Press Office


Appy endings – Sean O’Brien’s short stories travel around the globe


Commuters are being offered the chance to drift off to distant shores this summer from the comfort of their seats.

A new phone app called Gimbal,* which features work by Newcastle University’s Professor of Creative Writing, Sean O’Brien, allows people to choose from 25 short stories set in cities all over the world.

The idea behind it is to transform an everyday journey into an alternative sightseeing trip through the eyes of a fictional character, but with real points of interest in each city.

And Professor O’Brien is making sure the North East is placed firmly on the app, with a darkly supernatural tale Not in Gateshead Any More, for the Newcastle city entry.

Taken from his first collection of short stories, The Silence Room (2008), it features a woman whose life changes in a rather unexpected and sinister way when she wins a writing competition.

“I’ve written a lot of stories set on Tyneside, including several set in the Lit and Phil Library (where the actual Silence Room is) and a murder story set on Tynemouth Metro Station,” said Professor O’Brien. “Comma Press are always coming up with interesting projects to promote the short story form, and this is a complete contrast to my work as a poet - a different discipline, very refreshing.”

His work also features as the short story for Berlin, with Kiss Me Deadly on the Museum Island, a kind of black comedy about the Cold War.

Created by Manchester-based short fiction publisher Comma Press, Gimbal is a free iPhone app in which stories can be selected according to location, genre, mode of transport or journey length.

You can then either simply read the text or listen to an audio recording, accompanied by an interactive map which moves as the story progresses, highlighting existing points of interest along the way.

So, you could be on a tram in Manchester for example, but be reading or listening to a story set in Paris. Alternatively, if you are on holiday in a particular location, you could use it to discover a different side to the city.

It is part of a collaborative project with Literature Across Frontiers to promote short stories and international literature.

“As zealous advocates of the short story, we believe this is an excellent way to engage readers in the digital age, and encourage them to discover unknown voices from Europe, the Middle East and beyond,” said Jim Hinks, from Comma Press. “Many stories on the app can also be heard in the original language of the author and this feature will be expanded in future, building a compendium of work from different cultures and languages.”

*In ancient times, gimbals were used to steady a ship’s compass.

published on: 16 July 2013