The Blackwood Papers

On an Amazon near you now. If you are not a fan of the billionaire space race though, you can get the ebooks right here on our own ebook store. 

Take a wander through the collection of papers and articles as you unwrap the story 

Is it Funny?

I was reminded by Alastair Stuart’s The Full Lid that there are many excellent podcasts out there, you may not be familiar with.

I wanted to highlight one that I love when I get the chance to just listen for a while. 

Is it Funny? By Kate Laity

You can listen on any major podcast outlet as Kate takes you on a tour of comedy through the ages. Laity is an academic, a writer, and always a fan making this a delightful gentle wander. Is it Funny is interesting and clever but made with genuine affection for the material which makes me want to spend time listening to the author enthuse about the subject of each session even where I have no familiarity with the material.

 

Monster Blog : Haralambi Markov

Haralambi is an old friend of Fox Spirit and I was delighted when i saw his name among the list for this volume, because this last year, more than ever it is nice to remember the connections we have. – Sentimental Aunty fox.

Lessons in Shapeshifting – A hala, a Podcast and a Questioning Protagonist.

by Haralambi Markov

I feel incredibly delighted and privileged to have been invited to Eurasian Monsters as I believe the work Fox Spirit Books has done with this series of coffee table anthologies is important. Who gets to talk about monsters and how they shape our understanding of legends and folklore, plus we all like a good creature feature. Popular culture has its favorite monsters, which I’m not here to mock or dismiss, because I have been greatly influenced by vampires, zombies and mermaids when coming up as a writer.

At the same time, human imagination has concocted some really insane monsters that are lesser known in wider circles. That’s why Margrét Helgadóttir’s work on this anthology series is essential – here you’ve a small registry of stories based on regional creatures written by people from within, so you get to see intimate reinterpretations of their history and how it’s contextualized. Also, it’s a lot of fun to examine your cultural legacy (I’ve been doing more of this work in recent years) and see how it fits with the present. Or doesn’t.

For me at least, there’s a definite disconnect between the lives we lead in Bulgaria and the folklore we once created. Much similar to how deforestation and lawless construction in national parks have severely impacted local ecosystems and endangered native species – our cultural ecosystem hasn’t been welcoming to its own cryptids. Where would these creatures go, if they existed today, and how would we view them?

This was the starting point of my story “Nine Tongues Tells Of”, which describes the relationship and the long conversations between my protagonist and a newly-emerged hala (a shapeshifting spirit of hail storms). The story is as much a commentary on how we commodify every aspect of our lives (the conversations are released as a podcast) as it is a questioning of what we have forgotten. Just as my protagonist is clueless about the hala, so was I initially, apart from its apparent connection to hail. My research was fueled by the intention to do it right; represent the hala correctly. The definitive hala, if you will.

In consulting with the big compendium of folkloric knowledge about the zmey, zmeitsa, lamya and hala, I discovered how rich and decentralized the understanding of what the hala is and what it could be. A reminder that oral knowledge easily differs from place to place and ultimately encourages the freedom to retell. It’s very fitting that stories and beliefs about the hala are as varied and changing since the hala herself is a shapeshifter.

My hala is one of many. Far from definitive, yet still true to her nature.

 

Monster Blog : Kat Hutchson

The Horrors of Childhood – What Inspired “The Housekeeper”

by Kat Hutchson

In my first draft of this blog post, I wanted to write that there were few things that terrified me during my childhood but then I had to reconsider. There was the domovoy, the toilet monster from the X files, the fear of being kidnaped, the instability of a looming war with Chechnya on the borders of Caucasus – although it was a mere nervous feeling that crept into the mind of everyone, even children that were not quite ready to grasp the actual impact. It was a ghost, another monster that hid under your bed.

Although most of this fear faded away and with it the physical memory, some parts are still not quite vivid. I find it impressive how events that might look more traumatic to the outside eye only left behind a movie scene without a clear emotional response while other less striking events still feel more close to home.

My story “The Housekeeper” was inspired by a saying that had terrified me most of my childhood and had effectively stopped me from begging my parents to ever go home early. If you asked your parents to go home, you received the answer that there is a domovoy who is drying his legs and will strangle you.

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

The Russian version of this sounds far more poetic due the rhyme sushit – dries-  and sadushit – strangles – at the end of the sentence. Although the poetic aspect doesn’t make it less terrifying if you ask me. 

In my research I wanted to explore the origins of the proverb but unfortunately I was unable to find any clue. I know that it was passed on from my grandmother to my mother – and that it hadn’t terrified her as much as it had me. Some sources mention that it was part of a children’s song and that there might be a version where the domovoy dries his shoes instead of his legs.

The concept of the story draws from the definition of the Fantastic as a state where the reader as well as the protagonist are uncertain if the events actually happened. There is no way of telling if the protagonist purely imagined them or if something supernatural took place. Based on Tzvetan Todorov’s definition of the Fantastic in Introduction à la littérature fantastique there are two ways to interpret such events: as the fantastic uncanny or fantastic marvelous. While the uncanny has a rational explanation such as an illusion, the marvelous defines the events as real.

Photo by Paige Cody on Unsplash

In case of “The Housekeeper” the Fantastic is tied to the traumatic. The divorce of the protagonist’s parents, separation from the father, moving to a new environment could all be considered as the culprit for his physical symptoms and experiences. The subjectivity of the events, the passing of time and the memories of a child do not allow for a simple decision if the Fantastic is marvelous or uncanny. They seem real to the protagonist but his visits to the psychiatrist suggest a rational explanation. To confirm one or the other would negate the state of the Fantastic.

I guess, you’ll have to read for yourself and form your own opinion. 

***

Kat Hutchson was born in Kislovodsk, a Russian spa city located between the Black and Caspian Seas. As a child she fell into the fountain of the Narzan Gallery and started writing shortly after. The magic powers of the Narzan contributed to her trying various forms of writing including slam poetry, academic publishing and poetry, and led to her finally finding her current home in the weird and the fantastic. Kat holds two master’s degrees (in Comparative Literature and Scandinavian Studies) from the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich, Germany, where she currently lives. Follow Kat on Twitter where she is @HutchsonKat or check out her blog www.KatHutchson.wordpress.com

 

Photo Credits with links

 Photo by Paige Cody on Unsplash  
 Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

The Fox Spirit Book Of Love TOC

Well my fair foxes, it’s Valentine’s Day and admit all the chocolate and flowers and hastily purchased garage cards we thought this was the perfect time to announce the contents of our forthcoming FS Book of Love edited by the fabulous C. A. Yates

Further monster blogs and news of other 2021 releases coming soon

Todd & Reynard on Valentines
art by Jenny Haines
  1. DECOMPOSING CORPSES – Douglas J. Ogurek
  2. THE HOLY WATERS – Dolly Garland
  3. JIXXA, MY LOVE – Alec McQuay
  4. END TIMES IN PARIS – James Bennett
  5. LOVE IN THE AGE OF… – David Tallerman
  6. THE FIRST DAY OF KHIRSHI-DA – Joyce Chng
  7. BY BLADE AND BLOOM – Xan van Rooyen
  8. THE FINE ART OF FORTUNE-TELLING – Michelle Ann King
  9. A CURSE THAT’S NOT FOR BREAKING – Lawrence Harding
  10. A TRUE WISH – Charlotte Bond
  11. NOTES ON A HAUNTING – Kit West
  12. SUBATOMIC FOR ‘IT MUST BE LOVE’ – Emma K. Leadley
  13. THE TWELFTH DAY – Ro Smith
  14. THE WIND’S SON – K.C. Shaw
  15. SALT OCEAN – Lisa Shea
  16. ENCHANTED GARDEN – K.A. Laity
  17. RAPTURE ON THE LONELY SHORE – Jenny Barber
  18. THE WHALE AND THE MOON – G. Clark Hellery

A note from the Editor:

I don’t think anyone really knows what love is or where it comes from, but so many of us feel such an extraordinary connection to another person at least once in our lives that it can make us feel and do the most incredible things. I’m not talking about romance, all that hearts and flowers business. There are many people who don’t feel romantic attraction at all, but they experience love. Some people love more than one person at a time; some truly love only one person their entire life. For some, love is platonic, while for others it has to be sexual. There are those for who one glance, one moment, can connect them so deeply to another person they are never quite the same again.

So why create an anthology based on such an unknowable yet ubiquitous creature? Well, I believe love is a power for good. Of course it has its ups and downs; it can be a comfort or a wild ride; it can mean sacrifice or abundance; it can taste of the ripest, sweetest strawberries or turn as rotten as a certain something in the state of Denmark. Whatever it is, I believe it can change the world. Or, at least, it can change yours forever.

 

Believing the Big Lies

There is a wonderful part at the end of Terry Pratchett’s the Hogfather, where Death explains to Susan that we believe in the Toothfairy, the Hogfather etc as practice, believing little lies before we can believe the big ones like Justice. You can look up the exact quote, but it’s on my mind today.

With everything that happened in the US yesterday,  with the UK in it’s 3rd national lockdown, a number of those big lies, things that rely on everyone quietly following the laid out accepted terms of engagement and pretending they are unassailable seem more fragile than ever to me.  

I don’t know what to do about any of this. I remain tucked in relative safety and my own privilege at home, working through the pandemic, and watching the fires (literal and figurative) burning all over the world, including here on my own Island, and hoping we all make it out still relatively whole.

It feels as though all I can do right now is reiterate the things I believe, so I want to take a moment to do that. We will return to Monster Blogs and books and cheerful matters soon, but first from us here at Fox Spirit and specifically your Aunty Fox:

Black lives matter
Trans rights are human rights
LQBTQ+ rights should be equal and unassailable 
Democracy, flawed as it is should be protected and there must be consequences for attacking it
Disabled lives matter
Own voices need to be heard
First people’s land and rights should be protected 

As far as our own world of fiction diverse and own voices are essential.

Just in case anyone was in any doubt where we stand. 
Be safe folks, as best you can.

Reading List – free and reduced stuff

Well, it looks as though we may mostly be at home for a while. I would imagine even those who normally work from home are going to start to struggle at some point to maintain the same level of productivity. That’s ok, it’s a weird time. We though we would put together a few resources for free and reduced reads. I will continue to add to this post. 

Obviously please do look in on what your local and national libraries are doing online. 

Fox Spirit

We have of course Fearless Genre Warriors, our cross anth taster for free on our store.
With the voucher code ‘cabinfever’ you can get 50% off your basket, we are going to update that to run until 1st June.
We also have lots of free fiction to read, some audio stuff and video for you to enjoy any time, including our youtube channel. 

Authors & Publishers

Tabatha Wood has made her book free
GM White has dropped his price to 99p/c
Joyce Chng is offering Xiao Xiao for MG and Teens free along with other work at really low prices 
Adrian Tchaikovsky has put a collection on GDrive for anyone to enjoy
Kate Laity has a ton of stuff free on her site as always
Adding Jo M Thomas has lots of free stuff on her website
Loads of free web comics to enjoy from Things Without
Margret Helgadottir has a number of stories free on her site

Bad Dog Books have added titles to their sale section
Farenheit Press are offering a free book a day to get you through
Sinister Horror Company have free content on their site and are reducing all their ebooks to 99p/c. 

Bookstores
If you want books, we recommend supporting indies who will post them out to you. 

The Portal Bookshop for your queer SF needs
Books on the Hill for general genre awesomeness
The Book Case in Halifax

Not a book but still:

Paris Opera offering live streaming of performances
Good Housekeeping have collected 30 fantastic virtual tours
Adventure Journalism has this fantastic post collecting live animal cams for you
@BootstrapCook is live on twitter every day at 5pm working out meals from whatever random larder stuff you are dealing with. Check out #JackMonroesLockdownLarder

Educational

Cambridge Uni will be making all their textbooks free
The BBC offers bitesize 
There are loads of online learning resources collected here
Twinkl Scotland have an offer going
The Strange Animal Podcast is totally free
The Literacy Trust offers family resources
Learn French?Aimed at kids.

Blog posts needed!

This call is just for female identifying folk.

There was a thread on twitter today, started by the lovely @Odrah, regarding those click baity ’10 things’ lists often associated with women’s magazines. You know, 10 ways to keep him interested, 10 ways to wear a wrap, 10 things women over 40 shouldn’t wear (the skins of our enemies?) etc etc. The initial thread was about alternative types of 10 things articles. I have the go ahead to run with the idea for a blog series.

While we are not in anyway opposed to women’s magazines with their shoes and make up and bikini body tips (how you woman is entirely up to you) we  do think that for balance it would be nice to see ’10 best places to eat cheese’ or ’10 work outfits that have actual proper pockets’, ’10 women in politics worth following on twitter’, ’10 sword techniques you can practice in limited space (living room), ’10 things to ask a tattoo artist before you commit’.

So that is the blog call. £10 token payment per post, no word limits, thought for guidance, 500 – 1,000 usually works well for blogs, short and snappy is fine though! I mean a literal list of 10 hilarious points works. Subjects, I am particularly keen to see representation from HEMA and other marital arts, clothing that has nothing to do with fashion (pockets), food posts that are about pleasure not weight, and frankly anything you wouldn’t expect to see generally. Have fun, that’s the whole point, we aren’t trying to shame people who enjoy women’s mags, I do on occasion, we are just playing with alternative versions of the concept. 

You can tweet me if you want to check the subject before you write @FoxSpiritBooks and articles should be emailed to adele@foxspirit.co.uk along with your paypal address for payment. 

 

 

We Are Seven

Well, I have to say when I agreed to do one book, on split proceeds in 2012 I didn’t expect to be here celebrating our seventh birthday and over 70 titles. I am so proud of what we have accomplished and the stories we have put out, of all our authors and artists and the behind the scenes team of editors and formatter and others who work their tails off to make FS what it is. 

Over on twitter we are doing random giveaways all month and other bits and bobs. We also have, throughout June a 25% discount on the FS ebook store (shop ebooks above) with the voucher code ‘skulkis7’.

I ordered this cake for my birthday a year or two ago, but it seems fitting. 

We will be getting the newsletters going again this weekend, after a brief hiatus (I changed day jobs) and there are even more exclusive short stories on the members page, along with a long term discount on the store and more stuff to come, so please do consider joining the skulk. 

We have loads of amazing titles coming out this summer, so there will be updates coming on those too. 

I would also like to do an update on our authors who are out in the world doing other stuff, so if you have ever written for Fox Spirit and have books recently out or coming soon, award nominations, events, or anything else please let us know. We want to spread the good news this month as we are full of birthday joy.
It’s also Mr Fox’s actual birthday soon so there is so much cake going on at Kettu talo!!

 

Not The Fox News: Batfleck No More

Just under six years ago, I wrote this.

Just under ten hours ago, it was confirmed that the next Batman movie, The Batman, will arrive in 2021 and Ben Affleck will not be the visible chin in the suit.

What a weird six years, that’s somehow only produced three movies he’s actually played the role in, it’s been. I stand by my original column too; Affleck was an excellent choice for the role and one that the studio pretty clearly had absolutely no idea what to do with from the jump off. He was writing, directing and starring in the Batman movie. Then he was starring and writing. Then he was just starring. Now he’s going to be in the audience. In the interim, he turned in a good performance in a film full of occasional brilliance and frequent mystifying stumbles, a visibly weary and yet still weirdly charming turn in a film broken in two by numerous problems at every level and rode on a shiny purple Lamborghini. He deserved better, and after a while, you could kind of see him realizing that. And so did we.

So what now? Or rather who now?

Well, Matt Reeves is a safe pair of hands, that’s a given. I mean, sure, everyone has an Under Siege 2: Dark Territory somewhere but look past that and you’ve got Cloverfield, which is a legit epochal piece of cinema. Hate found footage movies all you want but Cloverfield is never less than visually impressive and changed the grammar of blockbusters in general and monster movies in particular. From there Reeves directed the critically acclaimed remake of Let The Right One In and made the revamped Planet of the Apes trilogy not only his own but a strikingly intelligent, modern and bleak retelling of what could have so easily been a goofy cash in. And he wrote all of them too. Behind the camera is just fine, no worries there.

But in front of the camera, there’s an opportunity. An opportunity to break accepted wisdom and actually do something genuinely new and revolutionary with the character. We know Reeves wants to cast a young Bruce and that the movie is planned as an actual detective story with a large rogue’s gallery as opposed to the yelling nocturnal punch fest that so many other Batman movies end up as.

So here’s how you do it. Or rather, how I’d do it.

David Mazouz

The kid has held Gotham, a series of 42 minute explosions, together for five years. He’s literally grown into the role, on screen and has the exact combination of presence, compassion, gravitas and literal batsarse crazy eyes to sell it. Plus you get instant good will from the Gotham crowd, you reward Mazouz for carrying that show on his back for five years and if we’re really lucky? The greatest version of Alfred Pennyworth ever committed to screen comes with him. ‘Ave iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit!

Michael B. Jordan

Oh you know this makes sense. Jordan is a fiercely intelligent performer and uses that intelligence in the service of his roles. He’s arguably the lynchpin of Black Panther and his Shakespearean Killmonger is, hands down, the best villain the Marvel movies have had to date. Imagine that intelligence, that focus, put to cleaning up Gotham City.

Then there’s the physical dimension. Jordan’s extraordinary work in the Creed movies shows he’s ridiculously physically capable too. Plus he’s a legit geek so there’s instant good will from the hard to win over members of the audience and his best performances sit absolutely in the sweet spot Reeves seems to want; a young, driven, slightly impulsive Bruce completely focused on his work but perhaps over-extending himself. It’s Creed in a cowl, and Jordan knows that territory very, very well.

LONDON, ENGLAND – DECEMBER 16: Oscar Isaac attends the European Premiere of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” in Leicester Square on December 16, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/WireImage)

Oscar Isaac

Just let me have this one. I know the age gap probably isn’t big enough and Isaac’s blockbuster dance card is going to be good and full for the next few years anyway. But very few people could be Bruce Wayne better than him. Isaac’s sophisticated without being sleazy, intense without being goggle eyed crazy pants and he can do grounded, mournful decency and swashbuckling charm with equal ease. Often in the same scene. I accept he’s probably out of the range but if we can’t get him as Batman, then surely he’s a Commissioner Gordon in waiting.

LONDON, ENGLAND – JANUARY 05: Colin Morgan attends the UK Premiere of “Testament of Youth” at Empire Leicester Square on January 5, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Ian Gavan/Getty Images)

Colin Morgan

Morgan’s two best known performances in the UK are as Merlin in Merlin and Leo in Humans. The two roles are a textbook demonstration of his range and why he’d be a good fit for the cowl. Morgan can do seething intensity, emotional damage and comedic awkwardness effortlessly and all of them with a guiding intelligence. Bruce Wayne as a player of games, as a mask worn by Batman is something Morgan could absolutely ace. Plus he looks good in a tux so there’s that.

 

There’s the temptation to complicate matters of course. To fold in other members of the Bat family, to discuss the correct Robin for the occasion that sort of thing. There’s also the compulsory requirement to point out that Batman is arguably one of the most over-exposed characters to hang a movie off if you’re looking to break new ground. He’s a guilt ridden billionaire trauma victim who sublimates his rage and guilt by punching criminals. That’s slightly facetious sure but it’s also a good chunk of the character and I worry that a younger Bruce would mean we’d have to sit through the second most overplayed origin story in comics for the umpteenth time.

That being said, there are interesting things to still do with Batman and a raft of great Bat characters that are screaming out for a movie of their own. The Reeves movie won’t be that, but it is a new start and that’s something the DCEU has begun to see real success with. Wonder Woman was great. Aquaman, book torturing idiot dude bro lead aside, was great. Shazam looks big fun and if it is it’ll triangulate the idea that DC movies work best when they work alone. So bring on the new Bat, whoever he may be. Batfleck’s era is gone, and that’s for the best for everyone, including him. Let’s see who picks up the cowl next and if their luck is any better. It certainly deserves to be.