VIDEOS! Bizarrocon And Portland Vlogs, New Eraserhead Press Book Reading And Author Panel

Hello! I have returned! Well, I’ve been back since the very end of November but shhh.

I did lots of things including Bizarrocon (bizarro fiction convention in case you didn’t know), the Peculiarium, the Lovecraft Bar, Voodoo and Pips donuts, Powell’s Books (the biggest used and new book shop IN THE WORLD) and the creepy clown room at the Funhouse Lounge.

I also met some really great creative people, listened to fantastic stories and was overwhelmed by the response to my own reading, from the book I can officially announce is out next year: Fortune Box, with Eraserhead Press. I took part in a panel and learned from the others, and it’s all below! Enjoy.

Bizarrocon 2017:

Portland:

Fortune Box reading:

The Weird In A Post Weird World, Author Panel:

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What Happened To Me And Why #womenboycotttwitter Makes Me Conflicted #womenboycottwitter

Yet again social media has made me uncomfortable and confused about myself. What’s the right thing to do? Some say the hashtag, in support of Rose Mcgowan, is necessary, others say it’s insulting because the support wasn’t there for them. At first I tweeted the hashtag, before fully waking up this morning, which isn’t something I’d normally do but I wanted to show I sympathise (which, of course, I do).

But then I got more and more annoyed -not at the hashtag, I absolutely want to make that clear, people should be free to protest how they wish, but at the idea of my keeping quiet any longer. I have something to say. He may not have been a fancy producer or anything to do with Hollywood, and it wasn’t as traumatic as most people have experienced, but it’s a situation that frightened and confused me and it was my own silence at the time that I still find so frustrating.

Years ago, at university, I knew my boyfriend and I weren’t particularly suited, which isn’t his fault. What was his fault was the thing that began that summer at a festival.

We rolled into the tent after a fun and busy day, and I was too tired to accept his advances and fell asleep. When I woke it was almost morning, I could tell by the light, and something sexual was happening. Fear flooded me – such a harsh awakening kickstarted my fight or flight responses and I did…nothing. I froze. There was no context to the events occurring and my brain was struggling to process it. It wasn’t as if we’d been fooling around or being intimate, I’d literally been asleep. For hours. Not that that’s any kind of excuse if you don’t want to go further, I just mean he wasn’t misunderstanding the situation and it took me a while to piece together what was happening.

It seems he’d woken in the night and decided to work on himself, which is fine. Obviously I don’t have a problem with that. What sent this over the edge into something that induced primal fear was the fact that he then rolled over, pinned me down, held my hands in place and ground his hips hard (and I mean hard) into my body, only letting go when he’d finished, which was when he rolled back over and fell asleep.

I lay there all night, thinking, trying not to think, wondering  what that meant, what I was supposed to do, whether it was a big deal and why I really felt like it was. The next morning he got up, said hello and went through plans for the day like nothing happened. I was so confused. Did I dream it? No, I definitely hadn’t, I could still feel the pressure of his body, the way he’d made me feel like a useless rag doll.

He went off to get some supplies and I met up with our friends who were camping nearby. Our conversation went roughly like this:

Me: So, (blank) did something a bit weird last night.

Her: Yeah?

Me: yeah. I didn’t want to do it, so, he kind of did it anyway.

Her: What do you mean?

Me: I mean…he just did it after I said no.

Her: Well, you must have wanted to do it a bit, otherwise he wouldn’t have been able to get it in.

Me: He didn’t get it in…he just sort of did it on top of me.

Her: Oh, I don’t think that’s anything to worry about.

Me: No?

Her: No.

So that was that. I was with him for a year and he did it a further five or six times. I told myself each time that I was making a big fuss about nothing, but I reacted to our relationship by getting drunk too often and insulting him. Which, by the way, the same friend told me wasn’t very nice and that I should really treat him better.

Yes, I was naive and yes, I should have finished with him after the first time, but I was young and still didn’t quite understand how relationships worked. I mean, who does? I’ve tried to stop thinking about it and tried to forget it, even, as just another odd thing that happened to me. It wasn’t the worst thing that’s happened to anyone and I really wouldn’t want to compare my experiences with something truly terrible, but it’s been increasingly making me angry and I’m starting to see how it’s affected me since, and I need to get it off my chest.

I think people should protest how they like and their way of dealing with things is theirs, but I don’t want to be quiet anymore.

The Sinead O’Connor Video And Why I’m Furious

This morning I read an article which made me unreasonably angry. I didn’t disagree with anything in it and it contained nothing but the truth, so what was my issue?

Sinead O’Connor’s video shows a woman crying out for help, a lost soul begging for assistance with her mental health issues. At times like this, when a person most needs others around them, that’s often when they disappear or, as the article says, “We don’t care for people with mental illness very well. We distance ourselves, we minimize their sickness, we condemn their symptoms. We wash our hands when they become too difficult to handle, when their care becomes too messy. We ghost them.” 

I’ve had to really pick apart what made me so angry and it’s not the article at all, which is intended only to help people understand instead of make fun of her. No, I’m angry at our current mental health care system. You see (trust me, I debated long and hard before putting this out there), I don’t really speak to my father anymore and that’s something I carry in a huge, father shaped sack of guilt everyday.

It started when I was 19 and at college. I got a call from him where he literally screamed at me for stealing his shampoo. I was left in such shock and confusion that I stared at the phone for a good long time afterwards sobbing. I had fallen through some Twilight Zone hole and didn’t know how to get back out. Luckily I knew a friend who was training to be a councillor and she explained that it wasn’t really him, it was something making him do it. This is what began the 15 year battle to get someone to DO SOMETHING to help. Spoiler alert: no-one did. They still haven’t.

First I saw my own doctor, suffering from depression and anxiety from the shock. I was still too ashamed to come right out and say what the deep problem was so I just mumbled something about ‘feeling down.’ He took one look at my blue hair and piercings and dismissed me as a silly teen. My sisters tried calling dad’s brother only to be told we were being hysterical.

A few years later I started receiving six, sometimes more, letters a day from him, all complete nonsense. My boyfriend at the time thought it was hilarious and, when I told him to stop laughing, he laughed more. I saved the letters up, taking some to my own doctor and sending some to my sisters. They posted them as proof to his mum and brother, while my doctor was genuinely concerned and advised me to speak to dad’s doctor. My Nan read the letters and phoned dad immediately, saying “they’re worried about you, they’ve sent me all these letters.” So, that was the end of that plan.

I visited dad, as I often did in the holidays, and pretended to be ill. I still feel like a huge, duplicitous harpy when I remember his concern as he took me to the doctor. When I got there and explained everything, the doctor told me he’d make a note and, when dad would next go in, it would come up. The funny thing about paranoia, though, is that you tend not to trust people, including doctors. So, no, dad didn’t go despite all my pleading (and there was a lot), so that was the end of that plan.

Whereas previously I would always challenge him or reason with him over his delusions and paranoias, the only thing I could do from then on was let it wash over me. I was banging my head against a brick wall in every sense and, most recently, a call to Mind reassured me that unless he was a danger to himself or anyone else, there wasn’t a lot I could do. While it didn’t make hearing how the person upstairs was monitoring his movements or how the village was talking in code against him any easier, Mind took a lot of pressure off me. I still get tears in my eyes when I think of how nice the person I spoke to was. Thanks, I really mean it.

I haven’t cut him out of my life completely. If he needs me I’m always there. The thing is, his relationship with the rest of my family (I was young when the divorce happened) was fractious to say the least and our relationship had it’s own, very difficult, problems, so I doubt we would have been like a sitcom even without this. But it’s added an extra layer of pain to the times I do see him and, for that, I blame an almost nonexistent safety net both for me and my family. People have to get to the point where they’re literally begging for help. If my dad had torn off all his clothes and run down the street threatening to kill the president you can bet your life someone would do something. Instead we live a kind of Purgatory, knowing it’s happening but feeling completely complicit in pretending it isn’t and it’s not good enough. There has to be another way, and we need to figure that out before it’s too late.

I Read From My New Bizarro Book At The Brighton Fringe And Didn’t Run Off Crying!

Hello popsicle sticks! I read my own work to an audience of complete strangers for the first time in my life, my new bizarro book 4 Rooms In A Semi Detached House, for the 2017 Brighton Fringe Festival. My hands were shaking, I was terrified.

Brighton has a lot of cool stuff in it so I made a little backstage video as well as filming the first reading (which has an impromptu Q&A at the end), and I also offer advice to any live reading newbies such as myself. My boyfriend Bill, who does my book covers, and our friend Steve had art showing in a gallery at the same time and I added clips of them discussing their work below.

Ta dah!

Fun times around Brighton, including books, rainbows and lots of tea:

The first reading, 11 am, at Made Cafe:

Bill discussing his work at The Round Georges:

Stephen Waring (LoFiGuy) discussing his work:

Lovecraft, Racism And ‘Problematic Content’

Hello sponge muffins! I’m experimenting with this thing called ‘talking with my mouth.’ It’s weird, letters don’t come out of my fingers and my gob makes these strange noises.

Anyway, I made a video on Lovecraft, also inspired partly by a tweet from author Morgan May regarding 50 Shades of Grey and people telling her she shouldn’t read it anymore.

All things mentioned in the video are linked below. For more BookTube videos visit my YouTube channel.

Nicole Cushing’s blog post

Lovecraft radio documentary, The Strange Life of HP Lovecraft

The Secret World of Lewis Carroll

We Are Turning Ourselves Into Cartoons – A Lament Of Society

I wasn’t sure whether to say anything about this, not because I thought many people would read it but, and I’m being completely honest, I’m afraid of upsetting anyone. I lie awake panicking if I think an email I sent sounded a little harsh. However I decided to write this because I’m a bit worried about aspects of Western civilisation and I wanted to purge my thoughts to see if I felt any better afterwards.

You see, I feel like we’re turning each other – and ourselves – into cartoons. Republicans are racist hicks, feminists are screeching harpies, Muslims want to bomb everyone and liberals want to help them, and it’s not always those on the other side projecting – sometimes we take little things too far, all of us. We aren’t meaning to, we get stuff wrong (or not, it’s subjective, I don’t have all the answers), but when the entire world is arguing with each other defences rise and we’re less likely to see rational points of view. Don’t get me wrong, I know history, people have always done this to opposing groups, but I feel like we’re capable of so much more right now and we should be trying to get there.

Maybe, instead of characterising everyone, we should take a step back. You might disagree with a certain person over one thing, but might they be right about another? When you don’t like the way one group is behaving, does that mean we should do the same? I try to think of things on a scale of reasonability (is that a word? It is now). Like Eddie Izzard’s fashion circle of ‘looking cool,’ where one side is uncool and gradually increases into coolness until they once more ‘look like a dickhead,’ we’ve just got to watch how far we ramp things up.

Whether we want to admit it or not, the world does need sorting out, so it’s absolutely necessary to look into issues such as how people of colour can be targeted by police. We can also be more aware of how we treat people of other races and learn as we go. But when it swings back round to claiming rich white people have no problems at all, that’s characterising again. Everyone has problems. Sure, they’re problems some of us might be jealous of (I am definitely not rich), but they may have come from an abusive family for example.

Likewise, you might truly have pride in your police force and see only good men and women trying to do their job, and you wouldn’t necessarily be wrong. But is it also possible that those good people might struggle against outdated institutional problems? And in fact, like any group of people, there are negative and positive influences, and some downright unpleasant? The head of the Met said recently that the police were definitely more likely to stop a young black man than a white man, so we have a way to go.

Likewise, I believe in the basic message of feminism. I believe we have had a struggle to be heard and are still ironing out some issues in the West. I faced difficult circumstances at my own part time job recently and was afraid to rock the boat by speaking out, so I would never say that women don’t face certain issues. However we shouldn’t characterise an entire gender just because we feel it was done to us.

We need to bear in mind how different we all are and stop lumping everyone who meets certain criteria into certain categories. It’s human nature to simplify but it’s holding us back. It’s too easy to have a fixed set of behaviour rules in our heads and apply them to everyone, but maybe instead of telling people what they should be doing we should try calming down and listening. Everyone’s a stereotype until you get to know them, and sometimes they turn out not to be monsters after all.

Below is a TED talk by a former member of the Westboro baptist church. I feel she makes some really important points and it’s time to listen.

Can A Youtuber Be A Cult Leader?

I’ve been researching YouTube communities for a few weeks now for an upcoming book and found myself pondering a surprising question. Before we dive in I’d like to remind everyone that I don’t have the answers, just an overwhelming curiosity. Also some of the videos contain naughty language, so be aware.

Communities exist because, as we know, YouTube is a vast website where thousands of videos are uploaded every second and, without individuals of common interest pulling together and promoting each other, they’d all be lost in a vacuum. The thing is, people are people and, no matter how much we’d love to, we don’t really get along – at least certain people can’t with each other. I’ve noticed each community (Booktube, Storytime, Ranters, Vegans… oh God, the Vegans… we’ll come to that) will have its antagonists or people who just don’t agree with the way others are doing things, the others often take sides, and sometimes it leads to the disintegration of the group and sometimes not. It’s the same with any large mass of people, online or otherwise, it’s just a new platform for all this to happen.

There’s another element to online disagreements though, one which is both fascinating and disturbing: can a YouTuber become a cult leader? It sounds completely daft but more and more I’ve wondered at the possibility. There is a general fear that impressionable people can be lured into cults via the internet, though whether there is any basis in fact is another matter.

One YouTuber years ago jokingly (?) attempted to start his own cult and, interestingly, he’s a person many have since had genuine concerns about. They worry that his young fan base is easily taken in by what he tells them and so on. But does that make it possible for him to be a real cult leader? In order to decide that I suppose we ought to define what a cult leader is.

The following video demonstrates the common ways a rational person is manipulated and transformed into a follower:

It seems pretty crazy and far-fetched to think someone could manage all this by uploading videos onto a website, right? But some are convinced it’s possible. I suppose we can look at it two ways. When we don’t like someone, we tend to view everything they say and do through the worst possible lens. For example, the lady in the video below felt a YouTuber was disrespecting disabled people and, once she approached him via social media, he didn’t respond well and neither did his followers.

It’s never nice to be spoken to in an unpleasant manner, in real life or online, and it can be mentally upsetting particularly for the very young or those with chronic illness. The seeping in of negativity from online to everyday life once seemed ridiculous to people, but the potential real world damage is becoming clearer.

The lady below points out several entirely plausible things that qualify him as a potential cult leader, and she’s not the only one, but is it also possible she’s seeing them because…well…she doesn’t like him? Or is she right?

And yet… a YouTuber forming a cult doesn’t seem completely impossible. Back to the vegans.

About a year ago troubling aspects of a group known as Raw Till 4 became evident. Led by a very angry pair known as Durian Rider and his girlfriend Freelee (or Diddly Rider and Free Pee as one dissenter refers to them), the Raw Till 4 diet promotes eating large quantities of raw carbohydrates until 4 when you can… eat cooked carbohydrates? I’m not sure. They set up a vegan festival in Thailand where anyone could go and discuss all things vegetably and raw, before in-fighting and accusations of sexual predation (apparently projection on Durian Rider’s part) caused the entry rules to become stricter and stricter, and those on the fringe were denounced as ‘fake vegans,’ until only a hardcore few meeting all the requirements were allowed to attend. Some began noticing the health advice, among other things, was perhaps not up to par:

However the thing that most worried people was the video of a young girl, 16 at the time, defending the pair. She has a history of eating disorders and apparently blindly followed the pair’s teachings. Notice in the video below the moment she brings up concerns from her doctor and Durian Rider tells her to “ignore your doctor, just listen to the king and queen.”

So yes, I don’t think it’s beyond the scope of possibility. I think we ought to be aware, though, of hysteria and making things fit to our way of thinking. Adam Curtis says, after all, that the internet is “an echo chamber, reflecting our beliefs back at us.” But that doesn’t mean it can’t happen…