It’s the beginning of the year, which means cold dark days and, for many of us, exams and deadlines. For me, it also means one of the best times to read short stories. They make the perfect study and screen breaks, and are ideal to read when you feel like you have no time.
Snapshots of the Apocalypse is a short story collection by Katy Wimhurst, mixing magical realism with dystopia in stories that imagine a post-apocalyptic world. This also makes them a fitting pandemic read, so long as it is alternate universes you fancy, rather than comfort reading.
Katy Wimhurst is a writer and visual poet, a form that she describes as ‘sitting on the fertile line between art and writing’. Snapshots of the Apocalypse, though, is her first short story collection.
Sixty percent of author royalties from Snapshots of the Apocalypse will go to charities fighting the neuroimmune illness M.E, an illness Wimhurst herself suffers from. In an interview with 3AM Magazine, Wimhurst says she only started writing fiction after she became chronically ill in her 30s, and it then became a focus for her imagination.
As a collection, the stories worked wonderfully well together, allowing the thoughtfulness of dystopian, speculative fiction or magic realism, without the overwhelming immersion a novel of the same type can create. Many of the stories are set in the future, though only a generation or so ahead. Wimhurst describes them as ‘off-kilter worlds that illuminate our own’.
The titular story ‘Snapshots of the Apocalypse’ opens the collection. It won the Tate Modern short story competition in 2009, and, in the story, the Tate has become the Tate Art and Refuge Centre, or TARC. It is an ‘ark’ for those needing shelter or food, and the protagonist reluctantly makes her way there. Though the descriptions of a London-but-not-London were captivating, some details were over-explained where the reader could be left to figure it out for themselves, such as with types of rain named after ex-Prime Ministers.
I enjoyed both ‘Haunted by Paradise’ and ‘The Colour of Dulton’ which were whimsical and funny stories, fluidly weaving magical moments in a recognisable reality. ‘Knitting to Oblivion’ was less persuasive, and toes the line of bizarre too closely, with characters frantically knitting as objects disappeared around them. ‘Ticket to Nowhere’ also felt childish in its conceptual simplicity, and, unlike in other stories, I had no desire to know more about the world depicted.
Wimhurt’s immense creativity is revealed in her ability to imagine multiple different detailed worlds. Complex worlds in ‘The Wings of Digging’, where the world is divided into those who can and cannot fly, with the former, ‘Floatas’, treated as second class citizens, and in ‘The Job Lottery’ where jobs are assigned near randomly through different challenges each year, made me want to know more about the worlds, and to have the stories continued.
Snapshots of the Apocalypse is published by Fly on the Wall. Fly on the Wall is a social enterprise company and a not for profit publisher, based in Manchester. They publish short stories, poetry and photography books on pressing issues. Fly on the Wall Press was on the regional shortlist for The British Book Awards’ Small Press of the Year 2021.
Thank you to Fly on the Wall for providing this copy of Snapshots of the Apocalypse.