And dead unicorns will scatter the land

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Photo: Julie Travis

I’m delighted to announce the creation of Dead Unicorn Ventures. This is a group of three – Cat Astley, Teresa Knight and myself – who have become tired of nothing of substance happening for the Queer community in Cornwall, and nothing at all happening in Penzance! As will be obvious from our name, we want to make a point without being po-faced about it and I’m hoping people will get the spirit of what we’re trying to achieve. We have spent the last month or so working on our first event, Swallow Your Pride, which will take place at the Acorn Arts Centre in Penzance on 26 July 2019. This event showcases a real diversity of Queer talent and I cannot express how excited I am at the line-up we’ve managed to book: The Tribunes are from Penzance and play punky rock with a Socialist agenda, Jim Causley is one of the country’s brightest folk singers and musicians and Joelle Taylor is an extraordinary performance poet who’s toured many countries but has not, as yet, ever appeared in Penzance. I’ve worked with Joelle twice before – at the inaugural Queeruption festival in 1998 and at The Poetry Society Cafe in 2002 and I’m finally making good on my promise to get her a gig in West Cornwall! There may also be some comedy and a performance/reading of one of my stories and hopefully an art exhibition elsewhere in the town to run alongside the event, as well as the possibility of a programme/fanzine to be made available on the night. A Facebook page is in the process of being constructed to give details of what we’re doing. It feels like the right time to be doing this and I’m happy to bring my punk sensibilities and experiences to this project. May it lead to many wonderful things.

All text and images © Julie Travis

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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.

A bird or a shooting star*

A chest infection has prevented me from doing more or less anything (apart from watching the Montol procession, a hearteningly strange event) for around a month, including no more than a few lines of writing. However, the chance of a week’s recuperation on Dartmoor and illness finally loosening its grip has pushed me to type up a new draft of my latest short story, Pieces. It’s now in a fit state to take away and do further work on. There’s plenty still to do before I’ll let anyone see it; the ending, for instance, has the right words but they’re not necessarily in the right order. It’s quite clunky in places but the meaning is there and it’ll flow in time. It’s nice to write about more unconventional characters than I have for a while, too. Not that many of the people I create are ‘normal’ (whatever that is) but I’m mindful of Sarah Waters’ advice and am happy to have a tattooed lesbian couple in the centre of the tale. They’re right for the story, too which of course is the most important thing.

I haven’t been entirely out of the loop, though – thanks to the Acorn Arts Centre in Penzance, I now have a couple of notices on the Dance and Theatre Cornwall website advertising for an actress to do the reading at the Penzance Literary Festival. I’ve also been assured by event organiser Rosanne Rabinowitz that part of a story will be acceptable. Therefore I’m considering Cross Bound for the event, as I ideally want to do a fairly recently written piece that’s been published. And a review of Kzine on Amazon.com describes my contribution (Blue) as “a dark piece of surreal fiction, the kind of thing Thomas Ligotti would write if he was pretending to be David Lynch for the day”. I’m not as familiar with Ligotti’s work as perhaps I should be (I remember reading some of his work many years ago) and this is not my first comparison with him, but he’s undoubtedly a writer with a nicely twisted view of the world, so this is a great compliment. David Lynch, of course, will be known to anyone who might read this blog. It goes without saying that I’m pleased with the review although it’s perfectly possible that the comparisons were not actually meant as a compliment!

And I’ve discovered, via Spectral Press, that congratulations are due to dark fiction writer Alison J Littlewood, whose first novel has been picked for Richard and Judy’s Book Club. Never mind the inanity of R&J, the exposure for her and for some decent dark fiction will be amazing.

I’ve finally been able to listen to Matthew Shaw’s Lanreath album. It’s a good ambient piece, a little lighter than most of the ambient pieces I have – it doesn’t have the sinister quality of the likes of Coil and Nurse With Wound, but playing it had a quite amazing effect. It took me to Duloe stone circle (where some of it was recorded); I had an insect’s view of the stones, from way down in the grass. I also ‘saw’ the fogou at Carn Euny. I think I’d call it life-affirming. As opposed to Coil, who were life-after-death-affirming. Both have their place. I would love to hear it performed at a sacred site. But why choose Lanreath? There’s nothing on the cd cover or the website to say why. The village’s own website mentions local hauntings, but isn’t everywhere haunted by something? He doesn’t give much away and it would be interesting to know of his spiritual beliefs, if any. Perhaps that’s something I’ll question him on at some point.

*from Daughters of Fire by Barbara Erskine