Sunday, 26 June 2016

New Issue 2016.37

“Oui dehors il pleut mais cette pluie est délicieuse.
Dehors la vie est belle, que diable est-elle dangereuse.”

—HK et les Saltimbanks
 [ Issue 2016.37; Cover art © 2016 Eric Asaris ]

Issue 2016.37

E-book versions coming soon

Review this issue on Goodreads

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Interview with Bart & Kay from Crossed Genres

Hidden Youth cover (Julie Dillon)
Our friends over at Crossed Genres Publications (whom someone once described as “justly famous for producing high quality, genre-bending, innovative and inclusive magazine issues, anthologies, and the occasional novel”) are currently running a fundraiser for a new anthology, Hidden Youth: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History, edited by Mikki Kendall and Chesya Burke, a follow-up to the acclaimed Long Hidden (which was edited by Rose Fox and Daniel J. Older). They need to raise $23,000 to pay everyone involved fairly, and as usual the rewards, whether electronic or physical copies of the anthologies, stickers or poster prints, or higher echelons such as the opportunity to pick the brains of the publishers, are remarkably good value.

Support the Hidden Youth fundraiser at Kickstarter

Crossed Genres co-publishers Bart R. Leib and Kay T. Holt joined us to answer a few questions about Crossed Genres’ work.

TFF: Long Hidden was an amazing and hugely successful anthology—your fundraiser was big enough to expand it in size and ambition, even add illustrations; the editors were both rising stars, the stories have been widely acclaimed and the anthology was nominated for two major awards. Tell us how this project met and surpassed your expectations.

Long Hidden cover (Julie Dillon)
CG: Long Hidden surpassed pretty much every expectation we had. We thought our initial goal of $12,000 would be tough to reach, and we made it in a week. Stretch goals we never thought would be factors ended up adding 50% more words and interior art. It’s the first title we published to be nominated for a major SFF award (the World Fantasy Award). We knew that this type of story was something a lot of people wanted, but we had no idea how important it was.

How did you decide to follow that up with Hidden Youth?

Funny story. We were driving our son and his cousin somewhere, answering their questions about Long Hidden and our other books, and they flat out asked us when we would make a book for them. We brought their question to social media, and the idea of a YA sequel to Long Hidden emerged almost immediately.

Will the third volume be untold stories of old age? Hidden Elders, perhaps?

That’s not a bad idea! We have several related project ideas, but a third volume might not happen for a long time. (We did already publish a collection of 4 novellas starring older protagonists, called Winter Well.)

Without dwelling on the difficulties or delays, is there anything about the project that you’d like to clarify or inform people about?

We talked about the delays in a blog post. This has definitely been a difficult project, and not just because of the project itself. But we love Hidden Youth and feel it’s very important.

Also, since several people have asked: While Hidden Youth’s protagonists are all under 18, the stories deal with very adult topics. It would not be considered a MG anthology, and possibly not even a YA depending on who you ask. Whether it’s appropriate for kids to read is subjective, and we’d recommend anyone to read it and consider the kid in question before handing it over to them.

What’s the best thing about this project, for you, for the contributors, for the future readers?

For us, one of the very best things about publishing has been accepting authors for their very first publications. That continues with some of the Hidden Youth authors, but Long Hidden and Hidden Youth have taken that a step further: publishing stories where contributors and readers get to see themselves in published stories to extents they never have before.

Interior art from Long Hidden #20
(Artist: Nilah Magruder)
What is the fundraiser paying for? What happens if you don’t make the full amount? What happens if you make more than you’re asking?

Almost all the money we’re raising funds for is to pay the editors, authors and artists. Another portion will go to production and shipping of the book itself, and the other Kickstarter rewards, and the rest will pay the Kickstarter and Amazon fees.

If we don’t make the goal, as per the rules of Kickstarter, we don’t get any of it. And that would mean that Hidden Youth won’t happen, since there’s no way we can afford it otherwise. If we do somehow surpass our goal with time to spare, we’ll consider a stretch goal - we have a few ideas but don’t really anticipate it being a factor. Really, if we reach the primary goal and get to make Hidden Youth, we’ll be ecstatic.

Children are often braver and more determined than adults tend to believe. Do you remember a very courageous thing you did as a child?

Kay: This is a tough subject for me because of my PTSD, but by the time I was old enough to leave home for college, I’d been shot at, hit by trucks, beaten, sexually assaulted, and attacked with knives, usually by men, who could not handle being told NO by a little girl. About anything.

That’s really the best courage I ever had, growing up. Saying no. Loudly and often, even if they came to kill me for it.

And, kind of like the story of my childhood, some stories in Hidden Youth deal with very adult subjects. Including sex, abuse, and violence. This book is about young people, and it is FOR young people, but it will probably be shelved with books for adults in spite of its title.

Interior art from Long Hidden #25 (Artist: Esme Baran)
What’s next for Crossed Genres Publications? Or, if you don’t know yet, what’s your dream project?

We have so many ideas, picking just one would be impossible! We’ve talked about publishing an anthology in two languages - both in the same book. We’d also love to branch into visual stories with a comic anthology (another potential Long Hidden-type project). But we’ll have to see how things go with Hidden Youth, both the funding and the publication, before we decide what Crossed Genres’ next step will be.

Thanks, Bart and Kay, for taking time from your hectic fundraising month to come talk to us.

You can support the Hidden Youth fundraiser at Kickstarter, and pick up an early e- or print copy of the anthology. You won't regret it!

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Storm Born teaser and Amy Braun Q&A

We welcome to TFF Amy Braun, author of the new dark fantasy novel Storm Born.

Storm Born, a 354 page standalone novel, is set in an alternate world where humanity endures the Centennial—a barrage of storms that wreck havoc across the world. But as a young woman learns when she’s violently cursed with supernatural powers, there is more to the Centennial than humanity understands, and if she is going to survive its aftermath and the secret societies battling for control, she must find her own courage and strength before her powers destroy her…

Amy Braun is a Canadian urban fantasy and horror author. Her work revolves around monsters, magic, mythology, and mayhem. She started writing in her early teens, and never stopped. She loves building unique worlds filled with fun characters and intense action. She is the recipient of April Moon Books Editor Award for “author voice, world-building and general bad-assery,” and the One Book Two Standout Award in 2015 for her Cursed trilogy. She has been featured on various author blogs and publishing websites, and is an active member of the Writing GIAM and Weekend Writing Warrior communities. When she isn't writing, she's reading, watching movies, taking photos, gaming, and struggling with chocoholism and ice cream addiction.

Question: What was the writing process like for Storm Born?

Amy Braun: In a word? Exhausting. I spent a lot of time thinking, researching, and envisioning new ways to make the story more in depth, and I definitely felt the time crunch of NaNoWriMo. I had a month to plan the story before I started writing, which is nowhere near as much time as it sounds like. Once all that was done, I dove headfirst into writing. New ideas were able to flow and I was able to tweak my original idea so it wasn’t as complex. I definitely had a lot going on, and there are parts that I wish I’d continue to include, but I’m still happy with the story I wrote. It’s too late to go back!

What inspired the design of the Stormkind?

A multitude of things. Aliens, ghosts, cartoons where a character gets zapped and you see their whole skeleton in jarring flashes. My mind goes to some weird places. I made a point to make sure each Stormkind could be identified by the type of storm they mastered. For example, thunder-Stormkind have what one might consider to be electric skin. I wanted it to be clear that even though they have human forms and carry a light against their skeleton, they’re nowhere close to human. I count them among the most creative characters I’ve created thusfar.

What kind of research did you do?

Most of the research went into the settings, to be honest. I’ve never been to Florida and am dreadful with maps, so I had to make sure that my settings and locations were in reasonable locations. GoogleMaps saved me. I also had to research the kinds of storms I could create and what kind of damage they could do so I could adapt that to the story. I based some of the history of the Stormkind on the creation myth from Greek mythology, which was also a lot of fun to re-read.

Which power did you have the most fun writing?

That’s a hard choice. I love the ice-powers and frost, but I was also really fond of the dust-storms that are used later in the novel. It was a fantastic challenge to sit back and think, “This person has this power. What should they do with it now?” Using the destructive powers with Stormkind that controlled water and wind was a lot of fun too, throwing them in situations where I knew their powers would cause serious problems for the heroes.

Thanks for joining us, Amy! Good luck with the release of Storm Born.

Monday, 30 May 2016

Valeria interviewed by the monsters #FaeVisions


VALERIA sits on the rocky beach, toes dangling in the cool water as the sun glistens off the wave-tops and red and green weeds waft greeting as the tide washes over them. An occasional fish-tail sends white spray off the sea just beyond the nearest rocks.

A SEA-NYMPH sits in a larger rock pool, quizzically watching the editor for a few minutes, before finally speaking.

I asked you why you wanted to publish an anthology about the Mediterranean, and you didn’t want to answer. Why not?

Because I’ve been asked so many times that the temptation to start making up bizarre stories becomes more and more urgent!

But don’t you realize this is always going to be the first question people want to ask you, and the conversation is going to spin out from there?

I know, it’s a very good starting point… Can I say just because I love it? I love the Mediterranean and its stories. I like its monsters, and I wanted a whole anthology about them! But I’m afraid that would sound unprofessional…

Behind her on the beach, the MINOTAUR sits a bit further up the rocks, hot, flustered and awkwardly huddled, trying to keep his brown-furred feet out of the waves. He looks up at this.

Nothing wrong with monsters.
Anyway, not all the stories contain monsters. What are some of the other themes in the anthology, and how are they particular to the Mediterranean?

I meant monsters as wonders, as things out of the ordinary. And many things are out of the ordinary in these stories! But, yes, you’re right. It’s not all about fantastic creatures. It was about trying to capture a little bit of the essence of this place. Its history of connected peoples, the mixed languages, the songs and stories travelling on the ships to keep company to the sailors. But also its present as a place of war, waste, exploitation. Those are different kind of monsters too.

I try to get away from all that horror myself. How does writing stories about it help anyone?

I’m not entirely sure it would actually help, reality is not exactly my forte. But when I see the place I love tormented and violated I feel angry. When I see my home misrepresented by someone that has just spent a few weeks of holiday there I feel angry. Maybe I thought that more honest (and not for this less beautiful) stories about the darker and more problematic side of the Mediterranean would lessen my anger. And that of others like me. That awareness is always empowering. Silence, indifference is what is killing us.

Perched on a sturdy but almost desiccated palm tree overlooking the waterfront, a vicious HARPY chitters to herself, glaring at the editor and monsters on the beach.

Anger is good.
(smiles coldly)
There’s more poetry in this anthology than in most things TFF has published. Is there a reason for this? Is poetry better at capturing that sort of emotion, at shamelessly screeching to the wind, at being noticed?

I’ve always been a story person more than a poetry one. But the authors of this anthology have reminded me how intense poetry can be. How the verses stay with you, stick to your memory and conscience when you roll them in your mouth almost to feel their taste, to discover how they sound. How every word is precious and can become a stone: a gem or a weapon.

Weapons are good.

As they speak, a long strip of green vegetation just beyond the edge of the water starts to become more exposed, and soon a salt-water CROCODILE crests the surface and grins toothily up at her.

Is there anything you regret about the way this anthology has turned out?

I really love it the way it is. I know, I’m biased. But I mean it. I only wish we had more time and strategies to reach more communities of authors. Fae Visions is multifaceted, complex, bizarre. And still is not as rich as we would have wanted it to be. I was really hoping for a short story in Arabic or Turkish or Albanian. I was looking forward to discovering new folk tales and legends from Palestine or Israel. I wanted even more languages, more alphabets. More diverse takes on the fluid mess that is the Mediterranean. Maybe we were too ambitious. But ask me again in some months… I might have something more to say about it.

(butting in)
Could you imagine an anthology with no stories originally in English at all?

That sounds like an awesome idea! Especially if this choice was consistent with the theme of the anthology itself. If it were, somehow, part of it. The same way that multilingualism was for us a choice to represent the mosaic of cultures of the Mediterranean. It would be challenging. And would probably need some extra effort from readers. But I think I’d be curious and delighted to see something like that on the shelves of a bookshop.

Can you imagine that mosaic a little bit more vividly for us, please? What might it look like?

Well, if I were the editor of such an anthology, I think, in the first place, I would involve entirely authors who have, for one reason or another, a special relationship with language. They might be polyglot because they fell in love with other languages, or because they had to leave their own countries. They might work as modern translators, or have spent time deciphering dead idioms. And I would leave them the freedom to present the work in the way they believe is most adequate. I imagine that some will want to translate their text on the opposing page. Others might want to mix languages in the dialogue and decide that they don’t need to be translated: the readers will deal with foreign words in the same way they would do in real life. There will be footnotes to explain, maybe, or glosses to help the most adventurous to explore unknown linguistic territories. There might be poetry that, when translated, is always a completely different thing. There might even be exercises of style, when the same text looks very different in alternative translations. All correct, but discordant in spirit.
(pauses for breath)
I see it as an hymn to the beauty of languages, and their diversity. A joyous awareness of how words shape our worlds, and the way we inhabit them.

Who is the best villain in the anthology?

Folktales tend to be a bit unfair towards monsters and non-human creatures, I’m afraid. But I’m happy to say that in our stories fantastic creatures just have… let’s say… a different perspective. Not that they are less dangerous or vengeful. But the reader can sympathize, I think.
Maybe there is only one really evil character. And he’s entirely human. But he gets what he deserves…
(smiles, cracking knuckles with a certain satisfaction)

Do you have any guacamole?

No, but I can go back to the AirBnB and make you some in a bit, if you like?

(crooning with anticipated ecstasy)
You totally rock!


Valeria Vitale is the editor of Fae Visions of the Mediterranean, an anthology of horrors and wonders of the sea, from Publishing and available at all major online booksellers. The monsters also helped with the book, and most of them live in it.

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Christine Lucas: Between Heaven and the Mediterranean

Guest post from Christine Lucas.

My childhood wasn’t the happiest of times, but there are a few memories I still treasure. One of the fondest memories is the way we counted our summers: by swim-days. Or swim-weeks. Or, for the very lucky, swim-months. And not just for us middle-class, privileged kids. One look at any map of Greece and it’s clear how accessible the shoreline is to everyone, at some point in their lives.

Yet the sea held more than fun. The Sea was a place of wonders, a place of myths and legends, of gods and heroes. A place of history. As a child, I spent hours gazing at the sea, trying to track down the shape-shifting sea shepherd amidst his foamy beasts riding the waves. Every distant splash on the surface was the Mermaid, and at any time now she’d rose to inquire about her brother, King Alexander the Great. We learned the answer from our early years: “Tell her he lives and conquers.”

Triton, Poseidon, the Mermaid, they all were no less real than King Aegeas, the Argonauts, Porphyrius the Whale, later the heroes and heroines of the 1821 revolutionary war like Laskarina Bouboulina, and the heroes of WWII. Myth and history, blended together with brine and seaweeds, in one unified memory, one culture, one soul.

And then we grew up.

Every disaster, every new tragedy, every loss, gnaw away big chunks of that primal, unchallenged wonder we held in our hearts for our sea. Every day life holds no magic anymore. It has withdrawn from heart and sight, hidden now in the brush strokes of old sea paintings, in the lines of Elytis’ and Kavvadias’ poems, in the island songs and dances, in stories like those collected in this anthology that insist otherwise.

And, perhaps, hidden in those same places, amidst words and tunes and colors, we can find Ariadne’s thread, to lead us not through the labyrinth, but to an eternal shore. There, Homer and Poseidon sit alongside Elytis and the heroes of old wars and new, drink ouzo and share stories and memories.

And there, between Heaven and the Mediterranean, the old magic never waned, and never will.

Christine Lucas’s “Madonna Mermaid” can be found in Fae Visions of the Mediterranean.

Saturday, 28 May 2016

Interview with Louise Herring-Jones #FaeVisions

Among the 24 stories and poems in Fae Visions of the Mediterranean, the polyglot anthology of horrors and wonders of the sea, is Louise Herring-Jones's “Michaelis and the Dew Shades,” a quiet but delicious story that leaves the reader hungry, thirsty, and maybe even a little hungover! We asked Louise a few questions about her work.

Louise Herring-Jones writes mainstream, historical, and speculative fiction as well as non-fiction. Her science fiction, steampunk, dark fantasy, and light horror stories have appeared in anthologies. Born in Madrid, she now lives in the Tennessee Valley. Her website is

TFF: “Michaelis and the Dew Shades” is a vivid piece, at once intensely realist and seamlessly magical, as living surrounded by ghosts must be. What does the story mean, for you?

LHJ: I have loved Crete from a distance since I read the novels of Mary Renault in grade school. When I visited in 2005, for a Write-in-Crete workshop with Bruce Holland-Rogers, Eric Witchey, and Philip Lees, I learned as much about the island as I could. I enjoy merging history with legend. The circa 1825 massacre of the Epirote freedom fighters (who became the legendary Drosoulites) melded perfectly with another event, the failed solar village proposal at Fragokastello some 155 years later. Crete is both a modern tourist destination and a land drenched in myth. I wanted my story to bear witness to the diverse elements of this magical island.

What sort of connection do you feel for the Mediterranean Sea or region?

I was born in Spain, although inland, and my first travel experience was by ship to the United States. I grew up surrounded by my parents' furniture and art gathered from their adventures in the Mediterranean region, both in Europe and in North Africa. When I first ventured forth from North America, I visited islands in the Aegean Sea. The experience was mystical, visiting new and exotic places but somehow coming home.

What historical event would you like to witness or participate in?
I would have loved to watch the athletic dancers who vaulted the horns of bulls during Crete's Minoan period (possibly even captive Athenian youths). The paintings of them found at the palace of Knossos near Heraklion are phenomenal.

Can you tell us an anecdote about one of your ancestors?

Not very distant ancestors, I realize, but both my parents were stationed in Cairo during World War II. At the end of the war, they were married there and honeymooned near the pyramids at Giza. Their photographs inspired my interest in the Mediterranean region's past, from ancient through more recent times.

Have you ever met a ghost? Would you like to?

Although never formally introduced, at the risk of disclosing my latent insanity, I believe I have encountered one or more spirits. The American South, where I grew up, is crowded with haunted mansions, battlefields, and even a playground. Happily for me, the only ghosts I have encountered thus far have been cordial.

Is there a particular monster or shade that is said to haunt the streets of your home town?

My hometown is Huntsville, Alabama. Maple Hill Cemetery, close to my childhood home, is adjacent to the heavily wooded "dead children's playground." Only the very brave go there after dark when the kids' ghosts come out to play. I am not one of those courageous souls although I've walked by the entrance many times, always protected by bright sunshine.

What is the most courageous act, in your opinion?

Living life to the fullest regardless of age, situation, or circumstance.

What are you working on next?

Final revision of my novel of historical fantasy and magic set in late medieval Europe.

Thank you, Louise!

Louise Herring-Jones's “Michaelis and the Dew Shades” can be found in Fae Visions of the Mediterranean.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Dalmatian Elves #FaeVisions

Guest post by Urša Vidic

There are some popular Dalmatian songs being sung today that are about elves, even if people think that vila is just another word to describe a woman. They are usually sung by four to twelve men, in the klapa tradition, but these modern versions are sometimes rather reminiscent of gospels or of sweetly sentimental songs. One of them, Vilo Moja, goes something like this: “Almost every time when we look at one another, you don’t greet me back, as if we don’t know each other. You are my dream, but it would be easier if you were a stranger to me, if I did not know you.”

And in another one, Projdi Vilo, the man asks the elfin being to come to him, with her body, down the chain from his heart, to take the seed from his thirst and conceive the child of his blood. So, they both speak of a great yearning to be closer to such a being; this could come from a recognition of the fact that the elves can shine through people, that they are a part of us. Then, there is also a yearning for fae realms, for far-off lands that promise an air of freedom.

A myth that is quite present also on the coast of the Adriatic Sea is the story of a woman standing by the sea and longing to see the interesting world beyond the horizon. In its most popular version, written by a Romantic poet, this beautiful Vida sails away with a moor that comes from a place straight ahead from where the Adriatic opens towards the Mediterranean. It is interesting that another Slovenian poem, about a fish that carries the entire world on its back, associates it with this land and names it Faronika, probably because the word “pharaoh” is something so mysterious that it must come from a land beyond the horizon, the home of mythical creatures and of this fish, their mother. But the Romantic version of the beautiful Vida’s ballad from the 19th century mentions also very worldly problems, even if the main reason for the journey across the sea was her longing for something more in life.

Other women of that time simply had to leave Slovenia for economic reasons and by the beginning of WWII, there were around 7000 Slovenian alexandrinkas in Egypt. This is how they were called then and they had very interesting stories to tell. But such stories can be also disappointing, because they lack the magical element of their gazing into the sea. Therefore, one can find even theoretic fantasies more pleasing when they say that the elves are an ancient civilization of this planet, that they are a consciousness helping nature shape the world. And when we as people stare into the sea, we find this ocean of nature’s consciousness inside us, but at the same time, we still yearn for it, for the lost ability to be completely immersed in it—and for the future possibility to be able to find it a way that has never been there before.

Suggestions for further reading:

Urša Vidic’s “Mimikrija” (both in the original Slovenian and translated as “Mimicry”) can be found in Fae Visions of the Mediterranean.

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

#FaeVisions Giveaway

To celebrate the release of the Fae Visions of the Mediterranean anthology of horrors and wonders, we’re going to give you a chance to win a copy just by sharing your dreams or fears of the Mediterranean on social media.

The rules:

Post on Twitter or Facebook, before midnight on May 31st, 2016, using the #FaeVisions hashtag in either case, some text or image that evokes your dream or fear about the Mediterranean. The post may be beautiful or terrible, may be personal or universal, may be autobiographical or fictional. A dream or nightmare, a holiday photograph, a news item. There’s lots to say about the Mediterranean—and you can say it in as few words (or images) as you like! (You do not need to reply or tag us in the post, just include "#FaeVisions" in the text; we’ll follow the hashtag and spot it that way.)

The Prizes:

For every ten people who post a Mediterranean vision on the hashtag between now and the end of the month, we'll give away one copy of the e-book of Fae Visions (in the format of your choice) to a randomly selected poster.

If 20 people take part before the deadline, we will also give a copy of the trade paperback of Fae Visions to one randomly selected poster.

If 50 people take part before the deadline, we will give two copies of the paperback to randomly selected posters.

If 100 people take part, we will give three copies of the paperback to randomly selected posters, one of whom will also receive any one other anthology of their choice.

For example, if 100 people were to enter the giveaway, the prizes would include:
  • 1 x Fae Visions paperback + any other anthology
  • 2 x Fae Visions paperback
  • 10 x Fae Visions e-book
Small print: this is a fun giveaway not a contest or a raffle: entrants will not be judged, no purchase or other expenditure is required to enter, no cash alternative will be offered and no correspondence will be entered into. Authors and editors of the anthology may join the fun, but will not be eligible for prizes.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Interview with Mattia Ravasi #FaeVisions

The Fae Visions of the Mediterranean anthology contains 24 stories and poems (originally written in 9 languages) showcases the horrors and wonders of the sea. Among them is an atmospheric tale of inhuman terror by Mattia Ravasi, “The Miracle Town,” set in a village just outside Venice and featuring metamorphosis and fitting in—perhaps a dark twist on Italian hospitality. We asked Mattia a few questions about his work.

Mattia Ravasi is a postgraduate literature student with a penchant for contemporary American fiction. He works as a freelance writer and translator, and reviews books on the YouTube channel The Bookchemist. He has lived in Monza, Birmingham and Venice, and he dreams of becoming the greatest writer of all times.

“The Miracle Town” is a creepy story that in some ways turns Lovecraft's xenophobia on its head. Where did the story come from?
Part of it came from my sheer obsession with the man. I first read his story Dagon when I was 15, and I am still in the process of recovering from the shock of it.

That said, I wanted to take the Lovecraft canon and work on its roughest edges. As you said, Lovecraft's xenophobia is a quintessential feature of his production—I re-read The Call of Cthulhu this very morning and, gee, was he a racist sometime. I don't quite think he was as terrible as some people think… but he was still pretty terrible in so many ways. I feel that, as a Lovecraft fan, it's part of my duty to try and pull a difficult trick, which is to give a modern spin to the genre he invented without distorting it. “Miracle Town” is a very small attempt at it.

I guess my role-model on this front is another Lovecraft-geek, Michael Chabon. In his novel The Final Solution, he takes the Sherlock Holmes canon and works on some of its most outdated sides, like the fact that Holmes can be quite a ruthless warmongering motherfucker from time to time. (Can I say motherfucker on the TFF blog? I hope I can.)

Yeah, you can say motherfucker!

Do you feel a particular connection with the Mediterranean Sea itself?
Some Italians tend to be very parochial, and I'll put myself in that category. I have to confess that I feel much more Milanese than Italian; the fact that I'm not technically from Milan is besides the point. I don't say that out of arrogance or contempt (I love my country, I really do!), it's just that it's a very diverse country, and it's hard to feel 100% at home everywhere in it. So I'd probably lie if I told you I feel I got salt in my veins, to quote one of my favorite stories in the Fae anthology.

That said, I've spent most of my summers bathing in that sea, and I feel there's something quite unique in the way it is shared by so many different cultures. As you guys said, they called it Mare Nostrum but really, it's one of the least "ours" seas in the world. I think I can feel that kind of connection through literature: I read The House by the Medlar Tree by my main man Giovanni Verga, or an historical novel with an Ancient-Greece setting, or I watch a good adaptation of Othello—and I think, yeah, that's my sea!

Who is, in your opinion, the greatest contemporary American author of all time?
I'll keep this super brief otherwise I'll go on forever. Thomas Pynchon. He writes like no other writer in history; he does with the novel whatever he very well pleases and always ends up writing masterpieces; he takes the idea of breaking genre boundaries and pushes it to unparalleled heights; he mixes gripping narratives and serious stuff and love and disgust with the touch of a master. To me, he's very much up there with Dante for the sheer level of "how the fuck did he do this?" you find in his fiction.

If by contemporary you mean "young," hands down it's Michael Chabon. Funny and heartbreaking and compelling and clever in everything he writes; and another master of mixing genres freely. His last novel Telegraph Avenue is written as well as any Pynchon's book.

How does translating compare to writing in your own language, and to original writing in another language?
Oh, they're quite different processes, but they require the same kind of mental trick. The most common mistake translators (and non-native writers) do is that they take what they want to say and "simply" change that into a foreign language, maybe not word-by-word, but almost. Whereas what you're supposed to do is to squeeze the juice out of what you want to say, forget about the way you'd say it in your native tongue, and distill a foreign sentence out of that.

It's a terribly difficult process and even pros sometimes can't manage it. And of course, writing is incredibly harder than translating, because on top of anything else you have to be a good writer. One of my professors once told me he doesn't believe it is possible to write fiction in any language but your native; writing is a matter of tapping into your innermost sources, and those fuckers are coded in your native tongue. I hope I'll manage to prove him wrong.

Can you think of a word in your dialect that is untranslatable?
As much as I like my homeplace, I have never learned how to speak its dialect; Milan and most of Lombardy constitute one of those corners of Italy where dialect is disappearing fast. There's this word though, "bauscia," that has pretty much slipped into common Italian, and that crystallizes all the bad stereotypes people associate with the city of Milan. An approximate translation would be "posh," but the word implies a level of arrogance and fleshy-ness that are inevitably lost in translation.

If events would bring you to join a motley crew of pirates, what would be your sea-name?
Beachin’ James “Sharkfin” Marsh. I would fight with a sword made from the nose of a gigantic white marlin; but mostly I would cook shrimp gumbo for the crew.

Do you remember the name of the protagonist of the very first story you wrote?
I was eight and the story was a rip-off of a LoneWolf Game Book called The Jungle of Horrors. The main characters were two friend of mine and I, but I'm not sure who of the three was the real protagonist, and who were the sidekicks. So it's either Luca, Roberto or Mattia (but it's probably me, let's be honest).

What are you working on next?
I am currently going through the third or fourth major editing review of a novel I wrote last year called The Page Turner. It's a fantasy novel with an attitude, both very canonical and very non-. It's good; at the very least it's seaworthy. I'm looking for an agent to represent it, and I'm in no particular hurry. It might take me fifteen years, but I'll get it out there.

Thank you, Mattia!

Mattia Ravasi’s story “The Miracle Town” can be found in Fae Visions of the Mediterranean.

Monday, 23 May 2016

Nymphs and Naiads #FaeVisions

Guest Post by Jenny Blackford

Nymphs were the fae of ancient Greece—tall, beautiful supernatural women who were the embodiment of springs and rivers, trees and pools, mountains and caves. They were seriously powerful, more or less immortal, and permanently fixed at the age just between girlhood and marriage. Any spring or pool or river, even within a town, could safely be assumed to be inhabited by its own nymph or nymphs who were worthy of worship. So could trees and groves, hills and mountains. And the Greeks sensibly left offerings for the nymphs in all of these places. There were names for all the different types of nymphs—a naiad was a water nymph, an oreiad was a mountain nymph, etc.—but they could safely be referred to en masse as nymphs.

The word nymph (in ancient Greek, numphē) simply means “a girl of marriageable age”, but nymphs were not merely tall, beautiful, and female. Like all fae, and supernatural beings generally, they could also be dangerous.

Their presence could simply influence one to inspired speech—as Socrates said the nymphs of the nearby stream inspired him in the Phaedrus. Sometimes they healed the sick, though in folk belief they also were responsible for stealing away healthy babies and leaving changelings in their place. A man who saw a nymph could become nympholeptos: “taken by the nymphs” or “possessed by the nymphs,” never the same again—perhaps not so different from our “off with the fairies.” And there were folktales of fairyland-type exploits, where the nymphs tricked people into spending days or weeks with them that turn out to be years and centuries.

The most famous story of a person taken by the nymphs was Hylas, the beautiful young man beloved by Herakles. It happened while Hylas and Herakles were sailing towards Colchis with Jason and the Argonauts. According to Apollonius of Rhodes in his Argonautica, Hylas went looking for water one evening, and the naiad of the spring fell in love with him. He bent over the spring, she put one arm around his neck, ready to kiss him, and pulled him in with her right hand. Herakles searched and raged, but Hylas was never seen again.

Other versions of the story involve multiple naiads, and those were clearly what John William Waterhouse had in mind in his wonderful painting Hylas and the Nymphs. I’ve owned a print of it for decades, and it hangs over my bath.

Why, I wondered, should only men fall in love with nymphs? The narrator of my poem is a woman “taken by a nymph.”

Jenny Blackford’s poem “Liquid Pleasure” can be found in Fae Visions of the Mediterranean.