Tag Archives: Drag

Revisited : The Noir Series

Weird Noir was one of our early titles, edited by K.A. Laity and it was so much fun we managed to persuade her back to do two more, Noir Carnival and Drag Noir. The idea was simply to throw another genre or trope that interested us in the mix with noir stylings and it resulted in some incredible stories and really superb anthologies.

amzfinalweird-noir-small

‘On the gritty backstreets of a crumbling city, tough dames and dangerous men trade barbs, witticisms and a few gunshots. But there’s a new twist where

urban decay meets the eldritch borders of another world: WEIRD NOIR.

Featuring thugs who sprout claws and fangs, gangsters with tentacles and the occasional succubus siren. The ambience is pure noir but the characters aren’t just your average molls and mugs—the vamps might just be vamps. It’s Patricia Highsmith meets Shirley Jackson or Dashiell Hammett filtered through H. P. Lovecraft. Mad, bad and truly dangerous to know, but irresistible all the same.’

WEB Final Noir Carnival

Dark’s Carnival has already left town, but it’s left a fetid seed behind. There’s a transgressive magic that spooks the carnies and unsettles the freaks. Beyond the barkers and the punters, behind the lights and tents where the macabre and the lost find refuge, there’s a deformity that has nothing to do with skin and bones. Where tragic players strut on a creaking stage, everybody’s going through changes. Jongleurs and musicians huddle in the back. It seems as if every one’s running, but is it toward something—or away?

The carnies bring you stories, a heady mix of shadows and candy floss, dreams gone sour and nights that go on too long. Let them lure you into the tent.

Carnival: whether you picture it as a traveling fair in the back roads of America or the hedonistic nights of the pre-Lenten festival where masks hide faces while the skin glories in its revelation, it’s about spectacle, artificiality and the things we hide behind the greasepaint or the tent flap. Let these writers lead you on a journey into that heart of blackened darkness and show you what’s behind the glitz.

Underneath, we’re all freaks after all…

We all went a little crazy at the Noir Carnival launch at Edge.Lit 2013

Jo Jo the Dog Faced boy and the bearded lady

Jo Jo the Dog Faced boy and the bearded lady

and finally we closed off by taking a look at gender and sexuality in Drag Noir. K.A. Laity swears she won’t do any more, but we’ve heard that before.

Cover by S. L. Johnson

Cover by S. L. Johnson

DRAG NOIR: this is where glamour meets grit, where everyone’s wearing a disguise (whether they know it or not) and knowing the players takes a lot more than simply reading the score cards. Maybe everyone’s got something to hide, but they’ve got something to reveal, too. Scratch the surface and explore what secrets lie beneath — it’s bound to cost someone…a lot.

dragnoir1

Drag Noir: Chloë Yates

The lovely Paulina Succotash

Kiki and Me
Chloë Yates
One night in the dim and distant long ago, I was working the graveyard shift at that notorious punk drag dive, Axolotl Snot, on the grimy lower east bank of The City. The night outside was cold and inside the clientele wasn’t much warmer. One moment I was wiping down the ever-sticky bar for the hundredth time, the next I was slack jawed with awe as the infamous drag queen Kiki Le Shade sashayed into my world. She was a dame and she had balls. One look into those hypnotically glacial peepers and I was spellbound. She bent me to her will and I thanked her for every displaced vertebrae… At least that’s how I wish it had gone, but I’ve never worked in a bar and I’ve only ever admired drag queens from afar. I have, however, been in love with them since I was a kid.

 

Ideas of gender have always fascinated and appalled me. The way we step into the construct of gender identity at birth and then stick to it as though it’s all perfectly natural and right when it’s clearly absolute bollocks has plagued me my entire life. Arbitrary rules of behaviour and “deportment” (ugh) that depend upon whether or not you have a tallywackle or a witch’s cackle have never made the least bit of sense to me. I never understood why I was supposed to do this or that because I was a “girl” or why my friend couldn’t wear this or act like that because he was a “boy”. I just wanted to do the things I wanted to do because I wanted to do them. I believe that’s how everybody feels, deep down at least, but all too often life teaches us that stepping out from the baaing masses is fraught with castigation and derision – those wicked sharp whip licks of social control. Well, fuck, as they say, that shit.

 

The long and the short of it is I’m a fan of chutzpah, if you’ll allow me the indulgence. Bold, in-your-face, no apologies types are my number one poison, my idols and my role models, and who’s better at in-your-face than drag queens? Undoubtedly I have a romanticised view of them, but it certainly seems to me that drag queens make no apologies. More often than not it is their opportunity to act out, play up and throw their besequinned shit in the face of folks with wild abandon – and they seize it. Drag has never seemed like a mask to me. It is, rather, a medium for liberation. An excuse to be fearlessly bold, a ticket to kick the world in the tits while sticking your tongue out and wiggling your glitter-encrusted arse at it. That beautiful bright light of subversion being thrown so boldly in the face of a generally conservative world that pouts and frowns at “otherness” like we don’t all have secrets, fears, desires and frustrations that torment and thrill us, tickles me in all the best places.

 

Needless to say, I really wanted to write a story for Drag Noir but, after whacking my brain into inanimate object after inanimate object, I was stumped. Not because I couldn’t think of a million and one scenarios, but because I couldn’t think of the right one (some might argue I didn’t do that anyway but they can kiss my big fat bellend). Then I came across the song ‘Let’s Have a Kiki’ by Scissor Sisters. I can’t remember if it was on the telly or if someone posted it on Facebook, but it stuck in my head like only the most vicious of earworms are wont to do. It did the job though, one of those mental switch thingummies. I listened to that fucking song about eight million times while sitting in front of my screen and not once did my fingers stop typing. Kiki was pretty much born in one go, but she felt like she’d always been with me. First came the image of the faded drag queen, a shadow of her former self that long ago night at the Axolotl, sitting in a parking lot on one of those awful white plastic chairs, inches long ash clinging to a still blazing cigarette, lipstick smudged, wig askew. And I wondered what she was waiting for, because she was definitely waiting for something. Turns out, it wasn’t what I expected… which is just how I like it.


Click to buy!

Double Trouble at the Fox Den

Double release day! 

Today we are delighted to announce we have unleashed a mass of femme fatales on the unsuspecting public. Available now from Fox Spirit Books are two exciting volumes of high heels and deadly doings!

The third in our Noir series of anthologies edited by K.A.Laity is ‘Drag Noir‘ where the drag scene meets the seedy world of Chandler and Hammett, where glamour meets grit, where everyone wears a disguise.

Cover by S. L. Johnson

Cover by S. L. Johnson

And from Alchemy Press editors Jan Edwards and Jenny Barber we are delighted to bring you ‘Wicked Women‘! Women who write their own rules, skate along the edge of the law and generally aim to misbehave.

Cover by Sarah Anne Langton

Cover by Sarah Anne Langton

So join us for double trouble!

If you would like review copies or to interview the editors please contact adele@foxspirit.co.uk

Drag Noir: Becky Thacker

Becky Thacker

Portrait of the author in her younger days

How I Came to Write ‘Geezer Dyke’

Becky Thacker

A port stop during a cruise disembarked us in Mexico, facing a row of tour vans and buses.  Most of these were staffed by sign-wielding native folks with weary, worldly-wise faces; obviously they did this job for the living it provided and not because they found it fun. One of the tour guides was a lesbian, white-skinned, aging none too gracefully, and it was evident from her accent that she’d begun life as a North American Midwesterner. She looked and clearly felt, however, more akin to her brown-skinned career associates than to the flocks of North American tourists who surrounded her. We wondered what, or who, had led her to this path.   And of course, romantics that we are, we wondered whom she went home to when her day of tourist-wrangling was over.

DRAG NOIR: Out this Halloween!

Cover by S. L. Johnson

Cover by S. L. Johnson

 

Foreword to Drag Noir

The original Jim West, Robert Conrad

FOREWORD to DRAG NOIR by editor K. A. Laity

I wanted to be Jim West. The hero of the television programme Wild Wild West played by Robert Conrad epitomized cool as far as I was concerned as a kid. He looked slick, fought bad guys and lived in luxurious style in a train caboose with his pal Artemus Gordon—every week a new location and a new adventure.

But more than that, the look: that snugly fitted suit, short jacket, broad shoulders and black boots. Sure he did spend a lot of time shirtless and tied up, too. Somehow at the advent the androgynous glam rock look of the 70s and the nascent punk scene, anything at all seemed possible—at least until my body betrayed me with the double-whammy of adolescent hormones and a thyroid that tipped over into overdrive, hitting my rangy frame with unexpected curves and bewildered loss of identity.

Tilda Suited by ShermanI grew up with two brothers, four baseball diamonds and a football field behind my house, so I played a lot of sports. Yet when I started school I was expected to wear dresses. I wanted to be the boy in My Side of the Mountain but it was a revelation to see Karen Carpenter play drums because it was a thing girls weren’t supposed to do. I was a guileless and mostly unaware child so it came as a bit of a shock when I realised there was a great deal of anxiety attached to who I was supposed to be. I failed so much at being a girl that I was sent to charm school, a racket run by the local department store.

It failed.

My adolescent discomfort sprang largely from being forced into a category that didn’t fit me, as much as it did with being trapped in one place when I wanted to travel the world. Academia belatedly taught me an essential term: slippage. Our brains like to categorise things into distinct pigeon-holes, but nature just bleeds into the margins. I like slipping between categories (as these noir mash-ups show). Then as now I hated to be pigeon-holed. On my website I quote Kierkegaard: “Once you label me, you negate me.”

It’s no wonder that I took to gender studies like a PI to trenchcoats; it explained the discomfort I had struggled with for so long—and proved I wasn’t the only one. It gave me so much more to think about when I considered my own childhood (not to mention two men living together in a caboose—hello!). Judith Butler showed me gender was constructed by culture, just as I’d always intuited. She instilled in me the love of playing with those conventions consciously, testing people’s reactions, and teaching students to be conscious of them as well.

But it was Ru Paul who cut to the essential: “We’re born naked, and the rest is drag.”

Manufacturers seem to have doubled down on building the great gender divide; all you have to do is look at the ‘girls’ aisle in any toy store—a throbbing pink ghetto. Toys that were bright primary colours a couple decades ago now receive a varnish of glutinous pink. The ‘princess’ industry is reinforced 24/7 on the Disney media empire of television and radio. Maybe it’s the last ditch backlash against a broadening culture that not only recognizes the rainbow spectrum of genders, but increasingly celebrates them. I’m all onboard with the Pink Stinks camp, but maybe princess power isn’t as monolithic as I sometimes fear (given my tomboy self). I was pleasantly surprised the other day when the Executive Toddler (3) and her brother (9) were on scooters, which he reminded her both belonged to him, when she told him imperiously that she liked ‘boy things and girl things’. I leaned over and said, ‘I’ll tell you a secret: there aren’t really “girl things” and “boy things”—there are only “things”‘.

You can spend your life trying to protect the divisions between categories, but nature bleeds through the barriers. That’s why we have parthenogenesis. Nature will find a way. Try too hard to maintain those artificial borders and you’re bound to fail.

Of course noir is all about failing, but it’s also about shadows, surfaces and a lot of grey areas. Hiding and revealing, deceptive appearances, buried truths: the stories here run the gamut. So do the writers: some I knew already, others I didn’t at all. I was disappointed to have so few drag king stories, but maybe that leaves room to revisit the topic. I had no idea what I would get, but I was pleased with the results. I hope you are too.

Ladies Choice

October at Fox Spirit is celebrating the Femme Fatale..after a fashion. Our anthologies ‘Wicked Women’ edited by Jenny Barber and Jan Edwards and ‘Drag Noir’ edited by K.A.Laity are coming up. These ladies are armed and dangerous.

Wicked Women 72ppi Front


From thieves and tyrants to witches and warriors, here are twelve tales of women who gleefully write their own rules, women who’ll bend or break the social norms, who’ll skate along the edge of the law and generally aim to misbehave.

Contents:
Juliet E. McKenna – Win Some, Lose Some
Christine Morgan – The Shabti-Maker
Tom Johnstone – Kravolitz
A. R. Aston –  No Place of Honour
Adrian Tchaikovsky – This Blessed Union
Sam Stone – The Book of the Gods
Chloë Yates – How to be the Perfect Housewife
Stephanie Burgis – Red Ribbons
Jonathan Ward – A Change in Leadership
Jaine Fenn – Down at the Lake
Zen Cho – The First Witch of Damansara
Gaie Sebold – A Change of Heart

Cover by S. L. Johnson

Cover by S. L. Johnson

DRAG NOIR: this is where glamour meets grit, where everyone’s wearing a disguise (whether they know it or not) and knowing the players takes a lot more than simply reading the score cards. Maybe everyone’s got something to hide, but they’ve got something to reveal, too. Scratch the surface and explore what secrets lie beneath — it’s bound to cost someone…a lot.

Contents:
Introduction by Dana Gravesen and Bryan Asbury
The Meaning of Skin – Richard Godwin
Wheel Man – Tess Makovesky
No. 21: Gabriella Merlo – Ben Solomon
Geezer Dyke – Becky Thacker
Lucky in Cards – Jack Bates
Trespassing – Michael S. Chong
Chianti – Selene MacLeod
The Changeling – Tracy Fahey
Straight Baby – Redfern Jon Barrett
Kiki Le Shade – Chloe Yates
Protect Her – Walter Conley
King Bitch – James Bennett
A Bit of a Pickle – Paul D. Brazill
Stainless Steel – Amelia Mangan
The Itch of the Iron, The Pull of the Moon – Carol Borden

Call for Stories: Drag Noir

Photo via Dangerous Minds (click to see original article)

Photo via Dangerous Minds (click to see original article)

“We’re born naked, and the rest is drag.”
RuPaul, Lettin it All Hang Out: An Autobiography

Drag is a broad concept; noir is a fairly narrow one. Drag can be a way of playing with gender or it can be a matter of survival. In the noir world, it can be almost anything: camouflage, deceit, truth — or a skin to be shed at will.

Otto Penzler has always been really strict in his idea of noir:

Look, noir is about losers. The characters in these existential, nihilistic tales are doomed. They may not die, but they probably should, as the life that awaits them is certain to be so ugly, so lost and lonely, that they’d be better off just curling up and getting it over with. And, let’s face it, they deserve it.

Pretty much everyone in a noir story (or film) is driven by greed, lust, jealousy or alienation, a path that inevitably sucks them into a downward spiral from which they cannot escape. They couldn’t find the exit from their personal highway to hell if flashing neon lights pointed to a town named Hope. It is their own lack of morality that blindly drives them to ruin.

I don’t necessarily agree with everything he says, but I think noir ends up being a fairly bleak place — one where any bit of glamour or adopted power can be worth the gamble of discovery. It may even be worth flaunting it.

Can you tell who’s Dressed to Kill?

As RuPaul advises,”When the going gets tough, the tough reinvent.”

That’s what we want for DRAG NOIR: this is a call for stories where glamour meets grit, where everyone’s wearing a disguise (whether they know it or not) and knowing the players takes a lot more than simply reading the score cards. Maybe everyone’s got something to hide, but they’ve got something to reveal, too. Scratch the surface and explore what secrets lie beneath — it’s bound to cost someone…a lot.

Mercedes McCambridge in ‘A Touch of Evil’

 

An anthology is not a democracy; it’s a benevolent dictatorship. All editors have their tastes or quirks: if you want a clue to my sensibilities, check out my extensive bibliography and of course, read Weird Noir and Noir Carnival.

Stories should be:

  • Previously unpublished anywhere
  • Not submitted anywhere else
  • Length 3-8K
  • Formatted: Times New Roman, regular, 12 point; 1″ margins; 1 space after full stop; lines spaced 1.5; use paragraph formatting to indent first line not tabs; no header/footer
  • Identified with a title, your name (and pen name identified as such), working email address on the first page: file name should include your surname & the title
  • Submitted in RTF format via email to katelaity at gmail with your name, the story title and total word count included in the body of the email; make sure the Subject line includes “Submission: Drag Noir” + your name
  • Due by March 20, 2014.

We will ask for world-wide print & ebook rights for a year and pay £10 via Paypal plus a copy of the paperback. The fabulous Stephanie Johnson has been persuaded to create another fabulous cover image! We plan to launch the book in July 2014.

Butler Gender