Fallopian Designateddriver was yesterday announced as this year’s Beige Award for Fiction Prize winner for her novel Trilobites under My Auntie’s Deckchair. The book concerns the coming of age of a young girl during the Great Postage Stamp Crisis of 1952. It was a time when Great Britain was still emerging from the rationing of WWII, and there was a severe shortage of gum for the nation’s postage stamps. The novel’s protagonist, Celery Stirfry, is stranded on a holiday with the Auntie of the title. Due to the postage stamp crisis, she is unable to send back any postcards to her family to tell them of the fascinating discovery she has made underneath her Auntie, Ackack Doodlebug’s, deckchair.
Of course, in the 1950s, both paleontological and archaeological specimens were still heavily rationed in the UK. So there were many children of the WWII era who had never seen any fossils whatsoever, especially not trilobites. Although, considered by many to be a vital part of the war effort, many of the Atlantic convoys bringing the essential supplies of American fossils to a paleontologically destitute Britain were sunk by the German U-boats.
Extremely concerned about the lack of adequate archaeology supplies for the British war effort, the British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, set up the SAS. The SAS, or Special Archaeology Service, was tasked with finding as much archaeology in the war zones as they could.
The SAS was not concerned with just archaeology though; they had a remit to liberate fossils from the Axis powers too. The SAS were first used during the Desert campaign to liberate as much historically-significant material as they could in the archaeology-rich deserts of Egypt and the rest of the Middle East.
Allied intelligence was very concerned that the Axis powers had access to a significant amount of archaeology, especially the ancient ruins in their captured territories. It was the SAS’s main purpose to recapture as many sites of paleontological, archaeological, historical and scientific interest as they could from the Italians and German forces in the Middle East, as well as liberate and protect as much of the archaeology and fossil record as tactically and strategically possible.
Before America entered the war, there was a growing movement in that country to have nothing to do with what one isolationist Senator called ‘this European war over fossils and ruins.’ Many Americans didn’t believe that fossils were real, as they did not fit into the seven-day creationist narrative. In addition, many Americans struggled with the idea of archelogy, believing there was far too much unnecessary history in the rest of the world that predated the creation of the USA.
However, Japan started collecting archaeological treasure in the Far East and threatened to invade the American Sphere of archaeological interest in the Pacific. The USA then had no choice but to enter the war. With America’s overwhelming superiority in battle-ready archaeologists, and their ultra-secret New Jersey Project to build the world’s first archaeological super-trowel, everyone knew it was only a matter of time before the war was won and the world’s archaeological treasures were freed from Axis control. Not only that, with their experience unearthing large dinosaur remains, the American Special Forces fossil squads were regarded as some of the best in the world at the time and would be vital in the liberation of European fossils after D-Day.
So, imagine Stirfry’s feelings of adolescent confusion, desire, and even trepidation when she first uncovers a trilobite fossil underneath her Auntie’s deckchair on the beach.
As the chair of the judges, Prunejuice Hedgetrimmer said, ‘It is this young girl’s first hesitant steps into fossil hunting that is so wonderfully captured in this thrilling novel. It is a deserving winner of this year’s award and readers will be captivated by its almost unbelievable nearly 20 whole pages of stunning prose as the story unfolds towards its shocking, but inevitable, conclusion.’