British Fantasy Society review of ‘Tomorrow, When I Was Young’

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Big thanks to Rima Devereaux for this lovely review:

“A city where the dead go about their ordinary lives, a mysterious Golden Sea Captain, a journey through space and time, a discovering of one’s multicultural past, a hymn to self-realization and an escape from the mundane. This highly unusual, beautifully written and unforgettable novella is all these things.

Zanders finds herself aboard a strange three-masted clipper ship with a ghost crew that she can’t see. She realizes very quickly that the Golden Sea Captain is a woman dressed as a man. Hints are dropped throughout about how Zanders feels drawn to the Captain, but the ending is still a surprise. The gender ambiguity of the mysterious Captain reminded me of the Fool in Robin Hobb – Travis is similarly concerned with sexual identity, explored through the use of fantasy tropes.

Zanders’ sudden transportation to this new world of the past is an awakening in other ways too. Her loved ones have all died, she has sold most of her belongings and she is disabled by having had several vertebrae crushed. But aboard the ship, she is no longer disabled. We don’t actually learn much about her former life (which is in the future, as Travis takes pains to point out), except that her grandmother was Peruvian. In the fantasy world she finds herself in, her aim is to question people about her grandmother’s whereabouts, beginning, naturally enough, in the city of the dead.

Another reminder of Robin Hobb, this time of the liveships, is the fact that the figurehead comes to life and fights for the ship. But these nods don’t make the novella derivative – it has its own powerful and lyrical beauty, fusing an exploration of sexual and cultural identity with a journey in space and time.

Travis underlines the care the Captain takes to play the part he has adopted, and by implication pinpoints the sharp and rigid definition of gender roles in the past she is portraying. The ship is a space where things are more fluid and malleable. The same is true of Zanders’ Peruvian grandmother – the ship allows a meeting that is impossible in our world, a meeting that is a genuine communion. It shows how much is lost in families of mixed heritage where a life is reduced to a bundle of old photographs given to Zanders by her aunt. The book’s tender fantasy highlights the poignancy of these themes in a way that realism can struggle to.

The divide between waking and dreaming, past and present, and past and future, are other dualisms that the novel collapses. What we are is all about recollection and perception. But the book also shows the strong desire many of us have for the past to become real to us, a living thing, more than memory, to paraphrase The Lord of the Rings.”

I find it interesting that most of the writers my work is compared to are ones I’ve never read. It’s resulted in a huge reading list for me that I’ll never finish!

Rising Shadow

Very happy to see this review of Tomorrow, When I Was Young on Rising Shadow. Reviews are very hard to come by so I always appreciate the time taken to do this – whatever the opinion is. I find it interesting, of course, to hear another person’s thoughts on my work and I’ve been moved by some reactions over the years. Essentially I’m writing for my own purposes and often wonder if anyone else will make sense of my stories, but this particular reviewer has really got the essence of the tale, I think. Thanks RS.

We are all Falling… reviews

A couple of very kind reviews of We Are All Falling… have appeared. Author Kathryn L Ramage wrote this on Amazon: “This is a collection of short stories of macabre fantasy by British author Julie Travis. Most are set in the UK or Europe in modern and realistic locations, with the uncanny just a step or two away, but at least one seems to take place in an antipodean other-world not far from Australia. Travis’s work is strange and imaginative, sometimes disturbing, often sad, but also occasionally beautiful. The ones I liked best feel as if they ended too soon, as if these were only the first chapters of longer stories. But perhaps it’s a good thing to be left wanting more. As I read these stories, elements in them reminded me of the grotesqueries of Clive Barker, the dark fairytales of Tanith Lee and Angela Carter, the wild countryside of Arthur Machen haunted by pagan gods and lesser beings, and even a little bit of Lovecraft, but there are also startling images and ideas like nothing I’ve read before.”

Des Lewis has also treated the book to one of his intense Real-Time Gestalt Reviews, and I’ve reblogged the entire thing here. There are possible spoilers in this, so be warned.

I’m extremely grateful to both for taking the time to write about the book. Other feedback has compared the stories with either the style or the work of Anais Nin, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Jorge Luis Borges. It’s extremely interesting to have these new comparisons; it’s only Nin’s work that I’m in any way familiar with. I think it proves how my writing has changed over the years, although it’s also true that the comparisons with Clive Barker and Thomas Ligotti linger, so I still clearly have my roots in a particular style of horror/dark fantasy!

The Gestalt Real-Time Reviews of Books

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by JULIE TRAVIS

The Wapshott Press 2018

Whenever I read this book, my thoughts will appear in the comment stream below…

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Meet me on a desertshore

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When I began this blog, it was with the intention of being ‘findable’ for anyone interested in my writing. However, after much thought and after browsing a few other writers’ websites (in the main that of Priya Sharma – with apologies/thanks for somewhat borrowing her format) it seems a good idea to expand a little and add a few story excerpts for casual passers-by, so I’m going to be adding an excerpts page as a permanent feature, that will be updated to eventually include most of my published work. A piece of non-fiction (The Cornish Witch) has been available for some time but the link to Cross Bound, which appeared in a webzine, has been removed in lieu of it being available in physical form next year.

Some very kind words for Storylandia 15: Collected Stories By Julie Travis from Utherben, who is an excellent psychogeographic photographer from New York City, on her website:

Face The Strange: All She Had Was The Blood On Her Hand

Earlier this month Wapshott Press released Storylandia 15; the featured author this time around is the phantasmagorically fabulous Julie Travis, with five tales of atmospheric, vibrant and thought-provoking slipstream horror. Her work is terrific, in that it’s both well-crafted and inspires absolute terror. She’s been included in in various anthologies, and she’s done some self-publishing, but as far as I know this is the first literary journal issue specifically dedicated to her work…and I’m seriously fucking proud of her. Rock on, Julie!

Thanks, Utherben. While I’m on the review trail, I’ll add here an excerpt of a review by Peter Tennant of the 2008 Pigasus Press anthology Premonitions: Causes For Alarm which appeared in Black Static #9:

…‘Darkworlds’ by Julie Travis was my favourite story. It brings to mind both Barker’s Cenobites and the King/Straub collaborations in a tale of creatures from other realms entering our own and defeating the plan of a bureaucrat to take their dimensions as lebensraum. It’s clever, with good characterisation and a gratifying pair of monsters in the Torquis and Yellow Jack. Travis knows how to pitch a telling phrase at the reader and she doesn’t shirk from describing the more horrific aspects of the story, while back of it all is the sense that there is a lot more mileage to be got from this scenario and these characters. I hope Travis follows up.

This is relevant because it was mainly because of this review that ideas for a second part (of sorts) of the story began to take shape, and emerged a few years later as Theophany, which is included in SL 15. Thanks to Peter for his encouragement over the years.

Pig Iron is now in its third draft. The story, over 9000 words long, has taken a stupidly short amount of time to write and I expect to finish it soon. Then I’ll be in a position to return to The Hidden (which has taken a stupidly long time to write) and make the final changes that it needs. Leaving stories alone for a while can be the best thing you can do in order to to gain perspective.