Major writing news

Black Static 53 cover

It’s been an incredibly hectic couple of weeks. As you can see, Black Static #53 is out and includes a comprehensive review of Storylandia 15, as well as a load of great looking reading. Peter Tennant comparies the collection to the likes of Arthur Machen and Algernon Blackwood as well as Clive Barker, and highly recommends it. Illustrious company indeed! Many thanks to Peter for taking the time to do this. I so often operate in a vacuum, it’s extremely interesting and helpful to get an idea of what other people think of what I do. Do I need this kind of validation? As much as anyone else does – I yo-yo between brimming confidence and wild self-doubt, and I was a bit concerned that some of what I now write is just simply inaccessible to the rest of the world.

Following on from the review, I’ve been interviewed by Peter for Case Notes on the TTA Press website. He asked some good questions and I gave some very honest answers. When I first began writing, one of my ultimate goals was to be interviewed. Twenty-three years later, it’s actually happened! (as a writer – I’ve been interviewed as a musician and as a political activist). Of course, what I really meant was that I needed to be heard and taken seriously and the writing provides its own voice. The interview will either get people very interested in what I do or will send them running for the hills.

Andy Martin’s anthology, Fast-Clean-Cheap, is now at the proof-reading stage and is due to be published in September this year by Lulu. It’s likely to be an eclectic collection, with my two pieces probably the only ones inthe horror/dark fantasy vein. Expect the unexpected from Andy!

Finally, I’m very happy to announce that Wapshott Press have asked me to do a second short story collection, for release around the end of 2017. I’ve two or three stories already completed for it, plus a few tricks up my sleeve regarding some older (almost unseen by anyone else) work and two or three new stories to write for it in the next year. The working title for the collection is We Are All Falling Towards The Centre Of The Earth, and I have some thoughts for the book’s cover, too. Once again I have to thank Ginger Mayerson and all at Wapshott Press for such amazing support and faith.

All text ©Julie Travis

Parasomnia continues

I am not British.

I’ve never felt part of the country I happen to have been born in. To me it has always been a matter of having been born on this piece of land as opposed to that piece of land. Which is why I’ve never had a problem with people moving around the world to try and improve (or save) their lives. At my abysmal comprehensive school it was made clear how different I was: an identical twin. A punk. Not like other girls. I was surrounded by racists, anti-Semitics and homophobes, with the teachers standing by and letting all the bullying go on around them (and sometimes joining in). I voted Remain in the EU referendum on Thursday for two principles: co-operation and looking outward. This island country was insular enough. Now the disastrous result has been declared, after a campaign based on lies, inciting racial hatred and even murder: one White far-Right sympathiser chose to blame immigrants, refugees and the people who help them for his nondescript life and shot and stabbed to death Jo Cox, one of the few MPs in the UK who appeared to be a decent person. The country is in the hands of the ultra-Right – at all levels. Racial hate crimes have shot up over the last few days – big, White men are telling non-White-British children to ‘go home’ and are throwing bricks through the windows of Turkish and Spanish shops. For them, leaving the EU really means that anyone not exactly like them should leave the UK. It is a battle between the thinkers, the creative people, those who have travelled or educated themselves – and those who have chosen not to, who have no imagination, who fear the Other. It transcends class. I don’t want to live in England anymore, but it’s not practical for me to move to the obvious choice – Scotland, a far more compassionate country which may well vote for independance from the UK and make its own relationship with the EU. In some ways this is reminding me of the backlash the gay community (in London at least) suffered after the Labour landslide victory in the 1997 General Election, after Labour’s pledge for equal rights for us. All my friends were attacked. I talked my way out of several beatings. It was a bad time, but this feels much, much worse. All I can do is reflect this in my writing (something I’ve always done anyway) and intervene, as I have done before, when this stupidity rears its head on the street or anywhere, at least until I can get my bearings and work out what the future holds.

Peace.

 

The herding call

Photo: Julie Travis

Photo: Julie Travis

I’ve now completed the first draft of Dark Fire and am over 1,000 words into a new story, Parasomnia. I’m finding it difficult to not write at the moment, despite my feelings of isolation as a writer. I suspect a great help has been the March 2016 issue of Fortean Times, a magazine I used to read regularly. This particular issue has a feature on the Occult and Fortean sides of David Bowie’s work and a piece on J G Ballard’s fascination with Ronald Reagun in the late 1960s and how controversial his mock psychological study, Why I Want To Fuck Ronald Reagun was when it first appeared in print. It’s another reminder of how much of an influence Ballard has been to my writing, especially when I first began in the early 1990s. I once wrote a mock airline handbook on how passengers should approach plane crashes, which sadly is long lost on a floppy disk somewhere. ‘Parasomnia’, relates to that early work in some respects, although I doubt if Ballard’s influence is obvious in the story. I want it to be a companion piece to Bedlam’s Way, a very early story of mine which was originally selected to appear in a fiction supplement in the New Statesman magazine. The supplement never appeared (with, of course, no explanation from anyone as to why) but the story was published in Saccade magazine in around 1996.

As well as using methods to get into a particular headspace for the purposes of writing, I’m finding that what I’m writing – and when reading older pieces of my fiction – is inducing strange headspaces, too. Does that mean I’m successful/a ‘good artist’? Good art, after all, is about accurately portraying whatever it is the artist wants to portray. Additionally, I’m wondering whether words have the potential to act like a Sigil, when put together in a certain order under certain conditions. At their best, I suspect so, although time will tell whether my own work achieves that in anyone other than myself.

All images and text ©Julie Travis

Mimicking the machines: the first Industrial music

Photo: Julie Travis

Photo: Julie Travis

By chance I saw a few minutes of a tv programme on dance and found out that some types of English clog dancing was invented by the women working the mechanised looms to relieve the tedium of the job. Many steps mimicked the sounds and movement of the machines. I’ve watched programmes on clog dancing before – and seen it executed wonderfully, most notably by Rachel and Becky Unthank – but had not heard how the steps came about. The original Industrial Music then, I thought – pre-dating by around a century (if my social history is right) the term coined by Peter Christopherson, then of Throbbing Gristle, to describe the sounds/noise of TG. I’ve read many interviews with him and other members of the group but have found no reference to clog dance steps so perhaps he was not aware of it but it certainly seems to reflect his own ideas about how to use sound and noise. When I was researching whether anyone in the 1970s/80s Industrial ‘scene’ had talked about mill workers in Northern England I found no reference to it, either, although contemporary sound artist Sarah Angliss had made the connection several years ago, and had written about it in 2009, even mentioning Kraftwerk and Coil. Of course, between these two eras came industrial music from the Midlands from the likes of Black Sabbath, which was labelled Heavy Metal, since the music reflected the heavy industry of the area and the lives that it dominated, but the later Industrial Music, like the clog dance steps before it, sought to mimic industrial noise more closely.

My forays onto social media are having mixed results. On the plus side, I’ve managed to connect with more writers and have made contact with a few people I’d lost touch with. On the negative side, too many people, I think, consider that clicking the ‘Like’ button on someone’s posts is a decent replacement for emailing friends. It isn’t. It may take time for me to respond to emails sometimes – or write a letter – but that’s because to do so requires the effort that my friends are worth. A few rushed words on social media is not communication. The other main problem is that Facebook feels like being in a room where so many people are shouting that my voice is either not heard or is just ignored. Not having a Smartphone means that taking photos, loading them onto the computer and then posting them anywhere again requires a lot of effort, so my posts on FB have to be considered. So I’m spending less and less time there. Some personal and professional issues of late are also making me consider whether to delete my account completely, along with this website, and retreat into the complete reclusiveness that was necessary when I first left London. A person can only be ripped off, fucked over and taken for granted so many times before they give up and walk away from it all.

On the writing front – I’ve just completed the first draft of Dark Fire. At present it’s just over 6,000 words, which is quite short for me, but is likely to grow a bit when re-drafted. I’m very pleased with it, but I may put it to one side for the time being to press on with another new story.

 

All images and text ©Julie Travis

Paths that cross will cross again

Photo: Julie Travis

Photo: Julie Travis

The trip to Cumbria was long and emotional but also beautiful and inspiring. We stayed in a small house at the foot of Blencathra and watched the mountain turn from green to white in a short-lived but furious snowstorm. From the back were sweeping views over St John’s in the Vale and more mountains than I could count, plus a bat that flitted around the garden one evening. Our visit to Castlerigg stone circle was marred by an arrogant pair of men who had camped inside the stones, and who stared and commented at us as we approached as if we had no right to be there. What was it someone said recently about some people and their sense of absolute entitlement? I nearly spoke to them, as I wanted to explain how disrespectful they were being (and that they were giving wild campers a bad name) but my instinct was to keep away. We returned later in the week and they were gone, replaced by visitors who treated the place – and us – with respect.

It was with great relief that we found the hawthorn tree where Jhonn Balance’s ashes were scattered, and the nearby Church Plantation, the location of his memorial woodland, entirely undamaged from the terrible flooding of December 2015. In the lane approaching St Bega church T found the body of a young deer (as you will see from the new ‘banner’ photo on this site). Ian had a fondness for photographing dead animals, and the deer was one of his favourite creatures, so I photographed it in his honour.

The story I’m currently working on, Dark Fire, finishes at Bassenthwaite Lake, and I took some time, sitting on a boulder on the shore, to note the details of the area. The story is near completion of its first draft and the trip has provided the motivation to finish it sooner rather than later. I also made some notes for what will be my next story (as yet untitled); perhaps it’s impossible to be in such a landscape and not stumble upon new story ideas.

 

The title of this piece is from a lyric by Patti Smith. All other images and text ©Julie Travis

Bad moon rising

Photo: Julie Travis

Photo: Julie Travis

I’m close to completing a first draft of new story Dark Fire. I’ve decided to stick with this title; it’s an alchemical term that describes an intense fire which consumes itself. The title of a painting by Ithell Colquhoun, I thought it perfect for the story. Or, perhaps, for the way I’m feeling at the moment. Either way, it works. David Bowie’s Blackstar and Coil’s Astral Disaster have been played repeatedly while I’ve been writing this story. Both albums have an otherworldly air to them and have induced some profoundly altered states of mind, which will be clear to anyone reading the story! It did at one point become too strange/frightening to continue with, but I want to explore this kind of thing further.

It’s possible I’ll finish the draft before I head off to Cumbria in around ten days – it’d be a good place to leave the work for the time I’m away. The trip is in part a sad pilgrimage in memory of Ian Johnstone, to visit some of the places he loved, including of course, Jhonn Balance’s memorial at Bassenthwaite Lake. There is still a lot of storm damage in the county, but hopefully life is getting back to normal for most of the residents there. For me, the whole world has changed since I was last there eighteen months ago but I still hope to find some beauty there.

 

All images and text ©Julie Travis unless otherwise stated.