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Chris Benjamin: Fiction Contest Editorial

Fiction Contest Editorial

What I like best about [Adèle Barclay's] “Here be Dragons ISO” is its consistent ability to surprise. At each clever turn of phrase, the writer further penetrates their protagonist Danny’s heart, revealing her self-respect, insecurity, desperation, and hope. Through Danny’s eyes, we find magic in a most improbable creature, who without a word gives Danny what she needs. Theirs is a beautiful and tragic relationship that ultimately steers her back into the even messier realm of human relations. 

All this is accomplished in a few scenes (Danny alone, with friends, thinking of the past), interspersed with the dreams of the lovelorn, cleverly expressed on a queer dating app. 

The central metaphor is so tenderly stitched together I fell in love with it before I realized what was being done to me, and its sudden end was heartbreaking. Therein lies the story’s great power. It is a hopeful tearjerker.  

At its heart, this is a story of the human condition, loneliness, and an insatiable hunger for deeper connections. That very desire invariably casts us outside, longingly looking in. The writer’s protagonist is utterly sympathetic because her experience, while unique to her young queer community, is also universal. 

— Chris Benjamin 2022 Fiction Contest Judge