From time to time, a man would walk down O’Connell Street with a troupe of dancing bears. Now, this was not, in itself, unusual.
A great deal is packed into those two opening sentences of Quigley Cryan Brockbank’s The Dancing Bears of O’Connell Street, and they do what every good short story opening should do. They draw the reader in. Where’s O’Connell Street? Who is the man? What on earth is going on with the bears?
Before the reader has even had time to process that, we discover that this curious happening is not unusual. It’s a skilful sentence, drawing our attention straight to the feel of strangeness at the heart of this story, the unsettling air that hangs over every sentence.
This strangeness, this unsettling of the reader, only grows stronger as the story unfolds. Brockbank skilfully tells the tale of a particularly sinister traveller, and the effect that they have on the narrator. Crucially, the story is very much limited to the narrator’s point of view, creating a powerful sense of fear and claustrophobia.
It was this swift establishment of atmosphere, and excellent control of narrative viewpoint that made The Dancing Bears of O’Connell Street stand out during the submission reading process. It is a story that stays with you after you have finished reading it and which – another sign of the best short stories – justifies multiple re-readings. It is a pleasure to publish it in the Spring 2023 issue of Spellbinder.
Ned Vessey, Fiction Editor
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Photo by Rasmus Svinding: https://www.pexels.com/photo/brown-bear-35435/