Imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality

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Photo: Julie Travis

We Are All Falling Towards The Centre Of The Earth has been getting some extremely positive reviews and feedback. Author Tom Adams describes it as an “enchanting collection…reminiscent of the best that authors such as Ray Bradbury, Philip K. Dick or Robert Aickman can offer,” while author Priya Sharma states it has “the same bold surrealness….of Leonora Carrington. It’s utterly strange and beguiling”. Bearing in mind how much of my work has been overlooked by reviewers in the past (with some notable exceptions), it’s certainly been overwhelming to find this reaction. Additionally, Andy Martin has recorded an audio version of Beautiful Silver Spacesuits and uploaded it (in Parts 1 and 2) on YouTube. I think he’s done a grand job – the sound effects give it a very 1970s radio feel – and I’m grateful to him for the effort he’s put into this.

Vastarien has had a good reception, from what I can tell, with Des Lewis stating my contribution, Trigger, is “unique, I suspect”! And I hope to be able to make an announcement about a major project, due in the Autumn, soon.

Text and images © Julie Travis except where stated and in the title of this piece, which is from Alice In Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.

 

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Vastarien emerges into the light

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I’m very happy to announce that Issue 2 of Vastarien has now been published, which includes a story by me. Trigger is much shorter than my usual fare, but is probably the most brutal and intense piece of fiction I’ve ever written. It was distressing to write but it needed to be done – and if it helps even one person to understand certain states of mind, then that would be a wonderful bonus. I’m impatiently waiting for my contributor copy to arrive – I’m very interested in what this journal, dedicated to the work and ideas of Thomas Ligotti, contains. If the front cover is anything to go by, it’ll be dark and beautiful. Vastarien is available from Amazon.

Summer Solstice/We are all falling towards the centre of the Earth

Greetings on this Solstice day, wherever you are in the world.

I’m delighted to announce that my new short story collection is now available from Wapshott Press and Amazon (paperback and Kindle versions). There is, perhaps, an accidental theme in this book, having (mostly) been written in the years following the death of my Mother and of a close friend. But at least one of the stories is a good, old fashioned horror tale, albeit with contemporary characters and settings. If I was trying to pin down what I do, the closest I could get would be, “feminist/queer/pagan/surrealist/occultist/dark fantasy”. Not necessarily in that order. But should I pin it down? People, including myself, like points of reference, landmarks and suchlike. Ideally, an open mind should be kept about all things – but when was the last time I read a book that wasn’t from my various genres or obsessions?

The cover photo is a detail from the Jhonn Balance Memorial Woodland, Cumbria, England, taken in April 2016. It seemed appropriate to add a green hue when taking the photo; for me, green stands for Life, nature, the environment. The location is extremely relevant to the theme of the book in various ways, and I’m really happy that editor Ginger Mayerson went with this image.

Story notes for all the tales in this book will appear soon.

 

All text and images © Julie Travis and Wapshott Press

Bass frequencies from other places

Photo: Julie Travis

A few updates on various projects:

Devon band The Morales, who asked permission to use a photo of mine on a forthcoming release, have now changed their name to the Wish Hounds and will release their first EP at the end of May. My photo of Bodmin Gaol should appear in some form on the back cover. I’m really looking forward to seeing this and am delighted for the band. I know from experience how many obstacles can get in the way of these things, so all power to them for persevering.

Wapshott Press are now working on various aspects of the book and I’ve been updating my bio and the Foreword as well as providing some ‘blurb’ for the back cover/Amazon etc. I still don’t know what the cover will look like, but there is now a publication date: 21 June 2018. I could have asked for an earlier date, but it feels right to release We Are All Falling Towards The Centre Of The Earth on the Summer Solstice. An article on folklore and the landscape should appear online a couple of weeks before the book’s publication – I’ll reveal where when it appears!

I’m making slow progress with a new short story, The Plastic Factory, but am currently focussing on lengthening my piece for Birds And Boys. It’s possible I’ll publish the new story here when it’s finished.

All images and text © Julie Travis apart from the title, from a radio interview with PJ Harvey.

 

Women In Horror Month

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I still consider myself to be a horror writer, although these days my stories contain strong elements of other genres and influences; dark fantasy, Surrealism, the Occult. But I began as a horror writer, and a horror fan of course, and I still have a great love for the genre. Which is one of the reasons why I’m writing about Women In Horror Month. For the last eight years, February has been designated WIH Month, to provide a focus on female writers. Despite misgivings of myself and every other female horror writer I know of – one month a year obviously isn’t enough – we all realise that such a focus is necessary.

I had few female role models, artistically speaking, when I was growing up. Punk gave me almost all the ones I did have – Poly Styrene (X-Ray Spex), Gee Vaucher, Joy de Vivre, Eve Libertine (Crass), Zillah Minx and Gem Stone (Rubella Ballet), Vi Subversa (Poison Girls), together with Kathy Acker…no horror writers amongst them, but all helped me form my political view of the world. Before then, I read a lot of horror – mostly Gothic short stories – some of which were undoubtedly written by women, but there was no focus on female writers, especially in the 1980s, when horror films in particular seemed to provide an anti-feminist backlash. Without the attitude of punk and punk’s women, as well as Clive Barker’s post-punk style of writing, it would never have occurred to me to think there might be a place for me in horror.

Once I’d began, and had my first professional story published (‘Jump From A Speeding Car’, REM #2, 1992), the first review of the story, by John Duffield for Interzone, gave me a taste of prevailing attitudes. He hated my story – which was disappointing, of course, but his choice – but what really hurt was his sneering, patronising description of me as a person (“some sort of alternative punkette”). I knew a male writer would never have been treated in that way – in fact John Shirley was well known at the time as an old punk and was respected for it. At that point I wondered if my ‘career’ was over before it had even started, but luckily other writers and editors have been far more progressive. Still, I think the problems I had and still face in having stories published is partly down to the lack of clear genre for them to fit into but also – and I think this is paramount – that female writers are still not seriously enough, not just by (many but not all) editors, but by readers; a reflection, of course, of the place of women in society in general. We do not get the gravitas that is automatically accorded to male artists irrespective of their talent (check out New York City’s Guerrilla Girls for far more on this).

What I would like to see each February is women taking over as editors of horror magazines, slipstream magazines, dark fantasy and sf magazines. Obviously women do edit magazines and journals, but I’d like to see them in charge of everything even vaguely related to the horror genre for that month, for a different perspective, to portray the world that exists outside of men and their reflections of themselves (again, this does not describe all male editors by any means).

I don’t read enough fiction. I have neither the time nor especially the money to buy the stories by all the women I need to be reading. But I have a permanent focus on female writers now. I’ve grown up like many women have – surrounded by pressure to belittle myself and my gender. Awareness of such things is the beginning of dismantling them. So seek out women writers; of horror, slipstream, whatever, now and every month of the year. Read interviews, blogs and websites. Most important of all, don’t do the easy thing that we’re all programmed to do, and pass over the female contributors in favour of the male ones. Women are talented, inspiring, visionary. Don’t lose out by ignoring us.

All images and text © Julie Travis

 

Major writing news

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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

Quis est iste qui venit

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Self Portrait, September 2013

In a much appreciated act of faith, Andy Martin has accepted A Fairy Ring for his forthcoming anthology even before it’s been written. Therefore I’ve been spending as much time on the story as possible to get it finished before January’s deadline and it’s progressing amazingly well. Anyone who reads this blog will be aware that Andy’s band, UNIT, have used some of my bird photographs on their album covers. Untied & United Vol 6 continues this link with a track entitled Jackdaws For Julie Travis, a reference to the Jackdaw family who continually squabble and fight on the roof, a few inches from where I write. This instrumental, a cool prog-type piece, has recently been played on Aural Innovations, an American ‘space-rock’ radio station, who describe UNIT as ‘veteran wild men’, a compliment if ever there was one!

A couple of other projects are on the cards for the beginning of 2016 – I’m considering starting a Facebook page in order to contact more writers and I hope to be writing an article on a forthcoming film. More details will follow if I get the job.