Things passed on the way to oblivion

Photo: Julie Travis

Happy Samhain!

I’m very pleased to announce that Canadian anthology of women’s horror Killing It Softly 2 has now been published by Digital Fiction. It contains 38 stories, including one of mine – Blue, which originally appeared in issue 1 of Kzine – in the Cognitive Deception section, which is extremely appropriate given the content. It is available initially on Kindle (for 99p until the end of October), and other eBook formats with the paperback being published in the next couple of weeks. I haven’t read any of the other stories, and am not familiar with the other authors, so I’m looking forward to getting hold of this.

Andy Martin’s anthology Fast-Clean-Cheap should be available now, but there seems to be a last minute hitch with publishers Lulu and it will appear very soon, I’m told. As previously stated, this one contains three stories, two of which are probably the heaviest, emotionally, I’ve ever written. More details about this as soon as I’m sure the book exists!

Wapshott Press are also calling my second short story collection, We Are All Falling Towards The Centre Of The Earth, a ‘done deal’, despite them not yet having read the nine stories submitted! This shows incredible faith in my work and it’s hugely appreciated.

Meanwhile, I’ve working on a new story, Tomorrow, When I Was Young, both here in Penwith and during the week I was on Dartmoor recently. It’s over 7300 words long and should hit the 8000 word mark by the end of the first draft. It’s a more fantastic tale than I usually write, involving time travel, gender fluidity and contact with the dead. With the book finished, I have no idea of who or where to send this to when it’s eventually completed. New horizons are necessary.

Away from writing (as much as is possible); I had the wonderful but bizarre experience of hearing Throbbing Gristle’s Hamburger Lady on the radio yesterday evening, as part of Radio 6 Music’s Samhain/scary songs special. It was unexpected and the radio was on at quite high volume; the effect was extraordinary. The area around where the Third Eye’s located felt as if it had swelled and I had the sensation of my head leaving my body. Job done, as far as TG would be concerned, I’m sure. But it does mean that I must get hold of DOA, which contains the track, as it will have various uses, writing and otherwise. The last time something profound happened regarding my Third Eye was during a group meditation several years ago, led by Pam Masterson, sadly no longer with us. I’ve discussed this experience here before, but basically it involved the feeling that my forehead had swung open and a ball of light flooded out. I contacted Pam about this and was going to do some meditation with her, but lack of money made it impossible.

On the subject of Radio 6 Music (a BBC digital station), I appeared on the Steve Lamacq show on Thursday, 19 October, on the Good Day, Bad Day section. I was able to talk self-indulgently about my favourite music, first gig I’d attended, favourite gig and my past as a ‘musician’. He was also kind enough to mention my website and played my ‘good day’ record, which was State Control by the Poison Girls.

 

All images and text © Julie Travis, apart from the title (from a story by Joyce Carol Oates) and front cover of Killing It Softly 2, copyright Digital Fiction.

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Focus on infinity

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A few more things are falling into place now: after several months of sitting in the ‘slush pile’ (a term I always thought pointlessly derogatory), Ellen Datlow’s new horror anthology Fearful Symmetries has finally rejected The Ferocious Night. I have no way of knowing if anyone even read it, but at least I’ve been notified. With over 1,000 submissions to wade through, it was probably inevitable that the process was impersonal, but my polite query regarding the timescale on their tracking system got a huffy reply that the tracking system was basically useless. In which case, folks, why have it? It must have created a lot of unnecessary angst among authors and editors alike. Anyway, the story has been snapped up by Storylandia for their Spring 2014 issue. Just when I thought the story would never see publication. Bless them and their fine journal.

The ‘Two of Us’ feature on the St Buryan Wisewomen has been finished and sent to Curve magazine, together with a couple of photos (not taken by me, I should add). It’s tempted me to do more interviews. The thought of getting the stories of local 21st Century witches (and there are a fair few of them around) down on record could be an amazing project and important for historical and social reasons. I no longer have the tape of the interview I did in 2005 with Cheryl Straffon but the article is elsewhere on this site (‘The Cornish Witch’).

As for fiction: Widdershins is awaiting its second full draft, while I steamroller my way through the first draft of Grave Goods, a proper horror story, which is proving quite fun to write. Not as ‘deep’, perhaps, as what I usually write, but hopefully it’ll have a nice twist at the end and some interesting characters. I’ve been playing Kitty Jay, probably Seth Lakeman’s greatest album, full of dark Dartmoor tales and it’s undoubtedly an influence. From The Bones, meanwhile, has been rejected a few times, most recently by KZine. Editor Graeme Hurry has always offered wise and constructive criticism, so I’m going to have another look the story as soon as time allows.

It’s in my blood (stream)

In the course of a discussion with Graeme Hurry, editor of multi-genre fiction magazine Kzine, about the trials of breaking into the exploding ereader market, and the apparent lack of anti-ereader feeling amongst the physical press community, I discovered that the British Fantasy Society has been reviewing every issue of Kzine. Here, in its entirety, is their take on Issue 1 and my contribution to it:

“Those of you over a certain age might remember a small-press magazine called Kimota. Kzine is the latest re-incarnation, a downloadable ebook for this technicological age. Back then, Kimota was well received, praised for its quality and variety of stories. I must say Kzine issue one lives up its heritage, with a wide range of stories of various lengths and genres, covering SF, fantasy, horror, crime, and all the slipstreams in between. There are seven good stories this issue, here are my favourite three.

The opening story is “The Family Programme” by Caroline Dunford. It’s the future, and everyone has access to advanced technology. Jimmy is a young college student, very good with the tech, but not so good with the social parts of life. When he finds a virtual female, he is delighted, but she has an agenda of her own. It’s a good opening, with believable characters, well written, and one that makes you think.

“Blue” by Julie Travis is hard to categorise, slipstream horror maybe (or bloodstream?) It tells the story of a young woman fighting depression, almost literally in this case. It’s very intense, deep, and intelligent. We could do with more stories like this.

“Leila” by Martin Owton is a story of a physicist who invents a device to travel to a different dimension, and uses it in a very imaginative, if amoral, way to solve his woman troubles. Excellent stuff.

What we have here is a selection of stories you wouldn’t find anywhere else, never mind together. And startling good value at the price. Those things combined, I’d give this 10/10.”

It was very pleasing to see that the reviewer, Steve Dean, really understood what Blue was about. The story has previously been described as ‘surreal’ and I can see why, but there’s also a huge streak of reality running through it. Mental illness has been romanticised by some (the mad/tortured genius artiste is always fantastic from a distance) who don’t comprehend the utter misery that it can be for both the sufferer and those around them, although it’s fair to say that many of the world’s great creative people have suffered various mental disorders. Perhaps it’s a matter of putting that strange energy to good use, for the well-being of the sufferer: for some, creativity is a major key to their survival. And sometimes the rest of the world benefits.

A bird or a shooting star*

A chest infection has prevented me from doing more or less anything (apart from watching the Montol procession, a hearteningly strange event) for around a month, including no more than a few lines of writing. However, the chance of a week’s recuperation on Dartmoor and illness finally loosening its grip has pushed me to type up a new draft of my latest short story, Pieces. It’s now in a fit state to take away and do further work on. There’s plenty still to do before I’ll let anyone see it; the ending, for instance, has the right words but they’re not necessarily in the right order. It’s quite clunky in places but the meaning is there and it’ll flow in time. It’s nice to write about more unconventional characters than I have for a while, too. Not that many of the people I create are ‘normal’ (whatever that is) but I’m mindful of Sarah Waters’ advice and am happy to have a tattooed lesbian couple in the centre of the tale. They’re right for the story, too which of course is the most important thing.

I haven’t been entirely out of the loop, though – thanks to the Acorn Arts Centre in Penzance, I now have a couple of notices on the Dance and Theatre Cornwall website advertising for an actress to do the reading at the Penzance Literary Festival. I’ve also been assured by event organiser Rosanne Rabinowitz that part of a story will be acceptable. Therefore I’m considering Cross Bound for the event, as I ideally want to do a fairly recently written piece that’s been published. And a review of Kzine on Amazon.com describes my contribution (Blue) as “a dark piece of surreal fiction, the kind of thing Thomas Ligotti would write if he was pretending to be David Lynch for the day”. I’m not as familiar with Ligotti’s work as perhaps I should be (I remember reading some of his work many years ago) and this is not my first comparison with him, but he’s undoubtedly a writer with a nicely twisted view of the world, so this is a great compliment. David Lynch, of course, will be known to anyone who might read this blog. It goes without saying that I’m pleased with the review although it’s perfectly possible that the comparisons were not actually meant as a compliment!

And I’ve discovered, via Spectral Press, that congratulations are due to dark fiction writer Alison J Littlewood, whose first novel has been picked for Richard and Judy’s Book Club. Never mind the inanity of R&J, the exposure for her and for some decent dark fiction will be amazing.

I’ve finally been able to listen to Matthew Shaw’s Lanreath album. It’s a good ambient piece, a little lighter than most of the ambient pieces I have – it doesn’t have the sinister quality of the likes of Coil and Nurse With Wound, but playing it had a quite amazing effect. It took me to Duloe stone circle (where some of it was recorded); I had an insect’s view of the stones, from way down in the grass. I also ‘saw’ the fogou at Carn Euny. I think I’d call it life-affirming. As opposed to Coil, who were life-after-death-affirming. Both have their place. I would love to hear it performed at a sacred site. But why choose Lanreath? There’s nothing on the cd cover or the website to say why. The village’s own website mentions local hauntings, but isn’t everywhere haunted by something? He doesn’t give much away and it would be interesting to know of his spiritual beliefs, if any. Perhaps that’s something I’ll question him on at some point.

*from Daughters of Fire by Barbara Erskine

The forest is a college, each tree a university

St Michael’s Mount

Here’s an interview with Graeme Hurry of Kzine, the new British SF Kindle-only magazine. I have a story included in the first issue, which should appear during this year, but I’m undecided about how I feel about e-readers. I must admit that I’ve not even seen, yet alone used, a Kindle. I did wonder if iPad’s (etc) would render them obsolete, but I don’t know enough about it all (although Graeme mentions intended improvements to Kindle in the interview, which brings up the question of constantly buying/upgrading gadgets but that’s for another day). My main thought is that you’re not likely to get mugged if you’re on a bus/train reading an old paperback. But which is more eco-friendly? Should forests really be colleges?

The Welcome To Levanthia page now contains a full (more or less) bibliography, the first I have compiled properly. It’s given me a clearer idea of where I’ve been and where I’m heading. I’d forgotten that Bedlam’s Way, which was originally going to be included in a fiction supplement in the New Statesman – which never materialized for reasons never explained – actually appeared in print in Saccade magazine, so that was quite a surprise, expecially as I was thinking of re-writing and extending it and sending it out for publication! The only things I’ve not included are the various fanzines I wrote in the 1980s. They may well appear there soon.

And The Falling Man is now finished as a second draft. I’m keen to get it properly into shape and to one of the editors interested in reading more of my work. As usual, continual tiredness gets in the way.