Why disturb the body? From Verity Holloway

Verity tells us about the inspiration behind the idea for Disturbing the Body.

Verity HollowayThis time last year, I was packing socks into sterile ziplock bags in preparation for what I was calling ‘the other side’, a vague Someday where I might wear something other than a hospital gown and slippers. Before that day, I would have to pass through the ordeal of having my heart stopped for seven hours while a surgeon I’d met twice removed my aortic root and replaced it with a plastic tube. I focused on the socks.

I was thirty-two and needed open heart surgery. I won’t say “and my world was turned upside down” because as a chronically ill person my life was already dangling at a 45 degree angle. My body – this overly tall soul receptacle with stringy hair and weak ankles – had changed from something I spent my energy fighting to a fragile artefact I was tenuously attached to, balloon-like.

I’ve had an antagonistic relationship with my body for as long as I can remember. Nothing unusual there. Growing up with the pain and awkwardness of a connective tissue disorder is one thing, but consider the background radiation of the media:

Should you have hair there? (No. Yes, obviously, but no.)

When is it okay to admit you’re in pain? (Never.)

Why are your toes like that, Karen? (Amputate if possible.)

Inhabiting a body is inherently weird. It’s a political statement you never signed up for. It seems you aren’t allowed to exist inside one without having a strong opinion on each and every component, and inevitably those opinions on the body grow monstrous legs and become opinions on the self. Our bodies will all be disrupted, by accident, design, misfortune or the passage of time. And when they are, we find ourselves in the absurd position of juggling mortality, the self, and what socks to pack.

Why Disturbing The Body? I had to write something about my surgery experience. Putting my life in the hands of strangers, coming to terms with new scars and radical new limitations, was too much to take in and put away. I’m a speculative fiction author, comfortable with the weird, and my own narrative of such an intense personal experience naturally fell along those lines. It reads like fiction because it felt like fiction. I’m hoping that with Disturbing The Body, women writers will feel free to put down their unique perceptions of their bodies and their experiences as creatively as they please. To take back their bodies, to own them, and maybe even make sense of them.

Submit your speculative autobiography piece about experiences of mis-behaving bodies by 7th May 2020. 

By Verity Holloway, author of Psuedotooth, Beauty Secrets of the Martyrs and The Mighty Healer

Authors for Disturbing the Beast

Hello all! We hope you’re enjoying the new year in style!

The Disturbing the Beast collection is looking stunning and nearly ready to send to print. We’re still on schedule to get the books out to you by the end of February and we’re so excited to hear what you think of it!
In the meantime, we can announce the authors and story titles for the collection:

Girls Are Always Hungry When All the Men are Bite-Size by Kirsty Logan

Dolly by Jane Alexander
Burning Girl by Rosie Garland
This is Not Forgiveness by Lorraine Wilson
Wrapped by Aliya Whitely
How to knit a husband by Cheryl Powell
Electric Girl by Carolyn Jess-Cooke
The losses by C A Steed
Andromeda by Sam Mills
Congratulations to all the authors involved, we were blown away by the quality of all of the submissions.
Don’t forget to update your address on our Kickstarter survey if you haven’t already. You can contact us on boudiccapress@gmail.com for any queries!

Interview with writer Abi Hynes

Read Abi’s story The Gastrosophist

Hi Abi. Can you tell us about a writing moment of yours that you’re most proud of?

Abi at VerboseI recently had my first short story published in Interzone magazine. Seeing my name on that cover was a really big deal for me. I’d been putting off submitting to them for years because I was waiting to feel like my writing was ‘good enough’. But then I had this weird sort-of science-fiction story, ‘The Mark’, that I felt really proud of, but no one else wanted it, even though I’d been sending it all over the place for literally about 3 years. And I just had this feeling that it was good, and that it would be at home somewhere like Interzone, so in the end I bit the bullet and sent it in. I danced around my living room when I got that acceptance.

There’s something extra satisfying about getting into something that feels like an established part of the science fiction world that is so often still a bit of a boys’ club. It felt amazing to see them publish my strange story about monkey-people and periods and love and childbirth.

What’s your favourite short story?

I think I’d have to go with Joanna Quinn’s ‘War of all against all’. It was on the reading list for a brilliant short story writing course I did with Comma Press, taught by the fabulous Sarah Schofield. For me, it delivers on its science fiction concept beautifully with such empathy and humanity, and the reveal happens at just the right time to give you a real punch in the gut. I still think about it a lot.

Who’s your favourite female author and why?

Arrrrghhhh that’s an impossible question! I love so many and they are all very different sorts of loves. I’m working my way through all of Ursula K Le Guin’s work that I haven’t read before at the moment, and it’s her wisdom that keeps taking my breath away. That sense of ‘Wow, yes, that is the way of things, even though no one else says it. How does she know??’

She also makes me believe that big, wild, ambitious, strange books can be important and powerful, when it sometimes seems to me like the literary mainstream is only interested in restraint. I was reading her guide to writing, Steering the Craft, the week she died, and it taught me so much. Her advice is so practical and no-nonsense, however huge and other-worldly her stories are.

What does weird fiction mean to you?

I think I write weird fiction even when I don’t mean to! It’s the main thing people comment on about my work, even when I don’t think what I’ve written is anything to do with the science fiction or fantasy genres.

I suppose it’s more about a way of looking at the world that twists things a bit, or comes at ideas from an unusual or surprising angle. I like to point at things and go: ‘Isn’t this thing here odd/funny/poignant if we look at it like this?’ All my favourite writers, who you could probably describe as ‘weird fiction’ writers in some form or another, it feels like what they’re all doing in their stories is: ‘Yes, but. What if?’

What’s a trope of fiction that gets on your nerves and why?

You know what, I really hate a clunky ‘and this is how come I’m writing this down and you get to read it’ explanation in first-person narratives. It’s just a bit inelegant, isn’t it? Like, I know I’m reading a novel. You don’t have to force your protagonist to be the sort of person who always carries a diary around with her because she’s trying to jog her memory about her dead sister or some other thin backstory reason.

Where can readers find out more about you?

You can read some of my short stories and other ramblings over on my website at abihynes.wordpress.com

Or I’m much funnier on Twitter at @AbiFaro

Keep your eyes peeled for Disturbing the Beast

Disturbing the Beast anthologyDisturbing the Beast is a collection of weird fiction stories by some of the best women writers in the UK, featuring Kirsty Logan and Aliya Whiteley.

Submit to the collection by the 14th September.

Support the Disturbing the Beast Kickstarter campaign: Weird fiction from women writers featuring Aliya Whiteley, Kirsty Logan and more. 

Irenosen Okojie on weird fiction

We chat with talented writer Irenosen Okojie about weird fiction, writers we admire and writing tropes that are just the worst…

Tell us about a writing moment of yours that you’re most proud of

Irenosen OkojieProbably winning a Betty Trask Award for my debut novel, Butterfly Fish. It was completely unexpected, a really nice acknowledgement of years of hard work, not just for me but for all the people who supported me getting to that point. I remember walking around in a daze that day thinking there must have been some error! Maybe they meant another Irenosen Okojie, my doppelganger who’d written a book with the exact same title. What a nightmare! The thought made me feel as though I’d break out in hives! I managed to calm myself down though and the paranoia went away once my publisher confirmed.

Tell us about your favourite short story

Any story from Dennis Johnson’s Jesus’s Son. I always mention him because it really is a tremendous piece of work. It’s still my favourite collection. These surreal, dark interconnected stories make you reassess your ideas around empathy, loss and what it means to be human.

Aside from him. It’s a toss-up between Lesley Nnekah Arimah’s Who Will Greet You At Home and Deborah Levy’s Black Vodka. Who Will Greet You At Home for it’s capturing of young, working Nigerian women, the desire to have children and the shocking turns that takes. It’s completely bonkers. Arimah is a masterful short story writer. There’s not one bit of fat in that piece. Levy’s Black Vodka, about a deformed man looking for love is delicate, mysterious and dazzling. It’s stayed in my bones. Even years later, I still think about that story. I read it every now and again, each time I see something new in it.

Who’s your favourite female author and why?

Impossible to select just one! Toni Morrison, Margaret Atwood, Buchi Emecheta, Miranda July, Shirley Jackson, they’re all up there. I have to say that this year, I was absolutely blown away by Eve L. Ewing’s Electric Arches. It’s an exploration of black girlhood and womanhood through narrative prose, poetry and visual art. It left me stunned by its imagination, it’s experimentation with form, it’s weirdness. It nourished me during a tricky time in my life. It expanded my concept of what texts should look like and feel like, reminding me of why I write. It explores difficult subject matters yet there’s so much nuance, so much freedom. I’ll buy anything she ever writes, I really find her a fascinating, unusual artist.

What does weird fiction mean to you?

Weird fiction means skewed writing that pushes the boundaries in terms of ideas and form, often quite uncomfortable too but highly imaginative.

What’s a trope of fiction that gets on your nerves and why?

It’s not only a trope in fiction but a trope in life. The strong black woman trope. I really find it a damaging idea which doesn’t make room for the complexity of black women, the nuances of our stories, how we live and the ways we negotiate our identities in the spaces we move in. In my fiction I try to unpick that, I try to expand the perceptions around that in ways that are hopefully interesting and illuminating.

Where can readers find out more about you?



Keep your eyes peeled for Disturbing the Beast

Disturbing the Beast is a collection of weird fiction stories by some of the best women writers in the UK, featuring Kirsty Logan and Aliya Whiteley. 

Submit to the collection by the 14th September

Support the Disturbing the Beast Kickstarter campaign: Weird fiction from women writers featuring Aliya Whiteley, Kirsty Logan and more. 

Submit to Disturbing the Beast: The Best of Women’s Weird Fiction

Disturbing the Beast is a collection of weird fiction stories by some of the best women writers in the UK, featuring Kirsty Logan and Aliya Whiteley.

These fictional often tales explore lesser talked about female centred topics including sexual abuse, pregnancy issues and body image. We’re keen to unearth these subjects in a healthy and respectful way, something that we feel is not often considered in mainstream contemporary literature.

We want you to join us! We’re looking for short stories from women of all ages in the UK (we include all people who identify as women). Your stories should be in the genre of weird and literary fiction. We encourage submissions on lesser talked about female centred topics such as sexual abuse, pregnancy issues and body image. Your work should be fiction, and not so on-the-nose of the issue. In fact, we encourage you to choose an issue to explore, and then side-step it a few times until the fiction is stronger than the theme.

We love:

  • Strong female-led stories
  • Stories that are filled with carefully considered, breath-taking prose
  • Stories that contain depth and reflection

Submission guidelines: 

  • Only one entry per person
  • Stories should be 500 – 6000 words  
  • Submitted in a Word doc with Ariel or Times New Roman, 12pt minimum, double spaced, page numbered
  • Email your submission to boudiccapress@gmail.com with the subject line SUBMISSION FOR DISTURBING THE BEAST, a 50-word biography and the title of your piece
  • Deadline: Stories must be received by midnight on Friday 14th September
  • Late submissions or those that don’t follow the guidelines will not be considered

Support and fund the anthology

Disturbing the Beast is a Kickstarter funded project. It’s our debut collection of weird short stories by women, featuring Aliya Whiteley, Kirsty Logan and many more talented up-and-coming writers. Launching in early 2019, we’re looking for £2500 to help cover the cost of the book. Back the project here.

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