An evening of spooks and screams
The Screaming Shorts, an event organised by Talespeople in partnership with Bookworm Bangladesh, took place last Saturday, November 4, 2023. Held at the Bookworm outlet in Justice Shahabuddin Ahmed Park in Gulshan, The Screaming Shorts involved an engaging evening of horror short fiction readings and discussions centering writing horror in Bangladesh.
Prior to the event, Talespeople arranged a team flash fiction challenge on the occasion of Halloween, titled the Triwizard Tournament. Participating writers were sorted into houses named after renowned horror writers—House of Poe, House of Shelley, House of Stoker, and House of Jackson—and took turns at completing a bingo-style, prompt-based writing challenge alongside their team members. The prompts included a mix of classic horror tropes such as "It had started out as an ordinary day" and "Every family has a secret", as well as more innovative ones like "He lived inside a house without doors", and "The children made a game of it".
Each submission, whether poem or prose, was limited to 250 words, and the first team to complete all the prompts would be crowned the winning house. In this year's iteration of the challenge, House Shelley completed their prompts before any of the other houses, thus winning the first Triwizard Tournament organised by Talespeople. As a prize, all the members of House Shelley received a 10% discount off of all the board games available at Kraftz, which had served as an event sponsor.
When being asked what inspired Talespeople to organise this event, Sabrina Fatma Ahmad said, "The Triwizard Tournament (to be rebranded as The Screaming Shorts, for copyright reasons) began as a digital challenge during the pandemic, when the Talespeople admin were feeling nostalgic about Expecto Patronum—a Harry Potter themed live festival we had organised for the book club Litmosphere. I wanted to make a more genre-specific challenge for our members, and Halloween provided the perfect setting for a horror-themed one. After the two hugely successful events we did for our client Manizey (author of Aries: The Beginning—we had organised her cover reveal event and her book launch), we felt more confident about doing an IRL event of our own, and the first ever Screaming Shorts reading.
At The Screaming Shorts, 10 of the top entries from the Triwizard Tournament were read out by writers who were present at the event and the hosts, Sabrina Fatma Ahmad and Abak Hussain. One of the entries—"I am a Mother" by Salwah Chowdhury—was chosen by the team at Star Books and Literature to be Grand Winner of this year's Tournament.
Following the readings, Nazia Manzoor, the editor of Star Books and Literature hosted a discussion with Sabrina Ahmad and a number of the participating writers about the horror writing landscape in Bangladesh, touching on the inspiration and ideation behind the event, how writing processes differed among writers, and how a collaborative contest like the Triwizard Tournament acted as an additional challenge. The importance of in-person events like The Screaming Shorts, where writers are given a platform to share and showcase their work was also discussed. Star Books and Literature was the media partner of both the Triwizard Tournament and The Screaming Shorts.
Here at DS Books and Star Literature, we were wondering what organising the event had taught the founders of Talespeople about the state of writing and reading habits among youngsters, to which Abak Hussain replied, "They read! It's just a bit different obviously, because of tech and things like that. Sometimes it looks like people are looking at their phones, but really they're just reading. Not everyone is into books, but that's not a thing specific to youth or one particular generation. There were bookworms then, and there are bookworms now, plus there are communities on Instagram and BookTok where people share their reviews, Bookstagrams and those things. Same with writing. But I don't think everybody has to write, at least creatively. But if writing is your calling nothing will stop you. So I'm not worried on either count.
Nazia Manzoor also called on the winners of this year's Spook-Off, a separate horror short fiction contest organised by Star Books and Literature, to read out their submissions. Sajid Khan, the winner of the flash fiction contest, and Samin Shahan Rahman, the winner of the two-sentence horror contest, read out their stories, "New Home" and "One New Message" respectively.