monograph// the ovidian locus terribilis in contemporary rural horror (Bloomsbury, 2019)

Why is contemporary rural horror so often filmed in lush settings? From the supernatural woodland of Twin Peaks and The Blair Witch Project, to the haunting bayous of True Detective, landscape takes a starring role. Lakes are particularly dangerous and recur time and again in rural horror, most notably in New Zealand’s eerie Top of the Lake, French psychological horror Stranger by the Lake, and British slasher, Eden Lake

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The Ovidian Locus Terribilis in Contemporary Rural Horror asks what it is that draws our narrative imaginations so compellingly towards rural horror that takes place in unspoilt, sublime locations. How much does this owe to Ovid’s most striking poetic special effect, the locus terribilis, which uses stunning, natural locations as the setting for violence? We are at a moment of acute environmental horror, and the man-made invasive ecologies that have accompanied colonialism are coming to fruition in strange and unprecedented ways. Landscapes themselves are becoming deadly through the annihilation of existing ecosystems. How far can we align this moment of environmental disaster with the indexical rise of representations of extreme violence in sublime locations, and how far is this on a continuum with the European poetic tradition? This project will trace Ovid’s influence and asks what this particular contrast has to tell us about our relationship to our landscapes, our bloody colonial histories, and our current ecological fears.This book offers a fresh perspective on contemporary rural horror television and cinema using the lens of classical, and specifically Ovidian, reception. 

edited collection// domestic noir (Palgrave macmillan, 2018)

The novels and films which are the subject of this study are interested in asking why a disproportionately large number of people are assaulted and murdered as a result of intimate violence, as opposed to stranger violence. In the US where gun laws are far more lax, the tragedy of domestic violence, intimate violence, and gendered violence is higher. An even more chilling statistical outlier involves the accidental shootings of siblings, parents, and self-perpetrated fatalities by toddlers and young children. Repressive right-wing governments and media in the UK and USA (where the majority of domestic noir novels are published) form the backdrop to these stories and this manifests itself particularly in relation to intimate, domestic, and gendered violence. The continuum of harms for those seeking support and justice for assault and murder includes funding cuts to sexual assault services, cuts to labs that process rape kits and other forensic evidence, and legal systems that punish victims and acts indifferently towards perpetrators, allowing sexual predators to have no fear of recourse when they boast of sexual crimes. This collection emerges in the months after Brock Turner’s arrest and by the time it is published he will be free. Into a world where Theresa May, who presided over the increasingly dystopian detention centre Yarls Wood (which disproportionately harms queer women of colour), the destruction of domestic violence services has made an alliance with the DUP, a homophobic party in favour of forced pregnancies. Though this is the political and legal landscape, there is something far richer, more nuanced, working through the texts examined in this collection, and each of the essays offer a unique perspective on how domestic noir re-enacts existing tropes and mythologies, whilst offering a particular, specific index of the current cultural anxieties which produce these narratives. 

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monograph// LUMINOL Theory (punctum,2017)

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Representations of forensic procedures saturate popular culture in both fiction and true crime. One of the most striking forensic tools used in these narratives is the chemical luminol, so named because it glows an eerie greenish-blue when it comes into contact with the tiniest drops of human blood.

Luminol is a deeply ambivalent object: it is both a tool of the police, historically abused and misappropriated, and yet it offers hope to families of victims by allowing hidden crimes to surface. Forensic enquiry can exonerate those falsely accused of crimes, and yet the rise of forensic science is synonymous with the development of the deeply racist ‘science’ of eugenics.

Luminol Theory investigates the possibility of using a tool of the state in subversive, or radical, ways. By introducing luminol as an agent of forensic inquiry, Luminol Theory approaches the exploratory stages that a crime scene investigation might take, exploring experimental literature as though these texts were ‘crime scenes’ in order to discover what this deeply strange object can tell us about crime, death, and history, to make visible violent crimes, and to offer a tangible encounter with death and finitude. At the luminol-drenched crime scene, flashes of illumination throw up words, sentences, and fragments that offer luminous, strange glimpses, bobbing up from below their polished surfaces. When luminol shines its light, it reveals, it is magical, it is prescient, and it has a nasty allure.

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prose poetry// THE LUMINOL REELS (CALAMARI, 2014)

When human blood reacts with luminol, it lights up a ghostly blue. This reaction, most commonly used to detect whether violence has taken place at suspected crime scenes, combines the human and the chemical, it invokes violence and disposability but also transformation. THE LUMINOL REELS takes its imagery from pornography, Catholicism, and crime scene investigation to interrogate the violence done to women. It considers the ongoing brutality of the femicides in Ciudad Juarez and the institutional misogyny of the Catholic Church. Violence is intrinsically linked to location, and the shrines, quinceañera parties, holy communions, and seances of this book are all stained luminescent blue.

Reviews

A fierce and deadly little fantasia that bites its way deep into your brain.' — Brian Evenson

'We were plump and pretty, our skin glowed like Chinese lanterns and he wanted our laughter for himself": In THE LUMINOL REELS, Laura Ellen Joyce finds the blue-glowing, b-movie heart of Plath’s and Ballard’s atrocity exhibitions and the parapornography of reliquaries. Joyce may write: "This one is for the sickos," but this is a book for readers who are into David Lynch, Aase Berg, Bluebeard (any version), hagiography; "splatter gurlesque" and media theory. In other words: people who want their reading to feel like drinking "luminol margaritas".'  — Johannes Göransson

'Joyce’s hand is as unflinching in its force as any of the deathly actions rendered to the bodies on any page, almost like an alarm light throwing its glow over room after room, or stations in an exhibit of twisted murder scenes. Each leg is mercifully brief, landing its blow and moving into the next.'  — Blake Butler

'It’s hard to make political work that makes you go damn. I don’t like soapbox writing. It’s pretentious. Joyce’s work dares you. It doesn’t give a fuck about its being because it’s already bleeding out in the sand. The directive serves as a hard bar to rattle rules within the world of The Luminol Reels. Each page has headings like a manual, on how to accept and rewrite your life as the dreams your mother had the day you were fired from being part of her. It tells you how to tell someone who tells you what to do what to do while overdosing.'  — Elizabeth Mikesch

Blake Butler at VICE

Gabino Iglesias at the LA Review of Books

Ronnie Peltier at New Delta Review

Elizabeth Mikesch at Tarpaulin Sky 

James R. Gapinski at Heavy Feather 

Diarmuid Hester at 3am Magazine

Natanya Ann Pulley at The Collagist

Luke Taylor at Full Stop

Ian Baran on the New York Public Library Blog

INTERVIEWS AND EXCERPTS

Interview at The Collagist

Research Notes at Necessary Fiction 

Playlist for The Luminol Reels at Largehearted Boy 

Excerpt at The Collagist

Excerpt at Sleepingfish

Excerpt at Black Sun Lit

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NOVEL// THE MUSEUM OF ATHEISM (SALT, 2012)

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Once there was the body of a girl in the sunken garden. A dead blonde girl. She lay on her side, one arm missing. Bluish tangles of veins were exposed at the knotted edge of the butchered place. Blood seeped through, a milky red that furred the wound shut. Beneath her neck, a mess of blood pooled through the mossy ground. Maggots curled lazily though her pink flesh below, roiling, rolling, bloated with meat they slowed and stopped just short of the opened brain. Violet scum bubbled out and formed a hard shimmering caul like blown glass. The mess of maggots gave off a white heat that scorched her flesh. Her intestines were spilling out and plastic bullets shirred the rubbery meat. A man came, and turned her face to the dirt. He covered over all that rot. The harvest that year was spectacular. Ghost Fungus and Witches’ Butter, Vinegar Cups and False Deathcaps thrived where they should not have done: In basements, in attics, creeping up walls. They flourished that winter under neon skies, lit red by the northern lights, as the sunken garden pulsed underground.

REVIEWS

'Laura Ellen Joyce's debut The Museum of Atheism transports us to a perverted fairytale landscape in which foxes roam and the snow falls ceaselessly, covering all traces.  Darkness seeps through the book like the fungus that interleaves its chapters, but at heart is the innocence and purity of a little girl lost.  A page-turning read, riddled with the stuff of nightmares; read it if you dare.' — Clare Wigfall'

The Museum of Atheism is an inviting and sinister affair, sweet and deadly as a thicket of mushrooms, their dear deadly anklets and caps of toxic spores.  It’s Christmas Eve; a chemical spill has coaxed a plague of foxes out of the hills surrounding a remote prison-town. Here everything and everyone seems to flush and propagate in the shadow of something else. A vulnerable kiddie beauty queen, a troupe of cash-strapped strippers, a sex-doll repairmen, and a prison guard with downward ambition all meet under a fox-furred, feverish sky. As the plot twists thick as a black and milky stalk, the darkness grows somehow darker.  The neon-pink fairy lights wink out.'  — Joyelle McSweeney

'A Lynchian detective novel set in small town America, which is teeming with toadstools. At the top of each of the book’s chapters, Joyce names and describes varieties of fungus called things like Slime Cap, Destroying Angel, Disco Cup, Midnight Bolette; the inclusion of fungi invariably portending some dead matter that the reader unearths beneath. This is more than just a clever ploy that sets an unsettling tone, it also hints at Joyce’s take on writing in general, and encourages us to consider the parallels between the written text and the mushrooms it describes. This is perhaps Joyce’s improvisation upon the deconstructionist adage that all writing is parasitical: for her, fiction writing may instead be fungal, nourished by the moldering work of dead and decaying authors, springing up threadlike and dangerous in the dark.' — Diarmuid Hester

Review at The Manchester Review

Review at 5cense

Interview at You, Me, and the Story

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