Chris Beckett’s professional background is in social work, and (he says in his guest editorial) he was inspired to write ‘Johnny’s New Job’ by reactions to the Baby P case. In Beckett’s story, a girl’s ‘wicked stepfather’ leaves her to die down a well. This is judged to be the fault of Welfare, and a Welfare Officer is denounced in public by the Chief Accuser. A crowd of people (including the titular Johnny) is soon out for the Welfare Officer’s blood — and so events move inexorably on…

As a satire on kneejerk reactions, the flow of this story may not be too difficult to anticipate — but I suspect that’s rather the point. Beckett constructs his tale as a kind of larger-than-life fable: many characters are identified en masse or by role, rather than by name, so they come to represent more than just individuals (and even Johnny is something of an everyman), and the telling has a folk-tale quality about it. ‘Johnny’s New Job’ is swift, sharp, and very good indeed.

Chris Beckett’s website
My review of The Turing Test, Beckett’s Edge Hill Prize-winning collection

This story appears in issue 227 of Interzone. Read all my blog posts about that issue here.