‘Do not discover us
for we lie together in all green
like pond weeds.’
— Anne Sexton, ‘Rapunzel’ (1971)
I am interested in the forest as a mythical, sacred space, but also as the site for environmental trauma and human violence. My critical work engages with encounters in the forest, from the myths of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, to contemporary rural and folk horror cinema. My current novel is an eco-horror, speculative retelling of Euripides’ Medea. As horrific rates of deforestation are causing genocide and environmental collapse, recalling earlier genocides by settler colonists, the forest becomes a site of terror, as well as hope.
Novel// the museum of atheism (salt, 2012)
'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
Flash// ELECTRIC LIGHT
'Electric Light' was commissioned and published by Spork Press in 2014 as an example of contemporary experimental fiction. Roxane Gay selected 'Electric Light' as one of her 50 favourite short fictions of 2015 for Wigleaf.
I crawl until I come to a clearing in the forest. There are one hundred women in high heeled shoes. I lick the shoes clean of mulch as I squelch forward on my front. I am naked as a glowworm. They take the foliage to my body until I am fully open. They find the stars inside me.
Poetry review// SKIN HORSE BY OLIVIA CRONK (2016)
Skin Horse is deeply committed to the dismantling of binaries. Not only does the poem refuse to distinguish between separate categories of the plastic and the static, the authentic and the fake, but it also insists on a specific kind of futurity which relies on the melding of the banal and the sacred through lines such as: ‘A crystal ball flyer in my bag’ and ‘What lipstick lights. Through a branch, one creeped to scream.’ The crystal ball flyer is the perfect example of the sacred throwaway object: both the flyer and the crystal ball it represents are plastic objects — the flyer is made from cheap, toxic materials and the crystal ball is a symbol of the plasticity of future and present. The weight accorded to the occult potential of the crystal ball is undercut by the tackiness and commerciality of the flyer. The ‘lipstick lights’ that call to mind a cosmetic artificiality are somehow luminous. This image of bright, glowing, colours illuminating a part of the forest where one ‘creeped to scream’ is unsettling, the childlike innocence of the lipsticks are displaced by the potential site of violence and trauma invoked by the scream.
Art review// Nathalie Djurberg's Turn Into Me
Djurberg addresses this collapsing of boundaries by presenting a female figure who becomes a home, womb and tomb for the animals in the forest where her corpse rots. Rather than showing a conventional narrative of feminised victimhood at the hands of violent masculinity, Djurberg instead shows a scene of death, decay and transformation that offers a redemptive, biological, non-reproductive futurity and satirises the nature/culture binary.
Review of Nathalie Djurberg's Turn into Me
'Ceremony' was published in the Louisville University literary journal Miracle Monocle in April 2016.
When the peach gleam of sunrise peeled the night back, Melissa left. She kept on her boots and gloves and thick socks all the time, even while she rested beneath the kitchen table overnight. Melissa had a good system for finding twigs. She could smell the freshness even through the diesel sky. When she came back, she would watch Anna grind them down into flour, adding a handful of cinnamon or other flavoursome barks. Late in the afternoon, when the flour had soaked and sprouted, Anna mixed it into pattycakes and baked them over the stove, making sure not to reduce them to ash.