State of the Art


Each week, we pick a short fiction piece from our Fairlight Shorts archives to feature as our story of the week. This week, we’ve chosen a story about heritage by Peter Cowlam.

Peter Cowlam had IT training at the Control Data Corporation and studied Performance Writing at Dartington College of Arts. He has worked in IT and as a freelance writer, editor and indexer.

Peter’s writing career began as doodles in the margins of his Pure and Applied Maths papers while at sixth form college, and since then he has had plays performed at the Barbican Theatre, Plymouth and by the Dartington Playgoers. His short fiction and poetry have been published extensively in print and online journals in the UK and internationally. Peter has won prizes for short fiction and critique, and has twice won the Quagga Prize for Literary Fiction, in 2015 and 2018. The latter was for his novel New King Palmers, which is at the intersection of old, crumbling empires and new digital agglomerates.

‘State of the Art’ is a policeman’s report of an arrogant tourist in his city.



And I can tell you, Commissioner, I also had notice of this Englishman’s offences against the state. The concierge at the Leanne Aura Hotel reported his arrival, tired from travel, yes, but already bad tempered at ‘how you do things here’, as he put it. It seems he misread signs at the central station, and couldn’t have understood the replies when he asked directions. Such arrogance.

He got the wrong coach, and must have wondered at the paucity of fellow passengers. No one else with heavy suitcases, bound for the Leanne Aura. No backpackers, on their way to the hostel. He got off on some godforsaken patch of land, with hardly a bench or bus shelter, in an absence of street lighting, and only a dark rustle of autumn evening air in the lime trees. He found a winding footpath and worked his way to the foot of the mountain, where somehow he inveigled a gnarled old peasant with a donkey into getting him and his baggage halfway up. Nor did it occur to him he might be on the wrong route when it was late, and there was no one manning the funicular. The same was the case with the cable car, whose base station he entered. The concierge tells me he complained bitterly when the wind whistled savagely through his open car, and the metal was freezing to the touch. First sign of life was at the Leanne Aura stop, where a uniformed official shook his head severely and helped him onto solid earth.

‘So where’s the hotel?’ he said, in his own language. ‘Albergo? Pension? Understand?’ As I said before, such arrogance.

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