Cuthbert short story earns ‘Honorable Mention’ in writers contest

Roger Coda
Rebecca Cuthbert

Rebecca Cuthbert

"The Six O'Clock House," a speculative short story written by Department of English Lecturer Rebecca Cuthbert, earned Honorable Mention in the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest, 3rd Quarter.

Named after the American science fiction writer, the contest is an opportunity for new writers of science fiction and fantasy to have their work judged by some of the masters in the field and discovered by a wide audience.

“The Six O'Clock House” is suggestive of the grotesque, a subgenre of speculative fiction with a long history that reaches all the way back to folklore, Ms. Cuthbert explained. “Commonly featured in the grotesque is body distortion or transfiguration – bodies or body parts are exaggerated or blended with plant or animal properties. There is also magical realism at play – the setting is our world, but the lines between reality and fantasy are blurry.”

Cuthbert loosely based a secondary character on the figure of Charon from Greek mythology, the ferryman who rows the dead across the River Styx to Hades. She credits her developmental editor for helping her to define the role of this character – a real breakthrough, Cuthbert remarked.

“Many of my stories are inspired by jobs I or friends have had over the years. This one has its roots in the time I spent working at greenhouses and a small tree farm, and also in my own hobby of gardening. It's been through at least 20 revisions, and it's only recently that I felt I got it right,” Cuthbert said.

“Like many writers, my fiction is a blend of my own creative instinct, personal history and interests; and of the themes and styles of my literary idols: Shirley Jackson, Angela Carter, Mary Gaitskill, Joyce Carol Oates, Margaret Atwood, Alice Munro. The greats,” Cuthbert said.

Cuthbert often shares her writing experiences with her students.

“I want them to know that I'm not just telling them what to do; I'm doing it too, right alongside them,” she explained. “That I'm speaking from experience, but that I am not an expert. How can anyone be an expert on art? I don't think they can – it's subjective, and always changing, and there is always something else to discover or improve or attempt.”

Part of being an artist in any medium – painting, writing, dancing, composing – is the joy of discovery, Cuthbert noted. “I think you have to like the experience. Even the missteps. When something doesn't go well, you can learn from it.”

Top science fiction authors have served as judges of the contest since its founding in 1985, and thousands of entries are submitted each quarter.

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