It’s that time of year again


FantasyCon is almost upon us. Every year it sneaks up on me – one day, it’s months away, then all of a sudden it’s a matter of weeks and I’m signing up for panels and readings and wondering when I’m going to have time to do the important stuff: buying books, and propping up the bar.

I’m actually uncommonly nervous about Fcon this year. I’m always nervous (social anxiety is a hell of a drug) but this year I am filled with a creeping dread at the thought of it. And that’s not to say I’m not also looking forward to it, but imposter syndrome strikes in all kinds of weird ways, and it’s suddenly taken the fun and hilarious form of but what if this is the year I get found out? Every year, I have a wonderful time with wonderful people, who seem to like me well enough, and the creeping fear that I’m secretly awful and nobody’s guessed it yet is white noise in the background. This year, it’s louder. This year, I’m convinced that the goodwill and party atmosphere my subpar personality has coasted by on will no longer be enough, and everyone will see me for who I actually am. It’s super fun!

I think it’s something to do with being an awards nominee. And it’s difficult to talk about any negativity associated with awards nominations; of course I’m absolutely thrilled about it, even as I am slightly baffled. But they do come with a certain amount of pressure. And yes, much of it is self-imposed; nobody holds me to higher standards than I do.

Earlier in the year I was shortlisted for a Shirley Jackson award for my short story ‘Sun Dogs’. It was without a doubt one of the coolest things ever happen to me. And even though I didn’t win, it remains one of the coolest things, because it’s true that being nominated for awards is an honour and a joy even if you don’t actually win. But. And there is always a but.

It’s hard to admit to, but not winning an award stings. It’s hard to admit because it feels inherently selfish and egotistical. Shouldn’t the nomination be honour enough? And it is, yes, but there is always the hope inside of you somewhere – tiny, and quiet, but there – that you might possibly maybe be in with a chance of actually winning. So when you don’t – like I said, it stings.

It goes away, though, and the status quo resumes, because you can’t really miss an award you never had. And when I received my Shirley Jackson nominee pebble and certificate it really was a joy; even if I didn’t win, nobody can ever take away from me the fact that someone, somewhere thought my story was good enough to be shortlisted. I can say that now, with the benefit of hindsight, because the sting has healed.

But I am going in to FantasyCon an awards nominee again. A double nominee, in fact. I’ve been here before: in 2015, I was nominated for two British Fantasy Awards and attended my first ever FantasyCon feeling like I’d swallowed an especially nervous stone, which I carried around in my stomach all weekend. I feel like that again now. And although I tell myself I dare not entertain the hope that I might win, I know that my brain will betray me and do it anyway.

I’m sure it’ll be all right on the night. I’m sure I’ll manage to swallow the nerves down and have fun with my friends, and I’m sure they won’t see through my Normal Person Suit and find only terrible things beneath, because that’s something my mind has made up. (I mean, I’m not a Normal Person, that much is true, but the part of my brain that isn’t constantly on fire tells me that I’m pretty okay, actually.) And whether I win or not, I will always have the honour of having been considered worthy of the shortlist – and that is a hell of an honour.

“Twisted Tales of Hybridity”

I was a guest last weekend at the Gothic Manchester Festival, appearing as part of the Twisted Tales of Hybridity event alongside rising star of the weird fiction scene Dr. Helen Marshall, and legitimate rockstar Rosie Garland.  All three of us have been guests at previous Gothic Manchester Festival events, and were returning to discuss how hybridity influences our work.

I read from ‘Naming the Bones’, and was lucky enough not to have to follow Helen and Rosie, who knocked it out of the metaphorical park with their respective readings. I should add that the building itself – the Anthony Burgess Foundation in Manchester – was something really special, a perfect venue for the occasion.

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Here’s David McWilliam introducing the event, and myself in the middle looking suitably nervous and sheepish. But the event went well, and the Q&A following the readings sparked some interesting discussion, not least of which was the origin story of Helen Marshall’s excellent ‘The Hanging Game’.

There was also a signing, in which I signed a Kindle, which was a brand new experience for me:

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(photo courtesy of Malcolm Devlin)

(The signing was soundtracked by background David Bowie, which was a happy accident but felt like it had been deliberately chosen just for me.)

Mr Mauro and I also got to experience Manchester for the third time, albeit only for a few hours on Saturday and Sunday – meeting with old friends, and enjoying delicious cake in hipster establishments (I know, I know, but…delicious cake!)

The Gothic Manchester Festival exceeds itself every year, and I’m grateful to the team for giving me the opportunity to take part for a second time. If you ever get the chance to pop along, I can’t recommend it enough.


New article up at Pro Wrestling Journal

I wrote about the history of WWE’s women’s division, how their so-called ‘Women’s Revolution’ ignores WWE’s singularly awful track record of taking women’s wrestling seriously, and why – despite all of this – their upcoming all-women’s ‘Evolution’ event is a good thing. Check it out at Pro Wrestling Journal.

I’m old enough to remember – back when WWE was WWF, and WCW was still a thing – the days when WWE’s idea of women’s wrestling consisted almost entirely of ‘bra and panties’ matches, with the occasional pillow fight thrown in for variety’s sake. The days prior to the Attitude Era, when women could fulfil such widely varied roles as ‘valet’ and ‘love interest’; then the Attitude Era itself, where women received a dubious upgrade to in-ring action, provided the action involved clothes being ripped off, or perhaps gravy, if they really wanted to push the boat out. I was an adolescent girl otherwise completely drawn in to wrestling, and yet even at that age I knew there was something egregious about the way WWE’s women were portrayed. I didn’t know that, in Japan, an entirely different kind of women’s wrestling existed, where women were taken seriously as competitors; I only knew that, in WWE, the criteria for a spot in the women’s division had nothing to do with wrestling ability, and everything to do with looking good in a bikini.

More Exciting Times…

Following the shortlisting of my short story ‘Sun Dogs’ for the Shirley Jackson Awards, I have been informed of the exciting (and slightly terrifying!) news that my work has been nominated for not one, but two British Fantasy Awards. My short story ‘Looking for Laika’, which appeared in Interzone #273, has been nominated in the ‘Short Story’ category, while my novella ‘Naming the Bones’ (published by Dark Minds Press) is shortlisted in the ‘Best Novella’ category. Needless to say, I am both thrilled and slightly stunned at this news, and am probably going to be a terrible nervous wreck at the awards in October (so, fair warning for anyone who might encounter me there!)

The full shortlist can be seen here, and I’m very pleased to see so many familiar and highly deserving names on there.

Just in case the fiction writing thing doesn’t work out…

…I’m very excited to be writing for Pro Wrestling Journal, covering British promotions Revolution Pro Wrestling and Pro Wrestling EVE. I’ve been a huge wrestling fan since I was a teenager, and so having the opportunity to combine my love of writing with my love for sweaty men in pants throwing men at other sweaty men in pants is a bit of a dream come true.

My debut article for Pro Wrestling Journal – a round-up of the Rev Pro year so far – can be found here.

Twisted Tales of Hybridity

The yearly Gothic Manchester Festival is almost upon us, courtesy of Manchester Metropolitan University, and I’m very pleased to be taking part once again. I was at the Festival in 2014 as part of the ‘Twisted Tales of Austerity’ event – a reading/panel discussion in which myself, Rosanne Rabinowitz and Tom Johnstone read our respective stories from ‘Horror Uncut: Tales of Social Insecurity and Economic Unease’. (You can read a review of that event over at Priya Sharma’s blog).

This year, the Twisted Tales theme continues – ‘Twisted Tales of Hybridity’ will feature readings and discussion from myself, Helen Marshall and Rosie Garland, exploring the ways in which hybridity influences our work. Having just finished a university essay on Gothic fiction at the fin de siècle, I’m especially excited about this year’s Festival, and I think it’s going to be a pretty fantastic event.

You can find out more information about the Gothic Manchester Festival, the Twisted Tales event and its participants here.

Undertow Books are on sale!

The excellent Undertow Books are having a sale, and I can recommend without hesitation that you take advantage while it lasts!

You can get the Shirley Jackson award-nominated ‘Shadows and Tall Trees 7’ in paperback for $15 (approx. £11) and in hardback for $25 (£18) – all prices include worldwide shipping. ‘Shadows and Tall Trees 7’ includes my short story ‘Sun Dogs’, which is shortlisted for a Shirley Jackson award in the ‘Novelette’ category. Plus, both editions are beautiful:


There’s also Year’s Best Weird Fiction 4, edited by the excellent Helen Marshall. Additionally, you can pick up Priya Sharma’s debut collection ‘All The Fabulous Beasts’, which is not currently in the sale but is well worth every penny – I reviewed the collection for Ginger Nuts of Horror here and if you haven’t read it yet, I strongly encourage you to do so – it’s a collection which will no doubt accumulate plenty of awards in 2019.