Weyrd and wonderful: Corpselight by Angela Slatter

Corpselight by Angela Slatter and other objects

Sirens and Kitsune and Norns, oh my!

I swear, the capital of the Sunshine State has never looked better than it does in this fabulous urban fantasy crime thriller.

Back in the day, when I was working for the Gold Coast Libraries and reviewing books on their blog, I waxed a little bit fangirl about Trent Jamieson’s Business of Death trilogy, in part because that wonderful series is set in my home town of Brisbane.

So imagine my delight, last year, to read Angela Slatter’s Vigil, which has harpies on the Kargaroo Point cliffs, Norns in the West End, and so much more. It’s a glorious, dark tale full of myth, monsters and a very nasty vintage. You should definitely read it.

Needless to say I was looking forward to the sequel.

Corpselight delivered all it promised, and then some. It walks the fascinating line that the best urban fantasy always teeters on, showing a hidden underworld of magic sliding along with the mundane and recognisable real world. An insurance investigation sounds ordinary enough, but when the claim comes under “Unusual Happenstance” and involves supernatural mud inundation its rather more intriguing – and dangerous.

I’ve been reading a lot of Lois McMaster Bujold lately, and like some of her books, Corpselight considers motherhood from a number of different, and often dark, angles. It’s not always sunshine and butterflies in Brisneyland, of course, and it makes for gripping reading.

I’m looking forward to Conflux 13, at the end of the month, because Angela Slatter will be there – and I might just have to wax a little bit fangirl to her.

BTW – I wrote a post about brephophagists, the word for people who eats babies. It doesn’t come up much in conversation. The Creative Commons image, by Andrew Bossi, is of the baby-eating statue in Bern, Switzerland. As far as fabulous backstories for characters go, Verity Fassbinder (the heroine of Corpselight) has a cracker: her thankfully departed dad was a Kinderflesser – a child butcher – catering to¬†Brisbane’s Weyrd communities more disgusting dining tastes. Nasty and, for dark urban fantasy, absolutely pitch perfect.

 

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Boxed up joy for Book Week

It’s Book Week according to the Children’s Book Council of Australian and my social media feeds, which are full of adorable photos of kids dressed up as their favourite fictional characters. I’ve noticed a proliferation of commercially available costumes this year – mostly Disney, DC and Marvel trademarked apparel, with the occassional “classic” movie-styled character included, such as Alice in Wonderland or Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz. Is this new, I wonder, the marketing awareness of Book Week? Or have I been the amazing Captain Oblivious for the last couple of years? Anyway…

I’m not going to get all grumpy and whiny about how watching a movie is not the same as reading the book. We all know it. Anything which gets kids reading, though – even if it’s *shudder* princesses – is a good thing. So rock the frocks, boys and girls, or the lycra, and then read the book. All the books.

In the spirit of Book Week, and of using movies, comics, and TV shows as a gateway to a lifelong love of reading, here’s a sight guaranteed to gladden the heart of book lovers, librarians, and Whovian geeks alike.

This beautiful book box is in a quiet street in my neighbouring suburb. The front door opens to reveal a treasure trove of books, free for the taking, to suit the tastes of children, teens and adults. Oh, yeah! I love book boxes so much.

So from my happy place, I say happy book week, everyone – read, enjoy, and share the book love.

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Words you didn’t know you needed

Kindlifresserbrunnen by Andrew BossiI’m a word nerd.

I love bang up to the elephant articles about weird words to add to my vocabulary, like this list of slang from the Victorian Era, and collections of obscure words. One of my favourites of the latter is The Phrontistery with its Compendium of Lost Words.

Feel free to share your favourites in the comments – I’ll be forever grateful!

I have beguiled many a happy hour reading through the Compendium. I could try and justify it by saying it’s research for writing historical fiction, but that would be entirely disingenuous. I just love words.

It has occurred to me, though that there are no words for things that should have words for them, and other words out there which can hardly come up much in conversation. One of the latter, courtesy of The Phrontistery, is brephophagist. Try and recall, if you’d be so kind as to indulge me for a moment, the last time you needed a word for “someone who eats babies”.

Never, I thought (or, at least, I hoped.)

And now, to prove me wrong, a good friend reminded me of the fascinating collection of online oddities at Atlas Obscura, and whilst taking a circuitous route through its treasures, I stumbled upon the Child-Eater of Bern.¬† (That’s him caught in the act in the cropped header image, photographed by Andrew Bossi, available in creative commons on Wikipedia. See the full image at the linked sites.)

The good folk of Bern refer to the subject of the horrific sculpture that tops their fountain as a Kindlifresser – a child eater, or brephophagist. He’s been there since 1546 and, for all I know, it may have been all the rage in Europe during the 16th Century to decorate one’s town with such things. Suddenly, I can imagine the word ‘brephophagist’ arising quite naturally in all manner of conversations.

That’s my disturbing thought for the day.

A serendipitous hare

hare
I love it, when I’m researching for my writing, and I have a kind of tenuous plan of where I want to go with something and I’m following the trail along, reading this and that, which leads to the other and then – BOOM! – I find stuff that’s just so perfect for what I want, I feel like I couldn’t have made it up.

Happily, that’s the way the week’s gone with my research on hares. I like hares. I’m not a huge fan of rabbits, although I’ve been reading some interesting things about rabbits and warreners in The Brecks area of Norfolk and Suffolk. But hares are really fascinating.

There’s a scruffy, fugitive-looking hare that I sometimes startle, late at night, as I drive into my suburban street. I love the way they move, and the way they look. And the things that have been believed about hares – the myths and legends that have been passed on as fact – are just sitting there begging to be told in more stories.

I’m happy to oblige. Not the least of these is that hares would change their sex, just as they changed their coats from winter to summer. According to Sir Thomas Browne, writing in 1646, hares may transition from one sex to the other, or they may be hermaphrodites, either way it is the reason for their vices of “unnatural venery and degenerous effemination”.

Well, how can I resist that? If it wasn’t 1834 my main character would be wearing a T-shirt that read “Warning: may display unnatural venery and degenerous effemination”. And really, now that I’ve thought of it, I may have to design one, because who wouldn’t want one of those?