Dr Helen Marshall

Senior Lecturer

School of Communication and Arts
Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
helen.marshall@uq.edu.au
+61 7 336 52999

Overview

Dr. Helen Marshall is an acclaimed writer, editor and book historian. Her first collection of fiction, Hair Side, Flesh Side, takes its name from the two sides of a piece of parchment—animal skin scraped, stretched and prepared to hold writing. Gifts for the One Who Comes After, her second collection, borrows tropes from the Gothic tradition to negotiate issues of legacy and tradition. Collectively, her two books of short stories have won the World Fantasy Award, the British Fantasy Award, and the Shirley Jackson Award for outstanding achievement in the literature of psychological suspense, horror and the dark fantastic.

Her research as both as a creative practitioner and a scholar emerges out of the recent interest in “weird” fiction, a sub-genre of fantasy which blends supernatural, mythical, and scientific writing. Using modern theories of cognition, my work posits weird texts as “emotion machine[s]” (Tan 1996) designed to defamiliarize traumatic experiences so they can be more easily managed. Her debut novel The Migration (Random House Canada/Titan UK, 2019) exemplifies this. It finds parallels between the emergence of the Black Death in the fourteenth century and the ecological crises of the twenty-first century—that is, periods when humanity has had to confront the possibility of widescale loss of life. What interests her about the topic is not its bleakness but its interrogation of how change might take place, particularly for young people. The Migration explores these challenges. It initially presents metamorphosis as a major crisis, terrifying in its transfiguration of death. But, as the novel progresses, it shows the potential for hopeful and radical change.

Over the last five years notions of the apocalypse have emerged as a theme in her work. Her second collection, Gifts for the One Who Comes After addressed the shaping and persistence of memory in the wake of dangerous upheaval. Rather than taking the long view of history in my first collection, it negotiated very personal issues of legacy and tradition, creating myth-infused worlds where “love is as liable to cut as to cradle, childhood is a supernatural minefield, and death is ‘the slow undoing of beautiful things’” (Quill & Quire, starred review). Likewise her most recent edited collection The Year’s Best Weird Fiction argues that the techniques of defamiliarization used by contemporary authors such as Jeff VanderMeer and China Miéville offer routes for engaging in an increasingly destabilized world.

She has further interests in both modern and medieval publishing cultures. Her PhD examined the codicology and palaeography of late medieval manuscripts from England, looking at how Middle English “bestsellers” such as Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and the anonymous Prick of Conscience made use of traceable networks of production and dissemination. This work builds upon the practical experience she gained working in the publishing industry as the Managing Editor for ChiZine Publications, Canada’s largest independent genre press, where she was involved in all aspects of production including editing, marketing and business management. In 2016 she undertook a research project to investigate the publishing history of Stephen King’s Carrie (1974), which provided a snapshot of the changing social, economic and cultural environment of the publishing industry when key editorial and marketing decisions fashioned the King brand.

Research Interests

  • Creative practice
  • Science fiction, fantasy, weird fiction and apocalyptic literature
  • Medieval and contemporary book cultures
  • Short stories, novels and poetry

Qualifications

  • Master of Arts, University of Toronto
  • Bachelor Arts Honours, University of Guelph
  • Doctor of Philosophy, University of Toronto

Publications

  • Marshall, Helen (2019) Reflections of a broken world. New Scientist, 243 3241: 32-32. doi:10.1016/S0262-4079(19)31433-2

  • Marshall, Helen (2019) The science fiction column. New Scientist, 243 3237: 30-30. doi:10.1016/S0262-4079(19)31231-X

  • Marshall, Helen (2019) Experimental words. New Scientist, 242 3233: 32-32.

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Available Projects

  • I am only available to take PhD applications from established writers who seek to frame their work in sophisticated thematic ways. Please email me directly to enquire.

View all Available Projects

Publications

Book

Book Chapter

  • Marshall, Helen (2018). "Lothly thinges thai weren alle": imagining horror in the late Middle Ages. In New directions in supernatural horror literature: the critical influence of H. P. Lovecraft (pp. 101-126) Cham, Switzerland: Springer. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-95477-6_6

  • Marshall, Helen (2018). The other tiger. In Silent Garden Collective (Ed.), The silent garden collective: a journal of esoteric fabulism (pp. 13-45) Toronto, Canada: Undertow Publications.

  • Marshall, Helen (2016). The gold leaf executions. In Michael Callaghan (Ed.), CVC anthology (pp. 13-22) Toronto, Canada: Exile Editions.

Journal Article

Possible Research Projects

Note for students: The possible research projects listed on this page may not be comprehensive or up to date. Always feel free to contact the staff for more information, and also with your own research ideas.

  • I am only available to take PhD applications from established writers who seek to frame their work in sophisticated thematic ways. Please email me directly to enquire.