I will be in London this weekend, at the British Science Fiction Association Convention. Look for me in the dealers room– I will be trading as Feral Strumpet, selling handmade jewelry and artisan bookmarks. I will also have copies of my novel, The Desperate Ones, for sale there. If you’ll be there, stop by and say hello!
Why don’t more people talk about this strange book? What sets out to be a bizarre, PKD style satire of altered realities spins out into a suspenseful, truly horrifying morality tale full of incredibly creepy visions rendered in deliciously precise language. You’ve got to admire what this book achieves in its brevity, especially in the days of obligatory door-stop genre novels. I had a hard time putting it down, but it clearly pushed some subconscious buttons, giving me nightmares for a while, so I had to reluctantly stop reading it for a week. Given Shirley’s note in the beginning, there is a bit of uncanny prophesy about it all. My only disappointment was in some of the received gender notions and the cliched use of a sinister female sexuality– the femme fatale, etc. I highly recommend this book and look forward to reading others by Shirley.
My fictional account of the mysterious Dyatlov Pass Incident has been published by Witness. You can read it online here: http://witness.blackmountaininstitute.org/author/allysonshaw/
Music is a big part of the writing process for me. While writing my series of sestinas, I must have listened to the mesmerising drone of Tony Conrad’s Faust hundreds of times. While writing The Desperate Ones I listened to Dub B sides, the ones without lyrics. I heard this track by Demdike Stare while listening to my favourite podcast, A Darker Shade of Pagan and it brought me back to the world of the novel in this immediate way.
Now that I’m writing out another novel world, one that’s very different from the dying tech of Pottersfield, I find myself listening to Sharron Kraus and Fursaxa and other dark folk, but that is the subject of another post.
It’s that time of year again, where the Great Horned One comes to make everything right in that hollow place Valentine’s day may have left in you.
This portrait is by one of my favourite artists, Thalia Took. Check out her online gallery, and while you’re at it, have a peek at her hilarious Tetanus Burger blog— “A safe space for the children of hoarders.” I can relate.
Is writing just a job. Writing books, writing poems. If it is then the message to women is to go elsewhere. But they can go to hell—these messengers, the collective whoever or whatever that is saying it. I don’t believe that this is a job. I think writing is a passion. It’s an urge as deep as life itself. It’s sex. It’s being and becoming. If you write, then writing is how you know. And when someone starts slowly removing women from of the public reflection of this fact they are saying that she doesn’t know. Or I don’t care if she thinks she knows. She is not a safe bet. “Being Female”, Eileen Myles
After seeing the recent gaping gender discrepancy in the NYTimes Book review for 2010– Women, 283 to men, 524– Eileen Myles responds by questioning not just gender bias but whether feminism has taken hold after the 70s and what is women’s position in publishing as an ever-shrinking door. She also talks about what it might be like to be loved.
“The culture. I try to act like its mine. Its beloved son.” It’s something all writers must do to trick themselves into the hard work of writing– how much harder is this mind trick for women when faced with these statistics and all the other negations that come with being female? But the ones that do manage it– what stories they tell.
Speculative fiction is still dominated by male voices, but the female writer of speculative fiction has a better chance at this daily battle for love– she invents the fresh universe of her work and its laws and loves. Writing is how you know.
Yesterday I braved Odyssey Con in the badlands outside of Heathrow. A strange landscape to traverse– part of it appears/disappears in The Desperate Ones. My partner who was good enough to accompany me said, “Don’t you want to change all the H’s to D’s so it reads Deathrow?” Yeah, kinda.
The venue was small, labyrinthine and much too hot. (What was with all the under-filled “water-interest” decor about the place? Those glass fish beached at the bar?) One is forced to realize, yet again, that some of fandom remain pretty divorced from their bodies and simple care thereof. But I digress. I was impressed with the cheerfulness of the volunteers and the packed dealers hall was full of book vendors. But what was most striking was how underrepresented women are in the selection, and women of colour in particular. There wasn’t s single copy of Octavia Butler or Nalo Hopkinson that I could see in the entire dealer hall. It was wonderful to browse old mass markets– their covers made me nostalgic for days when I curled up with Madeleine L’Engle or Piers Anthony and what respite reading gave me as a kid, particularly fantasy novels.
This was not my first con, though it felt as if it were. My first con was 26 years ago– GenCon 1983. At the time I was an avid D&D player (Elven Thief, Chaotic Good– not much has changed!) but found myself overwhelmed at GenCon and totally out of place as an overdeveloped little girl in a (suddenly!) woman’s body in a sea full of boys.
Not much has changed. Yesterday I was right back there– was it looking at all those loved books from the 80s? Was it that particular stale boy-scent that brought me back? Except this time I was going back as a writer, something my child self never would have imagined.
I probably should have gone to the Con today, as Saturday is costume day. I really go in for that carnavalesque aspect of fandom– admiring it from afar anyway. But one day was enough. As I knew no one there, I wandered, in Jeff Vandermeer’s words, “lonely as a cloud.” Highlights of the day included seeing two drag kings dressed as Captain Jack and Dr. Who (Tennant manifestation) and the robot baby dinosaur being raffled off. It purred & blinked when you scratched its chin.