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lip lit: derby shorts

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Chances are that, by now, you’ve definitely heard of roller derby. Even if you’ve never had chance or opportunity to see your local league bouting live, you’ve probably seen Juliette Lewis, Drew Barrymore and Ellen Page tearing up the track in Whip It!

Maybe you’ve got fanatical friends or family members who’ve raved to you about the Roller Derby World Cup, Rollercon or all the other epic roller derby events that take place around the world. After all, there’s already over a thousand leagues (and counting!) across the globe, and there’s even talk of it being included in the 2020 Olympics.

Roller derby is fast, fierce and fearless, placing amazing, athletic women centre stage. As both sport and subculture, it’s incredibly exciting and awe-inducing. And judging by the exploding number of obsessives around the world, it’s on the brink of exploding out of the underground and into the mainstream.

Which is why For Books’ Sake, the webzine dedicated to books by and for independent women, has teamed up with the UK’s first, largest and longest-running roller derby league, the London Rollergirls, to collaborate on a collection of short stories from roller derby players, referees and fans, alongside emerging and established writers from all over the world.

Women write, sell, buy and read more than male counterparts, but male authors are still twice as likely to win the Booker, and independent audits like the  VIDA count have shown that books by women only account for an average of 33% of reviews in mainstream media.

For Books’ Sake is all about giving counteracting that gender bias by giving women writers a platform and a voice, through daily online editorial featuring the best new books from iconic and contemporary women writers, a nationwide programme of live literary shenanigans, monthly podcast and assorted other antics.

And since roller derby routinely nurtures, champions and celebrates bold, brave and brilliantly badass women from all areas of life, a collaboration with the London Rollergirls was the perfect partnership for our latest short story collection. While we could never hope to capture the vivid diversity and action of roller derby completely, the stories in Derby Shorts – by turns beautiful, bittersweet, brutal and bizarre – give it a damn good go.

“By celebrating the writing talent of the roller derby community in this anthology we hope to share the passion, the love and the dedication we – and that includes skaters, referees, non-skating officials, fans, jeerleaders – all have for this sport,” says Helen Nash of LRG.

According to Helen, after years of being involved in roller derby, the question she’s asked most often (alongside the likes of “Where’s the ball?” “Do you beat each other up?” “How do you score points?” and “Do you all wear fishnets?”) is “why?”

She says: “We want to answer the ‘whys’ by capturing the heart and soul of this ever-changing game on its inexorable rise, from its DIY ethos and punk-rock roots, to the strength and athleticism on display at bouts all over the world…It truly is an exciting time for roller derby and we’re thrilled to work with For Books’ Sake on this anthology to offer a glimpse into the heart of our community.”

The Derby Shorts collection features bold and brilliant representations of roller derby that are sometimes realistic, but at others decidedly less so, from inter-team love, lust, rivalry and rebellion to Victorian debutantes finding escape, adventure and sisterhood when they accidentally invent roller derby a century early, rollerblading assassins in a punk-apocalyptic London ruled by warring roller derby leagues, brats and ballerinas turned derby superstars and much more besides. But they keep one thing in common; their obsession with the sport too tough, fast and exciting to stay underground.

Hopefully they’ll inspire the next generation of derby initiates to get their skates on and get involved. Because observing the way the sport’s expanding every day, it won’t be long before they’re needed.

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