turn of phrase from time to time. You could probably play hunt the Finland references in my more recent stories, and the unfinished novel in my drawer is basically a treatise on why commuting on the London underground was so miserable. My story in Gods of Clay is called Inescapable Fete and was inspired by sitting in one too many endless meetings.
Rob Edwards is a British-born writer and podcaster living in Finland. He moved to Finland because of elves, but his greatest geek pride is the entry about him on Wookieepedia. His podcast, StorycastRob, features readings of short stories, generally his own, but occasionally guest authors’ too. He works closely with Inklings Press and you can find many of his stories in their anthologies, as well as stories from his podcast in his own short collection StorycastRob: Mic Drop. You can follow him on Twitter.