Sam Finnemore reviews 10 Acceptable Acts of Arson for Kete Books

My debut collection Ten Acceptable Acts of Arson and other very short stories was published in August 2021 by Canterbury University Press.

There are many messages in this book: Never go drinking using your passport for ID. Make sure to apply lidocaine before ripping out your toenails. Magic might be real, but it never fixes the worst of your problems. Try to fall in love with bastards. You or someone you know may be gayer than previously thought. We’re not going to make it to Mars. A locked psychiatric ward needs more books than a single copy of Jane Eyre. Asking time travellers for advice on your exams is considered cheating. It’s not just human houses that become haunted. The key message is this: Life in the early 21st century is often very strange. So are these stories.

With a crisp insouciance and gliding charm, Jack Cottrell’s fiery, fey, finely-tuned fictions leap from sci-fi to fantasy, comedy to horror, literary realism to romance, and to hybrids of all of these.

Featuring sport, friendship, love, health, family, climate change, artificial intelligence, desire, magic, Greek gods, ghosts, peanut butter, cyber pranks, racial prejudice, and creepy medical advances, his stories play with the allure of the past, the disturbances of our own times, and the dangerous idealism of our future technologies – each one in fewer than 300 words.

Some people have given it fantastic reviews, including in North&South Magazine, on RNZ and by Kete Books, from whom I nicked the image at the top of the page.

You can buy it here from CUP, or from your local bookstore, or you could ask your library if they have a copy, because libraries are awesome like that.

In 2018 my novella Latter Day Saints came runner-up in the Bath Flash Fiction novella-in-flash competition, and was published by Ad Hoc Fiction. People said some very nice things about it:

Drawing us into quest that already seems to be underway when we join it, we’re
led into shops, jam-packed homes, a church, a bar and a taxi to meet a motley assortment of saints. Far from being otherworldly and ethereal, these are people pulsing with blood, vim, and often, it seems, crushing disappointment. – Skylightrain

If you want to buy a copy (that is, if you’re one of my aunties) you can do that at Ad Hoc Fiction.

My piece Work and Income Gothic (published by Flash Frontier) made the short list in the Best Short Story category of the 2020 Sir Julius Vogel Awards.

Continuing my local gothic series, New Zealand Gothic is featured in the collection Ko Aotearoa Tātaou | We Are New Zealand published by Otago University Press.

That story, along with They probably play the viola were also selected for publication in Year’s Best Aotearoa New Zealand Science Fiction & Fantasy: Volume 3 by Paper Road Press in November 2021, a collection you should buy for the cover alone because it is gorgeous.

In 2020 I won the Wallace Foundation Prize for the manuscript which would end up being Ten Acceptable Acts of Arson.

And Flash Frontier has published a number of my stories, and I was stoked to receive their 2020 Winter Writing Award.

You can find stories of mine both on this site, and in the following places:


    The Practical Downsides of Accidental Necromancy
    Author Interview

Love in the Time of Covid Chronicle:

    This Machine Kills Fascists

Reflex Fiction:

    No sacrifice to the elder gods is ever wasted

The Three Lamps:

    Auckland Shorts I
    Auckland Shorts II

When I’m not writing very short fiction I am usually having Reckons about sport. I’ve had some of those published on The Spinoff, Radio Sport, and Sportsfreak.

Here’s a bit about my experience of the 2018 Bingham Cup.

And here are a couple of things which I was driven to by various cricket dramas – James Faulkner and Ball Tampering.