Tuesday, 4 June 2019

It's a Fairy Tale Conceit...

It's a fairy tale conceit, isn't it? The complacent people start listening to the wicked blandishments of tricksters and goblins, who tell them that their wise protectors have been playing them for fools. They can get a better deal, a better relationship with the gods, elsewhere, somehow. The kingdom decides to invite in the terrible ogre and they cower and act craven around him. He comes to the castle and eats with the princesses and princes and king and queen and seems quite civilised, for a day or two.

Oh, the kings and queens are so old and snowy-haired. They look tiny and shrivelled beside the ogre and his unsmiling fairy queen consort and all his doll-like children. The royals are weighed down by crushing diamond crowns and weighty orbs and sceptres. They look so bony and stringy it’s like the ogre could grab them up in his fist and crunch them between his jaws. They shuffle about and show him all their jewels and pictures and priceless things and he nods his craggy head and drools.

The witch who invited him to this land jerks her shoulders gleefully. All she can think about is how she’s gonna dance right out of here any day now and leave them all to it.

Some of the peasants shout and complain outside the palace walls: You have let in an ogre and his whole family - can't you see? They will eat us all. But those inside don't listen, and the ogre looks over the battlements and frowns: 'There's no one out there. No naysayers. All I can hear is grateful applause.'

Well, the old wizard is at the head of the crowd outside and he’s happy shouting here beyond the palace walls. He’s a loud shouter and he loves shouting, but only loud enough so that everyone who already agrees with him can hear. Then the people in the palace say, 'Why don't you come inside to our fancy dinner and talk to the Ogre yourself? You're posh and you've got a golden invite on your mantlepiece. You're the magic wizard, and you're best placed to give him a piece of your mind. You can tell him how you think the world should be.' But the wizard shakes his grizzled head, 'No thank you, I'll stay out here in the rain, shouting at my friends, about how I'll make the world a better place sometime soon.' And the Ogre catches a whisper of this and he says, 'Who..? Did someone say something?

Then the ogre gets up on the banquet table to speak and everyone cringes at what he might say. And like ogres always do, he says: ‘You've let me into the castle and you think we can have a special relationship. But like ogres always do, I'm going to throw my weight around. I'm gonna tell you who should be in charge here, in your funny little kingdom. I'll take my pick of which foolish popinjay will lord it over you lot. And then, I will ask for the thing that you prize most of all, and you will give it to me. Simple as that. Didn't you know, didn't you remember, that's how these tales always go?'


Thursday, 30 May 2019

When Life Brings You a Homophobic Aunty...

An aunty from my mam's side of the family came into my Facebook ken recently, bearing very welcome photos of all kinds of wonderful moments from the distant 60s/70s past. But you have to be careful. I realised her timeline was full of really homophobic and transphobic Christian trash propaganda. When challenged on it, she said it was her right to disagree with who and what I was and if i couldn't agree with her point of view, I was free to defriend her. She kept calling me 'love', all through this.

I didn't defriend her. I asked a couple of questions - about how maybe tolerance, love, respect and understanding were things that we should all be aspiring to, regardless of faith? And that if your religion tells you to deny human rights and respect to those unlike you, then maybe that's your problem, and not the LGBTQ communty's?

Well, then she defriended *me*, of course. And it makes me sad. She isn't old. She's in her 60s. She isn't beyond help. She lived through the amazing changes of the 60s, 70s, 80s... There's no excuse for being as blinkered and dogmatic.

Her page was also full of dimwitted Brexit crap, too, I realised - all that 'we voted out' and 'will of da people' etc. That kind of crap - usually spouted by people who've had it pretty good, intent of shitting up the future for those that come next.

It makes me sad for the little kid in the photos she sent. Me as a toddler, visiting these relations in Yorkshire in the early 70s. Glad, all that time later, to see the pictures. But knowing now that they don't even really think of him as worthy as the same human respect that they'd give to others.

Yech. Depressing thoughts in a week that's made me depressed all round. I've been fighting depression all week and the gloom's been winning.

Be nice to each other, everyone. Here was a woman who seemed friendly. Seemed reasonable. She wasn't frothing and crazy. She just wanted to post nice old lady messages about how gay people can be cured and how trans people talking to school kids are emissaries of Satan. She wanted to say it and not have the likes of me call her out on it.

I've had a shit week, like I say - and I'm trying not to let the gloom win.

Sunday, 26 May 2019

My Nineties Novels...

Then came my Phoenix Court trilogy, which was published between 1995 and 1998 by Chatto and Windus. These were the novels I wrote in my twenties. Council estate Magical Realism set in the North East! Featuring tattooed men, leopard boys, glamorous trans heroines, super-powered Sixth Formers, invisible ex-boyfriends and Queer shenanigans of all sorts…! Last year Lethe Press reissued the whole set with new covers, introductions and related short stories I’d published at the time.

Saturday, 25 May 2019

Twenty Five Years Since My First Story Sold!

I’ve realized that it’s twenty-five years since I sold my first short story.
            At the time I was so fed up – and felt defeated by everything. I’d written three full-length novels and I’d finished my MA in Creative Writing back in 1992, two years previously. Nothing had come of any of it… But I’d forgotten that, in amongst all the short stories I’d sent out for submission, there was one, called ‘Patient Iris’ that I’d sent to the British Council’s anthology, ‘New Writing.’
            Then, one day late in May 1994, I packed up my stuff in Lancaster and returned across the country to the North East. I went home to my mam’s house and there was a letter, right at the bottom of a huge pile of post, and it was from the British Council’s Harriet Harvey-Wood, AS Byatt and Alan Hollinghurst. They loved my story and wanted it to be in the book.
            It was just at the right moment for me, in terms of giving me the boost I needed to keep going. I’ve since learned that there can be terrible lows further on in your carrier, too, and you still need those boosts and pushes and little nudges along the way. But selling ‘Patient Iris’ and being paid for a story for the very first time – that’s still one of the great moments for me and my career.
All that time ago! I’m glad to say I’m still here, still doing it. And I’m still glad as anything when I sell a story or a book, or hear that someone has liked something.