Category Archives: creativity

Queer Victorian London

In preparation for working on a short story collection set post-The Adventure of the Colonial Boy, I’ve picked up some books to give me insights into late-Victorian queer culture and society’s attitudes towards it.

Victorian attitudes to sex and sexuality (and to a whole bunch of things) is usually deeper and more textured than a cursory glance would indicate. And while it’s true that terms like ‘gay’ and queerness as it’s currently lived and experienced were not how Victorians understood them, that doesn’t negate the fact people who would probably now identify on that spectrum were managing their lives, one way or another.

Which all brings me to this reading matter, designed to help me understand more about how queerness was experienced and lived in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, so that I can translate those experiences for Sherlock Holmes and John Watson in a world where they have declared their love and physical desire for each other.

I tend to read books on these topics with a block of sticky notes at hand, so I can mark ideas I want to get back to.

The book pictured in the header, Catharine Arnold’s City of Sin: London and its Vices, is already festooned with notes for me to return to when I do the next round of research, which will be to go over marked passages and decide what to use and how.

One note in City of Sin refers to the pornography people could obtain in Holywell Street, including homosexual and lesbian representations. William Dugdale is noted as a “prolific publisher of filthy books” and further on, Arnold refers to the practice of pornographers having to smuggle their books into the UK, risking fines and imprisonment.

I have made a note that the unexpurgated copy of Richard Burton’s The Arabian Nights is very probably in John Watson’s private book collection. He’s an earthy man, after all, with a penchant for gambling and whisky. Why not a little saucy literature?

Further on I’ve marked the pages about the ‘telegraph boys’ who made extra money by having sex with men. The role of the Turkish baths (which Holmes and Watson frequent in canon) in homosexual liaisons is discussed 25 pages on from that.

I expect to read more queer-specific details of London life in the three other books pictured above, and will doubtless leave those pages bristling like a paper-based porcupine in due course.

I’ve already started with Strangers: Homosexual Love in the Nineteenth Century by Graham Robb, and even the introduction has provided some valuable insights.

How will these snippets and suggestions be used? Will they become significant plot points or background detail?

At this point, who knows? But by filling up my brain with some of that colour, texture and depth, I hope to introduce just enough research to make the stories feel authentic and engaging without presenting them as a series of lectures of What I Learned About Queer Victorians This Summer.

NB: A version of this post originally appeared in my Patreon on 2 February 2018.

Works in Progress 2018 (aka Narrelle’s To Do List is Scary)

Hello all. I’m already bolting out of the gate in 2018 with a series of projects that promise to keep me chained to the keyboard all year.  Yes, that is the sound of me cheering. I quite like my keyboard.

Besides working hard on the day job, I spent January preparing the re-release of the second book of the Duo Ex Machina series, Sacrifice. My Patreon supporters are getting the re-edited chapters of that book every two weeks, and when completed, they’ll get a thank you copy of the book and it’ll go on general sale.

Now that the individual chapters are scheduled in Patreon, I’ll be working on the third and brand new novella in the Duo Ex Machina series,  Number One Fan.

One of the other things I’m working on  is the expansion of Grounded (a sample of which was posted for Patreon supporters in December).  The things I’m writing into it are slotting in very naturally, and now I wonder why I didn’t include them in the first place.  I hope to have completed these edits by the middle of February and soon after be ready to resubmit to the publisher who asked to see a longer version.

I’ve also devised a cover for the proposed short story collection, Scar Tissue and Other Stories. It will contain some of my (edited) Lost and Found flash fictions and reprints of older stories. I’m also planning a number of brand new stories too – a few more Lost and Founds, and a some other short stories, perhaps set in the universes of Ravenfall and Kitty and Cadaver

Scar Tissue and Other Stories is planned to be a reward for Patreon supporters once I reach my first goal of $100/month. I’m not quite there yet, but if you’d like to help me reach that goal (and access reward copies of books, sneak peeks of works in progress and other exclusive content) that would be grand.

These aren’t my only planned projects for 2018.  Among the others are:

  • A re-release of The Opposite of Life
  • Writing the third of the Gary and Lissa books so that there’s a trilogy
  • A series of short stories for Clan Destine Press – The She Wolf of Baker Street
  • A story collection set post-The Adventure of the Colonial Boy
  • Working with a UK artist to develop a potential picture book.

Ambitious, I know. But I’m full of ideas! With fortune and good planning, I might even get all these started (and some even finished) by the end of the year.

Wish me luck.