Convalescence was written for the first University of Hertfordshire Creative Writing Award, in 2007. The theme for the competition was Vision. I'm not entirely sure where the idea for the story actually came from, but looking back on it, it's pretty obvious that the 1977 punk single Gary Gilmore's Eyes must have had something to do with it.
Convalescence won the third prize in this competition, out of over 500 entries from 36 different countries. The Judges were Helen Oyeyemi, Philippa Milnes-Smith and Josh Lacey. There's a rather brilliant double-edged quote from Philippa Milnes-Smith in the press release, in which she remarks that
reading the stories was a reminder of how difficult it is to write a successful short story.
Convalescence was published in the anthology arising from the competition, also entitled Vision. It was also made available in October 2010 as a paid download on the Ether app.
The competition only accepted entries by physical mail. However, the University of Hertfordshire was just down the road from where I was living at the time, so I saw no problem in leaving it until the last possible minute, and I ended up cycling frantically over on the morning when entries closed to deliver my entry by hand. This rush had some consequences for the quality of the proofreading. When I heard that I'd been shortlisted - and hence eligible for the anthology - it was pointed out to me that there was one phrase that didn't quite make sense. While fixing that, I also noticed that the protagonist's name had changed halfway through from Mr Sanderson to Mr Anderson. I can only assume that I had The Matrix on my mind.
The version in Dot Dash is slightly different from the one in Vision, following a subsequent submission to Shortalk. Although this never actually came to fruition, I had some useful critical feedback which I made use of in rewriting the conclusion of the story, so that it's a bit less rushed than the original version.
This was the first time I had ever been placed in an open writing competition, and the day I was notified of my shortlisting - April 26th, 2007 - is engraved on my mind as the day I started to call myself a writer.