Sunday, 24 February 2019

New Issue 2019.48

« Il y a un côté effrayant quand on regarde un ciel totalement ­dégagé la nuit. Alors que là, l’image qu’on regarde nous ramène vers nous, c’est une image très rassurante, un peu comme si on regardait le ventre de notre mère. En fait, Blueturn, c’est un selfie de la Terre. »

—Jean-Pierre Goux

 [ Issue 2019.48; Cover art © 2019 Pear Nuallak ] Issue 2019.48

Flash fiction
Short stories
Novelettes
Poetry
Download e-book version: EPUB | Mobi

Wednesday, 23 January 2019

Interview with Hayley Stone (and giveaway)

We welcome to the TFF Press blog novelist and poet Hayley Stone (whose poems “Daphne’s Grove” and “Results of Your Quiz: Which Survivor of the Trojan War Are You?” appeared in TFF last year, and we will publish one more later in 2019), whose Weird West novel Make Me No Grave was released a few weeks ago. She answers a few of our questions about her writing. Make sure to stick around to the end for a chance to win one of three signed copies of the novel!

Hayley Stone is a writer, editor, and poet from California. She is best known for her adult sci-fi novel, Machinations, which was chosen as one of Amazon’s Best Sci-fi & Fantasy Books for 2016, and her cult hit, Make Me No Grave, a weird western. Her short fiction has appeared in Fireside Fiction, Apex Magazine, Flash Fiction Online, and various anthologies, while her speculative poetry is widely available online. Hayley loves to hear from readers and writers. Find her at hnstoneauthor.com and on Twitter @hayley_stone.

Make Me No Grave


Marshal Apostle Richardson faces off against bloodthirsty outlaws, flesh witches, ruthless vigilantes, and more in this gritty, magical re-imagining of the Old West.

Almena Guillory, better known as the Grizzly Queen of the West, has done plenty to warrant the noose, but US Marshal Apostle Richardson enforces the law, he doesn’t decide it. When a posse tries to lynch Almena ahead of her trial, Apostle refuses their form of expedited justice—and receives a bullet for his trouble. Almena spares him through the use of dangerous flesh magic but escapes soon after saving him.

Weeks later, Apostle fears the outlaw queen has returned to her old ways when she’s spotted terrorizing Kansas with a new gang in tow. When cornered, however, Almena makes a convincing case for her innocence and proposes a plan to take the real bandits down. Working with a known killer opens Apostle up to all sorts of trouble, not the least being his own growing attraction toward the roguish woman. Turning Almena away from vengeance may be out of the question, but if he doesn’t try, she’ll wind up right where the law wants her: at the end of a rope.

And if Apostle isn’t careful, he’ll end up joining her.

If you like Red Dead Redemption and Lila Bowen’s Wake of Vultures, you'll love this gun-blazing weird western.

Interview


TFF: It strikes me that the trope of Almena in Make Me No Grave brings together seventeenth century witch-hunts with modern lynchings, especially of minorities. Is this intersectionality deliberate in the novel, and if so what other axes does it work on?

Hayley Stone: Absolutely.

Throughout the novel, as more of Almena’s background comes to light, we see in her personal friendships and associations that she feels most comfortable among those likewise considered to be “outsiders” in society. In much of Western fiction, there is the theme of civilization (i.e. society) versus the individual (i.e. the lone gunfighter, the outlaw, etc.). Almena’s experience of not only being a woman in a nontraditional role, but one with magic specifically addresses feminist issues such as the persecution of the nonfeminine and the frequent unease surrounding female power. For as much as she is feted as the Grizzly Queen of the West and celebrated for her violence, she is also feared and mistrusted for the same.

Of course, there may be more axes than that, depending on which theory is applied to the reading, but I leave that up to my audience! It’s always fun when a reader makes a connection I myself didn’t necessarily intend.

What was your first love, poetry or prose? And how often do you move from one form to the other?

HS: Definitely prose. I only began writing poetry in earnest a couple years ago, near the end of college. However, now the two are intricately connected, at least in my own mind, frequently informing one another. I often draw on poetic technique for my prose, especially for description or to set the mood of a scene. Verbs rule in poetry, and they provide spectacular energy to prose as well. In the past, I’ve also deconstructed story ideas and turned them into poems when they refused to work as short fiction.

Some of your poems seems to draw inspiration from female characters in old mythologies, Classical as well as Nordic. What fascinates you about these ancient women?

HS: For me, it is two things. First, I feel a strong sense of solidarity with these women. When you strip away the magic and mythos, their lives are not much different from our own; they experience passion and hope, while also suffering from many of the same fears and insecurities. They are lovers, fighters, and everything in between.

Second, in many instances, theirs is the story I most relate to and actually want to read! Historically, the male perspective has been the dominant one, so for me it is interesting to look at the same event from a less obvious point-of-view.

The covers of your novels seem to emphasize the figure of the lone hero. Are strong characters (and especially female ones) doomed to be alone?

HS: There is a special irony there since I’m actually not a big proponent of the lone hero narrative! I even think there is something a little toxic about the idea of solving all your problems on your own, rather than reaching out for help.

One of the themes I explore in both of my series is how easy it is to become isolated by a sense of personal responsibility or past failure. Rhona Long (Machinations) and Almena Guillory (Make Me No Grave) are very different personalities, but both women end up strengthened by their relationships to others, not weakened by them. If anything, the covers represent their initial feelings of loneliness, not their ultimate reality.

With whom, alive or dead, would you most like to collaborate, and on what?

HS: Let’s just say that if J.R.R. Tolkien wanted to invent some languages for an epic fantasy of mine, I would not say no! Otherwise, I would love to co-write a story with Margaret Atwood or Kameron Hurley, as they are two of my favorite writers alive today.

Contest



Enter to win a signed copy of Make Me No Grave!

To enter the contest, comment below by midnight, February 6, 2019, with your own Weird West story or poem in 280 characters or less. Stories and poems must incorporate tropes of the Western genre, while also including a speculative element (i.e. fantasy, sci-fi, or horror). They need not take place in America, or even on Earth.

Up to three entries will be chosen by Hayley, and the winners will receive a signed paperback and bookmark. You may also post your stories to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or your blog—just remember to post the link below (and make sure we have a way of getting in touch with you)!

Monday, 17 December 2018

Micro-interviews with TFF #47 authors

After each issue of TFF comes out, we run a series of very short interviews (about two questions, one line answers) with each of the authors and artists on social media. We’re in the middle of the series at the moment, and in case you don't follow us on Fakebooc, I’ll collect the links here (in no particular order). We try to give a teaser of the stories, poems or illustrations, and give the creators a chance to promote what else they’re working on while we’re there.
We’ll add the rest as they show up.

Please feel free to like or share the posts, spread the word about the interviews or the stories, comment over on FB or on the issue post if you come across anything you particularly like.

Saturday, 1 December 2018

Interview with Ephiny Gale

Our friend Ephiny Gale (whose lovely story “The Light Princess” appeared in TFF in 2013, and “Five Tales of the Rose Palace” in 2018) has released a collection of her fantastic and unconventional short stories this week, under the title Next Curious Thing from Foxgrove Press. To celebrate this release, we have invited Ephiny to tell us a little more about her work.

An otherworldly banquet of contemporary fantasy, dark fairy tales and soft science fiction, Next Curious Thing collects some of Ephiny Gale’s best short fiction from 2013 to 2018, including ‘In the Beginning, All Our Hands Are Cold’ (Syntax & Salt Editor’s Award winner) and ‘Wrecked’ (Tangent Online Recommended Reading List). Known for her ability to mix the extraordinary with the relatable, darkness with splendour, and heartache with hope, Gale showcases a wide cast of fascinating female and queer characters in the most curious of situations. In addition to its previously published stories, Next Curious Thing features six brand new tales original to this collection.

TFF: You first appeared in The Future Fire in 2013 with “The Light Princess,” which is maybe not so much a fairy tale retelling as a new fairy tale-like story. Can you tell us a bit about the genesis of and inspiration for this piece?

Ephiny Gale: Occasionally I’ll read the title of someone else’s story, get an idea of what that story “must” be about, and then be disappointed to learn that my assumption was wrong. “The Light Princess” owes its existence to an 1864 Scottish fairy tale of the same name (found via Wikipedia’s “List of fairy tales”) which is about a princess who weighs very little, while I wanted it to be about a princess who was very bright. Thus, my story “The Light Princess” is not a retelling of the 1864 fairy tale; rather, it’s what I immediately hoped the story would be based on its title alone.

What is the clearest golden thread running through the stories in Next Curious Thing? Was that deliberate in your writing and editing, or did it only emerge as you began to collect the stories for the volume?

‘Fairy tales versus superheroes’ is something I’ve been thinking about a lot over the last few years, especially with the recent explosion of superhero movies. Both are fantasy sub-genres, but superhero movies tend to be about extraordinary people saving the world (or at least part of it), while fairy tales tend to be about ordinary people trying to save themselves (or their families) from within that world. The power difference is huge: superheroes are about enacting their power on the world, while fairy tales are about reacting to the (often oppressive) power that the world has on you.

Even though not all of my stories in Next Curious Thing are fairy tales, I think this is the golden thread that runs most clearly through the collection: that these are ordinary people, often in extraordinary—and magical—circumstances, who are trying to survive in spite of the world around them, and shape and improve it in the small ways that we can on an everyday basis.

This thread wasn’t a deliberate choice throughout my writing and editing, but it doesn’t surprise me that this element of fairy tales has spread out into my science-fiction and contemporary fantasy work. I find it much more relatable than stories about superheroes and chosen ones and world-shakers—I can certainly enjoy those types of stories, too, but I’m not sure that they’re the stories I personally want to tell.

Illustration by Margot Jenner © 2018
You have also worked in theater. How does writing for the stage differ from writing prose, for you? Do the specific constraints of theater as a medium make it particularly challenging to tell non-realist stories?

There are definitely restrictions on the kind of non-realist elements you can show on stage, particularly if you’re making theatre with a relatively low budget. I don’t write anything into my stage scripts without first understanding how that might be able to be produced (for instance, with lighting or fire paper or a scrim). Alternatively, for a couple of my shows I’ve chosen to have anything magical or sci-fi occur off stage, and focussed instead on the aftermath or implications of those things.

There’s a lot more freedom with what you can “show” your audience in prose, and also a lot more freedom with structure and the speed at which you can tell a story. Stage scenes are generally confined to the one location (although I’ve enjoyed playing with elements like montages and quick-cuts in my plays before) and build upon each other more directly than prose narration, which might include several jumps between location and time and character in a single paragraph. Depending on the style of writing, too, what might take me an hour to tell on stage could take me just 2,000 words to convey through prose. Prose has a lot more flexibility, but sometimes it’s wonderful to write for the immediacy and atmosphere and constraints of the theatre, too.

Which story or work would you most like to adapt for the stage?

Right now I’d be most excited to adapt the final story in Next Curious Thing, called “The Secret Death of Lane Islington.” It involves a famous teenage singer bringing her non-famous doppelganger back from a parallel universe, so the trickiest parts would be casting actresses who looked enough alike, and working out how to show a portal opening in the middle of the stage. Definitely doable, though.

What is your favourite modern retelling of a traditional tale?

I’m not sure if the Wizard of Oz is considered “traditional” enough, but assuming it is, I have to pick Gregory Maguire’s novel Wicked. Wicked has been one of my favourite books for a long time; I love its world-building, its complexity, and its unexpected quietness. Harking back to what I said earlier about fairy tales versus superheroes, it turns the Wicked Witch of the West from a supervillain into the heroine of her own fairy tale, which is exactly my cup of tea. As you might have guessed from “Five Tales of the Rose Palace” (published earlier this year in The Future Fire) there are a few stories in Next Curious Thing where traditional villainesses receive similar literary treatment.

Ephiny Gale was born in Melbourne, Australia, and is still there, alongside her lovely wife and a small legion of bookcases. She is the author of more than two dozen published short stories and novelettes, which have appeared in publications including GigaNotoSaurus, Daily Science Fiction, and Aurealis. Her stories have featured on the Tangent Online Recommended Reading List, as a finalist in Nestlé’s Write Around Australia, and have been awarded Syntax & Salt’s Editor’s Award.

You can purchase Ephiny’s new story collection Next Curious Thing from any of the booksellers listed here, or better still request your local independent bookstore or library to order it.

Saturday, 17 November 2018

New issue: 2018.47

“I’ve been locked up (for disturbing the peace in Detroit) and I know you got to disturb the peace when you can’t get no peace. Jail is hell to be in. I’m going to see her free if there is any justice in our courts, not because I believe in communism, but because she’s a Black woman and she wants freedom for Black people.”

—Aretha Franklin (on posting bail for Angela Davis in 1970)

 [ Issue 2018.47; Cover art © 2018 Saleha Chowdhury ]

Issue 2018.47

Short stories
Poetry
Download e-book versions: PDF | Epub | Mobi

Full issue and editorial

    Thursday, 11 October 2018

    Giveaway: post images of ancient magic

    Our friends at the Institute of Classical Studies (who helped fund and publish the Making Monsters anthology), and our co-editor Emma Bridges, are running another public engagement event at the end of this month—on Hallowe'en, no less!—on the theme of Ancient Magic. (See poster to right for registration information: it's free, but booking is required.)

    You may remember that the monster-themed anthology came out of a similar public event last year ("Why do we need monsters?"), so we have fond memories and high hopes for this evening!

    To celebrate the Ancient Magic event, which will include presentations as well as hands-on activities, and will be family-friendly, we are offering a free paperback copy of the Making Monsters anthology as a prize in the social media image contest. Simply post an image (it can be an archaeological object, ancient or modern artwork, painting, character, or your own work) that makes you think of ancient magic, with the hashtag #ICSmagic by midnight on Wednesday Oct 17th, and tell us why you like it, and we'll choose a winner right after that. There are some examples there already, if you're looking for ideas of the sort of thing that might work.

    (I note that they're encouraging ancient magic-themed fancy dress at the Hallowe'en event, so maybe they're looking for inspiration for costumes in the images people send!)

    Monday, 1 October 2018

    Making Monsters Micro-interviews round-up

    The month-long Making Monsters promo carnival ended last week, having seen a dozen or so interviews and guest posts, various games and giveaways on social media, a launch party in London with monster costumes and a monumentally impressive cake sculpted into a facsimile of the book cover!

    We also ran a micro-interview (2-3 questions, short answers) with one of the authors or contributors almost every day. Because I know FB isn't always the easiest platform to navigate back several weeks, I've gathered links to all of the micro-interviews below.
    Please share or comment on anything you particularly enjoy, feel free to post follow-up questions (there or here), or respond to any of the stories or essays if you've already read the anthology. (And if you haven't buy it here!)

    Thursday, 27 September 2018

    Guest post: Ain't nobody here but us humans

    Guest post by George Lockett.

    I love monsters. Don’t get me wrong—they can be terrifying. Creatures who can rend our bodies with their teeth and claws and spines, driven by animalistic hunger. Beings who can subvert our wills, break our minds with their eldritch powers, or with the very substance of their being—wearing shapes more horrible than our minds can withstand. Spirits who promise to subject us to brutalities for our sins, for our mistakes, or for our unwitting transgressions.

    It is comforting to believe in monsters.

    I’ve been thinking a lot about monsters lately. You probably have too. We seem to be surrounded by them. You only need glance at the news or skim your social feeds to catch a glimpse of one. The unrelenting onslaught of this present moment—children gathered in cages, justice only for the few, men who would drag the world to the brink of destruction for their own selfish ends—it might have you telling yourself that monsters are real.

    But they’re not. The ones who do these monstrous things are not monsters. They are people.

    When you’re faced with a real, honest-to-God monster, there’s always something to be done. Run. Tie yourself to the mast. Show them a compassion they’ve never experienced. Turn their outer clothing inside out. Rub salt or crushed garlic on their entrails. Or, draw your sword; slay the beast (but watch out for his mother).

    When dealing with a monster, knowledge will see you through. An anathema, arcane gesture, or the right word, softly spoken, will protect you. And you may well find that the so-called monsters aren’t so terrible as you’d thought. That they have their own stories, if you’re willing to listen.

    But monsters aren’t real; there ain’t nobody here but us humans. People are complex, and they demand complex solutions. People who do monstrous things are still people, no matter how much we’d like to deny it, to say they’re a different breed, not like us.

    It is comforting to believe in monsters, because we know how to fight them (and that fighting them is sometimes a sign of our own weakness). A stout heart, trusty blade, or, best of all, an exceptional sprint aren’t enough to save us from people. Reality is always more terrible.

    Take vampires. They’ve stood for many things in their time, not least a fear of the rich and titled. Their powers make them almost unassailable. They are terrifying monsters who enslave and kill the less powerful with a mere extension of their will. They literally subsist by draining the life force of those under their power.

    And what of the rich and powerful now, the ones for whom, in many stories, vampires were a proxy? They are far, far more powerful than their fictional analogues ever were, with the capacity (and, it seems, the will) to steer the world into ruin in the execution of that power.

    Some even have their thralls on social media, a mere remark enough to unleash hordes of yipping Renfields to harass those unfavourable to them. Reality also has a sense of humour in its predilection for aping fiction. And sunlight, garlic, holy water, crosses? They offer us no help. The only thing that can really make a difference is much, much harder won: sweeping and radical social change.

    It is a harder and more harrowing thing to accept that the people who do monstrous things are not monsters.

    There is one thing I’ve found to help, though. An arcane gesture that can make us feel a better, at least in a small way. It’s a simple one. When all of this seems like too much, I roll up my sleeves. And I keep writing.

    George Lockett (@mastergeorge) is a writer of fiction and video games, telling tales of flesh-hungry birds, mischievous ghosts, and technoanxiety.

    George’s short story “The Last Siren Sings” can be found in the Making Monsters anthology.

    Wednesday, 19 September 2018

    Guest post: Revealing Monsters

    Guest post by Alexandra Grunberg.

    The world is not a simple split of black and white, good and evil, heroes and monsters. Though it would be easy to look at something monstrous and label it a monster, it is more interesting to find the shades of grey. How did they become monsters? Why do we assume they are monsters? What is it about appearance that can be so manipulative, so convincing, if it matches the familiar stories we’ve been told since childhood? If it has teeth, fangs, horns, talons, it’s bad, it’s evil. It’s clear. In the Making Monsters anthology, we are twisting traditional genre expectations by finding the heroic, sympathetic, and complex in characters that present as typical monsters.

    But what happens when we reverse that process? What secrets may be hidden behind the beautiful, strong, and romantic? And what can we learn from pulling back the mask of “goodness” and revealing the dark truths underneath? If Making Monsters twists our view of villains, there is an equally important twist occurring in fantasy fiction that unveils the villainous in characters that present as typical heroes. And no one does that twist better than Disney.

    In Disney animated films, we see characters that present many attributes of expected heroes, but eventually reveal evil beliefs, intentions, and actions. This twist can be seen in the popular animated films Beauty and the Beast, Frozen, and Coco. Gaston from Beauty and the Beast may be beautiful, but he is still obsessive and jealous. Hans from Frozen may be fun and charismatic, but he still manipulative and self-serving. Ernesto from Coco may be a beloved musician, but he is still a murderer. These are not just examples of great characters and engaging writing, but examples that are relevant to the real world and our own lives. That beautiful man is untrustworthy. That beloved musician is a criminal.

    That talented swimmer is a rapist.

    In the present #MeToo movement, the public still has difficulty reconciling our heroes who present traditionally good qualities (admired entertainers, successful sportsmen) with actions that do not match their perceived character. It is hard to accept that the story we have been told about this person does not match their behavior. It is hard to accept the reality when we preferred the fantasy. And it is even harder when we are exposed to television and films that encourage these fantasies.

    But having examples of these twists in fiction prepares us to recognize the reality of these surprises and disappointments. These characters give the public a framework for understanding, recognizing, and accepting. This is especially useful in films geared towards younger audiences. Children who watch these films grow up with these examples of duality and contradictory behavior, as well as the expectation and need for justice. Twisting heroic tropes in fiction offers an opportunity for representation of an unexpected yet common villain that directly relates to our current social climate.

    So, when someone says that they just can’t believe a popular musician would do horrible things, Disney fans can counter with the example of Ernesto in Coco. And we can remember that even someone as loved as Ernesto had to face the consequences of his actions when the public realized his true nature. And maybe we can learn to hold real people to the same standards that we have for fictional characters in animated films.

    Alexandra Grunberg is an author, screenwriter, and poet. Her short stories have appeared in various online magazines and anthologies, including publications certified by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. You can learn more at her website.

    Alexandra’s story “The Banshee” can be found in the Making Monsters anthology.

    Saturday, 15 September 2018

    Guest post: Rent Asunder

    Guest post by Misha Penton

    I

    “This was the darkness in which ghosts and monsters were active, and indeed was not the woman who lived in it… -was she not of a kind with them?”¹

    A thunderhead churns in slow-motion, its high clouds billow white against a darkening blue expanse. Bats chirp a chorus under a bayou bridge and a falcon circles a slow descent. Thousands of grackles gather on powerlines to watch the end of day: the last rays of sun move across the city as it rises from the desert plain.

    “…in 'visible darkness', where always something seemed to be flickering and shimmering…”

    Her abdomen hovers above the sparkle of twisted skyscrapers and her thin, long legs easily navigate between metallic buildings: one furry claw here on the pavement (barely missing a sidewalk crack), and one claw there, next to a man asleep on a bench (he doesn't wake).


    “The darkness wrapped around her tenfold, twentyfold…”

    Now, beyond the buildings, she rests at the edge of a concrete-lined waterway. Above her, blue lights hang from the underside of a bridge, signaling the coming full moon. Between her two front legs she holds the remnants of a shattered porcelain bowl. Its glaze is a galaxy swirl of greens and blues—tiny bird silhouettes lift from its fractured surface and merge into the surrounding darkness.

    With mother-like coaxing, she gathers the shards and makes her way to a deserted avenue. She ascends a slick glass tower. A shimmer of silk spools out from her spinnerets and wafts high on the breeze, sticking to the steel building across the street. One glimmering thread at a time, she crafts a magnificent web. At last, she settles in its center and starts to work on the shattered bowl: with silk and gold, she adheres each broken piece to its match, and makes what was once broken, whole—and more wonder-full and splendid than before.²

    II

    I find myself searching for examples of transformations that occur through physical trial—like the shattered cup renewed and made whole through craftsmanship and patience.

    The wedding of tech and biology is often physically arduous, and a beautifully rendered example of such tech-craft is Star Trek’s iconic Borg, Seven of Nine. Too numerous to name, cybernetic transformations abound (not always physically difficult but always cool): from the Maschinenmensch (robot) in Fritz Lang's 1927 Metropolis to Darth Vader. I'll count Hugh Jackman's Wolverine transformation, too: physically difficult and very high-tech.

    Mary Shelley's monster in Frankenstein is another grim physical transformation. Though her book gives few details of the physical trial, the many ensuing iterations of the work are full of state-of-the-art details of his making. Other ordeals that come to mind include the contorted physical changes of Dr. Jekyll into Mr. Hyde, and the pack of movie werewolves from Henry Hull and Lon Chaney to David Naughton³ and Michael J. Fox.

    Angelina Jolie's Maleficent is one of my favorites, and her wing-cutting and reintegration is a dramatic and powerful symbol of dismemberment and wholeness regained.

    Is losing oneself through transformation possible? Isn't that the fear? or the gift?—that through some monumental change we become unrecognizable to ourselves and to the world?

    References
    Tanizaki, Jun'ichirō. "In Praise of Shadows". The Art of the Personal Essay. An Anthology from the Classical Era to the Present. Phillip Lopate, ed. Thomas J. Harper and Edward G. Seidensticker, trans. New York: Anchor Books, 1995.

    Notes
    1. Quotes in italics in are from Jun'ichirō Tanizaki’s essay, “In Praise of Shadows” translated by Edward G. Seidensticker (1995).
    2. Inspired by the Japanese art and concept of kintsugi: broken pottery mended with lacquer and gold to create something new and perhaps more beautiful than the original.
    3. H/T to Djibril al-AYAD for pointing out the painful lycanthropic transformation in the film American Werewolf in London (1981).

    Misha Penton's projects blossom in many forms: live performances, audio and video works, and writings. She has produced and directed over 16 original evening-length performance works and more than six music video projects. Professional affiliations include Houston Grand Opera, Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Bath Spa University, and University of Houston Center for Creative Work. Upcoming projects: a new media monodrama celebrating the magnificent monstrous feminine. mishapenton.com. On Twitter: @divergencediva

    Misha's flash story “Eclipse” can be found in the Making Monsters anthology.

    Monday, 10 September 2018

    Guest post: Childhood Monsters

    Guest post by Neil James Hudson.

    My childhood was full of monsters. My favourite book was Usborne’s All About Monsters by Carey Miller. The cover showed the fiercest possible Loch Ness Monster, green-skinned, yellow-eyed, and possibly a little over-supplied with fangs. Inside were lurid paintings and descriptions of dinosaurs, Sirens, Cyclops, Grendels, dragons, krakens, abominable snowmen and Godzillas. If this wasn’t enough, a weekly dose of Doctor Who kept my imagination topped up with an ever-changing parade of new creations. My worst behind-the-sofa moment was the Krynoid, a space plant that infected humans, turning them into an enormous mass of vegetation that would eventually engulf the planet. It owed an enormous debt to The Quatermass Experiment, but I watched it again recently and found it just as terrifying as when I was six and had to leave the room, unable to resist watching through the kitchen door.

    On the face of it, I didn’t need them. Real life was quite terrifying enough. I had so many school bullies that sometimes I had to stay behind to catch up on some of the bullying I hadn’t had time for. Teachers tended to blame the victims, and would add extra punishment for missing work because I’d been too busy being bullied. And I found everyday social interaction so baffling and difficult that I was occasionally grateful to the bullies for getting me out of it. And yet, my favourite leisure activity was to scare the hell out of myself.

    Bullies aren’t monsters; they’re too dull. Monsters, frankly, cheer the place up a bit. I’ve never heard of a monster that simply bored you to death; Douglas Adams might have pulled it off, but not Homer. Monsters are just more interesting than reality. School life was painful, but it was also boring, blow after blow after blow. Bullies didn’t breathe fire or turn you to stone, let alone lure you to your death by singing.

    The other great thing about monsters was that you seldom defeated them fairly and squarely through single combat. You used your brain, and beat them through cunning and trickery. You approached Medusa with a mirrored shield. You stabbed Polyphemus in the eye and hid under his sheep. You put spikes on your armour and fought the Lambton Worm in a river. You turned off the Daleks’ power supply. The bullies would be eaten in no time, but their bright but weedy victim could save the world—after the removal of a few undesirables. And of course, to the enormous gratitude of a few desirables.

    Ultimately, monsters aren’t real. That’s what’s so great about them. If they were real, they’d just be beasts. Instead, they’re discrete chunks of imagination, superimposed on reality to wreak a bit of havoc on a smug world. When I was a child, reality wasn’t good enough; I had to live in a world of my imagination instead. I still do. Here be monsters; let’s have more of them.



    Neil James Hudson has published forty short stories and a novel On Wings of Pity, about incubi and succubi. He has been fascinated by mythology since finding a stray copy of Pears' Cyclopedia as a child, and has a diploma in Classical Studies from the Open University. His website is at neiljameshudson.net.


    Neil’s story “A Song of Sorrow” appears in the Making Monsters anthology, available now.

    Tuesday, 4 September 2018

    Resist Fascism! Make the new Crossed Genres anthology happen

    Our friends at Crossed Genres Publications are running a Kickstarter to fund the publication of their newest anthology Resist Fascism: An SFF Call to Action. A speculative fiction micro-anthology about fighting fascism any and every way possible or impossible. Apart from being an obviously timely and self-evidently important theme, wherever in the world you might look, at the moment, this anthology will be full of kick-ass and mind-blowing science fiction stories by a slate of talented and exciting authors.

    Selfishly, I want this project to be funded, because I want to read the book. But for a better incentive, we’ve invited five of the Resist Fascism authors to TFF to tell us why they think it’s an important project, what their stories contribute to the anthology, and how the whole is an act of much-needed resistance against political repression worldwide. We’ll let Izzy, Marie, Barbara, Tiffany and JL take it from here…

    Izzy Wasserstein


    Crossed Genres Magazine was already legendary by the time I started writing speculative fiction. To my great regret, it was also closed. So when this project was announced, I was eager to be a part of it.

    My story is set during one of the great failures in the fight against fascism: the Spanish Civil War. Fascists enthusiastically supported Franco, while the western governments, fearing communists more than fascists, failed to help the Republicans. I wrote this story because I believe that even small kindnesses and unwitnessed bravery can make a difference. It’s up to each of us to do what we can. I fervently hope this story helps make a difference.

    What excites me most about this project is that it’s an important part of a larger effort to imagine how we can defeat fascism, and how we can cultivate a better world. Despair is a powerful temptation, but we must continue the struggle. We must be victorious. We owe it to the future.

    Marie Vibbert


    My story was about public housing. I have a personal tie to that, since the first home I remember was the projects. My grandparents lived in the same project. It's gone now, like so many others, and the lack of good, clean places for people to live galls me. The public perception of the projects is skewed, too. People think of public housing as hotbeds of crime, when in actuality they are islands of safety. It's harder to get into the projects than Harvard most of the time. You have to have a job. You have to have income to pay the rent. You have to have a clean record. The people in the projects are worried about the less vetted people living in tenements around them. Neighbors are kind and look out for each other. That's true everywhere, I think, other than wealthy home owner's associations. :P

    Anyway, that's just pontificating. The story was inspired by an interaction I saw of a little girl scolding her obviously older brother at the base of steps in Cleveland's public housing. I was biking by, but the brief interaction really stuck with me, how girls were so often put "in charge" as kids. Expected to be more selfless, more mature at an early age. So I got this idea of an inner-city matriarchy.

    Then I got worried about Own Voices, so I moved the setting to a smaller town with a predominantly white population. I made my main character black because I wanted people to see the role of the social worker as a minority and the poor being helped as white. Because that does happen and it's not what's represented. As a poor white kid, I got a lot of help from black professionals.

    So yeah, I wanted to write something about the projects, and make it science fiction, and have the projects WIN, which might be the most science fiction part of it.

    Barbara Krasnoff


    I’ve known Bart and Kay for several years—Crossed Genres published three of my stories when it was a monthly magazine—and when I met Bart during the Readercon genre convention, and he told me about the upcoming anthology, I was very excited. I started working on it as soon as I got home, but it was difficult for me at first to come up with an idea. I made several starts before I got underway with “In the Background.”

    Whenever I watch a show or read a story, I’m usually more interested in the characters who are not the front-and-center heroes—the best friends, the walk-throughs, or the unnamed individuals in the crowd. I recently spent three fascinating days working as an extra for a TV series, and I suddenly realized that this could be the basis for a story about those anonymous individuals and the real effect they can have. Just as a production can’t be made without its background actors, political and social movements depend on their background volunteers to call the voters, contact their representatives, type in the data, design the websites, and do all that other necessary work without applause or recognition—except perhaps from close colleagues, friends or family. My hope would be that stories like “In the Background” can help those of us who are not in the spotlight understand that we too are important.

    Tiffany E. Wilson


    Like most of us, I'm burnt out and often feel hopeless about the political situation in the US, especially because it feels like many of the horrific things that are happening are beyond my control. My story grew from that frustration.

    “Meet Me at State Sponsored Movie Night” is about a future nation where fascism has taken hold, restricting people's access to resources, media, and education. It follows two teen girls and their small act of resistance to reclaim their community. I hope the optimism of the story serves as a reminder to readers that small actions matter, even if it only helps a small group of people for one night.

    Art—especially science fiction—has a very important role in inspiring change. Since SF is often forward-thinking, it can help readers envision possible futures and the pathways to create or avoid them. As we near the midterm elections, this country is at a critical turning point where each citizen can help shape the trajectory of our future through the simple act of voting. Books like Resist Fascism can be a rallying cry, not only to encourage everyone to persist through the struggles and setbacks but also to remind people to step up and do their small part to resist.

    JL George


    I wrote “We Speak in Tongues of Flame” last year, though it had been percolating a while longer than that. The idea of an artist’s creation coming to life and spurring her on to a destructive act of defiance had been with me a long time, but the way it’s framed in terms of displacement and linguistic oppression comes out of my complicated feelings about my home country and about Welshness, especially in the wake of the 2016 Brexit vote and the rise in open racism and xenophobia that has followed. (Naïve nationalism sometimes claims, “The Welsh aren’t racist because we know how it feels to be colonised!” but, given how decisively Wales voted for Brexit, I think it’s pretty clear that this is bullshit.) My home country is there in Keris’s struggle to hang on to her native tongue—but also in the complicity of the townspeople who shrug and go along with the actions of their repressive government.

    I found out about the anthology and about Crossed Genres via the Submissions Grinder, and after learning more about what they do and the ways they’ve championed diverse SFF over the years, I couldn’t be happier to be part of the anthology. Stories of resistance are important not just for showing us ways to oppose the rising tide of right-wing extremism, but also for giving us the catharsis that helps us get back up when it all feels hopeless.


    For more context, Bart Leib and Kay Holt talk about the history of the Crossed Genres magazine and publishing house in an anniversary video.

    Please support the Resist Fascism fundraiser, and help make sure this anthology happens!