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.


‘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.


Revisited : Breed by K.T. Davies

I was reading an excellent article on gender and stereotyping in fantasy over at Fantasy Faction and thinking about our books.

K.T. Davies rightly pointed out her lead in Breed has no identifiable gender stated, although interestingly many reviews assign one to the character. I think we do this without even realising. I also think here at Fox Spirit we do pretty well on having varied approaches to our female leads, we’ve even had one who is a fish. In Drag Noir we focussed particularly on gender as a variable scale ecouraging writers to look at and challenge typical gender roles.

In amongst all this it occurred to me that many people who have started enjoying Fox Spirit over the last three years may not have picked up on all the things we have out there. So with our new third year of our existence starting, we are going to revisit our previous releases. Starting topically with Breed.

Breed Final Digital Cover for Upload

‘After Breed, a Guild Blade of small renown, is chased by a dragon, tricked by a demon, almost killed by a psychopathic gang boss and hunted by a ferocious spider-like arrachid assassin life really takes a turn for the worst. Sentenced to five years bonded servitude to a one-handed priest magician, Breed must find the hammer of the ancient hero known only as the Hammer of the North within a year and a day… or else. And so, with only a drug-addicted vagrant, a rat-faced child, and a timid priest for back up, Breed sets out for the mighty city of Valen and the tomb of the Hammer. What could possibly go wrong? I’ll give you a clue. Everything!’

You can read the amazon reviews in full here

‘I can’t recommend Breed enough. It hits the ground running (literally) and drags you happily with it until the end when you start screaming for MORE!’ Amazon reviewer.

The opening paragraphs for your reading pleasure:


There’s nothing quite as exhilarating as headlong flight, when fear of the unknown is banished by the sure knowledge that whatever lies ahead cannot be as dreadful as that which is behind. It is liberating, like being a child again. Although, truth be told, as wild as my childhood was, this was the first time I’d ever been chased by a dragon.
Even though my situation was rapidly sliding from dire to fatal, every fibre of my being sang with the sheer joy of being alive. I let out a loud whoop! It was a challenge, an exultation. Not to be outdone, the dragon answered with an ear-splitting roar and spewed a mouthful of frosty bile in my direction. I dodged into a stand of knotted pines. A wash of ice glazed the copse, leaves shattered like glass, trunks and boughs cracked like old bones. I escaped all but the merest lick of cold fire but that slight splash was enough to peel the skin from my shoulder. I stumbled, arms windmilling, feet scrabbling for purchase. The second I regained my balance, I dug my claws into the ground, and propelled myself down the mountain. My thoasan father had blessed me with his race’s superior speed and agility, alas; my human mother had cursed me with the stamina of her breed. The pace was hard and the furious dragon was devouring my lead with every beat of its coriaceous wings.

Please join us next week for another ‘Revisited’ 


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.

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