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
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.