Darkwor(l)ds

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Darkwor(l)ds appeared in 2002, shortly before I left London. Frustrated with trying to find publishers for my work, I put a few of my stories together in a chapbook. One friend (Chris Wing) did the typesetting and another (Caroline Berry) realised my ideas for the front and back cover. Two of the stories were reprints: Best Wishes had appeared in a wonderful magazine/fanzine called Dummy, put together by a collective of women in 1999 and Perpetual Motion had recently appeared in the last issue of Kimota SF/horror magazine, which had been limited to 100 copies. Of the other stories, In The Clear Light Of Day had been accepted by co-editors Rosanne Rabinowitz and Justina Robson for an anthology of horror by female writers, which sadly never saw publication, the rest were also unpublished at that time.

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I was reasonably happy with the end product. The only real mistake I made was not having them edited – and it gave me the freedom to sell some via the Barbelith forum (political/music website inspired by Grant Morrison’s work) and the Forbidden Planet shop in central London. Eventually all but one of the stories was re-written and published in the independent press or anthologies: In The Clear Light Of Day became Blue (Kzine/Killing It Softly 2), The World Beneath My Feet appeared in Cover Of Darkness (as The World Beneath) and Owl-Blasted appeared in Necrologue: The Diva Book Of The Dead And The Undead. I ditched the sixth story (Silent Drowning) as I wasn’t entirely happy with it.

I don’t know how many copies of Darkwor(l)ds I have left, tucked away in a cupboard, but a recent discussion about the chapbook resulted in some interest. At some point I’ll have to dig them out.

Meanwhile – I’ve been asked to take part in an extremely exciting new project. Details are confidential at the moment, but if it comes off I’ll make an announcement.

 

All images and text © Julie Travis

 

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An ossuary, a final resting place for human skeletal remains

Bodmin Gaol

Bodmin Gaol

COLLUSIONS, COLLABORATIONS AND UPDATES: The Urban Occult horror anthology should be published on 25 March 2013. Interest has been stirring amongst horror bloggers about this book and it will be interesting to see how it is received. Pre-release order packages are still available from Anachron Press.

I’ve begun a writing experiment with Lloyd Pettiford, original singer of The Joy of Living and author of texts on Central American politics and football. This is my first joint fiction project and while neither of us have definite plans to get it published – it may well end up as a personal project – the discipline of working with someone else will be a good experience. I have also been back in touch with Andy Martin of London avant-garde/prog outfit Unit, and it’s likely a couple of my stories (Darkworlds and The Falling Man) will be republished on the band’s website in the near future. He also invited me to return to London to do some recording with the band, and had I kept on playing bass guitar I would probably have accepted his kind offer, but I couldn’t now do the band justice.

Meanwhile, Rosanne Rabinowitz, who I shared a stage with at last year’s Penzance Literary Festival, has had her novella (Helen’s Story, from which she read at the festival) published by PS Publishing. She also now has a website up and running.

Deviation from the customary: women who write slipstream and Weird fiction

Rock labyrith, St Agnes, IoS

This update was supposed to include an excerpt from the Cornishman’s ‘full review’ of the Penzance Literary Festival. However, the paper’s idea of this was a couple of paragraphs and no in-depth coverage at all. This corresponds, I suppose, with the press and local radio’s complete lack of publicity for the smaller names at the Festival. Given this, I was happily surprised that anyone at all turned up for Slip Into Something Uncomfortable (Wednesday 25 July). After nearly being trampled by the sell out crowd leaving Patrick Gale’s opening remarks and reading, a small but very keen audience arrived to hear Rosanne Rabinowitz and myself. I’d had some serious concerns about either not being heard or having my throat seize up, so I was relieved to see microphones being set up. Chair Rachel Vinney gave us a great introduction and – ironically, given the fight we’d had to include the words ‘slip’ and ‘slipstream’ – said the title of the event was by far the best of the festival. I read first (from The Ferocious Night), then Rosanne read from her novella Helen’s Story. I was interested to hear an audience member describe my work as very visual – many years ago sound designer/engineer and legendary Queercore musician Mike Wyeld had described my writing as ‘cinematic’ and I had wondered if that was still the case. Ex-March Violet, now Vampire compere Rosie Lugosi was mentioned, who I’d seen perform once in London around a decade ago. It was good to hear she’s still around. In all, it felt like it went very well and it was good for me to see/hear the sort of people who read horror/slipstream fiction. And I spend much of my life in near-complete seclusion, operating in something other than a void made quite a change.  I certainly think I would do a reading again at some point. But did the lack of publicity/inclusion of our blurb and profiles on the festival website only at the last minute show that we weren’t being taken seriously? Or was it just a matter of gleefully promoting the performers who’d appeared on television at the expense of almost everyone else? Probably the latter. Many of us who appeared at the festival are involved in distinctly minority sports.

Pieces was rejected by the fantasy magazine I’d submitted it to but something about it niggled. I re-read it and found a section I wasn’t quite happy with, so I’ve re-written it and now it’s the story I wanted it to be. I’ll be submitting it to a British ‘urban horror’ anthology, as its content and north London setting is just right. And publication of Tales From The River Vol 2 has been delayed until 22 September 2012.

Slip Into Something Uncomfortable: update

Carn Euny Village, near Sancreed

The Penzance Literary Festival is nearly here, and the festival website now includes profiles and some information. There’s still some uncertainty as to who will be chairing, but hopefully this will be confirmed shortly. My father will be taking photos, so some may appear here when I do a PM on the event.

“Short-story writers Rosanne Rabinowitz and Julie Travis will read from and talk about their genre.

Slipstream fiction describes writing that crosses the boundaries of the science-fiction / horror / fantasy / speculative genres.   Some also call it weird fiction. Many women write this kind of fiction, but their stories are more likely to be seen in the independent press or on the Internet than in mainstream book shops. Influenced by all or none of the above genres, their stories are dark, disturbing, imaginative and, above all, weird. This event will be a talk with readings and lots of discussion. We’d particularly love to hear from other writers engaging in these genres, and also from readers who want to find out more about them.

Rosanne Rabinowitz
Does Rosanne write literary or genre fiction, slipstream, social surrealism or just weird stuff? Whatever you call it, there are helpings out in anthologies such as Never Again: Weird Fiction Against Racism and Fascism, Conflicts, The Horror Anthology of Horror Anthologies and The Monster Book for Girls. Rosanne’s novella Helen’s Story will be released by PS Publishing in Autumn 2012.
Rosanne lives in South London where she engages in a variety of occupations, including the occasional occupation of the local town hall. She has been a life model, part-time mental health worker, full-time doley and editor of the late great Bad Attitude, a feminist mag ‘devoted to the overthrow of civilization as we know it’. As well as writing she works as a freelance sub-editor and oral history researcher.
Julie Travis
After spending her youth watching horror films, writing fanzines and playing bass guitar in a punk band, Julie began writing horror and dark fantasy fiction. Her short stories and novellas, which have been compared to Clive Barker, Thomas Ligotti and the Stephen King / Peter Straub collaborations, have been published widely in British and North American science fiction and horror magazines, several anthologies and the first issue of Kzine, a Kindle fiction magazine. Born in London in 1967, she has lived in West Cornwall for the last decade.”

Slip Into Something Uncomfortable: Women Writing Weird Fiction and Slipstream – Acorn Arts Centre, Penzance, 25 July 2012

Slipstream fiction describes writing that crosses the boundaries of the science-fiction/horror/fantasy/speculative genres. Some also call it weird fiction. Many women write this kind of fiction, but their stories are more likely to be seen in the independent press or on the Internet than in mainstream book shops. Influenced by all or none of the above genres, their stories are dark, disturbing, imaginative and, above all, weird.

This event will be a talk with readings and lots of discussion. We’d particularly love to hear from other writers engaging in these genres, and also from readers who want to find out more about them. Everyone welcome!

The timetable for the Penzance Literary Festival is now confirmed. The event with Rosanne and me begins at 12.30, after Patrick Gale opens the festival and does a reading. Admission is £2.00.

What I’m hoping for is some discussion about why women are often overlooked in this genre (less so than when I began writing but it’s still a problem) and why we do not achieve the same gravitas that male artists automatically get. Is this partly our own doing in that we are not used to trumpeting our achievements? Diamanda Galas, bell hooks, Kathy Acker, to name a few examples, force/forced us to take them seriously; they defy the conventions of our gender and perhaps more of us – myself included – need to show more self belief.

To find other writers of slipstream – of any gender – at the festival would be refreshing.

Automatic writing

The Penzance Literary Festival is shaping up, albeit with a few hitches and bumps. I’ve seen a draft programme and have been working with Rosanne Rabinowitz – a far more prolific and successful writer than I am – on the title and blurb for the event we’re taking part in. It’s still possible that writer and political activist Emily Apple will also appear. I hope so. The festival seems to be growing year by year and is attracting bigger names. Sennen based author and very out gay man Patrick Gale is opening and doing a reading. His novel The Cat Sanctuary is my favourite of his; a beautiful tale, although he’s probably more known from Notes on an Exhibition, which was picked for, of all things, Richard and Judy’s Book Club a few years back. But having a queer author on mainstream tv is as good as having a female horror writer on mainstream tv.

Ravens is progressing nicely. I’m still trying to keep up with myself to get most of it down. I know how it ends but there’s a gap in the second half of the story that still needs to be filled. It will come by the time I get there. I’m still deciding whether the story should leave London, but since much of it is about cynicism and greed, then London’s the perfect setting. I write nearly everything longhand – it’s slower than writing straight onto the computer but lets my thoughts settle properly and I’m less likely to miss things out. It also means I can write anywhere but these days I tend to stay close to where I can play music. Although I’m realising that it’s time I wrote at a sacred site again. I’ve not been getting to these places as much as I’d like recently, apart from a short trip to the womb-like holy well at Sancreed, where it’s said that you can enter a trance state if you sit right inside it for half an hour or so. I have not spent that much time there. It would be interesting to try it. The only similar experience I have was visiting Carn Euny some years ago early one frosty February morning. I had the place to myself, until I was leaving the beehive hut in the fogou. I hit my head on the granite lintel and as I staggered out a cat appeared. It sat next to me for some time while I recovered and then made its way elsewhere. I’d always assumed the cat was real but perhaps should be a bit more open minded about it!

A frozen waterfall

Brentor graveyard

A week on Dartmoor has proved restful and inspiring in equal measure. The first draft of Pieces is now finished. And it’s going to be a two-parter. Most of my stories end in a certain place and there’s no need to return, but Pieces has turned out to be different, (Darkworlds will eventually have at least another part to it, but that has only become necessary long after the story was written). It started as a simple horror story but has become far more complex, although it still has the gruesome elements I began with. And the setting is back in London and the tattoo/piercing/body modification counter-culture that still exists despite the current fashion for meaningless tattoos.

Merrivale stone rows

Most inspiring in my week away was being in close proximity to Brentor and my first visit to Wistman’s Wood. Brentor is on the major ley line that appears near Land’s End and cuts through much of Southern Britain and Wistman’s Wood is a bizarre area of gnarled, skinny oak trees surrounded by moss covered boulders. It sounds like the kind of place that could be quite frightening, and it has legends of Hell hounds bounding around it at night, but I found it beautiful and peaceful. Brentor pushed my energy levels up, as it, and other places like it always do and hopefully this will all be reflected in the story. Dowser Hamish Miller got me interested in Brentor and I thought of him as T and I walked around the church. The lava tor sits on the far Western edge of Dartmoor and we could see back into Cornwall and out across Dartmoor on the clear, cold morning. Earthworks in the fields below are also visible from the top. I don’t know how old they are or what their purpose was, but the spirit of the place is almost touchable.

Wistman's Wood. Photo: Teresa Knight

Now home, I’m continuing to look for a female actor to do a reading for me; Rosanne Rabinowitz is possibly organising an event for the 2012 Penzance Literary Festival on the subject of women and weird/speculative fiction and has asked if I want to be involved. It’s a great idea and I’m excited about it, but I know that me reading one of my stories would not work. When Katy Darby (of Eine Kleine Theatre) read Perpetual Motion at the Poetry Café in London, it really showed the story at its best, so I’m emailing local drama groups and companies in the hope that someone will go for it.

Music: I’ve been hearing some excellent modern dark ambient/experimental music, namely Matthew Shaw, Fougou and Susan Matthews. Shaw’s latest cd, Lanreath, was recorded in the Cornish village of the same name, which is close to Duloe stone circle. It brings on the right frame of mind for writing.