WESTERLY — One thing is for certain. On Saturday afternoon, author Claire Suzanne Cooney will be dressed in an extraordinary costume, one that could include horns or warts or sparkles or wings.
Saturday, after all, marks the launch of Cooney's new novella, "Desdemona and the Deep," and her friends at Savoy Bookshop & Café will hold a masquerade party to mark the occasion.
"It's an optional masquerade," Cooney said, so guests are welcome to dress like goblins or gentryfolk, in goblinpunk or faerie finery.
"Think of movies like 'Labyrinth,' 'Legend,' 'Willow,' 'Bright,' 'Lord of the Rings' and 'Hellboy 2!'" said Elissa Sweet, Savoy's event and marketing director. "Paint your face, put on a mask, break out that old set of fake fangs."
"Desdemona and the Deep" debuted from Tor.com earlier this month with a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly. In the novella, the spoiled daughter of a rich mining family must retrieve the tithe of men her father promised to the world below. On the surface, her world is rife with industrial pollution that ruins the health of poor factory workers while the idle rich indulge themselves in unheard-of luxury. Below are goblins, mysterious kingdoms, and an entirely different hierarchy.
"'Desdemona' is a story about transformation," said Cooney, "about working for justice even when you can’t right the greater wrong, and about severing bonds between what made you and what you wish to make of yourself. It’s also about magic, goblins, fashion, bargains, and doorways. And about hope in the bleakest, most cynical, most divisive of times."
Cooney, who uses C.S.E. Cooney as a pen name, is the author of the World Fantasy Award-winning "Bone Swans: Stories." She grew up in Phoenix, Ariz., spent time between her mother’s home in Arizona and her father’s in Chicago, graduated from Columbia College Chicago and moved to Westerly, where she lived for many years. She once described her writing as "secondary world fantasy, similar in genre to the work of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis."
Her stories, which often feature flying carpets, strange clowns and pied pipers, always have strong female characters and people who turn into things. “Swords and sorcery,” she told the Sun in a 2017 interview. She said she has been influenced by such fairy tales as "The Pied Piper" and "Rumpelstiltskin."
“Fairy tales are so ancient,” she said, “and tell us so much about ourselves.”
Cooney's poetry collection, "How to Flirt in Faerieland and Other Wild Rhymes," features her Rhysling Award-winning poem “The Sea King’s Second Bride,” and her short fiction can be found in Ellen Datlow’s "Mad Hatters and March Hares: All-New Stories from the World of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland," "Sword and Sonnet: An Anthology of Battle Poets," Rich Horton’s "Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy," Mike Allen’s "Clockwork Phoenix Anthology," Lightspeed Magazine, Strange Horizons, Apex, Uncanny Magazine Black Gate, Papaveria Press, GigaNotoSaurus, the Mammoth Book of Steampunk, and elsewhere.
Saturday's event will also feature live music, a reading, giveaways, snacks and wine.