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.

Advertisements

Defiling ‘The Art’: writing for money

Roughtor, Cornwall

Roughtor, Cornwall

Horror writer and now columnist for Black Static magazine Lynda E Rucker recently wrote about hearing Clive Barker make a speech back in the 1990s about The Art of writing and how sacred it was, presumably arguing against writing any old rubbish in order to make money. Rucker dismissed Barker with a very realistic wave of the hand – nearly all writers have jobs of one sort of another in order to survive, and if that included writing for money rather than Art then it was just practical.

I have to agree with both of them. The odd payment for a piece of fiction is very much appreciated but doesn’t usually cover more than the cost of printer ink. I’ve had various jobs over the years, all in the public sector for political reasons, but for the last decade or so I’ve been declared unfit to work due to having had several nervous breakdowns. I still managed to keep my head above water financially, writing bits and pieces for the gay press when I was living in London and have got used to poverty, going without shiny things (apart from the odd cd and book) as a matter of course and actually not wanting or needing much, but the vicious welfare cuts by the Tory government now means I’m in an untenable financial position. Not yet Foodbank poor, but certainly picking-pennies-off-the-pavement poor.

However, Barker is right in that I have been striving to write fiction that grabs you and propels you Elsewhere, that makes you think about the darkness of Life, that celebrates the Other, the misfit, the weirdo (and sometimes this simply means having a story centred around female characters). Whether or not I achieve that is arguable, but that’s what I aim for. Anything less is a waste of trees. The articles I wrote for the gay press were all things I was passionate about: political activism, debt, mental illness, self harm, interviews with bands, performance poets and legal activists. But now things are so bad I’m remembering what my dear, departed mother kept telling me to do: write crap. That I could turn my hand to light fiction that might be meaningless to me but could make me enough money to allow a bit of financial breathing space. It was something I always refused to do – writing is an Art, and trees are not to be wasted – but my principles won’t pay the rent. So I’ve begun some light fiction for a magazine that, shall we say, appeals to Middle Englanders (if that term means anything at all). I’ve read some of the fiction in the magazine and was bored almost to tears. Light is an understatement. Still, it gave me the feel of what was needed, so I’ve sketched out a story and am working on a first draft.

The submission guidelines state: nothing upsetting or frightening, nothing supernatural. It took a couple of weeks to get into that kind of headspace (bearing in mind I’m also still working on a dark fantasy story), but I’m there and will give it my best shot, submit it and see what the reaction is. The discipline needed to write in a completely different genre is good for me and I’ve got years of writing experience – I should be able to give it a good go. I’ve changed genres before, to a limited level, writing slash fiction (about TJ Hooker!) on the Barbelith forum and my articles for The Pink Paper and Diva magazine were based on their house styles. Should I get something published in this magazine (and I know it will be far from easy to do so), I will bless the money that comes with it, but I don’t know if I will ever forgive myself. And the trees certainly won’t.

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.