Disclaimer: I do have a story published in this anthology, but I don’t make any money from it, so you can be sure that the below review is genuine.
Derby Shorts - an anthology of short stories centred around the world of roller derby - was released this year. The anthology was published by For Books’ Sake in collaboration with London Rollergirls and features fourteen stories that each offer their own unique slant on life on the flat track.
Something that struck me right away is that though you can enjoy and understand the book with no prior knowledge of the sport or culture, it’s clear that everyone involved was passionate and well-informed. There’s no undertone of ‘these girls put on fishnets and punch each other hurr hurr hurr’. It’s a matchless blend of love of the sport and expressive talent - essential in any creative endeavour that involves derby.
The editors did a fantastic job on choosing the order of the stories. More stylised pieces were interjected between traditionally written stories and anything too similar was broken up. That said, certain archetypes and tropes did repeat, making the stories better to read each individually, rather than one after another.
A particular favourite was ‘This Is Not Your Great-Great-Great Granddaughter’s Derby’, masterfully chosen as the opening story. It takes the well known disparities between derby of the 70s and the present day and throws it into a discovery period piece any rollergirl will love. It’s also very funny. Likewise, ‘Welcome Home’ saw rollergirls on the hunt for a suitable venue, stepping back from the glamour of bouting to put the behind the scenes, DIY grassroots spirit of derby in the spotlight.
Bold, fully-formed universes leap out from the pages, giving you a tantalising glimpse of stories that could span entire novels if only the word count allowed. Even in the stories which are furthest removed from reality, the scenery is peppered with easily recognisable derby landmarks; teamwork, ambition, violence and tattoos.
Surprisingly there was a large amount of off-track negativity portrayed in the book, although arguably that is only because malice lends itself well to drama. There are only so many stories you can write (or read) about someone finding themselves in roller derby and skating happily into the sunset with their new family. Still the darker pieces were interspersed well enough between tongue-in-cheek humour and heart-warming inspiration so that any remaining bitterness was soon washed away.
Overall, it’s an excellent addition to any rollergirl’s bookshelf and also reliable gift for anyone that’s caught the derby bug. The diversity of plots, writing styles, characters and settings reflects the diversity and awesomeness of the derby community and means that within the pages there’s something for everyone to fall in love with.
You can, if so inclined, buy it here.
Even though roller derby runs on love and sweet addiction, in the creation of a derby girl - sorry, athlete - pragmatic issues play a part.
Specifically, transportation and money.
You cannot get to practice, bouts, meetings and bootcamps by wishing really hard. Likewise you cannot get your own skates by drawing a picture of them in blood and praying to Quadzilla.
When people first join derby, there’s always a wide spectrum of interest, dedication and aptitude. Slowly the herd thins out and only a few will make it to their first bout. For me, although I was head over heels for derby (sometimes quite literally) by the end of my first practice I know that I would have eventually lost interest if transport had been an issue.
The average rollergirl spends seven hours at practice in a normal, non-bouting week. Let’s not even get into how much time get swallowed up by cross-training, league meetings and games. With this in mind, clocking in extra time for travel can push roller derby from a full-on hobby to something that dominates so fully that it leaves precious little time for anything else.
For the two years I skated with the Blitz Dames, I was lucky enough to get a lift with Nico Warrior. I was fortunate that not only did she live near me and was willing to take me to practice, but she loved derby and would go to every single practice she could. Therefore, so could I.
Without Nico, getting to practice would have been an hour long journey, and with weekday practices ending at 10pm, a public transport commute was just not viable for me.
If it wasn’t for getting a lift, I would have given up on roller derby. It’s strange to think that something that’s so powerful could have been derailed by something so trivial, but there it is.
Which is why I am so excited that owning my own car has finally become a possibility. I have a full-time job now and since it is a thirty minute drive away, but two buses and twenty minutes walk, getting a car finally makes sense.
I’m not at all confident in my driving ability and I’ve enjoyed feeling eco-superior for a while but the idea of being able to get myself to and from derby independently is too tempting to pass up. The idea that if I have an afternoon free, I could just drive to a bout without having to plan a route in advance and write-off an entire day is impossibly liberating.
I just hope any scrapes occur when I’m skating on eight wheels, not driving on four.
that awkward moment when you’re teling someone about what you did in derby and you realise that they think you’re talking about the city.
I’m glad the video has been well-received and I didn’t say anything too stupid in it. I wasn’t going to do the filming at first, but my friend Izzy convinced me that I should.
Before I started derby I searched online for hours, trying to find some sign that there could be a place for a hijab-wearing, extremely sober and overall odd person like me in the sport.
I did the video hoping that I could be the sign for someone else.
I’ve thought of a great new skate out.
Now I just need to complete my transfer, go to practice, make attendance and improve enough to get rostered to a team so I can show it off.