Betsy Cornwell: Steampunk Faerie at ‘Ill met by moonlight’ Conference

We are delighted to announce an addition to the guest speakers at our ‘Ill met by moonlight’ Gothic Faery conference. Betsy Cornwell, the esteemed author of YA fantasy, will be talking about her creative adaptation of fairy lore in her novels.

Betsy’s first novel, Tides (2013), is a brilliant and sensitive exploration of young love, sexuality, and body image through a paranormal romance that reworks the selkie figure—that liminal creature of Celtic Faerie which transforms from seal to human and transverses ocean and land. Sam teaches this novel on her ‘Generation Dead: Young Adult Fiction and the Gothic’ BA module.

Betsy’s later novels Mechanica (2015) and its sequel Venturess (2017) recreate the ‘Cinderella’ tale in a dazzling encounter of steampunk technology with Faery. There is here an urge towards a re-enchantment of the modern world—an impulse found in similar fantasy and paranormal romance novels which feature fairies. In the world of these novels, the land of Faerie is depicted as the colonised Other (there is a suggestion of Britain’s domination of Ireland, the source of much fairy lore). Cornwell’s heroine, Nicolette first refashions herself into entrepreneurial engineer, then helps liberate the fairy realm through a war of independence. Faerie challenges the utilitarian rationality of Esting (the colonising power) but it also offers an alternative way of loving that resists the gendered rigidities of conventional couplings. And Betsy Cornwell is cleverly metafictional in the way that she subtly analyses how fairy stories themselves shape reality; Nicolette develops her autonomy through resisting and rewriting such narratives. Cornwell has also written a feminist adaptation of the Robin Hood story, The Forest Queen (2018) which takes place in the same world as Mechanica. And in 2020, her queer retelling of the Grimms’ tale ‘Snow White and Rose Red’ will appear.

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