|State of Emergency from Stew Magazine Issue 7|
Illustration by Amberin Huq
As ever happens, the two stories began to intertwine in my imagination. But then I pulled myself up short – was I, a white middle-class English man, in any position to engage with this narrative? What insight could I possibly add that those on the ground in Liberia or Missouri had not already contributed?
So, I channelled my fears into the character of Kayla, a young black girl from Louisiana who finds herself in the middle of a terrifying virus outbreak. I took the familiar iconography of the Ebola epidemic (hazmat suits, decontamination, tent hospitals) and fed it directly into the narrative, drawing the long shadow of Hurricane Katrina over the whole story. Of course, most of this detail is subtextual, and a child doesn’t need a grounding in U.S. racial politics to enjoy this dark and twisty conspiracy tale.
On finishing State of Emergency in November last year, I took advantage of the short publication timescales that Stew Magazine offers me. I’m also very grateful for the bravery of editor Ali Fraser, who accepted (without change) a story that many magazines would have rejected as being too edgy. I’ve tried, as carefully as I can, to authentically capture the dialogue and thought processes of my young protagonist, but I’m sure there are faults if you look for them. Ultimately, the story may upset as many people as it finds favour with, but that’s exactly what made it worth writing.
If you'd like to read State of Emergency, you can buy a copy of Stew Magazine issue 7 for £3.99 by clicking here.