RZr and Napoleon
rZr and Napoleon was originally written for Round Two of the 2009 Whittaker Prize. The prompt used was a music video featuring a graffiti artist (can't remember which one, unfortunately). Under its original title of rZr vs Napoleon, it was given a score of 76/100 by the judge, Geoff Nelder, putting it in fourth place out of 27. The judge's remarks included the comment that it was spoilt by a few clumsy sentences (he was right).
rZr and Napoleon was one of many shortlisted for the 2009 Fish Short Story Prize (under the name rZr vs Napoleon). It was also one of 20 shortlisted, under its final name, for the third Bristol Short Story Prize in 2010.
As one of the shortlist, it was also published in the 2010 Bristol Short Story Prize anthology.
In some ways, it's a shame that the vs got dropped from the title. However, at the time I was also promoting my web serialisation of Mrs Darcy vs The Aliens (which was ultimately published as Mrs Darcy versus the Aliens), and I'd also recently had a poem called Hokusai vs The Smog Monster published by Ink, Sweat and Tears, so I felt there were probably more vses running around than was good for me.
I'm quite pleased with the number of themes that I managed to cram into this relatively short story, including the corporatisation of art, corporate greed, pollution, revenge and murder, as well as an unrequited love story and the death of Napoleon. Obviously, Banksy was the original inspiration for the protagonist, although I always felt he was probably black, and also probably from the village where the story ends. However, sorting out the ending was horrendously difficult and took me several goes to resolve. In the end, the key to it was remembering an absolutely heartbreaking photo I'd once seen of (I think) a Japanese mother bathing her son, who (as far as I remember) had been born with some kind of disability following a pollution incident. So I used the idea of a photo as a shortcut to bring the story full circle at the end.
I'm still not entirely sure whether rZr is a cool name for a graffiti artist, or simply an old fart's idea of what a cool name for a graffiti artist might be. When the title was read out at the Bristol prize giving, the name was pronounced as Razor, although I'd always imagined it as R-Zee-R, as per the rapper RZA. Anyway, it's out of my hands now and in the public domain, so feel free to pronounce it however you like.