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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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