The Mythogenetic Grove

Author Archive

Nin’s Recommendations for 2017

by on Jan.08, 2018, under Arthropod Trails, Lists!, SFF

Hello! I didn’t read enough short stories in 2017, but the ones I read I really enjoyed. Here are a selection of the stories that really stuck with me, since it is tradition for me to do this list in one way or another every year and I don’t feel comfortable doing my own 2017 eligibility post without actively recommending others as well.

  1. Seven Salt Tears by Kat Howard (Lightspeed)
  2. Twilight Travels with the Grape Paper Man by Sara Saab (The Dark)
  3. Monster Girls Don’t Cry by A. Merc Rustad (Uncanny Magazine)
  4. The Waduf by Naru Dames Sundar (Kaleidotrope)
  5. A Series of Steaks by Vina Jie-Min Prasad (Clarkesworld Magazine)
  6. Never Yawn Under A Banyan Tree by Nibedita Sen (Anathema)
  7. Merrick by Vajra Chandrasekera (Liminal Stories)
  8. The Cold Lonely Waters by Aimee Ogden (Shimmer)
  9. Every Black Tree by Natalia Theodoridou (Beneath Ceaseless Skies)/also check out The Nightingales in Plátres (Clarkesworld)
  10. Darkness, Our Mother by Eleanna Castroianni (Clarkesworld)
  11. These Constellations Will Be Yours by Elaine Cuyegkeng (Strange Horizons)
  12. A Marvelous Deal by Kate Dollarhyde (Beneath Ceaseless Skies)

Novelettes

  1. We Who Live In The Heart by Kelly Robson (Clarkesworld)
  2. Darner by Jonathan Laidlow (Strange Horizons)

Novellas

A strong showing by the Singaporean Contingent this year!

  1. Black Tides of Heaven by J.Y. Yang (Tor.com) (actually personally I prefer Red Threads but I understand the author wants this to be the one so it can stand for the duology which was one of the highlights of my reading year).
  2. Water into Wine by Joyce Chng (Annorlunda Enterprises)
  3. A Portrait of the Desert in Personages of Power (Part I) (Part II) by Rose Lemberg (Beneath Ceaseless Skies)
  4. Binti: Home by Nnedi Okorafor (Tor.com)

Novels

  1. The Dragon With A Chocolate Heart by Stephanie Burgis (unsure if novel or novella tbh)
  2. Raven Strategem by Yoon-Ha Lee
  3. Noumenon by Marina J. Lostetter

 

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(Hopefully) Sparkly Goals for 2018

by on Jan.01, 2018, under Academic Writing, SFF, The Escritoire, Thoughts on Writing

Hello! It’s New Year’s Day so I thought I’d post in the escritoire instead of @ Growing Fins (my unofficial public author blog) about my writing (and reading) goals for the year. Good way to keep me honest!

 

I have a motto every year and this year is no different. My mottos for the past 2-3 years have been in tandem with my growing into my life as a professional SF author with all of the various challenges and travails that come with it. The same applies to academia.

This year, however — I wanted it to be a little different. When you’re being busy, whoosh, a decade can pass you by and you go, “Whoops, what happened to my life?”

So this year, because of my heart scare (still waiting to find out if I am okay and if it is just gas/anxiety/whatever) and because I’ve really NOT been listening to my heart, this year’s motto (as announced on twitter sometime in Nov/Dec 2017) is, Sparkle, and Listen to Your Heart.

The “Sparkle” bit comes because I tend to default to wanting to hide in the shadows because I don’t want people to think I am conceited or bragging or whatever. I still want to be lowkey, but I also want to glitter and sparkle enough. I want to bedazzle my life, and my year. Suffice it to say, I’m terrified my life is in a rut and — my living situation isn’t going to change because I’m staying put in my condominium, and in my job. So I will have to bedazzle my life in other ways. Lowkey make it exciting, sparkling, magical and adventurous. Can it be done? I hope so!

Onwards to my goals!

  1. Last year’s 12 for 12 in 2017 short story writing challenge (born @ the Codex Writers Group) served me very well indeed. I wound up with 14 short story drafts and I find the act of just committing to writing one short story a month helped to ground me. So I’m doing 12 for 12 in 2018 again. Onwards!
  2. I’d like to keep querying agents for Watermyth while working on Rosemirror. I’d like to be agented by year’s end and working towards a book deal (and hopefully acquiring one). I hope I shan’t be too disappointed by year’s end!
  3. In 2017 I had three fiction publications and four fiction acceptances. I’d like to aim for 6-8 fiction publications in 2018.
  4. I’d like to have at least a couple of reprints out this year.
  5. I’d like to write thirty new poems this year.
  6. Finish my Malaysian Genre monograph and have it accepted by an academic publishing house.
  7. Submit 6-7 academic articles this year with an average of one every two months. I have enough fairly advanced drafts that this is do-able.
  8. Write 3 book reviews and have them published. I don’t do hatchet job “I don’t like this” type of book reviews so I’ll only choose books I consider of merit and I’d like to do them real justice.
  9. I’ve committed to two blog posts for a certain site so that’s on my list, but I’d also like to write more blog posts for other people/sites as part of SFF community service. I want to give back a bit more to this community that has been so good to me.
  10. Work on two twine/IF/hypertext stories. I’m getting rusty and it is time to brush up my skills. My modest success with Bungalow Sari One on twitter has invigorated and excited me and I’d like to get back to work on it.
  11. Reading: I’d like to hit 100 books again this year 🙂

And that’s all!

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2017: A Review of the Year in Publication

by on Dec.06, 2017, under (post)colonial Gothic academia, Author News and Updates, The Escritoire

Updated 8 January 2018:

Hello, I like to do yearly review posts rather than merely eligibility posts because I strongly believe that things like accolades and awards are outside of my control. Besides, I’ve been raised to be a very proper lady and though I always failed and disappointed elders while growing up — there’s still a lot of those imperatives hiding inside me, telling me not to push myself forward too much. But it’s become an industry norm so I decided to capitulate and make this a bit clearer for everyone. I would be very happy indeed if nominated, yes. So thank you if you’re nominating — I don’t know you, and I don’t know if you will but if you do, <3 <3 <3

I don’t really think it would happen so I’d be quite contented with more readers. I say this every year, and it’s true every year.

Anyway, before I get into my rambling holistic review of the year, here’s what I have published in 2017. I have three eligible works of short fiction, and I think the IF may be eligible for *some* things but I’m not sure what so I’ll let you decide if you liked it enough 😀

Fiction

  1. Prosthetic Daughter in Clarkesworld (Issue 125), February 2017.  (SF: time-travel cyberpunk space opera, eligible for Hugos, Nebulas, SF thingies) — placed in Nebula Reading List.
  2. Reversion in Clarkesworld (Issue 131), August 2017. (SF: planetary romance, space opera, eligible for Hugos, Nebulas, SF thingies) — placed in Nebula Reading List, Tangent Recommended Reading List (2 stars)
  3. When The Night Blooms, An Artist Transmutes: A Three-Act Play in The Dark (Issue 31), December 2017 (Gothic/dark fantasy/horror, eligible for Hugos, Nebulas, fantasy and horror thingies) — placed in Charles Payseur’s Recommended Reading List.
  4. Bungalow Sari One (Twitter Interactive Fiction/poll story), on Twitter, December 2017. (Gothic/science fantasy/Horror, ???)

Poetry

  1. Jean-Luc, Future Ghost, in Uncanny Magazine (Issue 14), January 2017. (SF, eligible for Rhyslings)
  2. Tinwoman’s Phantom Heart, in Strange Horizons (Fund Drive Special Issue), August 2017. (SF, eligible for Rhyslings)
  3. Spice Islands, in Uncanny Magazine (Issue 19), December 2017. (not SFF)

Reprints (not eligible!)

  1. Auto-Rejection: An Outro (2016) was reprinted in Lackington‘s Summer Issue, 2017. Edited and improved version with a slightly tweaked ending because I felt I needed to make the irony more overt.
  2. Tower of the Rosewater Goblet  (2016) was reprinted in Shirtsleeve Press’s Event Horizon anthology for people who were eligible for the Campbell Award for Best New Writer.

Note: I’ve also recommended some of my favourite short fiction, novelettes, novellas, and novels by others in 2017 here.

My Personal Review of 2017 in Writing

2017 has been good to me in some ways, not so good to me in other ways. I’ve written 14 new stories thusfar, inclusive of 1 new novella. I finally finalised Watermyth, the first novel of the Cantata of the Fourfold Realms and started querying it. I then started working on Rosemirror, the second novel of the sequence. I’ve had some publications and good reviews.

On the academic front, I jettisoned my Helen Oyeyemi monograph (for now) because a chapter I wrote was published in Telling It Slant, a Helen Oyeyemi collection (Sussex Academic) — and that collection overlaps too much with my PhD research on Oyeyemi. Therefore, a great deal more work needs to be done before I can make a monograph I’d be happy sending out to publishers. Instead, I started work on my Malaysian Genre monograph and have done quite a bit on it thusfar and am fairly confident about sending out a proposal. I have also embarked on exciting new research collaborations, and am working on new articles and research ideas.

Things I like about 2017

I’ve managed to get coveted acceptances at both The Dark and Beneath Ceaseless Skies. It’s been my most prolific year in terms of poetry publication — and I’m not really very prolific where that’s concerned.  All up, I had three poems published in professional poetry venues — two in Uncanny Magazine as one of their solicited poets for Year Three, and one in Strange Horizons for their Fund Drive Special. I also wrote a blog post for Strange Horizons. I also can’t get over the fact that I had TWO Clarkesworld publications this year: which means I’ve had FOUR Clarkesworld publications, and have been in at least one issue yearly since 2015. I like numbers and I like continuity so this pleases me a lot. I’ve been more low-key in promoting my stories this year as this is my post-Campbell year but this year a lot more random readers have reached out to me to tell me they liked my stories. This means a lot to me and I’m really grateful/humbled people are reading and recommending my works.

Apart from that, my short story Auto-Rejection: An Outro was reprinted in Lackington’s Magazine, with an improved ending, and a gorgeous illustration by Pear Nuallak.

I was also quite excited when Clarkesworld got a review in Kirkus Reviews in February because Prosthetic Daughter was up so by proxy I indirectly finally got into Kirkus Reviews. Hey, I’ll take it, man. Other indirect things: Lightspeed’s People of Colour Destroy Science Fiction (2016), edited by Nalo Hopkinson, Kristin Ong Muslim, Berit Ellingsen et al. won the British Fantasy Awards. OMG! As some of you already know, Morning Cravings is in that anthology, which means a Sesen story is in an award-winning anthology. Fourteen year old me is still doing cartwheels inside my head! Another Sesen story, Tower of the Rosewater Goblet (2016) made it into the Locus Recommended Reading List so that was another awesome validation for me in 2017, even if I didn’t wind up being nominated for the awards.

Apart from that, I didn’t get published much in 2017 in comparison with 2016 which was quite epic (and exhausting!)

But all the stories I had published, have now placed on recommendation lists! Three for three is not a bad thing at all! I am really grateful that both Reversion and Prosthetic Daughter have now been placed on the Nebula Reading List.  When the Night Blooms, An Artist Transmutes: A Three-Act-Play is also now in Charles Payseur’s excellent year-end recommendation list, while Reversion made its way into the two-star category for Tangent Online’s annual recommended reading list! I’m not really super-optimistic that they’ll go further than this — I’m just happy to be on a list where more people will read them 🙂

Thank you, from the bottom of my faulty heart. I appreciate everyone who read, recommended, accepted, and published my works.


Stats for people who like these things, according to the submission Grinder for 2017:

66 fiction submissions (give or take a couple I may have forgotten to log)
4 fiction acceptances. (1 acceptance from Clarkesworld + 2  from The Dark + 1 from Beneath Ceaseless Skies)

I tend not to log my poetry submissions. There may have been 5-6. I got 2 poetry acceptances in 2017.

 

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Tell It To Me, Baby: A Reprinted Process Post

by on Oct.22, 2017, under The Escritoire, Thoughts on Writing

Note: This is a post from the old Growing Fins blog, back in June 18 2009. It’s still relevant to my process so I thought I would share!

 

The problem with the generic, technical “Show, don’t tell” based advice dished out by writing workshops and writing books is this: it assumes all writing and storytelling must conform to one fictive model and one alone. Some of my best-loved storytellers are those who Tell, Tell, and Tell me some more. And I say yes, please Tell me more. And I say yes, dish me that info-feed, baby, if you’re dishing it the right way. Lay it on me.

It is within the resonance of their strong, individual voices that the “Show” element slowly resolves, without actually “Show”ing too much, just the faintest outline of a scene, letting the listener or individual flesh it out with their own minds. To me, this is the difference between technical aptitude as a writer and being a writer who allows a reader to dream. It’s the spaces in the mind. The Brontes understood this well, so did Tolkien. And so did other writers from non-canonical traditions. I think of the sparseness and the simplicity of Japanese verse, of the Malay pantun. I think of the storytellers of the old epics who gave us dizzying detail, but also a strong, resonant voice.

If I have to err on the technical nitty-gritty of my stories, I would. If my grammar falls by the wayside, if my pacing is not the best in the world. If, in starting my narrative in media res I have somehow disoriented my reader; if, I use run-on sentences in ways that dislocate them. If, I annoy you with a hanging participle. IF. I unforgivably dump an info feed halfway in my story. IF. I annoyingly, do not reveal what the story is about in my opening paragraphs because I am listening to the voice in my head that says Setting IS Character.

If, I do not write character-driven fiction that is obviously character driven because I am just that postmodern or capricious enough to want to hide my narrators in strange places. If I lay on too much philosophy that hurts your head. If. I commit unspeakable textual, grammatical errors but in doing so, still retain my voice. Would that make me a bad storyteller? Perhaps. But if I find my voice, who is to say? Even if it is buried, unheard. It is still a voice. Is a voice lost in a forest of slush still a voice or just unread text? Who is to say?

This is the battle I am fighting right now. And, I suspect, this is the battle I have been fighting all along.

Being the narratology geek that I am, I have my favorite storytellers. I also have, within that list, my favorite implied narrators, first or third person. I must admit to have inherited a narratological quirk or two from my days of writing my M.A. thesis on Angela Carter, but that is meant for another writerly wank. One of these days.

Angela Carter, Michael Ende, Italo Calvino, Umberto Eco, Boccaccio, Dante, various unnamed and anonymous writers of ancient epics and fairytales, Wole Soyinka, Guy Gavriel Kay, Anais Nin, Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, Sir Walter Scott, George Eliot, Isabel Allende, Gabriel García Márquez and I’m sure I’m forgetting half a dozen more. These are my mentors. These are my muses. And it’s been established that most of this would be casualties of the slush pile today. Which is not to say I have reached their level of narrative yet.

I’m just saying.

I’m tired of rules, period. I just want to write recklessly like I mean it. I want to write like it’s that fling with the guy you really shouldn’t be out with but here you are, at 5am, talking at breakneck speed and doing unwise things instead of keeping within the prescribed margins. Which, I never could stop myself from writing or drawing outside of the margins in school, either. Could you?

And now I go back to fighting with MY narrative.

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Publication Day: “Reversion” in Issue #131, Clarkesworld Magazine

by on Aug.04, 2017, under Author News and Updates, Publications!

Phew! It’s been quite a week for me and quite a journey for this story! Amidst a pretty frightening health scare this week, I had the excitement of knowing this was coming out. Suffice it to say, I have A LOT to say about this story but I’m also worried that if I say too much I’ll detract from the actual experience of reading it. So I strongly recommend you read the story first before you read this! ;o)

First thing I need to say: No, sorry. This story is not autobiographical. Not at all. I am not on some fuel planet, and I have never worn a tuxedo. There are no lovelorn cephalopods waiting for me on distant shores! Having said that, it’s informed by real life experiences and emotions in ways that are not always obvious.

First, for those of you in the cephalopod-loving school, here’s a digital painting I made in 2010, which was a norty riff off Hokusai’s nortier paintings:

 

(Link to DeviantArt page for it with more explanation)

I have always been mildly amused by tentacle pr0n and cephalopod-lovers. But you can’t deny they are rather majestic creatures who are frighteningly intelligent. So it’s no surprise that it’s a HUGE Lovecraftian motif but no Cthulhus were maligned in the making of this story. I do have some Lovecraftian riff story ideas somewhere in my head — you can’t research and write about Lovecraftian motifs as a Gothic academic and not want to write your own — but this story comes from something else.

(even though in RETROSPECT I went “Ahah, shades of Innsmouth! Didn’t expect THAT to happen!”)

There were several OTHER influences for this story, presented in a haphazard fashion!

(1) The first impulse for this story occurred during a brief beach vacation in Port Dickson in 2000, around the time when I was an editor at a Johor publishing house. It was a vacation with family and one of my very good friends who was also a colleague (one of the rare HS friends I’m still in contact with). A beach holiday in Port Dickson felt like being on a fuel planet. There were ships, offshore rigs, and the sands were red. Completely red! This made the South China Sea look green, and I immediately started having SFnal daydreams. I was at the beach but my mind was imagining a fuel planet with an engineer stationed there. She was unhappy. And that was because she would rather  be somewhere else. In this story, I imagined that she would be learning new things about her heritage and her spirituality. Wasn’t sure what it was — but I really enjoy far future SF universes that dig deep into Earth cultures, even though the old school of it can be quite problematic. That night, I sat on the balcony with my SFnal imaginings and something peculiar was happening. There were people down on the beach with flashlights and they seemed to be looking for something. That intrigued me so much that it went into the rough story idea in my head — a mish-mash of different scenes and ideas without a cohesive plot at this stage).

Then I had another vacation in 2001, this time in Ipoh, across from the limestone cliffs where the Sam Poh Tong Temple was. And that gave me more ideas about there being a cousin who was this mouthy holy kind of person.

(2) I set this story aside as an idea because work, grad school (my MA studies) and various other things came in-between. And then I discovered, around 2005-2006, an entire universe of online SFF zines and blogs that I never knew existed (despite being a lurker on the SurLaLune fairytale forums). Well, my world kind of changed. I’ve been reading Clarkesworld Magazine off and on since the first issue in 2006. I yearned to be published in it but never thought I’d ever be good enough. And the moment — the MOMENT I started reading it, I suddenly knew I wanted this story of mine to be a story for this magazine. So there you go. This was always a story I wanted to be a Clarkesworld story even though I tried to play it cool by submitting it to two other places beforehand — mostly because I had Prosthetic Daughter in CW slush, also when you want a thing too much you’re kinda scared to go and try to get it. So no, I didn’t scare the good editors with this anecdote during my submission, I was still trying to play it as cool as I could, given that I submitted it directly — and bashfully– after the publication of Prosthetic Daughter.

(3) I started drafting this after my PhD studies began in earnest in Brisbane. Sometime between 2009-2010, but some elements were still unclear to me. Why was this engineer of mine unhappy? I left it aside and started making outlines about the ecosystem of Psychereon. One day, I wrote a passage about her changing identities, and driving tourists to the edge of dead volcanoes — and that imagery really struck me. Well of course she had been happy somewhere else, but why did she have to leave?

(4) I mused about the “why” of it until 2015 when I wrote a further rough draft about what she’d left behind — and then it became a story of “after first contact” and I really just dove deep into language, and longing. I was already immersed in cephalopodic images and I’ve been writing underwater passages and stories since forever so it was a natural progression for me.

(5) Last year, my grandmother died. Around the time when I was going for various ceremonies as an eldest grand-daughter “not of the faith”, I was struggling with grief, anger, and feeling out of place. I wanted to write a story that was a warm hug  to sooth my sadness and frustration because nothing made sense. And there’s this sense of sometimes as a hybrid you’re alienated from your own cultures, even if people are kind to you. But my grief is not Aakriti’s grief and she remains distinctly herself.  Ever had a character who argues back to you as you try to write her? That’s Aakriti for you.

IMPORTANT NOTE: none of my Tamil aunties was maligned in this story, although I’ll admit freely that the frank, mischievous and no-nonsense attitude of Cousin Sharanya may owe a thing or two to my Youngest Aunt. I even gave her one of Youngest Aunt’s favourite things to say (don’t worry, I’m buying her dinner!).

Mostly, I didn’t want this to be a tragic story. I have seen too much sadness. I wanted a story that says, “Hey, it’s okay to relate to your culture(s) in an awkward way, to have all of this love, conflicted emotions, and frustration — there’s a place for you and you can decide how/where you want to be.”

(6) Cephalopods! You can’t read and consume tons of things about Cephalopods in popular culture without eventually writing about them! First contact stories always fascinate me but also, I always wonder why the romantic ones are almost always humanoid. But a couple of Clarkesworld stories broke the mould where that’s concerned so of course I wanted to continue that grand Clarkesworld tradition.

(Incidentally, I’m somewhat amused by the fact that an ex-flame/crush is crazy about all things cephalopods, but no crushes were maligned in the making of this story. But I would be lying if I said not even a smidgen of that leftover emotion slipped into this story. Sorry bro, I’m not buying you dinner. Hope you’re not having sleepless nights! I could have left this out but I am a norty person.)

And there you have it. I could write about the other things that went into the weaving of this tale — thoughts about state borders, thoughts about repression, gender identities, language, immigration, family, the ethics of being an ally etc — but, I’d rather you read and unpack the layers yourselves. It’s one of my most straightforward stories, but for all that, it’s also one of my most layered.

And if you like it, you might (if I may be so vain as to say) be happy to know I’m writing a sequel about another figure I have come to love from this story. I love this Tamilian family I created almost as much as my own family and I want to tell more of their stories.

In closing, thank you Neil, Sean and the rest of the Clarkesworld team for making one of my dearest SF dreams come true! I can’t believe this is out in Clarkesworld! OMG! YOU HAVE NO IDEA!!!!1111

(I have no chill you guys, seriously no chill when this is concerned!)

Reversion in Clarkesworld Magazine, Issue #131, 1 August 2017

 

 

 

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Interview: Angela Slatter, Author of Locus-Nominated VIGIL

by on May.13, 2017, under Interviews, Myth, Folklore & Fairytales

What’s the best way for an author to start her day, according to Angela Slatter?
Coffee! Or the beverage of choice. And of course, this is all just how I start my day; everyone is different, but I try to start in a way that sets me up to go on in a productive manner. So: wake up, have breakfast, do 20 mins of yoga or a walk around the block. Come back, shower, put on real clothes so it feels like you’re going to do a job (not just sit at home in your PJs), then check your email and the internet for a mandated amount of time. Deal with the work emails, save the personal ones for later, don’t spend too much time on Facebook or Twitter for that way lies madness. Check your to-do list and start on the next project in order of deadlines proximity.

Don’t forget to stand up and walk around every half an hour or so to keep blood flowing, muscles moving and your back from seizing up. Make sure you have a lunch break, take it away from your desk and, again, have a mandated period of something not writing-related (like bad tv). Set an alarm so you get up and go back to work. Be wary of time as it’s a slippery thing!

What projects are you working on right now?
Right now: I’ve just this very minute finished typing up final corrections to the novel Corpselight after a two day proofreading binge, so that’s winging off to the publisher; I’m about to start a severe edit on a story called “Our Lady of Wicker Bridge” that’s due at the end of the month; I’m writing a story called “Sherlock Holmes and the Mayfair Vampire”; I’m editing the text for a picture book called Genevieve and the Dragon, illustrated by Kathleen Jennings; I’m working on the first draft of the third Verity Fassbinder novel, Restoration; I’m writing a lecture on writing horror to deliver at the Boonah Regional Writers Festival at the end of the month; I’m packing for a trip to Tasmania over Easter to do some film and tv work with Vicki Madden who wrote The Kettering Incident; and I’m working on little bits and pieces in prep for the launch of Corpselight in July. Obviously not quite working on them all at once, but they are at the top of the priority list at the moment.

Everyone has a different personal working definition of myth. There’s the macro, Campbellian “hero’s journey” kind of definition, the postmodern, and the layperson’s idea of myth as being a cognate of fairytales. What’s your working definition, as someone whose works are suffused with mythic resonance?
I’ll just go with something very simple: A traditional tale from long ago to explain things early humans didn’t understand, often using supernatural beings as the culprit. That’s very simplistic. In terms of using myth, I like the resonance, I like to creating a feeling of having a myth brush up against my stories and leave a trace but not necessarily their own shape there.

Which of your collections that you’ve authored are dearest to you, and why?
Oh! That’s a hard choice, but since I always force people to choose between their babies it’s only fair it happen to me! Probably (and this is as at April 2017) The Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings. Why? Because it felt like a huge “click” moment for me in terms of writing craft and skill, like I’d levelled up what I was able to create as a writer. I love all my babies, but Bitterwood feels like the one that become self-aware fastest … which makes it sound like Skynet … also, it has illustrations by Kathleen Jennings!

Name your five favourite fairytales?
The Little Match Girl; Donkeyskin/Catskin/All-Fur; Tatterhood; The Robber Bridegroom; Fitcher’s Bird.

One of the things I love best about your work is the manner in which you seamlessly weave in aspects of the Gothic with fantasy motifs, and those of fairytales. I suspect, like me, you’ve read Angela Carter’s treatise on how the fairytale is inherently Gothic, but I also feel you’d have new insight because your stories have the richness of someone who lives and breathes these Gothic markers. Would you like to talk a bit about that?
I have read a lot of Carter for academic purposes, but I suspect none of that is foremost in my mind when I write. I think that my years and years of reading before I ever thought of writing as a proper career have just laid down a layer of gothic and fairy tale-y sensibility that you couldn’t separate from me now. Reading original fairy tales, reading Carter and Tanith Lee and the Brontë Sisters and the like have all just left an indelible mark on how I think when I’m telling a story.

Yes, the fairy tale is inherently Gothic … but the fairy tales came first, so maybe the Gothic is actually inherently fairy tale-y? All the things that are frightening in the Gothic mystery: darkness, the unknown, family members that are dangerous to us, mysteries to be uncovered, the fate of overly curious kids (generally girls), are all markers of the fairy tale … just a thought.

 What will you be working on after you’re done with the Verity Fassbinder books?
I will be turning a novella (unpublished) The Briar Book of the Dead, into a novel – it’s set in the Sourdough world, so I’m really looking forward to doing a novel-length work there. And I’ll be finalising the third Sourdough world collection The Tallow-Wife and Other Tales. I also have a couple of novels I’d like to go back to (Well of Souls and Gate of the Dead) now that I know more about novel writing, and I want to finish Morwood and Blackwater, which are standalone gothic novels. And I would like to start working on a Sourdough graphic novel series.

What’s your advice for authors like us who are working on our craft during troubling times?
Be true to yourself. Be generous to others. If you get a chance make space for diverse writers who maybe are not getting a look in with publishers – if you’ve got some degree of power or influence, use it in a good and positive way. Don’t do favours in expectation of thanks, but just because it’s good for your karma. And if someone does favours for you, then be grateful, express your thanks, and don’t keep asking for more.

And in times like these it’s sometimes hard to keep going because you wonder about the importance of what you do – rest assured it IS important. What we do keeps independent thought alive, gives hope, points a finger at naked emperors and reminds everyone that following the crowd isn’t a good idea, and that not speaking out because you’re worried about what others think is the worst idea ever, because silence is what gives bullies room and encouragement to grow.

What’s the best way for an author to end her day?
For this author in particular it’s dinner with housemates, then watching a program together, then playing some Elder Scrolls Online, and finally going to sleep with a book or graphic novel (I’m partial to re-reading Mike Mignola’s Hellboy and Pretty Deadly by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Ríos, and at the moment am re-reading Monstress by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda and yearning for the next trade issue of it).



BIOGRAPHY: Angela’s debut novel, Vigil, was released by Jo Fletcher Books in 2016, with Corpselight and Restoration to follow in 2017 and 2018. She is the author of eight short story collections. Angela has won a World Fantasy Award, a British Fantasy Award, one Ditmar Award, and five Aurealis Awards. Angela has been a Queensland Writers Fellow, the Established Writer-in-Residence at the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers Centre, and received career development grants from Arts Queensland and the Copyright Agency’s Cultural Fund. She has an MA and a PhD in Creative Writing. Angela has just been nominated for a Locus Award for her Vigil.

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[poetry]: The Mermaid

by on Apr.05, 2017, under Poetry

(c) Nin Harris, 2006 —

Do not let me build dreams
if you will not walk into them.
Do not let me fall into the dark
if you will not be my hurricane lamp.
Do not cast nets if you
would not pull a mermaid out
Let her swim back into the deep.

But if you catch and befriend,
If you watch as she dances; know this.

When she flexes needle-pricked soles that bleed,
When her hips mimic her sister’s undulation
and her hands clap like a sea-mammal in captivity,
It is not because a sea-witch has pulled out her tongue.

It is because she cannot bring herself
to say the words or to move her body
in ways her aquatic self knows best.

So if you catch her, be kind.

Do not still the music, do not stop the dance.
Let her worry the words that squirm,
Like eels at the base of her fear.

Let her pull them out.

(3-10 March 2006)

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[poetry]: Plato’s Dream

by on Apr.05, 2017, under Poetry

(c) Nin Harris, 1998 —

(inspired by Aristophanes’ Dialogue in Plato’s Symposium)

let me grow here, alone, unfelt, unseen,
let me step into these shadows
out of your demanding light
let me grow, hidden and wild
in shadowy groves,
in dew-soaked nooks
where the soil is lush and damp.
a wildflower knows only
the kiss of sunlight
mates only with the morning dew
let me soak here unnoticed

in aeons of vegetative
ecstasy

never the kitten
nor a house-bred tabby
preening amongst the potted plants
i will jump off rocks
for no phaon
leucus wait not for me
desire for the pounding surf
is all i need

let me ascend, arise
as one with tiptoed feet
eyes the fresh-washed moon
rising over
aeolian waters

a solitary lioness stalks the long grass

a shadowy diver poised above the precipice

let me be the fire
as it burns on the coals of dreams
and i will strum on lyre
beat at drums,whirl with hennaed feet
around a circle of desire
while my hidden voices roar

alone,
complete
infinite
within this cycle of oneness
i will renounce
plato’s dream —

and lay to rest my phantoms

(15 June 1998- last line amended 29th November 2002)

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[poetry]: lateral revolutions

by on Apr.05, 2017, under Poetry, Runaway Words

(c) Nin Harris, 2005 —

I

I awake from textual simulacra
of green-laced birdsong
and binary flora and woods.
Fresh-washed of hexadecimal
visions; I strive
to contain a
carbon – ridden form
within actuality of
the Moment.

(15 February 2005)

II

Forgetting reason and
needful places within the soul
— I seek self-directed
retribution nestled
within interstices of sound.
They are different from sensation
but still the same – unbidden yet
mathematical in crystalline symmetry.
I seek solace in,
semi-tonal modalities
nestled between
time and space.

Raise one, lower another –
till I know not
what comes before and after.
(3 March 2005)

III

Distinct; the trill of sparrows
in a post-diluvian dawn
conveys semiotic imprints
to perplex my soul
from embedded slumber
I find myself again
where the thread unravels

Lost; a monosyllabic
resolution to a quest
of findings.

Found; a backstory
containing no meaning beyond
glittering sharp edges of
glistening words.
(9 March 2005)

IV

Woodsmoke furling around
aural angles and curvature.
I remember this.

I have sung paeans to this
collocation of sensate modalities
like joyce within a textual stream,
I seek the undoing of cohesion.
I have danced barefoot
between these waiting trees
of sharp-angled alphabets before.

I have revisited these morphemes, phonemes –
sundry units of sound; arranging
then rearranging like some
obsessed housewife keeping
semitones in order –
wordchild dancing within
syntax and context;
presupposing there is no
universe outside of sounds;
chaotic and uniform.

Where will you find me?
– Somewhere between anvil, stirrup and hammer.

Where will I find me?
– Somewhere beyond lateral revolutions
against the palate.
(14 March 2005)

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[poetry]: The Clockwork Tide

by on Apr.01, 2017, under Poetry

(c) Nin Harris 1999 —

Nessun maggior dolore. Che ricordarsi del tempo felice Nella miseria

– Dante Aliegheri, from The Inferno

the sea strikes –>
patterns left on the shore
are like the marks of experience
upon self.

touched by the sea,
carved, changed, wrapped, sucked in,
thrown back onto the sand
are sandcastles crafted from
expectorated verbiage.

(legitimise this breakdown of cohesion –>
the trails my fingerpads make on
the pane separating us
my hungry breath that
frosts the glass
)

waters swirling –> cresting
in her afternoon tempests
the coastline is loveliest in the morning
despite the ravages of the night
all the debris has been wiped away by the night-tide
yet to be washed –> in noon-tide
what will the currents bring today?

{remove these remnants of
‘humanity’
verbiage debris trivialities
salt water will pierce and pickle us clean
all the ground
bones of aquatic ancestors, in the air that you breathe
redolent luxuriate exfoliate these
grimy senses
}

*

can one write about absence as
accurately as one writes about presence?
can it accurately delineate
every fibre? acuity – is sometimes only felt
when that which has been possessed
is taken away from us.
what is added –> subtracts
what subtracts –>donates
the immediate sensation
of loss – brings home to me
what has been swept in –>
felt, recorded, filed away always in there –>
and what has swept out –>
nudging –> piercing
a soul poised within a soul.

*

harm not a fly
if you are who you say you are
does the hidden foot smell?
humanity’s best foot forward
brings forth –> debris
purity is a dream
fettered –> but unconquered
optimism in the wake of this machinery
and the lemmings rush into the sea –>
trivialities –> shackled divinity
the light is dimmed –>
stamped out –> but it burns
expectorated verbiage
flotsam – ad nauseum
ad nauseum
AD NAUSEUM

*

true voices –> do not speak in tongues
click against the roof of your mouth
curl around the sounds of vowels and
the clip of consonants –>
pleasure not quite added up yet
to the unseen whole

will racial memory herald the death
of Art?

If perfect memory
sprawls into ribbon-like halls of
records with meticulous notations
within our souls, would Art exist?

human beings are ultimate litter:
but litter too can be beautiful
when it combines, when it is absorbed.


If you must toss me out
make me bio-degradable, dear.

primeval ultimate purity
music is the language that
seats at the base of your
soul.

cerebral larynx
making music without sound
deeper falls the harpoon
in search of narwhals beneath the ice.

*

what is poetry? a chain of words.
a coil.

speak not to fools –> but listen to
them for they divulge more truth
than they think they do.
than you think they do.
volcanoes spewing out the
building blocks of the coastline
rocks are hewn down, chipped away
slowly –> coarse sand or smooth powder
which one came first?
we walk upon the crushed
bones of ancestors.

there is no greater magic
than this inter-connectivity –>
dining off the tears
of some matriarch
buried in the depths

a womb encircling
the clockwork tide
the rubberband that coils around us all-
the serpent gorging on its tail –>
longevity is the
sunlight reflected off the sea
inter-connectivity.
i nurture the loki
coiling at the
base of my being
too aware of
soul tendrils
dredging for ore at the
core of my thoughts.
my careless fingers
must sift unseen
and scavenge.

(5 December 1999)

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