Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Interview with Bryan Kamaoli Kuwada

The CFS for Making Monsters may have closed, but our ongoing quest for monsters continues… This week we’re joined by Bryan Kamaoli Kuwada, author of the story “All My Relations” in the Pacific Monsters anthology from our friends at Fox Spirit Books. Our third visitor from the Pacific region, Bryan was kind enough to chat to us about his story, his writing, Hawaiian monsters, and the sea.

Bryan Kamaoli Kuwada is a tiny part of his beautiful beloved Hawaiian community that fights every day for breath, for ea, for connection, for sovereignty. He is sometimes called tree, bear, Morris, hoa, and more. He is also sometimes an academic, editor, translator, blogger (, poet, writer of dorky sff stories set in Hawaiʻi, photographer, and/or videographer. What he mostly does is surf with his mother and a crew of fierce activist poet wāhine who tease (and teach) him mercilessly.

The Future Fire: Is the kupua in “All My Relations” an evil monster (in the conscious way that only humans can be truly evil) or is it just a naturally predatory creature like the shark?

Bryan Kamaoli Kuwada: I don’t think that I would say that the kupua is evil. I think that he is just working from a different set of cultural values than we are. For example, his ideas about justice fall more in line with an understanding of living in balance with things around him, being a part of the cycle of life and death, that aligns a little more with traditional Hawaiian understandings of the world. It’s when he really isn’t allowed to participate in the world according to that understanding of justice anymore that he truly becomes monstrous. Though his situation is taken to an extreme, I think that it sheds light on what happens, particularly for indigenous folks, when their worldviews come into conflict with society at large. We are then seen as monstrous and without a place in contemporary times or society.

Is there a science fiction and fantasy tradition in Hawai‘i, and is it distinct from SFF elsewhere?

BKK: This is a tricky question in certain ways, and I guess kind of depends on what kind of genres and cultural understandings you are working with. I think that a lot of our traditional moʻolelo (story/tale/history/account) have elements that jibe very well with fantasy, which is actually what drew me to fantasy in the first place. I read a lot of “myths” from different places when I was younger because there were very few books with Hawaiian stories in them when I was little. But even though some of what appears in our moʻolelo align with elements that appear in fantasy stories, we have never seen them in that way. These are not myths and legends, they are stories that populate the landscape and inform our daily lives.

Living on an island, how visceral is your relationship with the sea?

BKK: For many, but not all, of us who live in Hawaiʻi, we have a very deep relationship with the sea. It’s how we feed our families (though I myself am a terrible fisherman) and how we spend our free time. Those things in and of themselves are not such visceral connections, but what being so intimate with the ocean teaches you is respect.

Some of the most experienced waterpeople, divers and surfers alike, have been taken by the sea, sometimes on clear days and in calm conditions. So many of us have lost people to the water, sometimes because they were inexperienced, but mostly because the ocean is that powerful. We are so often humbled by the sea, and entering it means entering the food chain, something that we are not used to anymore.

I think that is also one of the reasons we are so dismissive of tourists sometimes. We see them on the North Shore in winter, near the shorebreak, turning their backs to the ocean so they can take group photos with the giant waves in the background. We hear about them on the news because they were killed when they went too close to the blowhole where the ocean comes shooting out a hundred feet into the air. One of the things we learn first as young children is to respect the ocean, and so for us the power of the ocean and the danger that comes with it is a basic fact of life, and if you don’t understand that, maybe it’s best if you don’t interact with the ocean.

Among other things, you write steampunk stories set in Hawai‘i. Can you give us a little teaser?

BKK: I recently had a story entitled “Ke Kāhea: The Calling” published in an anthology entitled Black Marks on the White Page, edited by Tina Makereti (whose story is also in Pacific Monsters) and Witi Ihimaera, from Penguin New Zealand. The story takes place in the Hawaiian kingdom of the nineteenth century and these giant creatures called tutua have been coming and destroying heiau (temples) and burial sites.

In Hawaiian, we have a saying “i ka ʻōlelo nō ke ola, i ka ʻōlelo nō ka make” [‘in language there is life, in language there is death,’] so to combat the tutua, a woman whose mother can heal with her voice, a practice we call lāʻau kāhea, combines that training with a device that changes the frequency of her voice to call forth a goddess from a traditional story printed in the Hawaiian-language newspapers.

One of the reasons that steampunk appeals to me is the broadly Victorian settings, because the Hawaiian kingdom, though very much a Hawaiian kingdom, had a lot of Victorian influence. Queen Kapiʻolani and Liliʻuokalani even attended Victoria’s jubilee, and Queen Emma was a penpal of Victoria’s. One of the things that having steampunk set in the Hawaiian kingdom lets me do too is bring my historical research to bear and let people know things about the kingdom that they never knew.

I mean, I think most people didn’t even know that Hawaiʻi was a kingdom, much less one that was modern and progressive and had near universal literacy and a widespread public education system. ʻIolani Palace had flushing toilets before the White House did. Hawaiʻi outlawed slavery before the United States did and declared that any slave who made it to Hawaiian territory was automatically free. It wasn’t a perfect place, by any means, but it was much different than people understand. We still get described as Stone Age in the newspapers even now.

What is your favourite place to write or create art?

BKK: I admit that this is not my most productive place to write or create art (that’s mainly sitting in front of my computer writing or doing post on photos I’ve taken), but I love to create with my friends. It’s where I get the most inspiration and strength from them. Most of my friends are activists or writers or poets or artists or all of those things, and so when we get a chance we will gather together and prompt each other to write or produce art that we can present to the community and raise awareness about certain issues.

For example, some friends had attended a conference in Papua New Guinea, where some folks from West Papua talked about the genocide they were facing —500,000 killed since the 1950s—under Indonesian military occupation (and please look this up if you haven’t heard about any of this before). And the folks at the conference asked my friends, who are poets and musicians, to help spread the word about what is happening with them. So we had a gathering at my house, where folks familiar with the situation came and talked to us about it and then we ate together and wrote and planned.

I can’t remember the exact time frame, but maybe about a month later, we put on a performance at Kamakūokalani, the Center for Hawaiian Studies at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. We had poetry and music and speakers, even traditional Hawaiian chants of lamentation for the West Papuans who had been killed. And even though it was a heavy performance to be a part of, it felt important.

If you joined a motley crew of pirates, what would be your sea-name?

BKK: Haha, the women I surf with are a pretty motley crew themselves. They’re all activist poet/writer/organizer folks. And my mom. But they call me Bear, partially because I’m a big guy (and maybe cuddly?) but also because they think I’m kind of growly to other people out in the lineup. So my name also evolved into Justice Bear and Murderbear. I’m thinking Murderbear would lend itself more to high seas piracy than something more cuddly, although I don’t know if a bear is the most fitting sea metaphor.

What are you working on next? What can people who enjoyed “All My Relations” look forward to reading?

BKK: I really wish that the next thing people read from me would be my dissertation! But alas, I am not sure if that is going to happen. February is Hawaiian Language Month, so I just published a sci-fi story in Hawaiian, but I’m working on a story now having to do with deep-sea mining and people genetically modified with shark DNA and trying to connect it with our beliefs around ʻaumākua, or ancestral guardians.

There are also a lot of endangered native species here in Hawaiʻi and a lot of our environment is threatened by invasive plant and animal species, so I’m also working on a series of stories that has a section of the state’s Department of Land and Natural Resources that deals with invasive species that are threatening our magical environment as well, and I think Hawaiʻi works well for that kind of storyline because we have so many different cultures here that have come through here and mixed their cultural beliefs and values in with ours.

Thank you for joining us, Bryan!

Thursday, 1 March 2018

Recommend Fakes

In our regular season of recommendations, we’ve asked a handful of writers, editors, artists and other friends to tell us briefly about their favorite fake, hoax or fraud—long a topic dear to the hearts of any postmodern speculative fiction reader! Take a look at some of the recommendations below, and then please leave a comment telling us about your favorite fake…?

Rachel Linn (author page)

At some point during my childhood, I saw the 1967 Patterson-Gimlin footage of Bigfoot on television. My little brother and I were obsessed with Harry and the Hendersons (a John Lithgow comedy about a family that befriends a Sasquatch—a film that only an eight-year-old could love, as I discovered when I tried to watch it again a few years ago and couldn’t make it through the whole thing) and I was also fascinated by Diane Fossey (and her book, Gorillas in the Mist, about studying mountain gorillas in Rwanda), so I was very excited when I found out that people may have seen these human-like beings somewhere near our our neck of the woods. Initially, since I was only in second or third grade, I didn’t know that most people thought this video was a hoax. And, though it is still the consensus that this video is likely fabricated, the strange thing about this "hoax" is that no one seems be able to definitively prove that it was one. This really intrigues me--you'd think that fifty years after the footage was shot (and almost thirty years after I originally saw it), we'd have some fancy CSI-type technology to reconstruct what "really" happened using in-depth analysis of zoomed in hair fibers or the shadowy parts of the frames. But no one has found a hidden zipper (to my knowledge, at least). Regardless of the truth about this video, I like knowing that there are some things that technology can't demystify, even if some of them are secretly just elegantly-executed hoaxes.

E. Saxey (fiction site)

I'm fond of frauds and errors in taxidermy. Birds of paradise had their feet removed to dry them, and on arrival in Europe were assumed to never perch, and live perpetually in the air. There's a sloth mounted on its hind legs, claws aloft, turned into a terrifying attacking predator. But fake mermaids are in a class of their own. These critters are mostly constructed from a big fish and a small monkey, and have a long history in Japan, but appeared in the US in the nineteenth century (beginning with the Fiji Mermaid in Barnum's collection). There's one with a toothy grin in the London Horniman museum, mocked up with wood and papier mache.

You can see the fantasy logic behind a lot of taxidermy myths: it's a tantalising idea that birds of paradise are too precious to land on the ground, and whoever shot that sloth probably wanted to seem braver. But fake mermaids—wizened, fluffy, dusty things—are utterly different from legends of tempting sirens. I appreciate them as a sideways step into a less obvious, more sinister mythology.

Rhys Hughes (The Spoons That Are My Ears)

My uncle was a fraud. Not a criminal but a more gentle form of fraudster, the deadpan exaggerator. When I was young he told me that there were six continents in the world, Africa, America, Asia, Australasia, Europe and Britain. There was absolutely no doubt that Britain was separate from Europe. In Europe people did peculiar things; they spread chocolate on bread for breakfast and melted cheese in communal pots in the evening. Europe was a place of mystery, a patchwork of suspense, and crossing its borders wasn’t easy. My great dream back then was to build a raft and paddle it to France, which seemed an incredibly exotic destination, and my enthusiasm was increased rather than diminished when my uncle told me that dinosaurs existed there. They had become extinct everywhere else but flourished in France. I couldn’t wait to drag my raft ashore and encounter my first stegosaurus.

My uncle also informed me that we were living in Australia, not Britain, but that everyone else would try to trick me into thinking this was Britain and that they were all in the joke. My favourite of his absurdities concerned the International Date Line. Because Australia was so many hours in the future, people who lived there (like ourselves) could phone relatives in Europe with the results of football matches, horse races and boxing competitions that hadn’t yet happened in the past, enabling those relatives to make a big profit at the betting shop. But my uncle wasn’t unusual. That’s how life was when I was young. If you didn’t tell amusing lies then you were regarded as rather odd, dubious even, a spoilsport and also perhaps a saboteur or foreigner. I would look at adults in the street and wonder if any of them were French and on familiar terms with dinosaurs.

Bruce Stenning (TFF slushreader)

The story of Marvin Hewitt (recently told in Futility Closet, Episode 180 “An Academic Imposter”) is the story of just how easy it was to get by as a white man in mid-century USA, and just how much leeway you could expect, even as an unashamed imposter. I won’t recap the whole story, as the podcast is worth listening to in its entirety and does so adequately and succinctly, supported by multiple sources.

Hewitt employed secretarial staff to intercept mail and continue the deception. Surely these women had a good idea what was going on but would have had neither social or legal protections to dare expose the duplicity.

FC generally present their fascinating, lurid tales from history in an apparently objective—read amoral— tone, without comment or analysis. In this case, just the briefest acknowledgement at the end of the main story suggests that it was not a good idea to let such duplicity continue as long as it did. We miss any analysis of gender or race, or the leniency shown to such a fraud, beyond simply stating multiple, astonishing occurrences of it. (Can you imagine a woman, much less a woman of colour, at any point in history, being given such leeway? Can we imagine her taking such a position of academic responsibility even without any fraud or imputation?)

Technology might have made sustained identity theft more difficult, but the systemic and sociological privileges would largely be unchanged in this day and age. Stepping outside the academic context, I might mention that a certain individual in a prominent position of power must surely be the quintessential example of leniency in the face of unrepentant fraud. But there are many others.

Valeria Vitale (TFF bio; City of a Thousand Names)

My favourite fake-related story is told in the movie F for Fake by Orson Welles. The protagonist is Clifford Irving, acharming conman who, in the 1970s, tried to fake the autobiography of the eccentric tycoon Howard Hughes… while the subject was still alive! Irving relied on the fact that Hughes, at the time, was living as a recluse, but the plan didn’t work out, and Irving was arrested. However, the resourceful man managed to sell another project to the publishing house: The Hoax, a true(?) account of how he organised the con. In the movie, Wells suggests that Irving could produce convincing (fake) autograph documents by Hughes, thanks to the help of his friend Elmyr de Hory (or that was one of his many fake names), a professional forger who claimed to have sold paintings in the style of famous artists to all major museums. He doesn’t name names, but his repertoire, as shown in the movie, is astonishingly convincing. Moreover, the movie has been crafted by Wells using almost entirely footage that had been shot for other projects, sometimes completely repurposing images and dialogues. A sort of fake movie on fakes, if you like.

Now tell us something about a fake or hoax that you think is worth the story…

Monday, 19 February 2018

Interview with Raymond Gates

Next up in our “monstrous season” of interviews, we’re joined by Raymond Gates, one of the authors of Fox Spirit Books’ Pacific Monsters, who comes to answer a few questions about Australian horror (and other genres), his writing (and other art-forms), monsters and horrors in general.

Raymond Gates is an Aboriginal Australian writer currently residing in Wisconsin, USA, whose childhood crush on reading everything dark and disturbing evolved into an adult love affair with horror and dark fiction. He has published many short stories, several of which have been nominated for the Australian Shadows Awards and one, “The Little Red Man,” received an honourable mention in The Year’s Best Horror 2014. His most recent publications include “The Sung Man” in Christopher Sequieria's, Sherlock Holmes: The Australian Casefiles (Echo Publishing), an anthology examining the explorations of Holmes and Watson in late-19th century Australia, and coming in April, “There Is Such Thing as a Whizzy-gang” in David Moore's Not So Stories (Rebellion Publishing), a dark twist on Rudyard Kipling's Just So Stories for Children.

The Future Fire: Tell us more about the Bunyip, the Australian monster that is featured in your Pacific Monsters story “The Legend of Georgie,” and what should we do if we ever meet one?

Raymond Gates: The Bunyip is a classic Australian cryptid that most, if not all, Australian kids learn about. It generally favours Australia’s inland waterways, and sightings of it appear all over the country. From my research, written records of Bunyips were first made in the nineteenth century as Europeans began learning the stories of various Aboriginal clans. To me it’s reminiscent of the platypus in that accounts of it describe it as having many features of other creatures: canine or feline face, reptilian head, tusks (or without), horns (or without), flippers—regional descriptions vary considerably. If you meet one, run.

Are there more monsters in Australia, or in Wisconsin?

RG: I think both Australia and Wisconsin are untapped mines of monsters and other terrors. Each presents a unique home for an assortment of creatures. I’ve previously written about the Yara Mar Yha Who, Australia’s own vampire (in “The Little Red Man,” part of Ticonderoga Press’ Dead Red Heart anthology) and the deadly Drop Bear (in “Tourist Trap,” part of the Demonic Visions anthology series). Think of Australia’s diverse landscape, much of it remote, even inaccessible. Who knows what’s out there? The same goes for Wisconsin. Bordered by two of the great lakes (Michigan and Superior) with a rich wilderness and quiet, rural areas. When I’m driving some back road late at night, only the road ahead visible amongst the towering corn stalks, I often wonder what could be out there. Waiting.

Is there anything particular to Indigenous horror and speculative fiction, that makes it stand out from similar genres in other parts of the world?

RG: The thing that stands out to me in Indigenous spec fic is that there’s not enough of it, especially in horror. I’m fortunate to know several Aboriginal Australian spec fic writers who mainly write in sci-fi and/or YA dystopian, and their work often mirrors some of the historical and contemporary issues Aboriginal peoples have and continue to face. I think that makes it stand out, but perhaps in a more subtle way. It’s like a subtle, perhaps subliminal, form of education. However, as I meet Indigenous authors from other cultures, I’m finding that they are engaging audiences in the same ways. So perhaps not unique, just different. Aboriginal peoples are oral historians; it’s in our nature to tell stories. I’d just like see much more of it!

What brought Holmes and Watson to Australia?

RG: You would probably do better to ask the editor, Christopher Sequieria, about Holmes’ motives for travelling to Australia. As for the motivation that led to my story, “The Sung Man,” I like to think Holmes would be intrigued to explore the Australian outback, and in some of the unique features of our land, like Uluru. As for poor Watson, let’s face it: he goes where Holmes goes.

What was the thing that scared you the most when you were a child?

RG: My personal horror was dealing with bullies on an almost daily basis throughout the majority of my pre-teen and teen years. When you wake up every morning and wonder what kind of ridicule, or beating, or abuse you’re going to have to deal with that day, the thing under your bed or in your closet doesn’t seem that bad.

How did you pick horror and dark as your genres? Have you always been attracted to them?

RG: I don’t think I chose horror so much as it chose me. From the time I was old enough to cross the road by myself I would visit the local second-hand bookstore and buy back copies of Creepy, Eerie, Vampirella. I remember reading the novelised version of Friday the 13th Part 3 when I was in sixth grade. In seventh grade my creative writing piece was titled “The School That Dripped Blood” and earned me requests for re-reads from my classmates and requests for an explanation from my principle. Horror has always been part of my life. We all encounter darkness throughout different stages of our lives. For me, horror has been a way of me giving it a creative outlet. Who knows what would happen if I didn’t let the darkness out once in a while?

Who is your favourite female horror writer and which of her stories would you recommend?

RG: I honestly don’t have a favourite, and if I pretended to have one it would only get me in trouble with the others. Having said that, I recently discovered and made the acquaintance of Lori R Lopez, who writes both short fiction and poetry amongst other things. I admire someone who can write horror poetry effectively, because writing horror is challenging under the best of circumstances, without having to put it into verse. That Lori does it in such a captivating way is a credit to her and the genre. Lindsey Goddard is another who I was privileged enough to read and critique a short-story for. Lindsey has a great and terrifying imagination.

One hundred years in the future, one of your descendants finds something that used to belong to you. What would you like that to be?

RG: Hopefully enough DNA to bring me back! I won’t mind sticking around for another hundred years. I’ve go too much to do!

Next to which author would you like to see your first novel on the bookshelf, when it hits the stores?

RG: Well just going alphabetically I hope to be within the same bookcase as authors such as King and Koontz. (I mean, who wouldn’t?) Frankly it would just be a thrill to be on a bookshelf. There isn’t much point to being an author if your stories aren’t out there for people to read and enjoy.

What are you working on next? What can fans of Ray Gates look forward to?

RG: I’ve pledged 2018 to be the year of my first novel. I’ve been promising myself and others that I would get this done and this year is the year I plan to do it. In line with that, I’m both looking at a mentoring opportunity through Crystal Lake Publishing, and hoping to find an agent that I can work with to progress my career. I’m limiting my short fiction this year, however I have been offered a chance to come up with a Cthulhu-based story for an anthology featuring Cthulhu’s denizens in Australia. I’m also in negotiations with an actor/film-maker about collaborating on a short film. A busy year indeed if all goes to plan. You can keep track of my progress through my website: or via social media—look for Raymond Gates Dreaming.

Thanks for joining us, Ray!

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Kate Viola's Elementals novels

We’re delighted to welcome to the TFF Press blog author Kate Viola (who illustrates for TFF—including the gorgeous cover of #43—as Katharine A. Viola) to talk about her series of fantasy novels, Elementals. The first two novels, Leah Bailey and the Fire Demon and Leah Bailey and the Earthen Beast are available now in Kindle and paperback formats. Three further volumes are forthcoming.

The Elementals is a five book series about the adventurous life of Leah Bailey. This historical fantasy takes place during the late 1600s in Puritan, North America. After moving from London, England at the age of eighteen, Leah and her family settle in the most northern British colony of New Ashford. It is here that Leah discovers more about the world and herself as she bravely conquers the four elements of Fire, Earth, Water and Air—and then eventually, the magical fifth element, Spirit. Along the way, Leah meets three young women who, like her, have been gifted with the abilities of the elements. Together they uncover the secrets of a world they had no idea existed.

Reviewers’ comments:

“A great first novel from a promising new writer.”

“Leah Bailey combusts onto the pages as a fierce new heroine.”

I chose to write my historical fantasy book series, The Elementals, based around the four elements of Fire, Earth, Water and Air, with the final book about the mysterious fifth element of Spirit. The elements are great resources to use for any magical or fantasy story because these elements never change; it is the protagonist who changes (for better or for worse) because of these elements.

The elements, in their purest forms, do not have souls, they do not learn and thus they do not change. Additionally, they cannot be controlled; they just are. We cannot escape these elements as they are everywhere. This is important to understand, especially in the series. The magic therefore is not actually in the elements, but within the souls of mankind. 

Elements are often found in fantasy and science-fiction genres, but they aren't fantasy concepts; earth, fire, water and air are real. We deal with them everyday of our lives, both the good and/or the bad sides of each one. The best fantasy ideas are ones that are based on fact and reality, which is another reason why the series is based on our historical past. There is nothing better than reading a fantasy book and thinking that could one day happen to me because it already happened to someone else.

Kate is a prolific writer and artist who has varied and unique portfolios for both her writing and art. She has a wide array of interests that span from realism to the fantastic. Her writings include short stories, flash fiction, internet content and novels.

Thursday, 8 February 2018

Interview with Iona Winter

It’s a monstrous season… as well as our Making Monsters in the works, our friends at Fox Spirit recently brought out the fourth in their series of horrific Books of Monsters, Pacific Monsters, edited like the rest by Margrét Helgadóttir. To celebrate, we’re inviting a few of the authors from the latest volume to visit the TFF Press blog and talk to us about their stories, their monsters, their writing, their fears, and other things from their part of the world. First up this month, we were delighted to welcome Iona Winter, author of the short story “Ink.”

Iona Winter is of Māori (Waitaha/Kāi Tahu) descent and lives in Otago, Aotearoa New Zealand. In 2016 she was awarded the Headland Frontier Prize, and performed at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. In 2017 her fiction was anthologised with Bath Flash Fiction, Nottingham Peacebuilders, Pacific Monsters, Elbow Room, Centum Press, and Ora Nui. Her writing has also appeared in numerous publications including: Flash Frontier, Reflex Fiction, Elbow Room, Headland and Corpus. Iona is passionate about representing Aotearoa in her creative work, writing hybrid forms that highlight the intersection between written and spoken word. Overlaying past, present and future, the traditional and contemporary, she creates a melding of the worlds we inhabit. You can find Iona on her blog, as @waitahaiona on Twitter, and on Facebook.

The Future Fire: Tell us a bit about ‘Ink,’ your story for the Pacific Monsters anthology?

Iona Winter: ‘Ink’ is about Tom who, after getting a tattoo of an extinct eagle on his chest, has frightening experiences, in the way of visions and serious health issues.

The story explores his journey with the mythological and supernatural aspects of Pouākai (the extinct Haast Eagle), and the impact upon both him and his whānau (family). It’s a tale of whakapapa (genealogy), wairua (spiritual elements), utu (vengeance) and connects mind, body, spirit, prophetic dreams, mythology, and tohu (signs).

In a way I see ‘Ink’ as about nature getting back at us humans for disrespecting the ecological order. It speaks to the loss of old traditions and knowledge, and the impact upon us in modern times when we don’t listen.

Is there something unique and culturally specific about writing speculative fiction as an Aotearoan and/or as a Māori author?

IW: For me, it’s important to weave mind, body, spirit (including the supernatural), whenua (land and environment), tūpuna (ancestors), past and present​, because nothing is left out or happens in isolation from a Māori perspective. That said, not everything is spelled out and the reader is required to do some exploring too. It’s a bit like sitting in the wharenui (meeting house) and listening to our elders kōrero (talk)—sometimes you have no idea what they were talking about until some time later when everything falls into place. It’s holistic, but not necessarily linear.

I often receive a flow of words when I am out in nature, and whenever I have periods of time disconnected from Papatūānuku (Mother Earth) I notice my writing becomes stagnant. We are blessed to have such beautiful landscapes in Aotearoa, and writing often comes from my interaction with the environment. I take loads of photos, snapshots, and those inform my writing too.

Some of what I write might be classed as ‘speculative’ with understated terror, supernatural and inexplicable knowledge about events. But I don’t consciously write in a way that limits myself to one genre, because each piece takes its own shape while I am writing. I’m not sure if this is the case for other Māori authors or not, but being tuned in and conscious of all the elements seems to work (most of the time) for me.

Were you scared of something when you were a child?

IW: I was terrified of the dark, probably because my grandfather told me awesome kēhua (ghost) stories. But ​I was also scared of things that other people couldn’t see. Being of Māori and Celtic whakapapa, with seers on both sides of the whānau, it has meant that (at times) I am open to seeing, hearing and feeling stuff that other people don’t. It freaked me out as a kid, but thankfully I had my grandfather and mother to help make sense of it, and in my thirties spent many years learning from tohunga (traditional healers).

I understand you’re about to start a PhD in creative writing. Can you tell us a bit about what you’ll be researching for that?

IW: My topic is Pūrākau Mana Wāhine: Traditional Women’s Knowledge as passed on orally and between generations, with Indigenous Māori and Celtic women. It will take a bicultural approach, utilising feminist theory and Indigenous methodologies, and will reassert the legitimacy of Indigenous women’s lore, and the modern resurgence of traditional knowledge.

I’ll be exploring similarities between Indigenous Māori and Celtic women’s stories (of traditional lore) in fictional narratives, and create a contemporary body of fiction as the creative part of my research.

I’m looking forward to reimagining how originating cultural traditions, and the tension between these narratives and dominant paradigms in contemporary fiction, influence narrative voice.

Tell us about one of your favourite underrated authors?

IW: I love Norma Dunning’s Annie Muktuk and Other Stories. The similarities are striking between Māori and Inuit ways of referencing ancestors, landscape, relationships, spirituality, mythology, and the social cultural political issues we face as tāngata whenua (Indigenous people). Her representations of trauma, love and grief with clever narrative twists are fantastic, as are the acts of revenge. She writes of sacred ancestral knowledge, informed by ancient spirits.

I also love that Norma Dunning is an older writer, in that she returned to creativity later in life, as many of us do after raising kids and having day-jobs to make ends meet.

I read that Norma Dunning put her stories in a drawer, so as not to have them colonised or rewritten from a western perspective—an issue which I believe many Indigenous authors face.

Here in Aotearoa New Zealand, we have shocking stats for published Māori writing—about 6% per annum of the overall writing published. I think this says a lot about how marginalised traditional Indigenous styles are, but it does create room for kōrero so we can support each other proactively, and get our writing out there in the world—thereby challenging the paradigms of what constitutes marketable writing.

I can’t help but wonder how many drawers are stuffed full of wonderful writing.

Who is your favourite mythological heroine?

IW: I’d say it’s a tie between Hine-nui-te-pō and Airmid.

Hine-nui-te-pō stands in the darkness welcoming those who have passed over, and she is the Goddess of night, death and the underworld. She holds memories of past lives and stories. Māui (one of her descendants) attempts to desecrate her tangata whenua (womb), the most sacred part of us women, to gain the secret to eternal life. After being woken by a Pīwakawaka (fantail bird) who laughs at his ridiculous idea, she snaps Māui in two with her thighs!

Airmid is the Goddess of the Healing Arts and belonged to the Tuatha De Dannann, the ancient people of Ireland. After experiencing trauma, violence and desecration she takes back her power and uses it for healing others via her medicinal herbs. She creates life from death, honouring natural cycles, and the position of women hearers being revered in Celtic society, independent from men. Basically a feminist!

Both women are of the earth, connected to it, and are powerful. I was taught that you can’t have the dark without the light (and vice-versa).

Do you have any other stories or books forthcoming? What can fans of Iona Winter look forward to?

IW: I regularly submit short fiction to publications and competitions, so there’s bound to be more of that. Last year I was lucky enough to be published in several anthologies, and have a few other stories published online. I write poetry and blog regularly, and have two collections of short fiction out in the ether—I’m waiting patiently to hear if they are picked up for publication.

Thanks for joining us, Iona. Best of luck with the collections, and with the PhD!

You can find Iona Winter online, or buy the Pacific Monsters anthology from Fox Spirit.

Friday, 2 February 2018

Speculative Fiction in Greece

Guest post by Dimitra Nikolaidou

While attending ΦantastiCon in Athens in 2017, readers of speculative literature must have felt elated to see so many Greek titles on sale for the first time. Compared to the dearth they had experienced for so long, this cornucopia of new voices seemed extremely promising and not a little surprising. What was the story here?

When it comes to speculative fiction, Greece had quite the head start. Lucian's True History is touted as the first work of science fiction; the Iliad and the Odyssey are considered among the first works of epic fantasy. Despite such illustrious beginnings though, the genre took a long while to flourish.

In 1987, the science fiction writer Makis Panorios began gathering more or less the entirety of Greek speculative short stories in six volumes (titled Το Ελληνικό Φανταστικό Διήγημα). His work reflects both the hardships as well as the persistence of those few dedicated to the craft. Until the early 2000's, not many writers had tackled the genre; the turbulent political situation which persisted until the early eighties, had ensured that fiction tended to focus on 'serious' issues, while the fantastical element was mostly limited to children' stories and folk tales. Even the seminal Lord of the Rings was not translated until 1978. As usual, it was pulp that came to the rescue: two separate paperback series, "Aurora" and "Terra Nova", published cheap anthologies that introduced translated classic short stories to the public. Along with paperbacks sold mostly at street kiosks, they introduced fans to the canon of speculative fiction.

In the late '90s-early 2000s, things began to change fast, in part due to the publication of 9 magazine, which was included in the major Eleftherotypia newspaper every Wednesday. While focusing mainly on comics, 9 also published a short story every week, either Greek or translated, thus providing speculative writers with a mainstream outlet as well as familiarizing the general public with the genre.

Soon, more writers felt encouraged to write speculative fiction, and new groups formed, which still remain influential today. ALEF, (Science Fiction Club of Athens), had formed in 1998; the editor of 9, Aggelos Mastorakis, was the president as well as one of the founding members. The Prancing Pony, a Tolkien appreciation society, was formed in 2002; the same year as the Espairos gaming society, began its activities. In 2003, the forum allowed writers and fans of speculative fiction to gather in one large community for the first time.

At this time, few publishing houses were dedicated to the genre but almost all of them remain active today: among them are Sympantikes Diadromes (Universe Pathways), Locus-7, Anubis, Fantastikos Kosmos and Aghnosti Kadath (Unknown Kadath), which also operates the only dedicated SF bookshop in Greece. OXY and Triton were among those who ushered in the golden age, but have since ceased publication. Other major publishing houses such as Kedros, Aiolos and Archetypo, took and still take care to include important speculative fiction titles in their lineup.

While the genre had benefited from the success of Lord of the Rings movies in Greece, the same as every other Western country, it was paradoxically the economic crisis that gave it its biggest boost. On one hand, after 2010 more publishers turned to local writers in order to avoid high translation costs. On the other hand, the self-publishing industry suddenly flourished, in many forms: even major publishing houses started offering print-on-demand services, in order to supplement their income. Many speculative works thus found their way to print (though not always to the bookshops). After 2010, the scene grew fast and many new names came to the forefront.

My (inevitably subjective) roll-call of speculative fiction writers in Greece, begins with those who have been active long before the current boom. Makis Panorios, actor, anthologist and translator as well as science fiction writer, is still publishing novels and anthologies at the age of 82. So is Diamantis Florakis, one of the first bloggers worldwide, and author of mostly dystopian science fiction. George Balanos and Thomas Mastakouris both have served the genre for many years as translators and anthologists, while producing their own works in horror and fantasy respectively. Thanasis Vempos also translated many seminal works while producing his own science fiction novels and short stories. Dr Abraham Kawa (Democracy-2015, Το Ασήμι που Ουρλιάζει-2009) has contributed both to speculative fiction with his short stories and novels, as well as to academic research, along with Dr Domna Pastourmatzi, also a frequent contributor to the academic discourse on science fiction.

Among the newer generation, it is notable that many of the authors making waves in the genre began in the online workshops, as well as in the ALEF workshops. Among those writers is Michalis Manolios, who won Albedo One's Aeon Award in 2010 with his short story 'Aethra', and whose work (Αγέννητοι Αδελφοί-2014, Και το Τέρα-2009ς, Σάρκινο Φρούτο-1999) falls between science fiction and horror. Other 'alumni' of include Vasso Xristou (Λαξευτές 2007-2015), Antony Pashos (Πέρα από τη Γη των Θεών-2009) and Eirini Manta (Το Δαιμόνιο της Γραφής-2012), who have penned fantasy and dark fantasy works. In the realm of horror, (easily the most popular genre among Greek writers), Perikles Bozinakis (Απόκρημνος Χρόνος-2008, Η Άβυσσος πίσω από την Πόρτα-2015), George Lagonas (Μεσονυκτικό-2015), P. Μ. Zervos (Η Εξορία του Προσώπου-2017), Maria Rapti (Τα Χειρόγραφα των Σκοτεινών-2015) and Konstantinos Kellis (H Σκιά στο Σπίτι-2016) are also very well-regarded. Authors Petros Tsalpatouros (Έλος-2009), Teti Theodorou (Από τη Σκόνη-2013), Vaya Pseftaki (Ενυδρία-2011), C. Α. Cascabel (Δράκων-2015), Kostas Xaritos, Stamatis Ladikos, and stand up comedian Elias Fountoulis have produced one quite well-received novel each, while Konstantinos Missios (Η Νύχτα της Λευκής Παπαρούνας-2007) has tackled both fantasy and horror in his two novels. Angeliki Radou, Giorgos Xatzikiriakos and Leta Vasileiou have written children's books that appeal to adults as well.

It is interesting to note that while most of these works take place in Greece, the stories would not look out of place in any Western city. However, there are also writers inspired directly by uniquely Greek themes, history and fables. Efthymia Despotaki, who writes fantasy with a strong Greek flavour (Πνεύματα -Spirits-2016 is her strongest work), and Eleftherios Keramidas, whose best-selling fantasy trilogy (beginning with Κοράκι σε Άλικο Φόντο - Raven on Scarlet Backdrop-2017) is based on the Byzantine era, are such examples. Another writer who also deals with uniquely Greek themes is Xristostomos Tsaprailis, who published Παγανιστικές Δοξασίες (Paganist Doctrines-2017) a collection of folk horror stories with a twist. It is interesting that neither these writers nor any well-known genre works are inspired by the quite celebrated Greek mythology; instead, it is the least known aspects of Greek antiquity and the so called Dark Ages that tend to inform both fantasy and horror.

Two rarer examples are magical realist Zyranna Zateli (At Twilight They Return-2013) and the harder-to-classify Ioanna Mpourazopoulou (What Lot's Wife Saw-2007). Zateli's lyrical work has been translated into French, German, English, Italian etc, while Mpourazopoulou was translated into English and French, resulting in both cases in awards and critical accolades. Their magical realism proved easier to tackle for the literary media, and the two authors are celebrated, unlike the majority of genre writers in Greece. The divide unfortunately ensures that when genre fiction is discussed in Greece, Zateli and Mpourazopoulou are often not a part of the discussion.

There are, of course, many names one could add to the list; as mentioned above, there is currently a cornucopia of new titles available. Unfortunately, this happens in part because of the proliferation of a certain type of self-publishing: in the last years, many small publishing houses were founded in order to offer print on demand services along with a legitimate publishing logo. While this practice did kindle interest in the genre, by giving an actual outlet to authors, it also created for many the very false impression that to be published, one needs to pay for the privilege; furthermore, there are no established criteria for these self-published works.

This is one the reasons that many Greek writers have turned to writing in English instead, where the competition is greater but the field is considered fairer. Natalia Theodoridou, Christine Lucas, Eugenia Triantafyllou, Eleanna Castroioanni, George Kotronis, Vaya Pseftaki and (caution: shameless self-insert) myself, have been published almost exclusively in English language magazines such as Apex, Clarkesworld, Shimmer, Metaphorosis, Colored Lens, Beneath Ceaseless Skies etc., as well as in various anthologies and collections.

Despite these obstacles, it is quite obvious that the speculative fiction scene in Greece is growing and spreading. Two major websites have attracted the attention of fans:, edited by writer and translator Elaine Rigas, focuses on horror and publishes articles and fiction, while, edited by illustrator Marilena Mexi, focuses on fantasy. Both websites host a generation of writers and critics focused exclusively on the genre. ALEF's magazine Fantastika Chronika (Φανταστικά Χρονικά - Chronicles of the Imagination) continues successfully in print since 2003, while a new magazine, Ble Komitis (Μπλε Κομήτης - Blue Comet), has just been published to some acclaim. ALEF and the gaming company Gamecraft also publish anthologies, always including some of the most interesting voices in the field. Dedicated imprints such as Arpi have also sprung up, showcasing exclusively the work of Greek genre writers. Other relatively newly founded publishing houses include Selini, Ars Nocturna, Medusa and Jemma Press.

Another proof that the scene in Greece is vibrant and growing, is the proliferation of conventions. I have a special place in my heart for ΦantastiCon, which takes place in Athens and focuses mostly but not exclusively on fantasy. Other major cons are Athenscon, Comicdom and Comicon. The latter takes place in Thessaloniki, where the Thermi Society for Friends of Fantasy has also been organizing events for years. The city is also the seat of our own Tales of the Wyrd, which organizes open creative writing seminars and workshops dedicated exclusively to speculative fiction. Recently, the Prancing Pony Tolkien Society set up a new chapter in the same city, which also hosts several events.

The fantastic then is definitely on the rise in Greece; the first vampire series is currently being produced for mainstream TV, while gaming groups, thematic coffee shops and themed bands accompany this rise in popularity. While the highest praise for a writer used to be that their book 'had nothing to be envious of when compared to foreign literature,' this mindset is slowly going away. As a member of the scene, I am finally looking forward to the next con, the next workshop, the next book. Come visit us sometime; we have many stories to tell you.

Dimitra Nikolaidou is currently completing her PhD on role-playing games and speculative fiction at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. She is the head of publications at Archetypo Publications, and she is also teaching speculative creative writing at Tales of the Wyrd. Her articles have been published at and Atlas Obscura, while her stories are included in various anthologies and magazines (Metaphorosis, See the Elephant, After the Happily Ever After, Αντίθετο Ημισφαίριο).

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Terry Pratchett's «Trois sœurcières»

Today we’re joined by an old friend of TFF, Serge Keller, who is directing a stage version of Terry Pratchett’s Weird Sisters (translated into French) for performance in Fribourg, Switzerland this spring. Here is a bit of information about the production, and then below that Serge answers a few questions—as you can see, it’s a topic he’s very excited about!

(Wyrd Sisters) Trois sœurcières
Illustration by Cécile Matthey
Terry Pratchett in French? Mais oui!

Probably for the very first time in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, the Théâtre de la Cité presents an amateur production of:

Trois sœurcières (Wyrd Sisters)
by Terry Pratchett®
Adapted by Stephen Briggs
French translation of the novel by Patrick Couton, for Librairie L'Atalante
At the Théâtre de la Cité, Grandes-Rames 36, Fribourg (Switzerland)
19th of April – 12th of May 2018
More information:

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Send Joyce Chng to ICFA!

To boost Singapore author Joyce Chng/J. Damask’s goal to get to the International Conference of the Fantastic in the Arts in Orlando this year, Publishing and Fox Spirit Books are offering some incentives to support the fundraiser. The first five people to back the campaign—for any amount—may claim:
  1. Your choice of e-book of any one of the three anthologies in which Joyce has work (We See a Different Frontier, Accessing the Future, TFF-X); and
  2. Your choice of e-book of Starfang: Rise of the Clan or Weird Noir from Fox Spirit.

*BONUS* If your support is for $25 SGD or more (approx $18 USD), you will receive all three e-books from and both e-books from Fox Spirit Books

*BONUS 2* If five people support the fundraiser between now and the end of January 10th, or if the campaign is 100% funded in that time, one backer will be selected at random to receive a paperback copy of Starfang plus one of the FFN anthologies of their choice.