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.

Saturday 21 May 2016

Interview with Álvaro Mielgo Gallego #FaeVisions

Our new anthology, Fae Visions of the Mediterranean, contains 24 stories and poems of horror and wonder of the sea in 9 languages. Among them is “Ya duerme el mutado” by Álvaro Mielgo Gallego, a trippy nightmare of sunstroke and religious

Álvaro Mielgo Gallego has contributed comics, dérives and poetry to DIY-aesthetics and psychogeographical publications. He founded the short-lived Sadwrn, a multilingual zine on situationism, poetry and weird fiction. He currently lives in Madrid, where he produces many notebooks of gibberish every year, writes murder mystery games and secret RPGs.

TFF: “Ya duerme el mutado” is a dreamy, feverish microfiction in which passion (in both the carnal and religious senses) spills over onto the page. Where did the story come from?
Álvaro Mielgo Gallego: I'd say it was Arthur Machen's fault. Months before The Future Fire's call for submissions for the anthology appeared on the net, I had been reading his long poem "Eleusinia" about the Eleusinian Mysteries, rescued from oblivion by the Friends of Arthur Machen society. That lead to more specific reading on the topic of the Mysteries in Ancient Greece, which in turn suggested the idea of "What if the consequences of a religious sacrament weren't only spiritual but also physical?"

For those who don't know him, Machen was a master of what we call nowadays weird fiction. In some of his tales (like "The Great God Pan") the characters suffer body and mind transformations related to wicked sexuality and ultimate sin. These subjects seemed very fitting for the reverse background of a trendy Neopaganism and a waning Catholicism in Catalonia.

The ending might be very loosely reminiscent of Borges' "El evangelio según Marcos," unfortunately without its terrific build-up for length's sake.

Do you feel a strong connection to the Mediterranean Sea itself?
I was born in Castille, a never-ending high plateau of wheat fields and wastelands. When I was little, the Mediterranean was a crowded, boiling place full of tacky tourists and a general ugliness. To be honest, that is still the picture you get when visiting most of the Eastern Spanish coast, and it'll probably get worse with time due to overbuilding. So it took me quite some travelling and reading to realize the enormous cultural and historical repository the Mediterranean Sea is, and to open my eyes to its dazzling beauty. It was a slow revelation. Now it feels unnatural not to drop by every couple of years.

You've been involved with another multilingual publication, Sadwrn. What do you think is the particular value of such projects?
Multilingual publications whet our appetite for new sounds, new concepts, new spellings or even alphabets. They also show us our ignorance (always humbling), and all the doors to wonders that are closed for us. They have a levelling power: you speak fairly well one or two languages, and there they are, only two among many, just as important as any of the others. The risk of alienating the readers is high, but it's absolutely worth it because of the way these projects reflect the multilingual nature of the world, something we tend to forget. They present to us meaning in a raw state, without translations. While reading Fae Visions of the Mediterranean we are reminded how multicultural the Mediterranean territories were and still are, a vast expanse where monolingualism rarely happened.

Sadwrn attempted this as well, although in a less focused way: it contained poetry, short fiction, interviews on diverse topics and experimental texts in English, Spanish, Welsh and Portuguese. I think it wanted to reflect, using a printed medium, on how the Internet has expanded our cultural menu.

All stories in this anthology have a strong connection to their location. What do you think is the influence of space and place on our memories and feelings?
From the point of view of the rambler, each place we go through and inhabit has its own personality and particular flavour. The relationship between place, feeling and memory is reciprocal: different spaces leave a strong imprint on us, but we also project on them feeling and memory. I'm thinking of Rousseau's "Rêveries", and the way he casts his own musings on the landscape around him. This creates an interplay of the imagination that is actually quite important in the way we relate to the world.

I hope that, by telling stories set around the Mediterranean, we're actively rebuilding a part of this net of meaningful imagined reality for some of the readers, at least in its most monstrous aspect.

Have you ever dreamt a fully fledged story?
Dreams usually don't offer straightforward narratives with a clear three-part structure, and I'm glad they don't because it's the only space nowadays where we can be in touch with the superreal. They always divert and take unexpected turns before you can grasp them. Maybe the main strand of a story is over, but you don't notice it because a new one has opened up. Once I was being chased by bald vampires in a soggy maze made out of cardboard boxes (like a kilometre-wide kids' fort) on a beach, probably in Valencia. Luckily enough that thread gave way to the problem of not having any oranges left, but I couldn't tell between the two until I woke up and analysed the whole dream.

Some other times they tease you with amazing stories you'll never get to enjoy, like when I was walking the streets of a colonial French city by the sea in North Africa, with its Haussmann-style boulevards and blue-roofed buildings. At every crossroads you found colossal, gleaming statues of Egyptian gods in basalt or marble. The dream ended quite suddenly, so all I could do was imagine how exactly the Egyptian religion had spread that far west and survived until the 19th century.

If you were a mermaid, would you try to save the shipwrecked sailors or to drag them down to your coraly kingdom?
Oh, I'd definitely drag them down. I live for that moment when desire, wonder and terror are blended in their eyes. I'm sure they're not personally to blame for the recent bleaching of my coraly kingdom, but I can't help it. Also, I've developed a taste for playing xylophone-based mambo music and believe me, fishbones just lack calcium.

What are you working on next?
I'm writing RPGs and LARPs at the moment, they're incredibly fun, collaborative and rewarding. They bring so many surprises every time.

On the literary side, I have two short tales brewing, but I still don't know when they will hatch, or even how to talk about them. One of them will feature the underground world of Madrid's web of tunnels and a nocturnal marriage; the other is at a much more embryonic stage.

Thank you, Álvaro!

Álvaro Mielgo Gallego’s “Ya duerme el mutado” can be found in Fae Visions of the Mediterranean.

Friday 20 May 2016

#FaeVisions blog carnival

You can't have missed the fact that this month we're blogging (here or elsewhere) every day about the Fae Visions of the Mediterranean anthology, 24 stories and poems of horror and wonder of the sea in 9 languages (all translated or glossed in English, of course). The authors, poets, translators and artist involved in this lovely little volume have all been very enthusiastic and generous in helping to promote the anthology through blog posts, interviews, reviews, images, video and social media.

The main posts and events so far are listed here (posts not on this blog are in bold):

Tuesday 17 May 2016

Interview with Lyndsay E. Gilbert #FaeVisions

The latest Publishing volume, Fae Visions of the Mediterranean, is an anthology of horrors and wonders of the sea containing 24 stories and poems. One such short story, Lyndsay E. Gilbert’s “The Strangest Sort of Siren,” is one of the darkest pieces, populated by monsters and rulers of the underworld, featuring betrayal and abuse and a naval passage to hell. We asked Lyndsay a few questions about her work.

Lyndsay E. Gilbert is an English teacher from Northern Ireland, where she lives near an ancient castle by the sea surrounded by many pets. She loves lyrical prose, myth, magic, fairy tales and folklore. She writes poetry, short stories and YA novels. You can find her blog at

TFF: “The Strangest Sort of Siren” is a very dark, unromanticised twist on Greek mythology—channelling tragedy but not confined by canon. What did the story mean for you?
Lyndsay E. Gilbert: I have always had a deep interest in the story of Hades and Persephone. I wrote this story as a further exploration of a poem I wrote on the topic this year called Persephone Grown. I keep contemplating how Persephone is never given much of a choice, six months with her abductor followed by six months with her mother. She never gets to grow up. She is never given any agency beyond the eating of the fruit in the underworld which is usually seen as an accident. I wanted to hear her voice.

This led next to wondering about the handmaidens who were with Persephone on the day she was taken. Persephone’s mother Demeter was said to have cursed them, transforming them to wicked Sirens. When I started to write on the blank page a handmaiden, held apart from her sisters, appeared immediately and she had a story all her own to tell.

What is your connection with the Mediterranean Sea?
When I saw the call for submissions to the anthology I questioned if I really had a claim on the Mediterranean. Enough to allow myself to enter. (I’m very tough on myself apparently!)

I am from Ireland. We are rich in our own mythology and folklore. It was this folklore that led me to explore other lore from other parts of the world, and I fell in love with the amount of lore coming from the Mediterranean. It molded my imagination as a girl in the same way that fairytales did (and Brian Froud’s Labyrinth let’s be honest—another alluring retelling of the Hades/Persephone myth when you think about it!)

In the end I decided the lore of the Mediterranean was as much a part of my creative self as that of the Ulster warrior Cuchulain!

In your story, sunken ships go to the underworld. Was that simply needed by the plot or do you like to think there is some truth in that?
This is a brilliant question! I think there must be some truth in that considering the amount of ghost ships said to still be sailing the oceans. I was writing “The Strangest Sort of Siren” by the seat of my pants and the idea just presented itself really naturally. In order to be a ghost, a ship must first have a soul. People name a ship and put their lives in its care. So if a ship’s soul goes to the underworld, perhaps someday it too can forget its past and be reborn.

Which underrated English author do you think all your students should absolutely read?
I use short stories to expose my students to amazing new YA authors being published in anthologies quite a lot. The curriculum is awash with the usual white, English dead men. There’s a very real level of snobbery surrounding authors who are still alive it seems! On top of that there’s the academic snobbery surrounding spec fic. Ultimately though, if I had my way, I would unflinchingly bring stories about LGBTQA+ youth into the classroom. We need much more diversity in the curriculum instead of paper thin references to it in school bullying policies. Children of all types of sexualities, backgrounds and races deserve to be represented. So in this vein I guess I’m not suggesting any particular underrated author, I want my students to read authors and stories about people from all walks of life.

What fantastic creature from your part of the world would you most like to go to a party with?
When I first read this question I had a horrible vision of a cartoon leprechaun leaping away with my lucky charms. Terrifying! I would most like to go to a party with a Bansidhe. I think we would have a wail of a time. (I didn’t know I was going to make that pun until it happened and I apologize profusely for it—actually no I don’t, I’m still chuckling at it.)

In all seriousness though, I know a lot of people who have had actual experiences with these disturbing ghost women, and I think Bansidhes deserve to go to a party and have a bit of fun. It can’t be easy having to warn unsuspecting people of an imminent death in their family.

If you were the captain of a ship, what would you name her?
Now that I’ve written my story I might just name her Sappho’s Siren.

What famous work of art would you like to hang over your bed?
Van Gogh, Starry Night. It makes me think of the peace of night time, but also of being in the in-between, not asleep or awake, slipping into dreaming and letting the imagination shift our perspective.

Do you have any recently publications that readers could look up if they want to see more of your work?
My short story “Under the School” was published at Youth Imagination last year, and my novel Blood, Glass and Sugar is a YA urban fantasy retelling of Snow White.

What are you working on right now?
I’m always working on a jumble of things. Right now my two novel projects are the sequel to Blood, Glass and Sugar and a dystopia called The Last Age of Sorrow, where unhappiness has been outlawed. I’ve got lots of short stories on the go too.

Thank you, Lyndsay!

Lyndsay E. Gilbert’s “The Strangest Sort of Siren” can be found in Fae Visions of the Mediterranean.

Monday 16 May 2016

We have our own monsters #FaeVisions

Guest post by Arrate Hidalgo.

I’m from a land most people know as Spain. But my sea is not the Mediterranean Sea. I grew up 20 minutes away from the Cantabrian coast: that’s the same waters that lap around Britain, the island I currently call home. But when northern Europeans hear me complain about the London heat, they assume I come from a warm place, with palm trees, perhaps.

I am from the Basque Country. Our days are grey, wet, gently bleak. (Or they used to be: climate change is taking care of that.) Stereotypically rebellious, or perhaps just a bit out of the way, the Basques were left pretty much alone during the pre-modern invasions and settlements from the Mediterranean, aided by our uninspiring agricultural potential. That means we kept our own language and, until not that long ago, our own religion—goddess and all—and creatures such as the river-dwelling, duck-footed lamiak who would build a bridge for you overnight every now and then. Especially if you left them some food.

We have our own monsters, too. Or do we? There is a giant called Tartalo, or Torto, who lives in a cave and herds sheep, which he eats alongside the occasional human. Legend has it that he was once fooled by a young man who escaped from his lair by hiding under a sheep. Did I mention Tartalo only has one eye? Ring any bells yet? This story carries the scent of an inland sea, warmer waters, pungent flowers that open at night, sardines charred on coals nested in the sand. It’s impossible to know when the Cyclops was transplanted into a story about Tartalo. Just like with Scandinavian myths, most of what we know about pre-Christian Basque beliefs was retrieved in Christian times.

Whatever the case, the truth is that our mountains might have been a deterrent for ancient foreigners to make a life in them, but not for stories to find a way in, transforming in the process. The Mediterranean reaches further than we think, surfing inwards as well as outwards on travellers’ tongues. And right now it rushes in with stories that we refuse to hear.

The horrors of the Mediterranean are far from supernatural for the thousands who are leaving everything behind in order to reach a safe haven from a man-made hell. Thousands of lives are perishing in high sea or stranded in the very real islands of mythical Greece, unaided and ignored. Fortress Europe is allowing for families to be divided, for children to be abandoned at their peril, facing all too human dangers.

Fae Visions may be an anthology of the marvellous and the strange, but in the process it has created a real space that brings people and places together. Its pages speak many languages, they reach out and gather us around them. It reminds us that the borders that keep us apart are as strong as our will to wish them gone. Of course, some will take more work to break than others. But in the meantime, we share the wonder of story, and that is no small thing.

Arrate Hidalgo is the translator of “El baile de la Hipacotora” in Fae Visions of the Mediterranean

Saturday 14 May 2016

Interview with Dunja Ševerdija #FaeVisions

Among the many stories and poems in 9 languages in Fae Visions of the Mediterranean is “The Scythe and the Hourglass,” translated from Vladimira Becić’s Croatian original by Dunja Ševerdija, a fascinating take on Balkan folklore and postmodern writing angst. We asked Dunja a few questions about her work.

Dunja Ševerdija is a student of English and Latin at the University of Zagreb. She is a translator from Croatian to English and vice versa. She is currently employed by British Council Croatia. This is her first published translation.

TFF: “The Scythe and the Hourglass” is a mannered, folkloric tale. How did you approach the story and go about translating it?
Dunja Ševerdija: It helped a lot that I was already familiar with Vladimira's style and this wasn't the first translation I had ever done for her. But it wasn't easy. I have never translated a text that was set in such a distant time period. The most difficult thing to achieve in the translation was the archaic feel Vladimira achieved in the original with the type of language she used. I hope that came across well. I'm still very new to the translating business, so it was difficult for me to decide whether I should read the entire story first or just translate it sentence by sentence. Since Vladimira likes to use twists at the end, I didn't want my knowledge to affect my translation. I opted for sentence by sentence in the end. I think that was a good choice.

Do you feel a strong connection to the Mediterranean Sea itself?
Yes, absolutely. Water has always been my element. I have always loved the silence and the weightlessness of floating. I almost perceive sea as a completely separate world that has its own rules. The Adriatic Sea, which is a part of the Mediterranean, has always called out to me more than any other.

How do you negotiate between the two irreconcilable extremes: the beautiful translation and the faithful translation?
Ay, there's the rub. I think that is both the challenge and the art of translating, finding that balance between faithful and beautiful. I think a translator should always translate as faithfully as possible. If it is a beautifully written text, your translation should come out beautiful as well. It's not the translator's job to make a text more beautiful than it is. That's the author's job.

Do you find you need to take different approaches for translating different genres, or fiction and nonfiction, for example?
I do believe different approaches need to be taken, but they're not necessarily extremely different from each other. Of course translating a poem and translating a short story are two different things, because each genre abides by its own rules. There are some things that are allowed in poetry that are not allowed in fiction and vice versa. But I think it's just a matter of practice and personal preference whether a translator would be able to do a good job with what s/he takes on.

Has a total stranger, say on a train, ever told you a cool story?
I often find myself in a queue at the post office with this lady who once told me how she used to send letters to her husband in the army, but, instead of writing, she would draw what she could see outside her window. She said that she got bored of simply describing it and that nothing worth writing about was happening anyway. He loved it because it was like she was sending him photographs of his hometown.

Are there any Latin authors or works that you think would make a good contribution to a speculative or dark fiction anthology?
I think Ovid's Metamorphoses would fit very nicely into one of these categories. That's probably my favourite Latin work of all time.

Which of the episodes you like in the Metamorphoses do you think would work best as a stand-alone story?
Since Metamorphoses doesn't have a unified storyline, I believe more or less any story from it could stand on its own. The best one, however, would probably be the creation of the universe with which Ovid opens. He describes it in a mixture of scientific and supernatural terms, and it is probably the most intriguing.

What is your favourite (real or literary) sea creature and why?
Sea otters. They allegedly hold paws in their sleep so they wouldn't drift away from each other during the night. I'm a sucker for adorable things like that. And although it technically lives in a lake, I have always had an inexplicable fondness for the Giant Squid from Harry Potter.

Would you use a piece of art to tell someone that you love them?
Of course I would. I have done so in the past. I'm a hopeless romantic. But I do understand that's not everyone's cup of tea.

Are you working on any other translations or fiction for publication at the moment? Or what else would you like to work on?
I'm not working on anything at the moment. I have only worked on short stories so far and I would really love to move on to translating a novel. Preferably something with dragons, but I'll take what I can get.

Thank you, Dunja!

Dunja is the translator of “The Scythe and the Hourglass” in Fae Visions of the Mediterranean.

Thursday 12 May 2016

Interview with Simon Kearns #FaeVisions

This month sees the release of Fae Visions of the Mediterranean, an anthology of 24 stories and poems exploring horrors and wonders of the sea. Among these is Simon Kearns’s flash fiction horror story “Mare Nostrum,” set among the refugees and people smugglers of the North African coast. We asked Simon a few questions about his work.

Simon Kearns grew up in the North of Ireland and now lives in the South of France. His debut novel, Virtual Assassin from Revenge Ink, 2010 (left), explores personal responsibility in a corrupt society. Dark Waves from Blood Bound Books, 2014 (below) is about a powerful haunting and the rationalist determined to debunk it.

“Mare Nostrum” is one of the most classic horror stories in the anthology, economical and tight, unflinching in the face of villainy and tragedy. Can you tell us where the particular setting of the story came from?
The setting is the Libyan coast. After the fall of Gaddafi, there were huge numbers of people trying to reach the Italian islands. This was before the Turkish/Greek crossing became the big news story. Every week in 2012, the death tolls were rising. Thousands of people drowned.

What particular moment in the refugees’ journey did you choose to focus on, and why?
I chose to focus on the moment when the refugees, most of whom have crossed deserts and war zones, come up against the edge of the sea. It is here that they are at the mercy of the people smugglers. It is here that they are loaded onto unseaworthy vessels and sent out onto the merciless waters of Our Sea. How many have sunk without a trace in the waters between Libya and the Italian islands? How many children have gone down with their desperate parents? How much of a damn do we in Europe give for the plight of these people?

What is your connection with the Mediterranean Sea itself?
When I was a child, my mother and I visited a number of countries on the Med. I remember all the other children, no matter which country we were in, could speak enough English to communicate with me. Now, I live about 50 km from the Med, and, as far as my family is concerned, it really is Our Sea.

Your novel Virtual Assassin explores personal responsibility; “Mare Nostrum” also features a complex moral situation and the bad guys who take advantage of it. Do you think it is possible to "not take a side" in crises like this?
It is possible to claim you are not taking a side, to wash your hands of a problem, or call yourself a cynic and deride any given situation. But the fact remains, the majority of people who cross the Med do so to escape the aftermath of Western interventions. And those interventions are the actions of our elected representatives. In Virtual Assassin, the protagonist reaches the conclusion that our society profits from global inequalities, and, as such, no one in the West can be called innocent.

Do you find a lot of difference between the northern end of Europe where you grew up, and the southern province where you live now?
There are many differences simply due to climate. In southern Europe people take their time to do things, eating, walking, meetings. In 30+ degrees, you don’t want to rush. As for the population, I find the locals much the same as those from my own provincial hometown: honest, hard-working, proud.

Complete this sentence: "There is a special area in hell reserved for …"
… those who knowingly profit from the misery and deaths of others.

Is there a peculiar monster that is said to haunt the streets of your hometown?
I grew up in Ireland where you can hardly walk down the street without tripping over something otherworldly. Probably the most memorable is the Banshee, a woman all in white seen when someone close to you is soon to die. Not only would it be scary enough to see such an apparition, you also have to contend with the imminent death of a loved one! As a child we told each other stories about the Banshee: she was heard crying in a housing estate, she was seen combing her hair in the children’s playground. It was often the banal locations of these reported sightings that made the stories all the more forceful.

Would you like to visit another planet?
If the journey is pleasant and the climate agreeable, yes, I would.

What are you working on now?
I’m halfway through a new novel. Four people, three siblings and a girlfriend, pass a weekend in an isolated villa in an unnamed Mediterranean country. They discuss god, death, and ghosts. I am fascinated by our ability to hold contradictory beliefs, such as the overlap of rationalism and superstition.

Thank you, Simon!

Simon Kearns’s “Mare Nostrum” can be found in Fae Visions of the Mediterranean.

Wednesday 11 May 2016

The Talason #FaeVisions

Guest post by Vladimia Becić

Casa Encantada, based on original by Lolatower, CC-BY-SA
Belief in the talason is spread out throughout the Balkans, either under the same or similar name. In Macedonia it used to be called the talas'mim, and in Bosnia either the tilisum or the tilisun.

Talason is the spirit-protector of a building and it ties itself exclusively to it, not the ones that inhabit it. For this reason, the talason is considered to be a mythical creature that relates to places, not people. Its main purpose is to protect the building from people who approach it with bad intentions.

A talason can protect public buildings such as post offices, town halls or schools. However, a talason can protect family homes as well, but in that case it does not represent an ancestral spirit, like, for example, Roman Lares and Penates, and it is in no relation to the inhabitants of the house. Even though it is invisible to humans, according to legend, it can be seen by those born on a Tuesday or Saturday. A talason appears to them in a form of a dark shape or a shadow. There are also mentions of it being seen by dogs.

The relationship between talasons and shadows sprouts from the belief that a shadow is an equivalent of a man's soul, and that the soul/shadow and body can be separated. It was also believed that, through separation from the body, a man's soul would tie itself to a building. During construction, builders would wait for a passer-by's shadow to fall upon the foundations, measure its length and build the measurement into the foundations. For this they would strictly use silk thread. It is during the measuring that the soul/shadow separates from the body. The person whose shadow was measured and built into the foundations usually falls ill and dies within forty days. Their soul becomes inextricably bound to the building and becomes known as the spirit-protector of the building, i.e. its talason.

Since builders secretly measured the shadows of passers-by in order to ensure a building got its spirit-protector, people tended to avoid building sites, and mothers forbade their children to go near them.

According to tradition, the protection of buildings used to be ensured by walling up living people inside the foundations. That way the spirit of the victim would become the protector, i.e. the talason. Allegedly this method used to be applied in the Balkans. Later on, it was replaced by the more subtle version of measuring the shadow with silk thread.

Vladimira Becić’s “The Scythe and the Hourglass” can be found in Fae Visions of the Mediterranean.

Tuesday 10 May 2016

Interview with Rhys Hughes #FaeVisions

Fae Visions of the Mediterranean is an anthology of horrors and wonders of the sea, edited by Valeria Vitale and released this month by Publishing. The 24 stories and poems, in multiple genres and languages, include a reprint of Rhys Hughes’s “The Minotaur in Pamplona”—one of the most poignant of his many many absurdist stories. We asked Rhys a few questions about his work.

Rhys Hughes has been a published author for 25 years. His most recent book is a collection of stories called Mirrors in the Deluge and his next book will be another collection of stories, Brutal Pantomimes. He plans to write exactly 1000 short stories in his lifetime.

TFF: “The Minotaur in Pamplona” takes liberties with its source material, as is your wont, but somehow manages to stay truer to the tragic spirit of the Minotaur than many classical retellings. Where did the story come from?

Rhys Hughes: I wrote it in a hotel room one rainy day in Toledo, Spain. It was my first visit to that city and the weather had been good but suddenly the skies opened and the rain came down in a torrent. I retreated to my very small room in my very cheap hotel and lacking anything else to do I just starting writing a new story. I wrote it in one session, which is something I often do with these very short tales. I have no idea where the story came from. Stories appear in my mind all the time and I guess they come from many different sources. I had flirted with the idea of going to the Pamplona encierro later that month, but my ethical good sense overruled me. As for the figure of the Minotaur, I have always been intrigued by the ancient myths. It was the Borges story ‘The House of Asterion’ that first alerted me to the poignant potentials of the character and situation of the Minotaur. I hadn’t really been aware of the tragic elements before that, to be honest. I just thought of him as a monster in a maze. When the rain stopped I went back out and wandered through the labyrinthine streets. The following day I left Toledo and set off on the longest single day hike I have undertaken, into the mountains. Not that this has anything to do with your question!

What is your connection with the Mediterranean Sea and region?

The Mediterranean is the cradle of European civilisation. Or at least the nursery room of the mainstream culture we now have on this particular continent. I have spent a lot of time wandering the various shores of this almost fully enclosed ellipse of water. We now think of the sea as forming a clear divide between two radically different worlds, Europe and Africa, but it wasn’t always perceived that way. Once those two worlds were the same world culturally. These days the southern side is less familiar to most travellers than the northern, which is a shame. I especially like the Mediterranean coast of Morocco, which has a beauty and mystery and is still relatively undeveloped. I hiked from Melilla to El Hoceima and during the journey I did feel I might have been living in an earlier age. I saw few intrusions of the modern world on the way. Until recently this was a dangerous region and it still has that reputation, but it is safe enough. Ajdir was the capital of the Rif Republic under Abd el-Krim, whose guerrilla tactics hugely influenced Ho Chi Minh and Che Guevara. Later it became notorious as a lawless place where kif dealers robbed travellers on principle. I was warned against going there. The most dramatic thing that happened was that a stranger offered me apricots. There are the islands of the Mediterranean too, of course, suspended at a midpoint between the two shores. Sardinia is one of my favourite places in the world. I love the Greek islands. Too many places to mention really.

Your stories sometimes veer between slapstick comedy and blood-chilling horror (the best masterfully combine both). What is it about these apparently antithetical genres that go so well together?

I don’t really write horror, certainly not now, and even the few horror elements that might appear in a story aren’t true horror. I certainly have no desire to scare people. I am more interested in playing games with ideas. I don’t know if horror and comedy go well together. In many ways, I think that horror is comedy, even horror that doesn’t try to be comedy, that doesn’t want to be comedy. Horror is essentially comedy, even though it might not be funny comedy, on the contrary it can be a profoundly unfunny comedy, and yet comedy nonetheless. What I mean is that some horror, the supernatural variety at least, is deeply absurd by definition. The idea of a werewolf, for example. We choose to regard it as a serious horror standard, or else we have been conditioned to do so. Now let’s imagine a were-panda or a were-starfish. These are fundamentally no different in concept from the werewolf. The transformational formulae are the same. Yet we regard them as comic creations rather than horror creations. It can be argued that the wolf is more dangerous, but that isn’t necessarily so. Wolves rarely attack people, a lone wolf almost never. A panda, however, could crush a man if he fell on him. A starfish could poke a man in the eyes, causing him to crash his hovercraft. It’s all equally absurd, equally comical, but we make arbitrary distinctions between the werewolf and the others. The werewolf doesn’t feel absurd, even though it is; and in some ways that makes it more absurd than the panda and starfish. Science fiction is the same. A space giraffe that stands on one planet but has a neck so long that it stretches through outer space and bends down through the atmosphere of another planet so it can browse alien foliage is an absurd, comical creation. But the idea of human astronauts travelling faster than the speed of light between the solar systems of an intergalactic empire in hollow spaceships is just as absurd, no less an impossibility, and yet we tend to accept it as a plausible, even aspirational, scenario. Both are fairy tales really. Both are absurdities. It’s just that we have developed a prejudice against certain types of absurdity and we tolerate others. There is no logic behind it. So I am not sure that I ever consciously blend antithetical elements. I just write. My main urge and aim is to get the ideas that appear in my head down onto the page and to fix them in stories so they can’t come back to clutter up my mind.

Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?

I started writing from a very early age, but I didn’t take it seriously. I didn’t think of my efforts as being proper short stories, even though one or two were. I remember when I was about ten years old writing a story about a man who jumps off a cliff in order to kill himself, but he only knocks himself out when he hits the sea and is washed ashore. When he awakes he assumes he is dead and has become a ghost, so he goes off to haunt people and play tricks on them. He assumes that because he is a ghost he is invisible and immune to retaliation. But of course he isn’t. His tricks get more elaborate and disruptive. Eventually he annoys so many people that they all chase him and in order to escape he jumps off the same cliff he first jumped off, assuming he can fly or at least that the impact won’t hurt him. But this time the tide is out and he dies for real. I guess I can say this was my first proper story. I lost it, as I lost all my early work, but I kept the idea in my head and rewrote it years later. It’s called ‘Learning to Fall’ and can be found in my book Tallest Stories, published in 2013. That book is one of my favourites of all the books I have written. It features sixty stories that are linked in various ways and includes other stories that I originally wrote when I was very young but lost and rewrote years later.

If you wrote your 1000th story today, would you really stop?

I am often asked this question. People simply don’t believe that I will stop, but I do think that I will. When I have got all the fiction out of my system I intend to concentrate on non-fiction. I would like to become an essayist. I really can see myself just writing non-fiction. The transition has started slowly already. I have begun reading more non-fiction than fiction. But it will be a long time before I get to my 1000th story. I have been working on this sequence for the past 26 years and when I started writing it, I didn’t even know it was a linked sequence. That happened later, organically, when characters from previous stories started appearing in later stories. They were uninvited at first, but now I welcome them with open arms. I haven’t yet decided if my novels will form part of the big sequence or not. Maybe they won’t, which means that more room will open up in the sequence that has to be filled with new stories. And even if they do, the remaining stories that I write might be very long ones or made up of multiple parts, each of which is a separate story. So there’s a long way to go yet. And when I do finally finish my 1000th tale, if I ever get that far, I guess I will go back to the beginning and start rewriting the sequence from the beginning. I regard the entire cycle as just one big fictional ‘object’ and finishing it will really be only finishing the first draft. I will need to polish and refine it, tighten it, make it better. This is assuming that I live long enough to do all this, or that I still have the desire to do it. Anything can happen. But I know for sure that I don’t want to just keep writing fiction without limit into my old age. That seems too much like fading away, like being an echo that gets fainter and fainter. I want there to be a deliberate and definite final line.

If you had to spend one month on a small, desert island, what books would you want to have with you?

Books on survival, of course, but that’s too obvious an answer. Am I limited in how many books I am allowed? Robinson Crusoe seems the perfect choice. I could provide you with a list of my favourite novels, if you like. The Adventures and Misadventures of Maqroll by Alvaro Mutis; Froth on the Daydream by Boris Vian; Our Ancestors by Italo Calvino; Life: A User's Manual by George Perec; The Sot-Weed Factor by John Barth; All About H. Hatterr by G.V. Desani; At Swim-Two-Birds by Flann O'Brien; Landscape Painted with Tea by Milorad Pavić. Some collections of short stories would be nice too. The Cyberiad by Stanislaw Lem; the various collections of Donald Barthelme, Jorge Luis Borges, Alasdair Gray, Brian Aldiss. But wouldn’t it be a little depressing just reading work I have already read? Maybe I should go for authors I am not very familiar with yet. I am constantly discovering writers who enthral me. This year, for example, I started reading R.K. Narayan for the first time, and now I plan to work my way through all his books. A couple of years ago I first started reading Ismail Kadare and he has become one of my favourite writers, so even though I discovered most of my favourite writers in my youth, I am still learning all the time what wondrous talent is out there.

What is your favourite place to write?

I can write almost anywhere and have done, but this doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy the comforts of a soft armchair. I have a favourite chair that I use. When I wrote just using a pen I would sprawl on the floor. Then I progressed to using a typewriter while perched on a stool, then a word processor and a computer on a chair, my posture improving each time. So I guess I was like one of those old drawings showing the supposed ascent of man, from crouched monkey to fully erect homo sapiens, but not quite. Now I will often sprawl in my armchair with the keyboard on my lap. Real laptops don’t appeal to me because the action of the keys doesn’t feel right. I always plug in an old chunky keyboard. I want to bang the keys like a demented pianist banging a piano. Having said that, I am a four fingered typist. And I still occasionally write using pen and paper. I might have several stories in progress on the computer and several scribbled on paper as well. Ten years ago I wrote a novella while hiking through the Alpujarras mountains in Spain. I didn’t have a tent, just a sleeping bag, so I wrote using rocks as tables. I did try to write once during a storm at sea, but that didn’t work very well. I am toying with the idea of using voice recognition software so I can dictate my stories into the computer, but I know that the part of the brain that controls the writing of words is different to that which controls speaking, so this might take some retraining. Worth a try anyway, I think.

What are you writing next (as if it could be any one thing!)?

I am always working on more than one project at the same time. I don’t know how this situation came about. There must have been a point when I worked on one project at a time, but I don’t remember. At the moment I have lots of works in progress and some of them have been in progress for years, even decades. So I could say that these are the things I am writing ‘next’ although it’s not clear if they will be finished anytime soon. There is my novel The Clown of the New Eternities, which I started in 1994, and which will be my most substantial work if I manage to complete it. There are other novels too, Unevensong, which is a more traditional fantasy epic; Wuthering Depths, a comedy about submarines; Fists of Fleece, a western with a Welsh slant; Djinn Septic, about a crew of sailors who travel in a clot-shaped ship to the Heart of Darkness in order to induce a heart attack and kill darkness, allowing light to rule the world; Comfy Rascals, a showcase of experimental chapters all done in a different style governed by mathematics; Down Cerberus!, which constitutes the reminiscences of the triple-headed mythical hound that guards Hades. The short stories will hopefully keep coming too. I am in the process of putting together a collection of my ‘fantastika romantique’ tales called Salty Kiss Island. I am planning other collections called The Big Dwarf Shortage, Dribble as I Dawdle, Corybantic Fulgors; a collection of strange detective stories called The Mischief Maker; many others. As well as the fantasy stuff, I like to write the occasional ‘realistic’ story without any fantasy, and I have just begun a new linked series based on the lives of four bohemian types who live in the same house. My non-fantasy work has hardly ever been published, but I persist. I have no choice but to get the ideas in my head down on paper and there are lots of these ideas all the time. I just don’t think it’s very realistic of me to expect to be only working on a single project. Maybe my working life would be easier if I did, but that’s not my character. I work hard but I am disorganised too in many ways, and yet maybe from this disorganisation comes everything I do that is different from what others do. Everyone is different, of course, but the reasons for our differences maybe shouldn’t be delved into too deeply.

Thanks, Rhys!

Rhys Hughes’s “The Minotaur in Pamplona” can be found in Fae Visions of the Mediterranean.

Monday 9 May 2016

Mythology and the Mediterranean #FaeVisions

Guest post by Lyndsay E. Gilbert

I’ll admit up front that, coming from the Emerald Isle, the Mediterranean for me once meant a place where it doesn’t rain all the time, and where there are hot beaches to lounge on for a few weeks in the summer holidays. As I grew older however, I fell in love with stories, history and folklore and before I knew it I was on a journey of the mind and imagination which would open up a treasure chest of cultures and inspiration.

I started with the folklore of Ireland and that was a springboard from which I launched into the roots of places and peoples unfamiliar to me.

I dabbled in Paganism as a teen and my passion for knowledge of gods and goddesses across the world continued to mount. When I found out that a school near me taught Classical Civilizations at Advanced Level I immediately enrolled there and my love of Greek and Roman history and mythology deepened. The scope just kept widening as I researched around school topics and learned of the connections between different Mediterranean countries. I tracked the births and movements of certain cults and the evolution of many gods and goddesses.

My Fae Vision for the anthology, ‘The Strangest Sort of Siren’ was born from my obsession with the Hades/Persephone myth. The whole idea of it terrified me, especially when we learned about wedding rights in ancient Rome and how they would stage a pretend kidnapping of the bride, who had to scream and struggle before being taken off by her new husband.

I couldn’t help but feel for Persephone, forced to live one half of her days in her kidnapper’s underworld domain, and the other half under the watchful eye of her Mother, like a maiden who would never be allowed to grow and become her own self. My story was a way of rescuing Persephone from the perpetual cycle of daughterhood and wifehood and giving her back something that is her own. A truth inside her that no one can control or take away.

The picture above is one I drew to represent the memories and dreams of both my main character and Persephone. I’m not a great artist, but I do enjoy depicting my characters.

Lyndsay E. Gilbert’s “The Strangest Sort of Siren” can be found in Fae Visions of the Mediterranean.

Sunday 8 May 2016

Interview with Dawn Vogel #FaeVisions

The Fae Visions of the Mediterranean anthology, now available in print and e-book from all online stores, brings you 24 stories and poems of horror and wonder of the sea. Among them is Dawn Vogel’s “Salt in Our Veins,” a short story of insecure childhood and Maltese pirates which highlights our ambiguous relationship with the sometimes nurturing, sometimes terrifying sea.

Dawn Vogel has been published as a short fiction author and a fiction and non-fiction editor. In her alleged spare time, she runs a craft business, helps edit Mad Scientist Journal, and tries to find time to write. She lives in Seattle with her husband and their herd of cats. We asked her a few questions about her work.

TFF: “Salt in Our Veins” is a thrilling pirate story with an understated supernatural twist. Where did the story come from?
I wrote this story after doing some research into historical pirates who operated in the Mediterranean. I found the bits about pirates capturing people to then demand ransoms for them or force them into service particularly interesting. But the crux of this story came down to: what would pirates do with someone who could not be ransomed, but whose claims of supernatural parentage made them far more interesting than your average captive? And what would the captive do to be free again?

What is your connection with the Mediterranean?
I've never actually seen it in person. I had vague plans to go to Greece about a dozen years ago, but those never materialized. In fact, I only made it to Europe for the first time earlier this year, and then only to Germany and France. So my only real connection is a historical interest in the area, particularly Greece.

In your story, nereids live half of their lives in the water and half on land. Is this kind of liminal creature a recurrent topic in your writing?
Yes and no. I write a lot of stories that involve supernatural beings from the sea—mermaids, sirens, nereids, nixies, and even vodyanoi have appeared in my stories. But for me, it's a much stronger tie to water, and the way that it can hide secrets within its depths. So many cultures have stories about things that live in the water that want to kill you, and it's interesting to explore the way those things are similar and different.

Other than writing, what is your favourite craft for creating things, people or worlds?
I'm an avid crafter, particularly working with crochet. I primarily make functional things, but I have incorporated storytelling and crochet together for some of my projects.

That sounds cool! Could you show us an example of something like that?
I made this combination of crochet and storytelling (left), for an exhibit at a small shop where all of the artists made something that fit in a 6 x 6 x 6 inch cube and wrote a story of less than 200 words to accompany it.

Do you remember the first time you saw the sea?
I grew up in the Midwest, so it wasn't until I was 11 or 12 years old. We drove to South Carolina to visit family, and they took us to the beach on a cloudy day. The main thing I remember is that the waves were, as my youngest sister put it, "pushy." When I was in my early 20s, we went to Virginia, and the water there was less "pushy," but cold. It wasn't until I went to Seattle for the first time, 11 years ago, that I realized that I really loved the ocean and couldn't imagine living somewhere without it. (I moved to Seattle about a year and a half after that trip.)

If you were a ghost, who would you haunt?
A lot of that would depend on how I became a ghost. I would absolutely be a vengeful spirit if there was someone responsible for my death. I'm not sure who I'd haunt if I didn't have vengeance to exact.

What other stories/exciting news do you have coming up?
I have a story, "Army of Me," coming out in Untethered: A Magic iPhone Anthology from Cantina Press this fall. I'm currently working on editing stories for Mad Scientist Journal's third anthology, Fitting In: Historical Accounts of Paranormal Subcultures, which will also be out this fall from DefCon One Publishing.

Thank you, Dawn!

Dawn Vogel’s “Salt in Our Veins” can be found in Fae Visions of the Mediterranean.