Sunday, 13 October 2019

Open Access Monsters

It’s been just over a year now since the Making Monsters anthology of stories, poems and essays featuring classical monsters was published. Co-edited by Emma Bridges of the Institute of Classical Studies and Djibril al-Ayad, this unusual mix of fiction and nonfiction has been quite widely read and acquired by academic libraries (e.g. HARL), and was one of the most fun publications to work on as an editor.

The academic world is very keen on open access publication, since it is important that the written outputs of (publicly-funded) research are accessible to as wide a public audience as possible. Making Monsters is technically a “Green Open Access” publication, since all authors retain copyright to their work they therefore have the right to post a digital copy of their pieces to an open access repository, if they so desire, for anyone to read for free. (In fact we actively encourage this, as does academic practice.) A few of the academic authors of nonfiction pieces have done this already and we’ll collect the links here as we learn about them. Technically fiction authors could do this too, but the more important implication of owning their own rights for them is the potential to republish their work wherever and whenever they like.

The open access and/or free pieces I know about so far are:
If you come across any other pieces self-archived or published elsewhere, please let us know and we'll be happy to add them below. We don't believe this reduces the impact or the value of our print publication: far from it, in an economy where attention is the most sought-after commodity, anything that increases the chance of our work being found by potential readers can only be a good thing.

If these papers have whetted your appetite, the rest of the book is full of stories, poems, illustrations and essays, and can be bought in paperback or e-book from the links at the Making Monsters press page.

Tuesday, 8 October 2019

Meekling Press fundraiser

We welcome this visit from Rachel Linn, whose wonderful story “Glow in the Dark” we published a few years ago, and who has since illustrated several pieces for us. Rachel is here to talk about the Meekling Press fundraiser, and we'll let her tell you what that’s all about.

I first heard about Meekling Press from an editor at The Coachella Review who had accepted one of my illustrated nonfiction pieces. She said that she liked my illustrations as they were, but thought I should consider making handmade books to create more play between content and form. Meekling Press is dedicated to producing books in creative formats (I particularly love On the Stairs and Muscles Involved, both of which you can see at I sent them a proposal for a project, a surreal series of linked stories (an earlier draft was a choose-your-own-adventure story) with moving illustrations, which was accepted and will be coming out around this time next year. The video and image in this post are some of the prototypes for this book (not the finished illustrations, which we’ll be working on over the spring and summer). I would love to see additional fantastical stories housed in strange book formats—and I particularly enjoy creating books that encourage reader interaction.

Concept video for Household Tales

Here’s their fundraiser pitch:
Meekling has been making and publishing weird and nifty books and objects since 2012. We started with a tiny little 3x5 letterpress, and with the help of our awesome community, we’ve made more than 20 publications, from hand-sewn chapbooks to floppy disk ebooks, to an accordion book that stretches all the way across the room, and a manifesto in the shape of a trash can. We’ve also turned our fictional lecture series, Meekling TALKS, into an annual tradition. We love making publications that play with the relationship between form and content and we’re hoping to continue doing that while bringing it to a bigger audience. We’re starting to travel outside of Chicago and make lots of new friends, and we’re also starting to get all Legitimate, doing things like getting ISBN numbers and Forming a Business and getting better Distribution for our Books—stuff that will help us help our authors spread their words farther and wider.

We’ve got seven books lined up for the next couple years, and we need your help to take this gosh darn press to the next level and get these dang bloody books printed and out into the world. With lots & lots of wild and woolly “Prizes,” we’re putting the FUN back in FUNdraiser…

Here’s how Meekling describe my forthcoming book (which you can also pick up through the fundraiser):

Household Tales, by Rachel Linn: Feral children, a polar bear, scissors and paper, a snowstorm, a disorienting free fall. This one’s going to be a pop-up book.

It wasn’t the bear that had scarred her, but it would do. She even preferred this animal because it was a mythic, previously unknown species—perhaps the only one of its kind. Her hands balled into fists and she punched quietly at the snowy walls of her hiding place, biding her time. She did not want to die, she wanted to kill.

You can see more examples of my work or get in touch through my website at

Find out more about Meekling Press at, or support their fundraiser at Indiegogo.

Friday, 4 October 2019

Interview with General Editor, Djibril al-Ayad

The Future Fire are celebrating with a bumper volume for this, our fiftieth issue—three times the word-length of our usual issues—full of novelettes and long poems. I am interviewing our General Editor, Djibril al-Ayad in recognition of this release.

Bruce Stenning: Djibril, how has the content of The Future Fire changed over the course of the last fifty issues, and what would you like to see more of in submissions in the future?

TFF #16 cover © 2009 Rachel H. White
Djibril al-Ayad: The main thing that changed in the key growth period between the first few issues and, let’s say, issue #10 or #15 when I think we could start to call ourselves a serious fiction venue, was the volume of submissions that come with greater exposure and reputation (or perhaps principally community). This volume allowed us to be highly selective in what we published, not only on quality (which we were already), but on theme, genre, social-political content, inclusiveness and representation. This in turn enabled us to build a reputation for—as we now specify it—social-political and progressive speculative fiction, feminist-, queer-, eco- and multicultural SF, which leads to our seeing more of that in the slush-pile and being able to publish more of it. I would love to see more fiction in some of the rarer intersections of these social-justice areas, and especially #ownvoices writing. Even better, we should be collaborating with editors from these and other marginalizations, so that we don’t become the self-appointed gatekeepers for these minority voices.

On a different note, I would also love to see more stories that use form, medium and genre in creative and mischievous ways: book reviews that turn out to be fabricated, fiction masquerading as non-fiction, ekphrasis, surreal or irreal stories, and other postmodern playfulness. We’ll say more about this later, in fact.

BS: I have always been a fan of stories—in any medium—that play with reality or are deceptive with our perception or pre-conception. Do you have any favourite examples of such stories?

DA: The most obvious way to play with expectations like this is by use of the unreliable narrator, either in the manner of Rashomon, where the narrative style (first person narration, flashback, etc.) leads the reader to expect truth, but turns out to be from a very relativist perspective or downright dishonest; or I suppose as in Memento, where the narrator is not only unreliable, but turns out to be actively rewriting reality by lying (to himself). Borges’s œuvre is full of fake book reviews, profiles of non-existent historical villains or mythographic accounts of newly invented folkloric monsters (apparently early in his career he would pass some of these off as non-fiction).

Can you think of any more recent examples, Bruce?

TFF #35 cover © 2015 Laura-Anca
BS: I think most examples that I can think of at the moment come from film. I need to watch Lucia y el sexo again; I seem to remember that messing with my head greatly, though it is fairly dark. Films that play with reality that I do recommend include: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Stranger than Fiction, and Donnie Darko (though I’ve been warned off the director’s cut). Most of Charlie Kaufman’s work I enjoy, and is often a recipe for much head-scratching. Outside film, I can’t help thinking of the way characters in Robert Rankin’s comedy novels interject and play with reality. The literary equivalent of breaking the fourth wall is always fun, but—damn my memory—I’m finding it difficult to remember good examples beyond Rankin, and Tom Robbins’ Even Cowgirls Get The Blues. So I shall now misdirect and bring us jarringly back to the real world (or is it?)

BS: The world seems to be caught in an increasingly alarming slipknot, with climate change, global inequality, nuclear threat, misinformation, disinformation, and mal-information, the emboldening of the far right, and precarious global market. Do you see Speculative Fiction playing a role in bringing awareness of these issues to people, or would you say that only people who are aware of these issues are likely to seek out or encounter Speculative Fiction?

DA: I don’t know that I’d say the group of people who read SF overlaps particularly with the group who are aware of what a mess things are and believe that we can do anything about it—or should. I’m not sure speculative fiction as a substitute for news or campaigning is particularly efficient either—but I do believe that it is important to recognise the political impact of SF, as all literature and indeed all art. We may not be able to convince anyone of anything, but there’s a lot to be said for helping those who do care to know they’re not alone; those who fear there’s nothing to be done to see even the possibility of resistance; to hold back the darkness for just a few moments with some hopeful imagination. Ursula Le Guin once pointed out the value in preaching to the choir (that it keeps the choir from giving up singing), and I think that’s a really nice metaphor. So I might argue that at this point in time there’s not a lot of point in inventing new dystopias, because you’ll have a tough time surpassing the worst of reality, but fiction with a glimmer of hope, just that fellowship of rebels, that community of survivors, that possibility of love—we all need a bit of that. (Although of course, sometimes the best place to show that little glimmer of hope, narratively, is in a dystopian setting, too…)

TFF #26 cover © 2013 Eric Asaris
BS: So would you like to see gently optimistic stories more closely grounded in the real-world, or is it important that speculative stories provide some distance from the world we are familiar with?

DA: Oh, I totally think there’s room for both, and everything in between. I’m usually not a fan of hardcore dystopia, but a particularly beautifully written one could surely win me over. And I enjoy the deeply optimistic utopian or solarpunk or decolonised stories very much as well—Laurie J. Marks’s Elemental Logic series of stories are a great example of how a world that is magical, beautiful, queer, progressive and utopian in so many ways, can still contain gripping conflict, drama, evil, and suffering. There are also stories set in alien worlds with nothing we would recognise, although they are of course still to some extent stories about ourselves, our concerns, our cultural and political needs.

BS: And for stories that do draw heavily on the real-world, how important do you feel it is that the author is an expert in—or at least versed in—the fields that real-world stories are grounded in?

DA: For fiction, including speculative fiction, it’s important not to legislate away imagination and creativity. So if you want to write a story in a distant galaxy with slightly different laws of physics, but you’re not a theoretical physicist who could write such laws to be credible or at least consistently unbelievable—go the fuck ahead anyway! That said, if you write a “hard social science fiction” story in which your lack of qualification in the social sciences causes you to misunderstand or misrepresent human culture and society to the detriment of the story, then expect to be criticised for it. (Should you consult an expert or do some serious reading in sociology before you publish it? That’s entirely up to you, but the point is just because you’re emphatically allowed to write anything you like, doesn’t mean you should.) The same holds even more true for writing about cultures, languages, religions, heritage traditions that are not you own. Yes we should all write the diversity that we find in the world, but if you fuck up someone else’s culture, not only should you expect to be criticised for it, but you should be aware that if you are white, abled, cishet or Anglo-American etc., you are probably taking up space in the genre thanks to layers of privilege, that someone who could write the setting better could otherwise use. If you’re doing that (and I’m not going to tell you you can’t) then at the very least it behoves you to do the best, most informed, most respectful job of it you can.

BS: If you had to pick the place on Earth where you thought utopia would be most likely to spring from in the next century, where would it be?

TFF #45 cover © 2018 Saleha
DA: I can’t see it anywhere, honestly. There have been a few societies popped up over the years that could have been, if not utopian, at least interesting political advances, if only they were left alone to give it a try. But of course they won’t be left alone. I’m thinking of radically egalitarian and secular breakaway states, socio-economic experiments, altermondialist approaches and the like, that we’ve seen crushed by coups d’état, trade sanctions, or literal tanks and bombs. But isn’t that what happened to the original “Utopia”?

BS: There does seem to be a strong “inner space” precondition on social reform, in that socially destabilising impulses appear to come largely from self-interest and short-term thinking. There are counter-examples of peoples behaving in sustainable and equity-oriented manners. So do you see this as a “tipping point” scenario where we just need to add enough weight to the scales in order to see a positive feedback effect?

DA: I feel like it would probably take much more than that, but I do agree that every small act of selflessness and social progress is absolutely essential on the road to making the world a sustainable, liveable, and just place.

BS: To change the topic—role-playing games, while collaboratively creative, often fall into the trap of tropes and stereotypes, it being useful to have some common lexicon of ideas to draw consensus or mechanics from. Are there notable exceptions? What should RPGs be taking from SF to alleviate this?

DA: I don’t think this problem is particular to role-playing games, so much as it is to games with rule systems and settings written by people who don’t really have the imagination to go past settings established by Tolkien (or Lovecraft, or Roddenberry, or Gibson). The most egregious culprit in the RPG world may be Dungeons and Dragons, of course, which is a notoriously eugenicist world-system, with racial and gendered traits baked into the rules. At the same time, by virtue of being the largest and one of the oldest systems, with so much scope for inventing new worlds, D&D may be one of the easiest systems in which to subvert these fucked up rules and run a setting in which radical and progressive beliefs about (lack of) genetic and chromosomal determination apply instead. (It’s also particularly fun to play Cthulhu-based games that you know Lovecraft would have hated because of his xenophobia and related bigotries.) And as for learning from Speculative Fiction or any genre of more traditional literature, I’m afraid SF is just as guilty of pumping out reams of retrogressive and conservative crap as the gaming world is. There are many people breaking those rules and subverting those norms, but they have to go out of their way and do so on purpose. I know I haven’t really answered your question about narrative creativity, but I’m much more interested in the politics of a setting than the details of how you choose to tell a story. (Another time, we might talk about the crossover between the two—where interactive fiction becomes a storytelling medium, and is basically impossible to distinguish clearly from gaming.)

BS: Who would you most like to meet, living or dead, for a drink tonight?

DA: I think I would have loved to go for a pint with Vonda N. MacIntyre, who I have chatted with a few times on Twitter, but never had the privilege of meeting in person. I would enjoy chatting with her about social-political and progressive science fiction, on which she had possibly the best perspective I have come across. Maybe after a couple pints I would also have talked to her some more about my favourite character in her Starfarer novels, the sci-fi novelist J.D. Sauvage, and how her particular brand of really alien aliens would transplant to our own literary setting (that is to say in a world in which we’ve not met any aliens and are nowhere near interstellar capability), and what an anthology edited by J.D. might look like today…

BS: If you were told that there was an impending disaster and to preserve yourself you were to be “injected” into a Vonda N. MacIntyre story of your choice, as your current persona, which would you choose, and why?

DA: While the setting of Dreamsnake is an amazing post apocalyptic world with a mix of horror and wonderfully progressive culture, I honestly don’t think I’d survive five minutes there, so the (no less dystopian in some ways) world of Starfarers would have to be my choice—because at the moment I wouldn’t hesitate very long before boarding a self-sustaining intergalactic vessel and going out there to meet some aliens who, while not perfect, might help to put some of our problems into perspective.

BS: What would be the next themed issue or anthology topic that you would want to pick for TFF?

TFF #50 cover © 2019 Pear Nuallak
DA: You’ve got the idea of J.D. Sauvage’s mind-blowing really alien sci-fi anthology in my head now! I’m really now sure how we’d phrase the call for submissions (because surely everyone hopes their sci-fi is really mind-blowing), but I think it would include the idea that not only science, language and philosophy would be very different from humanity’s, but also culture, religion, sex and sexuality (if they exist), morals and mores, and the whole gamut of social-political expectations. That would be pretty cool. But this isn’t a real next anthology plan, just a dream…

In the real world, our next themed issue is going to be on the topic of fiction masquerading as non-fiction (or vice versa), both of which we’ve experimented with in the past. Book reviews of titles that turn out to have been invented by the reviewer as a different way to tell the story… profiles of historical science fiction luminaries who never lived (but should have!)… travel reports for fabricated cities or lands. We’ve always wanted to hear you making up stories, but this time we want you to lie to us!

BS: Yes, I’m also excited by the possibilities that this theme might inspire! Thank you very much for your thoughts.

As mentioned, our Jubilee issue can be found online here.

Saturday, 28 September 2019

Lie to me beautifully!

TFF #53: the LIIIES issue

For the fifty-third issue of The Future Fire (# LIII, due in April 2020) we will be publishing an issue in which every story, poem or essay is masquerading as something else. We would like to see book reviews or nonfiction essays whose content is fabricated, an excuse to tell a story. Invent a writer, artist, movement, activist, performer or studio, and write a short political-critical account of their life or work. Write a guest preface or glossary/appendix from an epic series that hasn’t been written yet. Write about a little known (because nonexistant!) historical artefact/archaeological site, or event, or culture, or mythological monster. This piece doesn’t need to be a narrative story told via the medium of letters or articles; the article or review itself is the story.

Alternatively if you could write an article masquerading as a piece of fiction or poetry, we’d love to see how that works. Or any piece of speculative fiction or art concealing itself in another form, like postmodern ekphrasis or an erudite party game.

Note: the difference between this call and any other story told through the medium of a letter or essay or review, is that the (fake) nonfiction piece should be both believable and something it would be reasonable for us to publish if it were real. (No speculative and/or social justice content, that's a harder sell…)

Given the uniqueness of this call, it’s probably best if you contact us in advance to pitch your lie before you spend the time writing it, and we can discuss it in more detail.

Deadline: December 31, 2019 (possibly earlier if the issue fills up already)
Pay rate: flat £10 (USD) per piece
Submit or query:, subject line: “LIIIES” + your title.

Friday, 20 September 2019

Interview with Siobhan Logan & Darragh Logan-Davies of Space Cat Press

Interviewed by Shellie Horst.

Siobhan Logan and Darragh Logan-Davies brought together their joint experience as author and editor to create Space Cat Press earlier this year. With a promise to bring readers “Star Struck Stories” Space Cat’s focus is space exploration. They are in the process of releasing their first publication, Desert Moonfire: The Men Who Raced to Space.

Shellie: With small presses reporting difficult times, why do you feel now is the right time to start a new press?

Siobhan Logan: Is there ever a right time to leap off the cliff and try the small press adventure? Yet 2019 is exactly the moment to publish a book about the rocketeers behind the first Space Age. Our first title, Desert Moonfire: The Men Who Raced to Space, is launching our list. I’ve been a huge admirer for years of the role small presses play in the publishing industry and especially in writer development. They offer an important space for new voices to emerge and be supported. I don’t underestimate the challenges. But the presses that stick around do seem to find their distinct niche and forge a close bond with their readership. There’s a dialogue where readers tend to buy a particular kind of book from your press and that shapes your output over time. Quite a few indie presses are run by one or two people on a shoestring budget in a corner of the kitchen. We’re not approaching this on a commercial basis. It’s very much a passion project where we aim primarily to meet our costs and pay our writers. We have a modest Three-Year Plan, to schedule maybe two books a year, one of which will be an anthology. At each stage, we learn what’s working and tweak or jettison, exactly like rocketeers test-firing their engines. The more it takes off, the more we can vary our output and deliver what our readers enjoy.

Space Cat is to follow a non-profit business model. How and where do you plan to re-invest receipts and what does that mean for your readers?

Darragh Logan-Davies: I feel I need to explain the financial side of things a bit more. When I was at States of Independence Publishers’ Fair last year, I asked writers and indie publishers what would be the one thing they would change about the publishing industry if they could. Perhaps not surprisingly, one of the answers I kept getting was money. Publishers on the whole are just not paying authors enough to survive on their craft alone. I understand why but it still doesn’t make it okay. So, we aim to pay everyone we publish a flat rate upon acceptance into an anthology.

What is the inspiration behind Desert Moonfire: The Men Who Raced to Space?

Siobhan Logan
SL: I wanted to get to know the individuals behind the century’s great adventure, the quest to turn humanity into a space-faring species. For me, the natural way to do that was to blend a historical narrative with a poem sequence that relives key moments and humanises the rocketeers’ story. I was surprised to discover how dark a tale that was. The space rockets were rooted in military technology and the rocketeers’ personal stories take us into concentration camps and gulags as well as the fields of war. The Space Race was very much another expression of the Cold War yet it galvanised thousands of people to achieve this extraordinary feat. Not just the Moon but from Sputnik and Gagarin through to the ISS and space probes, these missions pushed far into the solar system and opened a new chapter of the human story. I was especially intrigued to learn the role that science fiction played in inspiring the rocketeers and space theorists and eventually winning over the public to take fantasy for possibility. That cultural response to space exploration is a good starting point for Space Cat Press too.

Space Cat Press’s submission page lists a broad selection of forms: Poetry, Short stories, Creative non-fiction and Flash fiction. Is Space Cat Press aimed at any particular type of readers?

SL: Many writers dip in and out between different genres and forms. Magazines will often mix stories and poems say, but not poems and non-fiction. Space Cat Press is happy to ‘cross boundaries of genre’ as long as the wider story benefits. I’ve always loved mixing storytelling forms—fiction short and long, poems with non-fiction, performance and imagery, print and media. I really like the conversations that emerge when they are yoked together by a theme or narrative. And there is an audience for that if you find the right places and approaches to share those stories. Probably a niche audience but one that is enthusiastic and curious. So I’d say we expect to draw readers from three different but overlapping markets: science fans who like a narrative approach, poetry lovers who like to mix it up and readers from the SFF community who are inspired by space exploration.

DLD: We did the same thing in the literary journal I was involved in during my masters. ROPES accepted poetry, art, short stories, essays, and plays—even more forms than SCP. We had a great time arranging the various submissions so there would be something for everyone. Because SCP books will be a mix of genres and forms, we hope our readership will be similarly diverse.

Darragh Logan-Davies
Editor Darragh will be looking at a wide range of sub-genres across all these formats, is there a particular thing she’s looking for?

DLD: Well first off, everything we do here at Space Cat is a collaboration so we will both be reading the submissions. As for what we’re looking for, I’d like to see how far contributors can push the boundaries of speculative fiction and other genres. Do you write poetry about steampunk goblins living on Mars? Excellent, send it to us. Do you write short stories where damsels in distress turn badass and lead intergalactic raids? I, for one, would love to read it. Step outside the box and see where your imagination takes you. Rather than one specific voice, we’re looking for as many diverse voices as possible. We’ll release more information on our website closer to the submission call but take the Space Race theme as a prompt rather than a set of instructions.

The first submission call will go out in November. What kind of voice will you be looking for?

SL: I think the key to a good anthology is a strong theme and then let multiple voices speak to each other in interesting ways. The first anthology will be literature that is inspired by the Space Race. But we want writers to interpret that widely. There might be memoir pieces that evoke that moment of 1969 as children experienced it. Poems about the moon or astronauts. Pieces that explore what the Space Race means to young people in 2019. We want very diverse voices and stories. I’ve been reading SFF authors like Tade Thompson, Jeannette Ng or Aliette De Bodard. Through alien xenospheres, missionaries in the land of the Fae or Vietnamese water-dragons under the Seine, they’ve subtly deconstructed sci-fi’s colonialist mindset whilst having huge fun. I see poets too reflecting on our ecological moment or strewing collections with apocalyptic dystopias and rogue robots. Collections that are both intimate and social. You can get an idea of our tastes by reading Space Cat blog Reviews. But it’s down to what writers send us and how we arrange a narrative out of disparate pieces. We definitely want new voices to make it through. To that end, we’re offering a free Space Cat workshop as part of Leicester’s Everybody’s Reading festival in October.

What has been the biggest challenge so far with regards to Space Cat Press, and how does that compare to your experiences as writers/editors?

DLD: The biggest challenge so far has been simultaneously handling so many parts of this project at once. When I’m editing, I can just focus on the text and how I can help the author make it as readable as possible. With Space Cat, I will take a break from typesetting to talk to printers, or I will finish up some complicated work on the website and reward myself by designing new merchandise. It has been a bit insane but thoroughly enjoyable and having Siobhan to soundboard ideas with has been an immense help.

SL: There’s no point in undertaking a small press adventure if it’s not enormous fun. The collaborative nature of Space Cat Press means we play to our strengths and combine different tastes. So we do content-edits together. Then Darragh brings her copy-editing skills to bear and she’s also done the cover design and typesetting for Desert Moonfire—everything needed to get the book print-ready. Afterwards, I come in more on the marketing side. But we learn from each other, and from other small presses, at every step of the way. Lots of café meetings with the laptop!

There’s been faffy technical things which Darragh is great at fixing. She’s the Kaylee to our Firefly. But looking ahead, the major challenge is to find our readership. And begin a dialogue where we listen to them and become responsive to who our audience is and what they want. For me, that’s been the same challenge I faced in publishing poetry collections or stories with small presses. I knew then my main sales would be face to face by going out to events and engaging readers. We plan to take Space Cat Press to book fairs, poetry events, libraries and SFF cons, as well as into on-line spaces. It’s about connecting our passions and obsessions with yours. We can’t wait to hear from you, both writers and readers.

And returning to space at last—if you could own any planet, which would it be and why?

DLD: Hmmm, I am generally against colonisation, but I would have to say that if I could, I would own Earth just so I could make climate change the number one global priority.

SL: I agree. We had enough of that with the military impetus behind the Moon Race. I’m more interested in exploring imaginatively and vicariously through space missions and fiction. But I’d love to write about Pluto—that drop-dead gorgeous planet (yes, you heard me) and the mysterious rock-worlds of the Kuiper Belt. Or the Voyager space probes. When you see their mind-boggling images, you know we could fix our planetary mess. We have the ingenuity. We know our blue dot in the dark is unique and precious. We can do it and it’s all to play for.

Thank you for answering our questions, Siobhan and Darragh, and good luck with your explorations into publishing, Space Cat. 

Space Cat Press can be found on Facebook, their website or on Twitter @SpaceCatPress.

Saturday, 14 September 2019

Interview with co-editor Regina de Búrca

For the occasion of our fiftieth issue, we’re joined by TFF associate editor Regina de Búrca, who looks both back and forward, as we do at milestones like this. We’re having this chat to think about where we have come from, and what social-political and speculative fiction might be in store for us. Regina’s been co-editing for about ten years now, so she knows where a lot of the bodies are buried…

Regina de Búrca is a writer and editor from the West of Ireland. She is interested in feminist speculative fiction, especially for young adults. She's currently experiencing a resurgent Gothic literature phase and is working her way through the works of Ann Radcliffe for the second time, after a gap of twenty years. Her biggest influences remain Ursula le Guin and Isabel Allende but in relation to TFF stories loves to see authentic and strong voices, coupled with fresh ideas. She can be found procrastinating on Twitter @Regina_dB.

TFF: How did you first get involved with The Future Fire magazine and Publishing?

Regina de Búrca: In 2009, I started a job in Dublin where I met then TFF co-editor Leoba, and we quickly bonded over our love of speculative fiction. Leoba introduced me to TFF and I enjoyed reading through back issues. Before long, Leoba asked if I’d like to help out with the slush pile. At first, I was a bit daunted by the idea; back then I was writing for kids but had little commercial success—who was I to judge anyone else’s writing? But I think it was because I took the submissions so seriously that Leoba and Djibril wanted me on board. The first story I gave feedback on was Frank Ray Ard’s “Wings So Foreign” for issue #16. Since then I’ve read through hundreds of stories; and have been rooting for their authors. Speculative fiction, in the broader sense of the term, is a tough genre. There’s nowhere to hide when you have to craft new worlds, as well as structure compelling plots and create engaging characters. There’s nothing like the feeling of identifying a powerfully resonating story and then watching its journey from my inbox to the magazine. It’s been a privilege to read authors’ hard work and I’m enormously proud of TFF’s high standard.

Illustration for “Wings So Foreign”, © 2009, Arianna Ciula

Has editing, revising and slushreading had a measurable impact on your own writing in the meantime?

RDB: Not so much. I think it’s because I work in very different genres. There is a connection between my writing and the work of TFF writers, though. My own adventures in writing and submitting impact my approach as an editor. I’m often on the querying side of the equation, and like most of our writers, I work full time while trying to improve my fiction. So, I know firsthand how much work is involved in crafting stories and what if feels like to put your writing and hence yourself out there. I understand what it’s like to be limited to writing in short bursts while on work breaks or commutes or whatever. I get it! Because of that, I’m a slow reviewer. When I get pieces to review that don’t immediately resonate but I can see what the author is trying to achieve, I tend to err on the side of ‘maybe—let’s find someone to take a second look’, rather than ‘didn’t do it for me, let’s pass.’

If you could run a themed issue or anthology, what topic or slant would you pick?

RDB: I’d really like to see an anthology with a considered and sensitive focus on common mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. It would nicely counteract the media’s portrayals of people experiencing issues—research shows that’s at least one in four of us!—that depict MH experiencers as dangerous or weak. I think an exploration of issues would be very interesting in a speculative fiction framework: how much does discrimination and inequality in society impact our cognitive wellbeing? How much does politics? Economics? I reckon this theme would make a super interesting speculative fiction anthology. I’d love to see what our writers could come up with—the level of innovative thinking that I’ve seen from our anthology submissions is staggering.

You also collect rare books. Do physical books, especially old books, have a particular life that can never be replaced by any other medium (audio, e-book, even film)?

RDB: There will never be a digitized / digital version of a rare book that excites me as much as the original. Sorry! (*Ducks and runs from digital humanities community*). It’s the tactile, multisensory experience that makes reading a rare book far more pleasurable for me than spending time on its digital equivalent. I also find the story of the physical book itself interesting—where it started from, whose collection it belonged to. It’s rarely possible to trace these histories, of course, but I do marvel at how some of these works have survived. I’ve often bought a book for its journey as much for its content. Inscriptions, doodles, newspaper clippings—all things I’ve found in rare books that have taught me something, given me a glimpse into someone else’s past. Also, on a more prosaic level, I spend most of my time staring at a screen at work, so I don’t find the idea of engaging with screens in my spare time very appealing.

What else are you working on at the moment?

RDB: I’m in between drafts of a novel for adults that explores complicated friendships at the moment. My story has had four beta readers and I am at the point where I am not sure whose feedback to follow in the broader sense of theme. Clarity always emerges eventually between drafts eventually, though. As my story progresses, it gets harder to stay motivated. My absolute favourite part of writing is the first draft, the one only I ever see, where I get to call the shots!

Thanks for joining us, Regina!

Tuesday, 3 September 2019

TFF #50 author and artist microinterviews

As you may know, after each issue of TFF we like to post a series of micro-interviews with the authors and artists—just a couple of questions each, and short answers of 2–3 sentences. Because not all of you use or follow FB where these go up in the first instance, I’ll collect here links to a few of the posts as they go past. I'll try to keep it updated. It’s always fun to read what people have to say about their own work, and what else they’re up to in the meantime.
If you have any questions for any of these artists, poets or authors, or would like to say anything nice about their work, please feel free to leave a comment below this post, and we’ll make sure it gets seen.

Friday, 30 August 2019

Interview with Chloe N. Clark

Back in 2015 we published a lovely, dark, surreal, horror-kitsch-dystopia-escapist adventure short story titled “All Along the Mall” by Chloe N. Clark (which is well worth pausing here and going to read, by the way). Now Chloe’s second poetry collection is available from Vegetarian Alcoholic Press, and she has come to speak to us about speculative fiction and poetry, beauty, dystopia and art.

Chloe N. Clark’s Your Strange Fortune is our good fortune. This debut volume of rare sympathy and imagination leaps easily from myths to monsters, ghosts to zombies, fairy tales to the Apocalypse that, for this poet and so many today, is “just/the fact of life.” Clark’s inventive, unforgettable voice ranges widely—from up-to-the-moment poems like “Googolplex,” in which curiosity becomes dark compulsion, to the far future when museums feature the relics of our own time: “the things we could not bear/to leave behind us:/ pieces of highways, signs/ …one single spike from Lady/ Liberty’s crown.” Clark understands that time speeds forward and that myth and popular culture are close kin that offer the songs of ghosts who once were us, “the ones who/ had such beautiful voices but only when/ they thought no one was listening.” Like the poet’s “clockwork nightingale” whose song is both dystopian and beautiful, Chloe Clark’s voice rises above the usual din to bring us a debut volume that is rich with unsettling questions but always unflinchingly alive. (Blurb by Ned Balbo, author of The Cylburn, Touch-Me-Nots and 3 Nights of the Perseids.)

Chloe N. Clark is a writer, editor, and teacher. She is the author of The Science of Unvanishing Objects and Your Strange Fortune. Her work has appeared in Booth, Glass, The Future Fire, Little Fiction, Uncanny, and more. She is a founding co-editor-in-chief of online journal Cotton Xenomorph. Find her on Twitter @PintsNCupcakes or her website

TFF: Your Strange Fortune is a diverse, wide-ranging collection of poems. Did you just bring together a selection of your best poems from other places, or was it conceived as a single, coherent piece of work from the start?

Chloe N. Clark: This question sort of has multiple answers. Almost everything I write has some connection to something else I’m writing, even if I don’t sit down with that intention (my brain works in large pictures and patterns, it’s why I’m so fond of interconnected novel-in-stories). So I found that I was writing a lot of poems centering on apocalypse and disaster (large scale and personal). As I realized this, I began to picture a plot arc for the poems and then began to put them into a single cohesive overall book. Something I’m very concerned with, always, when putting together poetry collections is “how is this telling a story?” I want the poems to stand alone, but when put together also serve a larger purpose. The best poetry collections, like story collections, novels, or albums, should be able to be read as one piece and have that work on some level (whether it’s an emotional arc of an actual plot driven one).

TFF: Both Wallace and Balbo’s blurbs note that your work combines themes of horror/dystopia/apocalypse along with beautiful or hopeful tones (which I think is true of “All Along the Mall” as well). Do you think we need to see the joy and the hope in the world to cope with and indeed fight back against the dystopia galloping towards us?

CNC: Absolutely. The world is a not-great place, for so many reasons, and I think the things that help us to cope with that and to fight back against the not-great things are hope and joy. If you’re hopeless about the future, you don’t really have the drive to make it better for yourself/for the next generation/etc. I write about a lot of darker subjects and so I think I try to be very purposeful about lacing those subjects with light. I need to be able to see a way out and I think it helps to show that in writing as well. It’s one of the reasons I teach, as well, I focus on injustice and rhetorics of violence in my classes, but I’m always careful to think about solution-based approaches to these problems—to show why we keep fighting. Being hopeful and finding joy are not at odds with being realistic about the world, if anything they keep you more able to understand what’s at stake.

“All Along the Mall” illustration © 2015 by L.E. Badillo

TFF: Poetry is almost by definition non-realist, in the sense that imagery and analogy are such ubiquitous techniques; does this make it an especially powerful medium for science fiction, or is “speculative poetry” a tautology?

CNC: I think this goes both ways honestly. In my mind, all writing is in some ways speculative (even non-fiction because it often is based out of the writer seeking answers and also having to incorporate their own view/analysis of those answers and questions). I think poetry is a great venue for sci-fi though because it allows the ideas room to be ideas, rather than needing maybe the plot or explanation behind them that a story might require. So it’s a great playground for those ideas and images without binding them to something larger.

At the same time, I think all my poetry is speculative, even the realistic pieces. I’ve never been able to view the world without seeing the strange inside it. There’s so much miraculous in the everyday of life, that it sometimes seems hard not to write things in a way that comes off as speculative.

TFF: What, to you, most essentially characterizes the difference between “literary” and “genre” fiction?

CNC: This is a question that always gets me fired up, because I think it’s in many ways a question that’s already been broken. Many of the best “literary” writers today are ones who fully incorporate genre techniques into their work (Colson Whitehead, Kelly Link, Victor LaValle) and many of the best “genre” writers are ones who write work that is also very literary—in that it focuses on character and writing as much as it focuses on plot momentum. Sometimes, the distinction that I think works best is: do you want to read it for the story or for the writing? If it’s both, it’s probably good literature. If it’s one or the other but not both, it probably falls into “genre” or “literary.”

TFF: Have you ever seen a statue or a piece of art that you wished was alive?

CNC: I think I wish this of a lot of art and statues, when I really like a painting, I often wish I could climb inside it and see it from another angle. Good art is an invitation—to wonder and wander in. But, if I had to pick a single piece, I would definitely go with the works of Dr Evermor, an outsider artist from Wisconsin. I grew up going to see these pieces and now I take my nephews there. They are strange and wonderful and filled with all the magic of what I think childhood dreams feel like—giant insects made of old musical instruments, a telescope to the stars, pieces of trash and discarded junk turned into something new and strange. I don’t think the giant insects would become menaces, if alive, they feel too kind and filled with delight to do so.

TFF: Would you like to visit another planet?

CNC: I want to answer this question in all-caps, so: YES. My obsession with space and the universe began as a small child, watching Aliens for the 400th time and listening to audio plays of Ray Bradbury stories. And it was a joy and fascination with space that grew even more when I began to actually understand what space and planets and the ways we get there actually meant. Nothing delights my brain as much as reading some fact about the difficulties of space exploration and the ways in which we seek planets away from our own. I love Earth and I’m not a person who thinks colonizing other planets is the way to save the world, but what I wouldn’t give to take a step on another planet—to see some new beauty of the universe in front of me. What a wonder that must be—I don’t think there’s enough poetry in the world I could write to come close to what that must be like.

Thank you for joining us, Chloe!

Check out Chloe N. Clark's new poetry collection Your Strange Fortune from Vegetarian Alcoholic Press, also sold at all online booksellers (and some shops). Her previous poetry chapbook The Science of Unvanishing Objects is still available from Finishing Line Press.

Saturday, 24 August 2019

Reprint: ten years of The Future Fire

Reprinted from TFFX (2015, edd. al-Ayad, Matthey and Vitale) [purchase links] as part of our celebration of The Future Fire issue #50 in 2019. Four more years may have passed, but this history of the first ten years, and what we’re trying to do with the zine, still stands.

This anthology celebrates ten years of The Future Fire magazine (, by both reprinting a few highlight stories from the first thirty-one issues, and including several new, experimental, unusual or aspirational pieces to give a taster of what we’d like to see more of in the next decade.

Issue #1 appeared in January 2005, after a bit of preamble and experimentation the previous year, and apart from a short hiatus to rest up and take stock about halfway through, we’ve been publishing an average of three to four issues per year ever since. We always wanted TFF to be challenging, experimental, progressive, inclusive, political, revolutionary—even if to start with maybe we weren’t sure what we were rebelling against!

The first thing you would notice if you went back in time ten years (or just used the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine) to look at the TFF website in 2005, would be how god-awful-shitty the web design was. I like to think that’s aesthetics having changed, and it wasn’t quite so ’90s-looking to a 2005 eye, but I’m lying to myself. Still, the evolution from CBBC-quality flames in 2005, via a slightly darker, smoky aesthetic in 2007, to the cathode ray tube Unicode-soup we know and love today in about 2009, echoes the growing confidence we started to have in our niche in the speculative fiction market.

We launched in 2005 as a cyberpunk market (words like “chrome,” “postmodern” and “hyperfiction” peppered our tagline, manifesto and first story contests), but through an accident of community we knew more writers of horror and dark fantasy, and there was almost no conventional scifi in the first several issues. You can hear a bit of diffidence about this in our early editorials, and our craving for that elusive cyberpunk is almost tangible…

But once our slushpile was deep enough that we could reasonably select on genre and theme as well as quality (we were always uncompromising on quality) then our niche was under our control, and we didn’t have to be shy about the geeky, retro, techno-noir look we imagined for ourselves. Not that we ever stopped publishing horror, fantasy and surreal stories as well, of course; and never will.

You might also notice the evolution in our one-line mission statement: “New writing in Dark Speculative Fantasy!” we proclaimed in 2004. “Speculative Fiction, Cyberpunk and Dark Fantasy!” we boomed in 2007. “Social-Political and Speculative Cyberfiction!” we have cried since 2009. Always the line, “An experiment in and celebration of new writing” has sat somewhere in the first paragraph.

We’ve had a thorough turnaround of collaborators too: In 2004 we were Bruce, Joseph, Equus and myself; Joseph and Equus left within days; by 2009 we had been joined by Leoba, David, John and Lois; by 2011 it was just me, which is part of the reason TFF took a year’s hiatus. Now, as of 2015, we are joined by Regina, Kathryn, Tracie, Valeria, Cécile (who has illustrated stories since 2006), Serge; plus Lori and Fabio who have guest-edited anthologies and continue to be valued collaborators.

We have attracted a fabulous team of artists, a critical and generous cohort of reviewers, and a community of support that we plug into via social networks and occasional conventions. We’ve had a huge amount of support, both financial and in-kind, during the crowdfunding campaigns for the last three anthologies, and we engage both productively and cordially with several other small presses, publications and writing communities. In 2005 it was mostly me, sketching and photoshopping, reviewing whatever junk I found lying around, bribing and threatening people to send us their stories, funding the whole thing out of my pocket.

I measure the success of TFF by such intangible things—legends who turn out to have heard of us; people who can publish professionally nonetheless sending us their stories; the generosity and excitement of new and potential collaborators. But if you want more measurable criteria, no less than eight stories first published in our pages have been shortlisted or honorably-mentioned in awards and year’s bests; ten stories have been reprinted in some of the most prestigious and high-quality anthologies such as Gardner Dozois’s Year’s Best, Lethe Press’s Heiresses of Russ, the Apex World SF and Mammoth’s SF Stories by Women.

We hope to drive this success ever onwards. Our aim has always been to publish progressive ideas, underrepresented voices, socially important stories, and people clearly think that’s a worthwhile goal. We’ve learned a lot about what all of these mean over the years as well—learned to check our own privilege and be much more sensitive to issues of gender, race, class, ability, language, and so many other facets of oppression. We’re able to be selective now on features above mere quality, fit and taste; in addition we filter by features such as respect, not punching down, lazy stereotypes that we might have missed before we had such an inclusive team able to share their judgements of privilege and oppression with us.

But we’ve also always wanted to have fun, to push the boundaries, to play games that Borges, Kafka, Calvino and Eco would be tickled by, and people seem to enjoy that too. We feel it’s important to treat authors and artists with respect, which among other things means paying them properly for their work, and we have some ideas for improving our finances to do better on that front in the future.

But most importantly, my co-editors Valeria and Cécile have done a great job helping put together this anthology of old and new stories, and we hope you enjoy reading them. If you do, keep coming back to; we plan for there to be plenty more where these came from!

Sunday, 11 August 2019

New issue 2019.50

“I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.”

—Greta Thunberg

Issue 2019.50: Jubilee issue

  • Cover artist: Pear Nuallak
This issue is free to read online

Sunday, 4 August 2019

Interview: Evelyn Deshane and L.E. Badillo

Binary Code, © 2019, Le.E. BadilloA couple years ago we published a lovely speculative flash story by Evelyn Deshane, “The Cryptographer’s Body,” which due to scheduling issues at the time, was published without an illustration. Now, the superb L.E. Badillo (profile) has provided an image to accompany the story, and I think you’ll agree it works beautifully with it! To celebrate this, and to remind people to read the story again, we invited Evelyn and Lou to come and chat about the process of writing and illustrating. This conversation turned into a bit of a mini-interview, and we’re delighted to share it here.

Evelyn: When you illustrate something from someone else’s mind—such as a short story—do you focus on the details of the piece, or the tonal message you think it’s sending?

Lou: The tone is most important. How a story makes me feel is the foundation of the work. I hope to convey what the story makes me feel and I hope the illustrations can act as a primer for the reader and make that connection on a more visceral level. Details bring credibility and make the illustration cohesive with the story. I hope a reader can then look back on the illustration and identify things from the story.

Lou: Do you know anyone who has gone through transition like Kylie in the story? I do and I can’t imagine what they went through. If you don’t know anyone who went through this, how did you make such a deep connection with the characters in the story?

Evelyn DeshaneEvelyn: Yes, I do; I’ve known many trans people and they’ve all played large parts in my own life. My empathetic skills have also been honed especially well through my academic study of transgender people and their lives.

One of the reasons I wrote “The Cryptographer’s Body” was because I was in the middle of my comprehensive exams for my PhD, studying trans writing and social media, and one or two articles mentioned cryptography. One author (can’t remember now) called it a kind of translation—and I immediately thought of someone in a future landscape who was both decoding signs/language and also themselves. So hurrah for exams!

Evelyn: Describe your artistic process in three adjectives. Why have you selected these?

  1. Many: I need to filter out the scenes envisioned.
  2. Exciting: Watching the idea come to life is always thrilling. Commissions often pose surprising challenges.
  3. Relief: Completing the work and knowing it is done having met the criteria and my expectations is a great feeling.
L.E. BadilloLou: What is the main takeaway you want readers to experience by reading “The Cryptographer’s Body” in today’s social environment?

Evelyn: I see it as a love story more than anything. Kylie’s relationship with Scott has absolutely nothing to do with the social climate in which they live—it is a pure connection between them—but of course, it does end up meaning something within a larger culture (as this story surely does), since we all must participate in some way with the world we live in. So I suppose the main takeaway is that connection is what matters more than ideological message. When we actually face people and talk to them, we have so much more common than we first may believe.

Evelyn: When you draw something from your own imagination, does it come to you as a finished product that you must then find, or is it an experience of discovery?

Lou: Sometimes an idea is so powerful it carves itself from my imagination and into reality. Other times it is like hunting the elusive White Stag through a shadowy forest and sometimes on that hunt I find something even better along the way!

Thanks to both Evelyn and Lou for joining us! Please check out Evelyn Deshane’s professional site and L.E. Badillo’s DeviantArt gallery for more great work from both of them.

Saturday, 29 June 2019

TFF #49 author and artist mini-interviews

As we do after the release of each issue of TFF, we’re currently running a series of very short interviews (2–3 questions, couple sentences per answer) with the authors and artists who were featured in TFF#49, our poetry themed issue. Interviews are appearing on Fakebooc every couple days, but we'll also collate the links here.
Thanks again to all poets, authors and illustrators! Please check out their work. We’ll post more interviews here as they appear.

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Interview with Hûw Steer

We welcome to the TFF Press blog author Hûw Steer, who wrote the charming “The Vigil of Talos” in the Making Monsters anthology, and now also copy-edits and sets our e-books for TFF magazine. Hûw has a novel out this month, a fantasy adventure heist caper with a dashing archaeologist/tomb-robber protagonist, and he dropped by to answer a few questions.

The Boiling Seas are the mariner’s bane—and the adventurer’s delight. The waters may be hot enough to warp wood and boil a hapless swimmer, but their scalding expanse is full of wonders. Strange islands lurk in the steamy mists, and stranger ruins hold ancient secrets, remnants of forgotten empires waiting for the bold… or lying in wait for the unwary.

On the Corpus Isles, gateway to the Boiling Seas, Tal Wenlock, the Blackbird, seeks a fortune of his own. The treasure he pursues could change the world—but he just wants to change a single life, and it’s not his own. To reach it, he’ll descend into the bowels of the earth and take ship on burning waters, brave dark streets and steal forbidden knowledge. He’ll lie, cheat, steal and fight—but he won’t get far alone. The ghosts of Tal’s past dog his every step—and one in particular keeps his knives sharp.

The Blackbird will need help to reach his goal… and he’ll need all his luck to get back home alive.

Where did the idea for this story come from? Did you start from the setting or the characters?

Definitely the setting. I had the original idea during a production of The Comedy of Errors. As tends to be the case with university drama, it was a bit weird—we had a chorus onstage at all times playing background characters and it was set in 1950s Yorkshire—and so for most of the play I was sat stage left at my greengrocer’s stall eating grapes and occasionally reacting to the plot. We had to be idle in character; we read, played cards… and I brought a sketchbook. During one of the monologues, I started drawing a map of some islands. Maybe it was the play that did the rest, subconsciously. The Comedy of Errors opens with a shipwreck, it’s filled with inversions and subversions of expectations—I think that bled over into my thoughts while I was drawing that map, building that world, and so I ended up with this inverted ocean and all the perils that came with it. It’s a strong enough setting that I’ve been seriously considering trying a D&D campaign in it for years…

Oh, and bonus points if you can tell me where the name ‘Port Malice’ came from!

Are there creatures living under the hot waters of the Boiling Seas? What do they look like?

(Disclaimer: little of this will bear any resemblance to actual science)

So the Boiling Seas are hot because of massive volcanic activity on the ocean floor—there are rivers of molten rock and iron constantly heating the water. This also means they have a much higher mineral content than normal, minerals like copper, iron, carbon... see where I’m going? The fish in the Boiling Seas are sleek and shiny and mean; they have literal iron-hard scales to help reflect the heat and stay alive! It’s the same story with ships—anything without a metal hull won’t last long, because the caulking between planks just melts. There are no squids or octopi; they’d cook in seconds; but there are steel-scaled sea-serpents—huge things, big enough to take on warships by themselves. And there are proper flying fish too—they’ve evolved to breathe the steam from the water for extended periods so they can glide for much longer! It’s a brave fisherman who tries to make a living on the Boiling Sea.

…and now I’m wracking my brains trying to figure out how to do an underwater sequence in the sequel without killing my protagonists…

How fine do you think is the line between deciphering the traces of an ancient civilisation and imagining a fictional one?

Often very fine. I’m no archaeologist but I’ve studied enough Greek and Roman history to know that when you’re going through ancient sources there are always fascinating facts and snippets that, on closer inspection, turn out to be completely fabricated. Some of the most celebrated ancient historians—Herodotus, Ctesias, etc.—lied all the time about places they’d been and things they’d seen. I recall one passage of Herodotus where he states that the people of ancient Libya were “all wizards,” and more besides. Even when things are heavily documented it’s still easy to interpret them in a romanticised or otherwise distorted way—I know I’ve been guilty of this! If you’re not careful then you can build up a totally fictional image of an ancient society from reading the wrong sources… or even the right ones.

Which ancient artefact or object has the most amazing story, in your opinion?

There’s a Micronesian island called Yap that once used limestone discs as currency. Some of them were only a few inches across, but some weighed over 4 tonnes! They were quarried on another island and brought back by boat, and it took so much effort to move the big ‘coins’ that everyone agreed to just remember who owned which stone, regardless of where it actually was. Why was this important? Because one 4-tonne coin, en route back to Yap, got hit by a storm and sank to the bottom of the sea. Obviously there was no way to get it back, but that didn’t matter—as 4 tonnes of stone wasn’t going to get up and walk away the islanders just carried on trading with it. So there’s a piece of currency that’s been at the bottom of the ocean for centuries, and it’s still legal tender!

Whenever I get all existential about how ephemeral modern money is, it helps to remember that there’s one economy that’ll never crash completely.

What was your favourite fairy tale when you were a child?

Probably Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. I had (still have, in fact) a CD version of the Arthurian mythos by Benedict Flynn, narrated by Sean Bean of all people, and some passages are indelibly etched in my memory. Gawain’s journey of self-discovery about his own courage was important to me because it showed his flaws, in a way that the other heroic stories I read (and there were a lot of them) never did as well. He was a Knight of the Round Table, but the whole way through the story he was scared, falling to temptation, quaking in his armoured boots—but he kept his word, and did the best he could, and won respect for it. Sean Bean’s last words in that section, as Arthur, always stuck with me: “None of us are perfect. We can only try.”

Thanks for joining us, Hûw.

Hûw Steer is an author, historian and sketch comedian from London. He’s previously been published in Making Monsters ( Publishing, 2018), and the UCL Publisher’s Prize anthologies for 2018 and 2016. This is his first published novel.

You can purchase The Boiling Seas: The Blackbird and the Ghost for Kindle from Amazon US or Amazon UK (and all other local Amazon stores).

Saturday, 25 May 2019

New issue 2019.49

“It won't be any of those things,” J.D. [Sauvage] said. “I don't know what it will be, but it will be something different.”

—Vonda N. McIntyre, Starfarers

Issue 2019.49: Poetry Special

 [ Issue 2019.49; Cover art © 2019 Eric Asaris ]
Flash fiction
Download e-book version: PDF | EPUB | Mobi

Sunday, 21 April 2019

Call for submissions: longer fiction and poetry

Longer than usual…

Tall Tales!
For the next few weeks, TFF is looking for pieces that are slightly longer than our Guidelines normally specify, for our jubilee issue. While we’re explicitly flexible with regard to wordcount, in the past we have very seldom published stories over 10,000 words or poems over about 60 lines—partly because reading longer works on screen can be a strain. For an upcoming project (more on which later) however, we’re looking to push this boundary upwards.

Do you have a:
  • Speculative novelette (story of 7,500–17,500 words)
  • Long scifi/fantasy poem (say 100–200 lines)
that we might be interested in?

We’re more flexible than usual with this project, so those boundaries are both permeable, and we’re open to all sorts of liberties with genre, medium and form. Not sure if something qualifies? Try us!

This extended call remains open until May 31, 2019, and for this period, any novelette we purchase for this special issue will be paid the higher rate of $30 (and long poems $15) to celebrate the jubilee.

Increased length and pay rate aside, all our usual guidelines (see fiction; poetry) still apply for this month, and our usual tastes in feminist, queer, postcolonial and environmental themes and underrepresented voices will pertain. But as I said, try us—we’d rather have the chance to decide if something works for us than have you self-reject.

Monday, 25 March 2019

Speculative Fiction in Slovenia

Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Literature in Slovenia
Guest post by Nena Škerlj; translated by Urša Vidic

Speculative fiction in Slovenia started with fantastic short stories, utopias and anti-utopias: Andrej Volkar (The School Student in the Moon, 1871), Josip Stritar (The Ninth Wonderland, 1878), Anton Mahnič (Shangri-La of Coromandel India, 1884, 1889), Janez Trdina (Revelation, depicting the world in the year 2175, 1888), Ivan Tavčar (4000, a view on the narrow-minded town of Ljubljana in the year 4000, 1891), Janez Mencinger (under the pseudonym Nejaz Nemcigren, he wrote about Europe in the 24th century as a totalitarian anti-utopia, —a Tale for Old People, 1893), Simon Šubic (criticizing capitalism at a journey into a classless society on Mars, Devastating Idol of the World, 1893), Josip Jaklič (Merkur from the collection of short stories Pantheon is a satirical utopia with a Slovenian conquering space expedition, 1893), Ivan Toporiš (Archaeological lecture in the year 5000—there are no more nations on Earth, everyone speaks the same language, volapük, 1892). Utopias and anti-utopias appear quite late in Slovenian literature, but when some of these became infused with elements of science fiction, they were exceptionally progressive and modern on a wider scale, something that cannot be said for the current scene in Slovenia.

In the first half of the 20th century, Damir Feigl was the most important Slovenian science fiction writer, describing utopias of natural and technical science, voyages extraordinaires, unusual inventions, antigravity, futurism in genetics, brain transplantation (novels Dog Hair!, On Mysterious Ground, Wondrous Eye, Columbus, Magician without a licence, Around the World/8, Supervitalin). He wrote also short sci-fi stories (Bacilus eloquentiae, Elektrokephale …) and fantasy (e.g. Pharaoh in a Tailcoat). A pessimistic view on the development of science and also future catastrophes were described by Etbin Kristan (Pertinčarjevo pomlajenje—a tale of a dream), Vladimir Levstik (under pseudonyms also (The Deed)) and Anton Novačan (Superhuman). Space travels were the subject of Radivoj Rehar (under pseudonyms as well; young adult fiction Journey with the Evening Star, a story happening in 2033, Oceanopolis—a novel about the mystery of human past, the utopian Revenge of Professor Kabaj, and Ramas in Jora—a novel about the last people on Earth, taking place in the distant future). Pavel Brežnik used the pseudonym P. Ripson to publish Secrets of Mars, while Metod Jenko and Viktor Hassl co-authored the narrative Invention. In 1936, Alma M. Karlin published a novel about the sunken continent Isolanthis, describing a sort of Atlantis, called Poseidonia and containing many fantastical, fantasy, as well as theosophical elements.

In the 2nd half of the 20th century, it became very popular to write about space travel and contacts with alien civilizations and the most prominent examples of such writing are Dušan Kralj (First Encounter), Jože Dolničar (Pilot’s Blood, Decades and Seconds, The Sea is the Sky beneath Me) and Mitja Tavčar (Cabin Zero space opera). Vid Pečjak and Miha Remec write science fiction anti-utopias, but occasionally they both choose an optimistic ending in which individuals are successful in escaping the alienated hi-tech world. Vid Pečjak (also as Div Kajčep) described journey to other worlds, the life in them, various psychological states of mind and he warned about the fragility of nature (In the Claws of Gita, the Witch, Adam and Eve on the Planet of Old People, In the Embrace of Green Hell, Cataclysm or the Revenge of Selena, collections of short psychological science fiction stories like Where did Ema Lauš Disappear to?, Doctor of the Living and the Dead, Last Resistance and Search for the Beautiful Helena). His ecological-psychological science fiction is often pessimistic and the same could be said about the works of Miha Remec (also as Irena Remrom), the most prominent among them being the dystopian trilogy Iksion-Iksia-Iks (Iksion, or Escape from the Stage, Iksia, or Android's Farewell and Iks, or The Great Solitude of Noah’s Ark). He wrote many multi-layered and interpretatively rich sci-fi stories (Glow Bird, Astral Lighthouses, a selection) and science fiction novels (Journals of Earth's Envoy, Manna, Sniper Woman, or Pilgrimage to Tibetia, Hunter, Recognition or Black Time of the White Widow, Impure Daughter). He described also journeys in time (Mithra’s Lock of Hair or Time String into Petoviona) and frequently called attention to the endangerment of human beings as individuals and of nature as a whole. In 2017, Miha Remec published another science fiction novel, Hunter of Perceptions. He writes also sci-fi poetry, drama and fairytales, a unique fantasy tragicomedy Plague of Plastion and a political fantasy novel Green Alliance, as well as humorous fantasy-realistic historical and political stories Trapan Chronographies where things happen simultaneously on Earth and on Trapania. Franjo (Franc) Puncer published a sci-fi collection entitled Lost Man, pessimistic accounts of the time before or after a catastrophe. In his short story Transformation, people are being changed into robots and the novel Membrane, he writes about how people from Earth are abducted immediately after their death in order to be reanimated and used as a means to renew the population of aliens. Other authors writing at the peak of Slovenian and global sci-fi—in terms of motifs as well as their style—are Gregor Strniša, Boris Grabnar and Branko Gradišnik (his Explorer arbitrarily kills intelligent and harmless round beings; also remarkable is his visit to the 22nd century, On the Hunt, on the Run).

In the 80s, sci-fi was written by Samo Kuščer, Denis Rakuša, Bojan Meserko, Egist Zagoričnik, Jaša Zlobec and many more. In their stories (Miha Remec), alien beings could save the Earth or do not want to have anything to do with Earthlings or it is forbidden for them to contact us (Gradišnik, Pečjak), or they are taken advantage of (Pečjak) or they all live together with humans on other planets (Janja Srečkar, Fast Frequency trilogy)… Mankind is able to prevent a disaster on Earth (Sandi Sitar, Buried in Granite) or it destroys the planet (Samo Resnik, Stars and dumpsites, Vid Pečjak: Odysseus Returns), but a complete end of the human race is quite rare in Slovenian sci-fi literature (Franjo Puncer: Adamo).

Elements of cyberpunk or its predecessor genres can be recognized in Pečjak’s story Open Skulls, where an alien civilization steals human brains and uses them to produce supercomputers and only the brains of schizophrenics can save mankind from such an invasion. Also Iksion, or Escape from the Stage by Remec has such elements—a computer, programmed for eternity, making sure that human society functions well. The same can be said of his Recognition where people’s memories are being erased or searched. A work that stands out is the philosophical and futuristic novel Cracks by Marko Uršič, a fantasy of space and time intertwining in make-believe, memories, dreams and waking moments. Edo Rodošek is the third great figure of the Slovenian sci-fi scene. In addition to poetry he wrote many stories (most recently the collection from 2017, Step into the Unknown—Eighteen Stories That Have Not Happened Yet) and novels (Inseparable Duo takes place in the future when asteroids threaten the Earth and its main character searches for other planets suitable for life, while the main character of The Swamp is a conflicted cyborg, and in Almost the Same, robots, androids, cyborgs and other technological entities wish to dream, to feel, to have perceptions and emotions. His novel Haunted Castle features ghosts for which it eventually turns out that they are beings from other planets). In the weirdness of its themes and by being something like a mysterious gothic novel, it is somehow similar to the Manor House by Robert Titan Felix from 2017.

Around the turn of the millennium, some outstanding Slovenian sci-fi authors are Berta Bojetu (her brutal anti-utopia Filio is Not at Home and its sequel, Bird House, both describing how it is not the fault of technology but of people themselves if their society is violent and evil), Marjetka Jeršek (Emerald City, a utopian love novel, a mixture of dreams, hallucinations and eventual parallel worlds with robots and interplanetary vehicles, Ljubljana can be recognized here), Miha Mazzini (futuristic anti-utopia Satan’s Crown), Tone Perčič (Harmageddon on the future of Slovenia in an absurd war), Andrej Blatnik (Change Me, describing a grotesque future and extreme consumerism, again, Ljubljana is recognizable), Vesna Lemaić (Disposal Facility), Iztok Osojnik (the protagonist of the fantasy novel Pigs Flying into the Sky is Primož Truba, an allusion to Trubar, author of the first book printed in Slovenian), Boris Čerin (futuristic Curse of the Two-Headed Clown and They Came for Me), Mladen Tratnjak (sci-fi novel Observatory 775), Nina Arlič (Gorgonaut, a sort of a sci-fi love story with the protagonist Paprika Kej of a librarian persuasion), Janko Lorenci (sci-fi love story Travelling towards Leonarda), Rok Sieberer Kuri (futuristic trilogy taking place also in other galaxies and universes: Stories of Jessi, The Story of Frenk Nissan, Sherry’s Storry), Franc Puncer (Rope of Time containing travels to a far future and extreme future, to the frontier—a web, through which time flows into our universe and that catches the rest; from the prehistoric town of Celje (Celea Praehistorica) to New Celje (Celea Futura), and the city of the year 4000 (Celea Futurissma)). The author under the pseudonym Mara R. Sirako wrote a space saga (space opera) Dangober, Combat by the Warning Indicator 1, 2, 3, describing an encounter and clash of two very different civilizations where many beings have names and characteristics that are associated with deities from various mythologies.

Andrej Ivanuša wrote novels and short stories of speculative fiction, but also the fantasy novel Svetodrev which is the first book in the series of Legends from the Forest of Tokara (fantasy world with intelligent reptiles who have three sexes), as well as the science fiction with elements of a crime novel, Rheia, and an epic fantasy poem Vilindar. Bojan Ekselenski is the author of a fantasy epic full of intrigues, magic and battles, Knights and Wizards, published in 2017. His latest novel from 2018 is Lubliana High School of Magic with its world of wizards that is parallel to the real world. Barbara Čibej wrote a fantasy adventure novel with ninjas, the Secret of the Warrior. Under the pseudonym of Maia Pleiades, an adventure fantasy was published, The Final Battle of the Gods. Sebastjan Koleša portrayed pirates, elves, goblins, demons, terrifying beasts, beings from outer space and other extraordinary creatures in The Seventh World.

Slovenian chivalric, horror, gothic and dark novels usually take place in medieval times and are combined with the mixture of adventure, myths, pseudo-history, fairy-tales, legends and the fantasy world. They describe knights, witches, heroes and heroines, nobility, castles and monasteries. An interweaving of history and fiction can be found already in the 14th century with the Celje Chronicles and it continued in the 19th and 20th centuries with Peter Bohinjec, Jožef Urbanija, Ivan Lah and many more. In 1858, Fran Levstik wrote a parody of the chivalric novel, Martin Krpan. There was also some horror literature and fantastic novels about demons (Valentin Zarnik, Fran Erjavec, Valentin Mandelc, Josip Podmilšak, Silvester Košutnik, France Bevk (The Dead are Returning). Some people say that the first in the series of vampire sagas (like those by Isabella M. Grey, Eva Šegatin…) was a passage in the monumental work by the natural historian Johann Weikhard Freiherr von Valvasor, The Glory of the Duchy of Carniola, in 1689, where he mentioned Giure or Jure Grando (1579–1656) from Istria (Kringa) who therefore might be the first real person to be described in a book as a vampire—a shtrigon.

Alen Nemec wrote the book Swordsman (2017) that will be the first part of a fantasy trilogy, The Resurrection of the Swordsman containing stories about warriors, castles, kingdoms, intrigues, myths, dark forces and the battles against them. Aleš Oblak is the author of a horror fantasy House of Good Gentlemen, composed of seven intertwined, unusual, terrifying and cruel short stories. For Anor Kath by Samo Petančič it could be said that it is splatterpunk to a certain degree, since it has some moments of horror and terror fiction. Similar elements of fantasy and science fiction in a dark and gloomy atmosphere of cruelty and violence can be recognized also in the work of Lenart Zajc (e.g. Hevimetal). Another important author of fantasy stories is Amedeja M. Ličen (Goodbye, Glorious World! where she uses motifs from science, pseudoscience and myths to describe an ideal society with lots of humour and irony, since that society is of course not ideal). Danila Žorž has to be mentioned as well, she wrote an archaeological sci-fi crime novel Izklop, a fantasy trilogy True World: Enchanting Angel, Cursed Angel and Fallen Angel that is still in the making).

A hybridity of genres is characteristic of more modern science fiction, fantasy and horror, like in the works of Marjan Tomšič, where there is a mixture of magical and fantastic realism, science fiction and psych fiction, imaginary and philosophical elements, magical Istrian themes, superpowers, evil dark forces, thinking plants, animals and inanimate nature, new forms of communication in outer space, the threat of disasters and the contacts with aliens. His Spells of the Full Moon (3 volumes) are a psycho-fictional vortex of post-apocalyptic horror fantasy, dreams, hallucinations and unusual entities of existence, while, Óštrigéca and The Grain of Frmenton are contemporary fairytale novels, just like Someone was Playing the Piano by Boris Jukić and Tanaja by Sanja Pregl. Vlado Žabot in his Nights of the Wolf described a weird, dark and dispiriting vampiric atmosphere, an irrational world of dreams, half-dreams, delusions, sensory disturbances and hallucinations. Tomšič, Žabot and Feri Lainšček (in his horror novel The Woman Carried in by the Fog) could sometimes be considered to write landscape fantasy horror novels. The Secret of the Valley of Petrified Dragons trilogy by Nataša Vrbančič Kopač (Generator of Books, Dragon Temple, Battle for Erno) contains elements of comedy, ethics and physics and begins with a scientist whose invention gets out of control and this is then followed by a long and fantastic journey. Axis mundi, Axis of the World (written by Aksinja Kermauner) is a combination of fantasy, contemporary physics, chaos theory, journey into the past and much more. Boris Višnovec wrote a collection of sci-fi stories Hunters of Dreams.

Tim Horvat described a search of Atlantis in his Seekers of Lost Cities—Treasure of Triglav, where there is a hall inside the highest mountain of Slovenia and in it the Porta Thrigllaev—the only portal into Atlantis. In Frankensteins of the New Era, Gaja Hren wrote an antiutopia with many clones (Albert Einstein, Adolf Hitler, Friedrich Nietzsche, Nikola Tesla, Leonardo da Vinci…). Dušan Dim described a futuristic world where people have an advanced technology implanted under their skin, Excuse me, your life does not exist.

The tradition of utopias has its place also in young adult fiction and in children's—but not childish—literature, represented by Ivo Šorli (In the Land of Chirimoorzzi—an underground tale for the young), Branimir Žganjer (Exactly Three Days Late), Miha Remec (Dandelion Fluff in Space), Ivan Sivec (Holydays on Mars) and Vid Pečjak (various novels and short stories featuring robots). Writers of young adult fantasy are Magdalena Cundrič: Alioth or the Tail of the Grat Bear (dreams, holograms, robots, hybrids), Barbara Čibej (Arcas and The Warrior’s Secret), Maks Lenart Černelč’s W5051 Family, Žiga X. Gombač: Buddies and Time Warriors (about ancient bracelets, interdimensional portals, being between times).

Some of the more interesting comic book authors are Branko Zinauer (sci-fi comic Planet of Three Suns), Andrej Hermann (sci-fi psychological thriller Airport without Guards), Bojan Šlegl (sci-fi comics Circ-I Calling Earth, Earth Fleat Attacking together with the writer Marko Mihelčič), Božo Debeljak (Shipwreck in Space), Gašper Krajnc (“monster horror” comic Rite in cooperation with the writer Matic Večko), Tomaž Lavrič (hardcore sci-fi comic Blind Sun, fantasy trilogy Lomm about an unusual being from the nest of flying mutants) and the funny sci-fi comics Erlšpik on the Planet Beta and Radovan from the Planet Beta (Matjaž Schmidt). Under the name of Ninel, Iztok Sitar’s comic reinterpreted the antiutopia 4000 by Tavčar, where Ljubljana of the future has flying saucers, but it is still rather a town of the past. should also be mentioned Jakob Klemenčič, his comics feature some morbid characters, weirdoes, six-legged pigs, chickens with three eyes and calves with two heads (Tale of the Painting Man), Marko Kociper (aliens in the comic Badger and the Rest of the World) and Matej Kocjan—Koco, whose Honey talks—Painted Beehive Panels in Comics have a great deal of fantasy and sci-fi and are continuously being published since 2006.

The most important Slovenian publisher of speculative fiction is the Blodnjak publishing studio with authors like Igor Zobavnik, Aaron Kronski/Tomo Rebolj, Bojan Meserko and others. Short sci-fi, fantasy and horror stories are occasionally published in anthologies (Terra—almanac of science fiction, Stardust, Stardust—Another Galaxy, Singularity, Blodnjak (Maze) of science fiction, Blodnjak 2, 4 and 6, Fantazija) and in magazines like Življenje in tehnika, Neskončnost, Supernova—Magazine for speculative fiction and Jašubeg en Jered (that sometimes has a special issue in English, Jashubeg en Jered). ŽIT magazine (Življenje in tehnika or Ljudska tehnika originally) started to publish the first sci-fi stories in 1952. At first, these were mostly translations, but after 1989 more stories written by Slovenian authors emerged, amounting to about 10 percent of all the stories in the magazine; from 2015, their share is now about 90 percent. The publishing house that owns the magazine—Tehniška založba Slovenije, has been making sci-fi collections from 1961 to 1996, they were called Spektrum (In Rainbow Wings, I’m Afraid, How the World was saved…) and they contained many first published works by Slovenian writers such as Marjan Tomšič and his Wind of Eternity.

In 2017, the young adult fantasy novel Taronian Secret by Maja M. Taron came out, as well as the young adult fantasy Argo Megacircus by Feri Lainšček. Milan Petek Levokov wrote So Close, So Far Awayshort sci-fi prose—these are classic science fiction stories with elements of humour, pessimism, philosophy and a lot more. In the same year, he published four other books and had another one reprinted. In 2018, Erik Sancin wrote the science-fiction novel Elevator in which he painted a new image of an impoverished Earth and Moon after the Third Cataclysm. The planet is inhabited by so-called Othersiders, who are New Territory people, and by mutated and degenerated beings (cannibals or so-called Overalls). This dynamic novel sometimes switches from being like a first-person shooter game to being like a stealth game and back and I could easily imagine it in the form of a video game or a film. I really hope that it will be at least translated into English.

Motifs of fantasy and horror have for a long time been present in Slovenian literature, especially in science fiction. Scientific, technical and social utopias and anti-utopias appeared relatively late, but when they did, they soon became very popular. Thought experiments with theoretically possible worlds are still quite common. On the other hand, science fiction, was establishes rather soon (second half of the 19thcentury) and contained some very modern ideas. Then it continued to be created in quiet for a while until it reached its new peak in the eighties.

Tomaž Janežič in his Resurrection of Neptune used elements of cyberpunk to describe the genius computer programme called Neptune. It was followed by the 2nd generation Neptune with which its extra-systemic visionary hacker creator was brought back to life with some telekinetic and other improvements. The story takes place in Ljubljana (there is BTB—a Bermuda triangle of Bežigrad) and is based on the premise that water is eternal, so since a human body is made up of 70% water (this is why the name of the programme is Neptune), this share of a human being is eternal and only 30% belong to the sphere of time, which could be changed so that time would not be the strongest part of us anymore. Muanis Sinanović’s Anastrophe (2017) is a mixture of cyberpunk and New Weird (Ljubljana is featured among other places; it loses its status of a town in the future and becomes a village).

Martin Vavpotič, a representative of steampunk or retrofuturism wrote the historical fantasy novel Over Great West Sea and in the English language, he published Clockworks Warrior: a steampunk novella containing flying machines and other fantastical ideas. Individual elements of both these genres are present also in some stories by Pečjak, Remec and others. Wonderful Clone by Barbara Pešut under the pseudonym of Eva Pacher is a piece of mutant erotic/pornographic science fiction. Marko Vitas wrote 2084, a sci-fi dystopia (another one taking place in Ljubljana) which is the unofficial continuation of the cult classic 1984 by George Orwell. Fantasy, fiction, futurism, philosophy and cosmology are combined in the philosophical and literary tetralogy—Four Seasons by Marko Uršič, where things happen in the past and in the future, in multi-layered versions of the present and in timelessness, while exploring strict, hard-core philosophy, its history and its present. The works by Matjaž Štrancar like Blue Drug and Other Stories contain sci-fi and alternative histories.

Grasshopper Hunter by Jurij Pfeifer is philosophical, humorous and grotesque sci-fi novel. Frane Tomšič’s Third Century in the Era of Cybernetics is a futuristic and philosophical post-apocalyptic anti-utopia set in the far future. In 2017 and 2018, Sebastijan Pešec published his philosophical fantasy novel Perdikas. Wondrous discoveries, voyages extraordinaires, dark tales of the strange can often be found as parts or as defining characteristics of literary works and increasing number of hybrid literature that is full of sci-fi, fantasy and horror elements. 2018 saw also the publication of the English translation of The Barrens by Miha Remec and his sci-fi anti-utopia Poetovian Trilogy (Clone Sin, Spider Webs of Time, Poetovian Desinification the latter two were written together with Aleksandra Jelušič). Among interesting releases this year are also the sci-fi crime novel Wotan’s Daughters by Tomaž Kukovica, Another Colour of Rain by Nejka Štiglic from her Different Colours series, the dystopia by Alojz Rebula where the Vatican is relocated to China, By the Tributary of the Yangtze. The slipstream that is rich with fiction is probably more interesting for the (post)information age than the old-school sci-fi, so for quite some time now there are sudden elements of fantasy, postmodern fiction, magic realism, futuristic, supernatural and surrealistic worlds in a realistic narrative flow (Mammoths by Jernej Županič, Dušan Merc, Lev Detela, Mojca Kumerdej, Milan Kleč, Eva Markun).

Unlike in traditional Slovenian novels, genres were mixed more intensely towards the end of the 20th century and novels from that time and later have many unusual or bizarre characteristics resembling fairytales, anti-utopias, alternative histories, the fantastic or horror. This hybridity of genres still continues at the present moment, so it is very fortunate that contemporary Slovenian novels have a stronger and stronger trend to include various fantastic, futuristic and fantasy elements.

Nena Škerlj is a philosopher and art historian and works as a librarian in some super libraries, does many different things, engages in various and diverse activities, but above all likes to stick her nose into books as can well be seen in this photo that is actually an installation, a One Minute Sculpture by Erwin Wurm.