I’m gradually adding selected previously-published essays. I’ll try to keep them in reverse chronological order. (As I remember I’ll also try to retro tag some unpublished things as essays; you can find those here; this list is not in chronological order.) As they were published at different times in different places they use different styles: some have footnotes, some have links, some a combination of both. If anything is unclear please let me know and I’ll fix it.
History and Historicity, Historiography and Legend (2022)
An essay for Historia magazine about how outdated notions of history can lead to problems for writers of historical fiction when some readers read what is now known to be fact as fantasy.
The Second Sleep by Robert Harris, Review (2019)
A review of Robert Harris’s post-apocalyptic Ruined Earth novel.
Neither Dying Nor Being Cured (2018)
Essay version of the Ethel Louise Armstrong Lecture on Disability Arts and Culture that I gave at Ohio State University in April, 2018 — and was reprinted as a bonus essay in the UK edition of So Lucky (Handheld Press, 2018)
Rewriting the Old Disability Script (2018)
An Opinion column for the New York Times. We changed queer literature, and the world, by writing our own stories. With disability, we can do it again.
Norming the Other: Narrative Empathy Via Focalised Heterotopia (2017)
My thesis for the Creative Writing PhD by Published Work awarded by Anglia Ruskin University. The 10,000-word critical review details how my novels norm the Other. That is, how my fiction creates reader empathy through embodied characterisation, and persuades the reader that the queer women I write about are people, human beings with grace and agency.
Some Guidelines for Non-Disabled Writers (2016)
The Dos and Don’t of writing about the disabled. Do not assume that empathy equals experience. You might think you know what it’s like, but you don’t.
Disability: Art, Scholarship, and Activism (2016)
What I desire is a world where those of us who are traditionally Othered—women, people of colour, poor people, old people, crips and queers—live lives of grace and agency. I want the world—and the visual and literary representations of that world—to behave as though we’re real people, not signifiers or metaphorical props: human beings in, of, by and for ourselves.
My Story, Mystery: A Letter to Hild of Whitby (2015)
You were magnificent, I think, but hidden: a black hole at the heart of history. We can trace you only by your gravitational pull…
The Women You Didn’t See: A Letter to Alice Sheldon (2015)
You were brilliant, I think, but consumed by the inevitability of the abattoir. In your fiction all the gates are closed; characters are funnelled down a chute to flashing knives. In your best fiction, the characters know what is happening but the knowledge makes no difference; there’s no way out.
Branding: It Burns (2014)
According to an Economist review of his posthumous Brand New: The Shape of Brands to Come (Thames & Hudson, 2014), branding is “about knowing who you are…and showing it.” It sounds simple but for a novelist it is not.
The Language of Hild (2013)
Most of the Old English poetry I read was West Saxon. It’s round and rich—drumming like apples poured from a tub onto an elm table—and stirring: heroic, alliterative, elegiac. But I’m not sure how representative it is of Hild’s era. Apart from being the wrong dialect, it’s written rather than being oral, which means it came to us through the double filter of form and Latinised/Christian scribes.’
Leigh Brackett’s The Long Tomorrow (2012)
I read The Long Tomorrow for the first time in 2005. Five pages in, I wondered why I’d never heard of this novel. Twenty pages later, I was wondering why it wasn’t universally acknowledged as the first Great American SF Novel.
Palimpsest: Review of Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? (2012)
Jeanette Winterson’s memoir revisits the people and events familiar from her first and most famous work, the semi-autobiographical novel Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit. The two books cover similar ground, but they couldn’t be more different. The first part of Why Be Happy, twice as long as the second, is a scraped clean, rewritten, and embellished palimpsest of Oranges.
War Machine, Time Machine (co-written with Kelley Eskridge) (2008)
The golden age of queer sf is 20. Or maybe it was the 1970s. Or perhaps it was in France. It’s all relative, like the notion of ‘queer’ itself.
As We Mean to Go On (co-written with Kelley Eskridge) (2005)
I don’t know how to begin this damn thing, I say. She grins and answers, Honey, don’t faff about. Just tell the story. Eight words might not seem like much to run with, but they are all I need, coming from the one who knows my work as well as she knows my body, and who for seventeen years has touched both with grace.
Doing the Work (2002)
Aud is my commitment to excellence made flesh/word and walking around; she uses whatever it takes to get the job done. She is the tension between the joy and discipline that is my art (or craft or life or bane, depending) filed to a point and stabbed into the tabletop.
Living Fiction, Storybook Lives (2000)
As individuals and societies we are shaped by story: our culture and sense of self literally cannot exist without it because we only know who and what we are when we can tell a story about ourselves. We learn how to tell our story by listening to the tales that are out there and picking through them, choosing some details and discarding others.
Writing from the Body (1997)
Art and the Body are huge subjects with all kinds of branches and nooks and crannies. In what follows I poke around in those topics that interest me—the philosophy of dualism, cyberspace as nirvana, the concept of genius, the religious right—and see which pieces connect along the way.