The Best Thing I Got from Edge-Lit 6

Edge-LitEdge-Lit is Derby’s annual romp into the world of speculative fiction in the form of a fantastic and friendly literary convention. It also marks my annual escape into the world, and a day that I get to only think about me. My special day that I get to totally nerd out with other people who are nerdy about the same stuff as me. Wonderful.

As is the way with conventions that you’re a regular at, it gets easier, and more tempting, each year to simply sit in the bar chatting. But, for me, it’s all about finding a balance.

Edge-Lit offers some discussion panels, guest speakers, book launches, and workshops. And a goody bag, of course. So it would be amiss of me to spend the entire day simply chewing the fat. You see; balance. Because while some great stuff happens in the sessions, equally great stuff happens out of them too.

With the noted omission of some familiar faces, all the usual crowd were there, and it was so good to catch up with them. But I also made sure I caught a panel, a guest speaker, a book launch, and a couple of workshops. It’s just a shame Edge-Lit don’t have a cloning machine at the front desk, It would have been handy to have been able to be in two places at once.

Everyone talks about the ‘post con slump’ or ‘the comedown’, and it’s true. This one special day that you’ve planned for and looked forward to for ages is suddenly over and real life returns. Like Christmas. But there’s one very important, and very exciting thing that I always come away from Edge-Lit with. Ideas. Loads and loads of ideas.

Like I said, great stuff happens in the sessions, and I came out of those with pages and pages of notes, but great stuff happens out of them too. The networking. Everyone discussing projects, collaborations, opportunities. It’s brilliant. It’s inspiring. And those conversations have fuelled me with plans, and things to mull over, and motivation. That’s what I love about Edge-Lit; all the shiny new ideas.

The Feminine Grotesque (Edge-Lit 5)

Edge-LitOn Saturday I was at Derby’s bi-annual speculative fiction event, Edge-Lit. This is my third year attending its summer instalment, and it was yet another fantastic event where I could be my usual book-nerdy self without judgement.

While I admittedly spent most of my time in the bar (everyone here pretty much knows everyone, so it means a lot of the day is spent shaking hands, hugging, catching up with friends, and getting introduced to people), I did go to a couple of very interesting panel discussions, book readings, and one workshop which I was very excited about.

The workshop was led by Maria Lewis, a journalist and author all the way from Australia. She was raised on werewolf stories, a love that became an obsession, and, according to her website, harbours the belief that unicorns exist. Quite frankly, I wouldn’t disagree with that. Her werewolf novel, ‘Who’s Afraid?’, is out now.

The feminine grotesque is a concept I’ve been fascinated with since I read Jeanette Winterson’s ‘Sexing the Cherry’ at university, sixteen years ago now. As Maria pointed out, if you think about female monsters (whether human, supernatural, or animal), they are usually presented with the usual Hollywood sex appeal we’re all force fed a diet of. Even while tearing someone’s throat out, or ripping them limb from limb, there’s something inherently attractive about them.

Of course, there are fantastic examples of the feminine grotesque; such as Annie Wilkes from Stephen King’s ‘Misery’, the ghosts in ‘Crimson Peak’, or Helena Bonham Carter’s portrayal of The Red Queen (she excells at the feminine grotesque characters, such as in Sweeney Todd and Harry Potter), but we’re more often shown the combination of deadly and sexy, dangerous and alluring, cabalistic and intriguing.

The workshop really got me thinking about the creation of a true feminine grotesque, and inspired me to up the ante with characters from both my current works in progress: ‘The Visionary‘ (The Paper Duchess Book 3) and ‘The Memory Trader‘. So watch out for some truly fearsome women soon!

What are your favourite examples of the feminine grotesque?

Bristol Horror Con

Bristol Horror ConLast Saturday I was at Bristol Horror Con; an event to celebrate horror in literature, film, music, games and art.

It was a small, yet well organised and well attended event. The traders hall held everything from artists, authors, and publishers to jewellery and houseware designers, and zombie survival courses. Sadly, there were a few no-shows, and in such a tightly packed hall, the empty tables were a noticeable blot.

We couldn’t stay for the whole event, but I did some networking and attended two great panel discussions. I had a long and interesting chat with audio book producers In Ear Entertainment, and discussed which books are better or worse than their movies, and the indeniable excellence of Sharknado, with the guys from Sinister Horror Company.

The first panel I attended was The Use and Abuse of Horror in Literature led by Pete Sutton of Bristol Festival of Literature and Far Horizons e-magazine. He was joined by writer Mike Carey, author Sara Jayne Townsend, writer and games designer Jonathan L Howard, and copywriter Rosie Sharratt.

The panel sought first to define horror: “Horror takes you to psychological brinks, and makes you peer over” (PS), “The kind of horror that will get into your soul, and stay with you” (SJT). The panel also agreed that trends in the subject of horror media, reflected the trends in the over-riding fears of society: “You’re writing about things that scare you, or things that scare society” (SJT), “Horror’s useful for considering real life things” (RS).

The conversation came around to monsters, and the social fears that they represent: “Every horror monster that lasts, is the externalisation of something in us” (MC), “The horror comes from within” (SJT), and Rosie Sharratt defined the monstrous as being something “both threatening and inpure”.

And you can’t talk monsters without talking zombies, and their continued endurance in the horror sphere. Mike Carey summed their popularity up nicely by stating that “zombies are animals and corpses. They remind us of where we come from, and where we end up.” He also felt that we are “at peak zombie now”. This forces the question, can we do anything new with the zombie trope? But he felt that “the more familiar the tropes are, the easier it is to find a sneaky way in.” We’re seeing this in the rise of traditional monsters becoming romance heroes, or comedy characters: “There are so many things that use the horror tropes, that don’t define themselves as horror.” (MC)

When the panel opened up to questions, I asked what they felt may be the next trends in horror, in line with current societal fears. Pete Sutton wondered if immigration may become a new trend (the fear of ‘the other’, or ‘the stranger’ was a popular horror trope in the 1950s), or if the emerging trend of cosmic horror might expand along with increasing astronomical discoveries. Mike Carey wondered if genetic manipulation may expand as scientific experimentation continues on this path. This brings us back to zombies again. And Sara Jayne Townsend wondered if the sheer amount of information that is available on us, publicly, via the internet, may become a horror trend.

The second panel was Gore Vs Psychological Terror: Is less more in horror? led by Ti Singh of the Bristol Bad Film Club. He was joined by Mark Adams of Hellbound Media, writer Thomas David Parker, and writer Ken Shinn.

Thomas David Parker felt that “the fashion today is more psychological, more the slow burn” because “it’s very easy to do gore badly, and then it’s ridiculous.” He thought that, to work well, gore had to be transforming for the victim, to signify that “this is the point of no return.”

Ti Singh felt that the ‘less is more’ approach worked in horror, stating “it’s what you think you see, or what you think is going on, that’s where the fear is”, and that “it’s not about the violence itself, but the threat of violence, and the waiting for violence.” A lot of films work to build tension by breaking down tropes and expectations. By not putting the frights in when viewers would expect them, by leaving them waiting, leaving them wrong-footed.

Mark Adams found that modern horror was seeing a return to fantasy, that franchises were “building their own mythology.” The panel felt that this was due to the current societal situation, that “the darker the world is, the more fantastical the horror has to be, so that we have that escapism.” (TDP)

The Waterstones Book Launch Draws Closer

Just like a brain-dead, one-legged zombie, crawling and dragging its way towards you, with only one thing on its mind, so the Waterstones launch of Sunny with a Chance of Zombies draws steadily closer.

This Friday, October 16th, Waterstones in Aberystwyth, Wales, will brave the approaching darkness and open its doors to zombie lovers, survivors, and hunters at 6.30pm for the event. There will be readings, refreshments, and the chance to grab one of a limited number of copies of the anthology, which includes my story Order Up.

Sunny with a Chance of Zombies in Waterstones

In the weeks running up to the launch, Sunny with a Chance of Zombies has been in the store’s window, but it has now been moved to a prime position in the very front. As the anthology’s editor, Dion Winton Polak (pictured) says; “just hanging out with the likes of Tom Jones and George Martin.”

Stephen Cooneys Artwork in Waterstones

And inside the store, the original cover art, created by the very talented Stephen Cooney, is now on display.

So, if you can get to Aberystwyth on Friday evening, do brave the flesh-eaters and drop into the launch. And, if you’re looking for an editor, you can contact Dion Winton Polak (whom I greatly recommend) via Facebook or Twitter. And you can find out more about Stephen Cooney and his artwork at www.stephencooneyart.co.uk.

A Waterstones Book Launch

Dion Winton Polak, editor of KnightWatch Press’ anthology Sunny with a Chance of Zombies, has secured a launch event at Waterstones Aberystwyth.

On October 16th, at 6.30pm, theĀ event will include readings, refreshments, and the chance to grab a copy of the anthology (copies are limited).

Sunny with a Chance of Zombies is a collection of zombie apocalypse short stories, which are, in their own way, funny, heart warming, and upbeat. It includes my story Order Up. If you can’t make it to Aberystwyth next month, you can pick up a copy from Amazon.

And it is very, very cool to have one of my anthologies in the window of a Waterstones.

Waterstones Aberystwyth

Sunny with a Chance of Zombies in Waterstones Aberystwyth

 

Sunny, with a Chance of Zombies Vlog

Hopefully my blog won’t think I’m cheating on it, but here’s a quick vlog in which I promo the Sunny, with a Chance of Zombies anthology, and read an excerpt from my story, Order Up. I also recommend my current favourite book. All while looking pretty dumb. Seriously, does anyone like watching a recording of themselves?!