Slip Into Something Uncomfortable: Women Writing Weird Fiction and Slipstream – Acorn Arts Centre, Penzance, 25 July 2012

Slipstream fiction describes writing that crosses the boundaries of the science-fiction/horror/fantasy/speculative genres. Some also call it weird fiction. Many women write this kind of fiction, but their stories are more likely to be seen in the independent press or on the Internet than in mainstream book shops. Influenced by all or none of the above genres, their stories are dark, disturbing, imaginative and, above all, weird.

This event will be a talk with readings and lots of discussion. We’d particularly love to hear from other writers engaging in these genres, and also from readers who want to find out more about them. Everyone welcome!

The timetable for the Penzance Literary Festival is now confirmed. The event with Rosanne and me begins at 12.30, after Patrick Gale opens the festival and does a reading. Admission is £2.00.

What I’m hoping for is some discussion about why women are often overlooked in this genre (less so than when I began writing but it’s still a problem) and why we do not achieve the same gravitas that male artists automatically get. Is this partly our own doing in that we are not used to trumpeting our achievements? Diamanda Galas, bell hooks, Kathy Acker, to name a few examples, force/forced us to take them seriously; they defy the conventions of our gender and perhaps more of us – myself included – need to show more self belief.

To find other writers of slipstream – of any gender – at the festival would be refreshing.

From inside the beehive hut

Inside looking out, Carn Euny

Two days ago I revisited Carn Euny iron age village near Sancreed and managed to spend some time completely alone in the fogou. We (T and I, in celebration of T’s birthday) had approached the ancient village via the old trackway from the bottom of Chapel Carn Brea, around the bottom of Bartinney Hill, between the two Holy Wells and past the dell that has its own strong energy – all sacred sites; as T said it felt like a pilgrimage – to find the village almost deserted (rare, as it is reasonably easy to access from a nearby layby). When we had the place to ourselves I made my way through the fogou entrance and into the older beehive hut. It is a strange place indeed. There are spiders’ webs over various stones but arachnophobia never rears its head. It has a hole at its centre, like a chimney (now grated) so is open to the outside world but is nevertheless absolutely silent. An other-world. The most peaceful place I have been (on the British mainland at least). There is much argument about what purpose fogous served. Possibly storage and hiding places, but a visit to one will leave you in no doubt that they also had ritual purposes. The energy at Carn Euny is undeniable and I will use the experience in future writing.

A little after we arrived home there was the sound of horns blowing: outside was the May Horns procession, five days late from its traditional Beltane date, but still a welcome sight. Amongst the Green Men and Women danced a huge Crow, a recent addition to the procession. It reminded me why I stay here and, along with experiences like the one at Carn Euny, is more than consolation for missing the odd cultural event in the big smoke.

I have just finished doing another read-through of The Ferocious Night for the Penzance Literary Festival. The theme this year is ‘journeys’ and TFN is about Death, the biggest journey of all, so seems even more appropriate now. I had an idea of looking as conservative as possible for the event, so as to appear almost at odds with the subject matter but I’m incapable of looking straight (in any sense of the word), so will go the other way – the brightest, flame red coloured hair and perhaps (it taking place in July) a vest top that will show off my tattoos. But the hope is that the writing will attract more attention that however I look on the day.

Finally, Fougou (Matthew Shaw and Brian Lavelle) have a new album out, titled Further From The Centre of Disturbance. The initial copies come beautifully packaged and the track I’ve heard sounds fantastic, as dark and wonderful as its name would suggest.

Hallucinatory Queer British Paganism

On the haunted bridleway at Minions, Cornwall

This year’s Meltdown Festival, curated by Antony Hegarty, is going to be incredible. And very, very queer. Not only does it feature Diamanda Galas and Vaginal Davis (a drag performance artist I did the stage lighting for at San Francisco’s Dirtybird Queercore Festival in 1996) but Cyclobe, doing only their second live performance. Cyclobe are ex-Coil members Stephen Thrower and Ossian Brown. (One of their credits is providing music to The Dark Monarch, the Tate St Ives’ late 2009 exhibition on the occult in art, which was probably the best thing the gallery has ever done.) The Derek Jarman short film Journey To Avebury will be shown (amongst others), with a new soundtrack (the original was done by Coil). (I spent many, many hours in the Scala Cinema a couple of decades ago watching Jarman’s films and was lucky enough to see his house at Dungeness. Jarman was very ill from AIDS at the time and I have no idea if he was there, but it felt like sacred ground.) Plus countless other events. It’ll be hugely inspiring: one of the very few things that could tempt me back to the ‘vortex of bad energy’ that is London.

Meanwhile, back in the real world of fiction: Pieces is finally finished and I’m wondering where to send it to. I really want to start picking magazines that are are a bit more ‘out there’. Obscurity is something I’m happy with; invisibility is not. And, despite one of the golden rules of not having long story titles my new story is now renamed Darkworlds Pt. 2: Everything You Dream Is Real.