Guest Post : Believing is Seeing by Julie Travis

Believing Is Seeing by Julie Travis

 Nothing is ordinary.

Many years ago I read a couple of lines in a travel guide that have influenced and inspired much of my writing and photography; the author described how he’d spent two hours just watching a dung beetle doing its work. He wasn’t rushing around visiting attractions or checking out cafes or bars – he’d spotted an insect and become immersed in what it was doing. In doing so he’d pinpointed something I’d always believed, but not consciously acknowledged; that the details, the smallest things, are extraordinary.

We are not usually encouraged to stop – most of us are under pressure to live and work at a speed that doesn’t allow us to notice anything much (it’s notable that lockdown has benefited many who’ve been forced to slow down, to the point where some don’t want to return to ‘normal’). Many times when life has been tough I’ve stopped to watch a bee collecting nectar from, heard its buzz take on a different tone when it’s inside the flower and seen the incredible movement of its wings as it takes flight. How many times does this occur around the world over the course of a day? A mind-boggling amount, but each time it happens it’s remarkable and it gives me some perspective on my insignificant woes. There is magic everywhere – in the natural and the super natural world, but the key to unlocking this is, I think, in the power of imagination, the power of being open to what’s around us. Imagination is another thing that isn’t encouraged. People love the products of imagination – books and films, for instance, are a huge part of our lives – but there can be a contradictory dismissiveness of those who create these things for not doing a ‘proper’ job. The full potential of the world – and us humans – needs more than a scientific, rational eye – although it’s fair to say that the two approaches can overlap at various points.

Trees talk to each other. Plants are connected by underground threads of fungi (mycelium), and share nutrients, or toxins if an unwelcome plant is among them. Grass sends a distress message when cut (that lovely, fresh smell is not as joyful as it seems). Time is a physical thing. I find all of these things mind-blowing. Science has proved their existence but the other worlds around us are tangible to those who can tune into them (voluntarily or not) but are currently unprovable. The story of Hamish Miller is an interesting example: Miller was a businessman until he suffered a near death experience during an operation. It changed him profoundly. He became a dowser, a blacksmith and an author. He’d seen the ‘other side’ and it didn’t scare him; he just realised there was so much more around him than he’d previously believed. When he passed in 2010, he was reportedly happy and completely at peace with what was about to happen. Was his experience real or was it, as has been claimed by science,  just an hallucination?

Can a person will something into being? People from every culture claim to have done so for thousands of years. I know people who have cast successful spells, or put a hex on those who’ve hurt them. I believe these things are possible as I’ve seen the results, just as I’ve had so many paranormal experiences that I can’t help but accept them. My fiction has been described as magical realism; that is, magic as part of everyday life. This was never a deliberate plan – my original aim was to write contemporary horror that reflected myself and the worlds I moved in, which I wasn’t seeing in the stories I read (apart from in Clive Barker’s work). But that was thirty years ago and of course other influences and experiences have changed my writing direction and purpose to some extent.

As you can see from this piece, the lines between the wonders of the natural world, actual magic and the paranormal are somewhat blurred for me. I cannot separate them in my worldview so I shaln’t try to do so here. 

 

 

10 Female Lead TV Shows

Top 10 Female Lead TV shows

By Molly Bruton

The Bold Type

This show started in 2017 following the lives of three strong women who are working at a fashion magazine called Scarlett. Each one is pursuing their own pathway in life with each other by their sides to help. It touches on the issues of feminism, female representation in the media; LGBT issues, politics and many more.

Watch on – Amazon Prime Video (Seasons 1-3)

Derry Girls

A comedy series following the lives of Erin, Clare, Michelle, Erin’s cousin Orla and Michelle’s cousin James – who happens to be English. Not only are they dealing with trying to navigate relationships; their Catholic girl’s school and their parents; they’re also having to deal with the troubles the 1990s brought to Derry, Northern Ireland.

Watch on – Netflix (Season 1) or 4oD (Season 1&2)

One Day at a Time

A sitcom based around the Alvarez family, a Cuban-American family. With three generations of Alvarez women living under the same roof, there is bound to be some conflict as well as some amazing stories being told. Lydia, the grandmother, Penelope, the mother and Elena, the daughter are all very different but all similar in the way of them all being strong, powerful women who speak their minds. The show covers a lot of different topics that are important in today’s society in both a comedic way and a serious way as well.

Watch on – Netflix (Season 1-3) and PopTV (Season 4)

Orange is the New Black

Since the first season premiered back in 2013, this show has always been praised at its large, diverse cast of women portraying some of the most empowering, inspirational women on TV. Even if they happen to be criminals. As Orange heads into its final season there is no doubt in my mind this show will forever be known as the show that changed the way people watched TV as it was, and still is, Netflix’s most watched show. It was one of the first shows that had people “binge-watching”.

Watch on – Netflix (All Seasons)

Sex Education

An unexpected stand out Netflix original from this year following the story of Otis who, despite his mother being a sex therapist, is extremely awkward about sex. After meeting Maeve – a confident, outgoing, yet vulnerable classmate – they set up a sex advice business helping students with their problems. This show definitely made a lot of people, especially women, feel more confident talking about sex and owning their sexuality as the characters in the show do.

Watch on – Netflix (Season 1)

Dead to Me

Two women who seemed to have lost everything become fast friends when they meet each other at a therapy group for widowers. Jen is mourning the loss of her husband who was killed in a hit-and-run; while Judy is grieving her finance, who had a heart attack. As this show is a dark comedy there are lots of twists and turns, but the main element of it is the friendship between the two women and how important that is to each other.

Watch on – Netflix (Season 1)

The Act

Based on the true story of Gypsy Rose Blanchard, a young girl confined to a wheelchair due to multiple illnesses with an extremely overprotective mother. While Gypsy tries to find more independence, she begins to rebel against her mother finally finding out that she has been lying about her illnesses as Gypsy was in fact healthy. This leads her (and her boyfriend) to kill her mother. Although this isn’t the most joyful thing, the acting throughout the show is amazing.

Watch on – Amazon Prime Video

Killing Eve

A classic spy thriller with a twist. The series follows a British investigator, Eve, trying to capture the slightly insane assassin Villanelle. While they are taking part in this cat and mouse chase, the two develop an obsession with each other. Not only is this a critically acclaimed TV show, the two lead actresses in it are both being praised immensely with Sandra Oh receiving two Golden Globe awards for this role. The showrunner of each season has also been a woman.

Watch on – BBC IPlayer

Big Little Lies

One of HBO’s biggest hits in the past few years; with murder, mystery and comedy set in the town of Monterey, California. Their community is fuelled by rumours the whole thing being divided into the people who have and the people who don’t. The series is told through the eyes of three mothers – Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman and Shailene Woodley exposing broken relationships between spouses, families, friends and neighbours.

Watch on – NowTV

Stranger Things

Set in Hawkins, Indiana in the 1980s. The laboratory near the town were performing experiments in the paranormal/supernatural. This included human test subjects – one of those being Eleven. They accidentally manage to make a portal to an alternative dimension – The Upside Down. The shows cast is extremely well known due to them being so young and so talented.

Watch on – Netflix (Seasons 1-3)

Respectable Horror: Matthew Pegg

MR James Ghost StoriesHaunted Objects.

Sometimes it can be quite hard to put your finger on exactly where a story came from or what inspired it, because so much of writing happens in the subconscious. I usually start out with a snippet of a plot, or a character or an idea, but once I start writing other things accrue and attach themselves to it; events occur that I wasn’t expecting, characters pop up and demand to take part, the story takes on a life of its own.

But I can put my finger on some of the influences on The Well Wisher.

I’ve always liked classic horror and ghost stories, ever since reading my grandparent’s copy of A Century of Thrillers: From Poe to Arlen, which sat on their small and only bookshelf, along with The Passionate Witch by Thorne Smith. (I’ve still got the book and the bookshelf.) A Century of Thrillers is a chunky volume, published by The Daily Express newspaper in the 1930s. Its a great collection of classic tales and well worth tracking down.

I wanted to write a story in that vein and thought it would be interesting to write about a haunted object. M.R. James’s The Mezzotint, A Candle in Her Room, (a terrifying children’s book by Ruth M. Arthur,) and Stephen King’s Christine all tackle this concept in quite different ways.

James’s haunted engraving replays a horrific incident from the past but doesn’t offer any real threat to its observers. You could argue that the true horror of the tale lies in the fact that the protagonist is powerless to influence the events he sees slowly unfolding in the picture.

In A Candle in Her Room the wooden doll Dido exerts a malign influence over three generations of the same family. It is the way that possession of the doll changes its owner that is frightening.

The Witch DollChristine, the 1950s Plymouth Fury, is the most concrete haunted object of the three, quite capable of killing you on its own. But like Dido, possession of Christine changes its owner. I like the way King turns the classic 1950s car, a symbol of the American Dream, into something evil. I also like the detail, missing from the film, that Christine’s milometer runs backwards: the more you drive it the newer the car gets. When thugs trash the car, owner Arnie pushes it round the block all night, putting his back out in the process, until the car repairs itself. There’s something satisfying about the physicality of that action.

I had a feeling that if you’re going to write about a haunted object then it should be a functional object, and if its normal function can become threatening in some way then that seemed to me to be satisfyingly neat. Of the three examples of haunted objects above, I think only in Christine do you get a sense of what has caused an inanimate object to turn nasty: Christine has been created by the human hatred of its previous owner, rather than any supernatural force. So its progenitors are Frankenstein and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde rather than Dracula: we create the monster and we become the monster, rather than the monster being a threat from elsewhere.

I like structure in stories. I find it satisfying when things have some kind of internal logic. So I wanted to know why my haunted object behaved the way it did. And that ‘why’ had to also be something to do with it’s function. That was what I was trying to achieve and I hope it works.

I’m being a bit coy about revealing too much about The Well Wisher because I hope you’ll read it and I don’t want to spoil it for you.

Miss Andrews, the central character, evolved all on her own to become a troubled, clever, kind, brave, flawed person. And I can’t claim to have planned any of that, it just happened. I do know that one influence on her was Jane Eyre. I’d recently seen a theatre version of the story and it was rattling round in my brain, especially Jane’s orphan status and poverty, which define the choices she can make in life.

For an unmarried Victorian woman, educated but not wealthy, being a governess was one of the few options available. Charlotte and Anne Bronte did this in real life and that experience is reflected in both Jane Eyre and Anne’s first novel Agnes Grey.

I felt that the Victorian governess was in a rather uneasy position, not quite one of the servants, but not truly a member of the family either. I liked that sense of isolation, unease and insecurity.

So Miss Andrews became a governess, sometimes too forthright for her own good but worried about her future, and much braver than me. I would like to know what happens to her next.

But as I said at the start, a lot of any story emerges from the subconscious. So when I was reading the proof copy of Respectable Horror, I was struck by how much of The Well Wisher seemed quite unfamiliar. “Where did that come from,” I wondered, “And that?”

I can’t even claim credit for the double meaning in the title….
 
Matthew Pegg is a writer based in Leicestershire in the UK. Most of his writing has been for theatre and includes work for puppet companies, youth theatres, community plays and a script designed to be performed during a medieval banquet. His most recent theatre work was Escaping Alice, a love story with chains and handcuffs, for York Theatre Royal. He’s also completed a community radio play based on the life of Wordsworth and has been commissioned to create a puppet play to tour to care homes for people suffering from dementia. In 2012 he completed an MA in Creative Writing, and since then he has been working on a novel, and placing short fiction with a variety of publishers. Website: http://www.mpegg.co.uk 

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Waxing Lyrical : Orange is the New Black by Ferdinand Page

(If you are interested in writing for Waxing Lyrical please contact adele@foxspirit.co.uk)

Orange_is_the_new_Black

For every fiction writer, the book shares roughly the same gestation period of a newborn infant. On arrival, both share the same fate; however special, individual and unique, it gets a label stuck on it.

At the submission stage the infant book must be allocated an age range, readership and genre(s), rather like, to quote the magnificent Della in Raised By Wolves, “pushing an enraged otter into a jumpsuit.” When I drew up the first submission letter, I admit I’d pushed the idea of writing for the market around the plate, until my writer’s stomach rebelled, but the book was what it wanted to be by then, characters and plot repeatedly hijacked by a story which wouldn’t take no for an answer.

Unpacking the phrase I admit I’d pushed the idea of writing for the market in the interests of explanatory splainy, my first experience of writing commercially was on the fringes of a big concept. I got sucked in, like that time the Millenium Falcon got sucked into the pull of the Death Star, then spent a lot of time in start-up production companies in Soho or whatever space the leading commercial creative could cadge for meetings. Mostly it was in cafés where I found I was paying the bill. My bit of the project was to adjust the story to accommodate various amazeballs marketing opportunities. So Billy wasn’t dyslexic, he was a skateboarder; it was partly manga so the production company could play around with a very cool technique they were developing, but the sound therapy and dynamic yoga had to get in there somewhere. We were up to seven interlocking universes by the time I said I was losing my way a little amongst the high-concept stuff and I’d like to write my own book.

I still had Billy and he was dyslexic but everything else was completely different. Until the obvious market demands were removed, I didn’t realize the biggest force on writing in any genre, even bigger than the Death Star, is the story, an unstoppable, sucky, manipulative force breaking and re-making the outline and carefully constructed arcs of the first few drafts.

At some point the story has to be shoved, kicking and snarling, into the constraints of commercial publishing and marketing. Readers are as wide and diverse as people, but books go on shelves. Which shelf? You have to get slotty, or shelvish which is the same thing but looks like Lionel Bloom and has pointed ears. First you are brave and upfront in describing the book as written for, well anyone really, then you use the word crossover, then you realise you’ve gone over to the dark side and in a couple of sentences you’re going to stab Han Solo your own father between the second and third ribs. Didn’t you hate that bit? I hated that bit.

It gets worse. Having removed a few genre crossovers because anything that difficult to shelve isn’t going to get past the first submission (good plan) you find that the label your story goes under, the shelf allocation for your genre, isn’t fashionable.

Orange is the new black in your genre.

There is only one label left, the one they tie on the body in the morgue? No. Genre is always a matter of labelling, and the market in publishing is subject to fashions. As labels go, my speculative fiction is mainly urban fantasy. Some months ago an agent told me they were “not taking urban fantasy”, which another source informed me was, well – dead. But whatever the label, and still under that label, urban fantasy exists.

You can choose another label, my submission letter now refers to ‘contemporary fiction’, or invent your own, or push it as retro-pastiche.

But don’t try and hack the unfashionable genre out of the story. The story knows what it is and fashions in genre apart, it is what it is. Stick whatever label on it you need to, what gets the book published is the story.

Trust the story.

African Monsters : The Tokoloshe by Nick Wood

Why the Tokoloshe?

Have a look at Penny Miller’s (1979) wonderful ‘Myths and Legends of Southern Africa’ or, if you’re more academically inclined, try Nhlanhla Mkhize’s (1996) ‘Mind, gender, and culture: A critical evaluation of the phenomenon of Tokoloshe “sightings” among prepubescent girls in Kwazulu-Natal’ – via http://www.criticalmethods.org/bodtwo.htm

penny

But, as for me, if you want the truth, the little monster called me to watch him…

*****

The Tokoloshe smelt someone coming, even as the late afternoon air hummed with hot sun and clouds and a rainbow arch crumbled into a million dying pieces above his head.

Still, the river flowed strongly, swirling logs and leaves and dead fleshy things past him.

He stepped up onto the river bank to sniff the air, and he could smell the coming human was a she.

He grinned then, licking his sharp teeth, flicking fur out of his eyes and twisting his only garment, a leather strung hip pouch, into ready position. His witch would be pleased. The thick riverside bushes bustled with movement.

Ooh, a young smell. She whom he served would be very pleased.

He slung his penis over his left shoulder and fumbled in his pouch for his stone, but there was no time. The bushes burst apart and a skinny, dishevelled girl was staring down at him.

She looked tired and her trousers were torn, with both her legs bleeding.

I know, fuck those thorn bushes, he thought, but the girl’s eyes opened wide in shock and she shrunk against the bushes.

He licked his teeth again, slowly, waiting for her to turn and run.

But she stood firm, returning his gaze.

He grabbed his penis, flailing it like a warning whip.

Still, she did not run.

Brave or stupid?

Either way, she was dead meat.

He leaped forward to grab her…

Aunty Fox guest post on The Asian Writer.

You are probably all familiar with the fuss over the Hugo’s and therefore Worldcon. Well I was fortunate to be invited to comment on diversity in SF and the events scene on The Asian Writer and the article went live today.

You all know that diversity in spec fiction is important to me, I’ve posted on it before, but it would be a real shame if we let the puppy contingent be seen as speaking for our community.

diverse

Spinning Tails: Animals and Cornish Spyrys (Fae) By R. A. Kennedy

Something a little different for you today from deepest Cronwall (where they put jam on their scone then the cream). So without further ado I shall hand you over to your host for the day. R.A. Kennedy.

***

When asked to do an article about Cornish Fae by Aunty Fox, I immediately knew what it was I wanted to write about. Animals.
It comes as no surprise that animals are prevalent in Folklore, and Cornish folklore is certainly no different.
The relationship between Fae and animal shows that the two can coexist, and their destinies coincide and collide with one another on a regular basis.

I remembered hearing a story when I was in Primary School and since have heard only a few times after, although very different versions to what I originally heard. I havent been successful in finding it any publications online or otherwise. I did however manage to find out from other sources such as friends etc that such a story is within existence. However, the many different versions makes it difficult to confirm where in Cornwall it happened. Folklore is like Chinese whispers i.e A barrel can roll to one end of the street and in the next town that barrel can be something else. Its one of the many wonderful things about such stories.
So I took up my trenchcoat and fedora and went into the Private Investigation business. So let me tell you about it, its quite extraordinary.

Sculpture by Marilyn Collins. Image source http://undergroundlore.blogspot.co.uk
Sculpture by Marilyn Collins. Image source http://undergroundlore.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/i-love-spriggans-in-springtime-i-love.html

Romeo Kennedy F.I.
Thats my name over the door. The F is for Folklore and the I is for Investigator, or on a bad day the F can stand for Innumerable amount of things that I’m not willing to repeat.
Tracking down stories is my thing. Stories that lay hidden for years, stories that tell of the Spyrys and all manner of wonderful creatures, among other things.
I was sitting at my desk, late one misty Monday evening when there was a knock at the door. With a creak and a groan I got up from my comfy chair and casually opened the door.
Said she was a Spriggan, told me her brother had gone missing, asked me to find him.
I asked how long he had been missing?
She told me a thousand years.
The look on my face said it all. ‘Did you not think to search for him a bit sooner?’ I asked
Thats me, always try to go for the cheap shot. Needless to say she wasn’t Impressed and the snarl and large hands around my throat told me as much.
Looks like I have a new client, I thought, and I wasn’t in any position to argue.

The Spriggan told me that her brother’s name was Tiddy and he just upped and disappeared one night. Spriggans don’t tend to leave explanations. Hell they never usually leave anything except bones. Especially when treasure is involved.
Before Tiddy’s departure, he would regularly make long distance journeys to somewhere and come back with nets full of fish. When his sister asked where he had been Tiddy said not to ask. This went on for months, until he vanished.
‘Maybe he doesn’t want to be found?’ I said taking a sip of my stone cold coffee.
Apparently that wasn’t the case.
A few days before our meeting she was handed a note by a Pisky named Trevara. I say ‘a note’; it was more of a cryptic scrawl written on a leaf in a watery blue ink.
She handed me the screwed up leaf and I held it under the lamp. I couldn’t read whatever the hell it said but knew someone who could. I asked if it was okay to hold on to it.
That was all she could tell me. Other than: ‘Find him.’ Which was either a threat or just a friendly reminder that if I didn’t I would probably have a lot more free time on my hands, if you catch my drift?

Continue reading “Spinning Tails: Animals and Cornish Spyrys (Fae) By R. A. Kennedy”

European Monsters : Mermaids and the Deep

Mermaids and The Deep
Peter Damien

It’s an interesting thing what happens, when you tell people that you really like mermaids and mer-folk and writing stories about them. They have a pretty specific idea what your mer-folk look like and therefore what kind of story you’re probably writing about them. Specifically, Disney. If you say “mermaids,” people understand that you probably have some sort of singing Jamaican Lobster around the edges somewhere.

So with that in mind, it’s really interesting what happens when you tell people that 1) you’re writing a ghost story, approaching being a horror story and 2) your mermaids aren’t necessarily friendly beautiful half-women who are wondering what fire is, and why it burns, but might have more in common with the strange and alien things that live in the depths of our oceans. It doesn’t process, and mostly I get an odd look and they wander off.

I don’t care. I love mermaids, and I know exactly when it started: there was a brief sequence in a live-action Peter Pan movie from 2003, starring Jason Isaacs (who is somehow not always Lucius Malfoy??) in which for a brief second, we meet mermaids. They are pale and not friendly-looking at all, strange creatures that do look like, if you fall into the water, they might eat you.

jason2

That was all it took. Since 2003, I’ve spent a tremendous amount of time in my head and on paper building my own world of mermaids which had more to do with my abiding love of marine biology than it did with Disney mermaids. I’ve almost never discussed it, and I’ve barely scratched the surface.

I was excited to get to use some of it, in the story Old Bones. Tracing the origins of stories and the things that appear in them is always tricky, isn’t it? It’s such a blurring mash in your head. Here, though, it came from a song by a band called Nightwish, of whom I am a massive fan. The song was called Turn Loose the Mermaids. From the lyrics of the song, I garnered a general notion of mermaids, ghosts, and being exhausted and longing for rest. Impressions like these drift around in the back of my head, where they collect ideas, pulling from my mermaid lore, my general love of ghost stories (both haunting and tragic) and like so, my story began to come together. A story of an old man, made both physical and mental wreckage by his time at sea and the brutality of that life. From there, I had a very clear image of him coming out one night and on the rocky beach by his home, he sees a mermaid dragging herself across the ground and toward a graveyard. A strange, pale creature with long hair – more like seaweed than human hair – and sharp teeth, with too-big eyes. Not a Disney mermaid at all, but definitely a creature of the deep.

Mermaids are brilliant monsters when you start looking at marine biology and working out why things work the way they do underwater, and how a mermaid would exist down there. And personality-wise, they would be drastically alien to us. At least in the beginning. As the story goes, I try to humanize them, because there is nothing more engaging (and scary, sometimes) than humanizing a monster and making them relatable, or suggesting that perhaps the true horror isn’t the strange creature at all, but very human and acceptable elements of our lives: brutal violence, bad memories, old ghosts haunting our sleep and our lives without any spirits around at all.

(Well. Some spirits. Come on. Who can resist putting mermaids and ghosts into the same story? Not this guy.)

Drag Noir: Redfern Jon Barrett

RedfernJonBarrettDisability as Drag
Redfern Jon Barrett

Regardless of the social progress made in recent years, our world is still not yet kind to the subversive: women who love women remain the target of stares and lewd comments; men who love men have blood which is considered unclean by the majority of the planet’s health authorities (because ‘AIDS was invented by homos’); whilst men who dress as women are still victim to physical and verbal abuse. Public acceptance may be on the increase, but as every queer person and drag queen knows, we have a long way to go.

Meanwhile, a different yet parallel rights movement is fighting for its own social and legal equality: rights for the disabled. Those with cerebral palsy are still the target of stares and verbal abuse; those with mobility needs are still denied access to the majority of the planet’s public transportation (back of the bus? You’re not even getting on!); whilst closed-circuit hearing loops are still absent from most public spaces. Progress has been made, but as every blind or autistic person knows, we have a long way to go.

Of course there are more similarities between disability and gender nonconformity than my structuring two similar paragraphs on each. Firstly, each has the ability to make the public uncomfortable, as each causes us to question our own identities: whether the shaky and often-transitional nature of our perceived gender, or our immortal able-bodiedness. Each presents us with  a deviation from the norm which a great number of people still feel uncomfortable with, and which presents this difficult truth: that the privilege one receives for cis-heterosexuality or able-bodiedness is a result of random chaotic chance.

The second similarity is that both gender nonconformity and disability have been heavily medicalised by both public discourse and institutions. The very term ‘homosexuality’ was coined in an attempt to diagnose a mental condition; trans people are subject to intense physical and mental scrutiny by medical professionals who pass ultimate judgement on their personal identities; the disabled are also still viewed through this same medical lens. Are deaf people merely a medical condition, or a culture with its own language and social groupings? The nonconformists share a history of dehumanising medical discourse. Both groupings have been the target of eugenics programs. It is this similarity which prompted me to write my sci-fi short story ‘Straight Baby’.

It is this shared discourse lies at the heart of the story. In a world in which parents have (or believe they have) genetically engineered every aspect of their children, the disabled and the queer face the same threat of marginalisation and persecution. This shared struggle is embodied in Thomas, a disabled homosexual who faces intense persecution because of the random chaotic chance of his birth – a deviance which can never be truly eradicated, regardless of technological advancement.

Yet the story also examines the interplay between his identities as a gay, disabled man. Whilst other gay men are beaten and arrested when caught with other men, Thomas’ physical disability has, thus far, allowed him to escape the clutches of the heterosexist legal system. In this future, as in our own time, the disabled are frequently viewed as asexual. Thomas’ physical state covers his deviance as a homosexual: his disability is his drag.

Yet Thomas’ drag is not merely external. He manages his position in society via an internal drag, mentally conceiving of himself as a female femme-fatale – a perspective which allows him to navigate his affairs with married men. In short, Thomas is a sexual being in the ‘asexual’ drag of disability, perceiving himself in female terms. Each ‘deviance’ contradicts and reinforces the other. He is a threat masquerading as harmless.

At its root, the story is based in the fact that every struggle is a shared struggle. Gay men and wheelchair users, lesbians and the blind, drag queens and the autistic have all been marginalised by social and medical discourse. Without solidarity and recognition of our shared fight, we risk a future in which society once again uses technology in an attempt to eradicate the nonconformists – a future in which no drag can save us.

DRAG NOIR is out tomorrow!

 

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