25 September 2014

Urban Mythic 2: Pauline E Dungate Interviewed

Author of "Trapped in the Web" in Urban Mythic 2, Pauline E. Dungate answers a few questions!

Tell us a little about yourself and your writing.
I’ve always loved reading. We were introduced to the local library as soon as we were old enough to look after a book properly. At school a group of us used to make up stories and it went on from there. The only fiction I’ve had published are short stories but like most writers there are several novels in the bottom drawer of the filing cabinet. I also write poetry and lots of reviews (both under the name of Pauline Morgan.)

What is at the root of your Urban Mythic story?

Birmingham has such a diversity of people living in it. Most cultures have their own myths. I like the idea that the basis for them has a root in reality and just as you can’t totally leave your heritage behind when you migrate so why should the myth figures stay behind. For those who don’t know Birmingham, the Number 11 bus route circles the city. You can get trapped in circles. There are also elements in the story which relate to things others have told me, but they are there for colour.

You’ve travelled extensively – do you have any interesting stories from your travels? What locations are do you find particularly inspiring?

Until the last few years, travelling had to be confined to school holidays (I was a teacher) but without that restraint the opportunity to go to far off places has increased. Mostly, we go with a company running nature orientated tours but that has meant finding the wild areas in places such as Ecuador, Papua New Guinea and Armenia. They are likely to turn up in stories or poems.

What’s the most important thing you have learned about writing?

Keep trying. Not every editor likes what you do but eventually you’ll find one who likes some of it.

What aspects of writing to do you find the most tricky?

Beginnings and endings. I had to start this story three times before it felt right. At the end there is always a temptation to go on after the story has finished. Sometimes it takes a good editor to say stop.

Room 101 time: what one genre cliché would you get rid of?

All aliens look humanoid and speak English, sorry American. I’m sure some are fluent Chinese speakers.

What are you up to next?

Rest of the year is pretty busy – three cons, lots of books to review, stories to write, a serious Milford crit session before heading to the Greater Antilles (Caribbean) for three weeks in December.

18 September 2014

Urban Mythic 2: Christine Morgan Interviewed

Author of "High School Mythical: Asgard" in Urban Mythic 2, Christine Morgan answers a few questions!

Tell us a little about yourself and your writing.

I’ve been a reader as long as I can remember. I love language. It’s like Play-Doh, a complete sensory experience that, with patience and practice, can make almost anything you imagine. Among my childhood friends, I was the storyteller who came up with ideas for let’s pretend, and constructed elaborate scenarios for my toys. As a teenager, I got into role-playing games as another outlet. Once I began attempting to write for real, I started with ‘traditional’ fantasy … but horror was my true calling. These days, it’s mostly historical horror and dark fantasy, with an emphasis on drawing from mythology, folklore, and various ancient cultures.

What is at the root of your Urban Mythic story?

I have a teenage (only teenage for a couple more months, egads!) daughter, and in watching her with her friends, her with her shows, the way some attitudes seem universal to the young … it got me thinking about the gods of various mythologies. Being immortal, being eternally young, having that sense of invulnerability and freedom from responsibility … and what a dangerous thing that is among those who have power. The behaviour of the Norse gods in the stories, and the Viking heroes in the sagas, can be seen a real high school / frat boy light, brash and boasting, drinking, fighting, sex, joking around. Plus, I grew up on those 80s teen movies, so it all fell together from there.

How strongly do standard mythological stories influence your work and is there a particular type of mythology you favour?

Hugely … my fascination with mythology began with a kids’ book of Greek myths way back in elementary school. From there, I branched out to explore stories of the other pantheons, the differences and similarities they shared. I majored in psychology and, if I had to specify a school of thought, I’d call myself a Jungian/Skinnerian. Archetypes, collective unconscious, and the effects on behaviour. I’m still most familiar with the Greek myths, but since then I’ve studied Norse, Mayan, Egyptian, Celtic, and many others. It’s hard to pick a favourite. A lot has survived from the times of Greece and Rome, which makes them easier to learn about … but so little has survived of the Norse and Mayan that it lends an extra level of mystery.

If you could kill off any character from any other book, who would you choose and how would they die?

That is quite the question! Any other book? By any other author? Hmm. Do I go big, epic? Like, say, Sauron? A smaller but more personal and sinister evil, like Iago? (What a prime bastard that guy was!) Dolores Umbridge, who was way worse than Voldemort, in my opinion? And kill … I’ve killed off plenty of my own characters, some of whom deserved it and some who definitely didn’t … I’ve certainly wanted to slap characters in other books (looking at YOU, Mrs. Bennet and most of Jane Austen’s) … but the only ones I’ve ever wanted to rid the world of were those who were just so badly written that the literary world as a whole would be better off without them. And that’s never really the character’s fault.

What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?

Not the old “write what you know” clunker. I think that one’s done, and does, way more harm than good. How dull and limiting that would be. I prefer “write what you want to read.” The drawback, in my case, being that I want to read almost everything. For books on the craft, I’d go first and foremost with Stephen King’s On Writing, and the A Way with Words series of Modern Scholar lectures by Professor Michael D.C. Drout. Most of the truly best advice I’ve received, though, hasn’t come in words so much as by example, the examples of writers who love what they do, who have fun with it, and let that shine through on every page, no matter how dark the subject matter might be.

Room 101 time: what one genre cliché would you get rid of?

The Prophecy. The whole one destined chosen hero balance to the force save the universe no matter what a reluctant dimwit or twerp. Hate that. It usually goes hand-in-hand with boring, insipid main characters who, for supposed protagonists, are never very proactive.

What are you up to next?
My next horror novel, a non-sparkly vampire book called His Blood, is coming out soon from Belfire Press. I have stories in several upcoming anthologies, a lot of which are Lovecraftian or mythology-inspired (or both; myth-meets-Mythos is a blast!), and many Viking-themed tales. I’ve also recently taken on a few editing gigs, helping out with the Grimm Red/Black/White books from Fringeworks, a nature-run-amok anthology called Teeming Terrors from KnightWatch, and the Fossil Lake anthologies. The next convention on my schedule will be Portland’s BizarroCon in November, always an awesome time, though I’m also planning to drop by Bellingham ComicCon in October.

Find more information about Christine at her website here!

14 September 2014

Cool Kickstarters: Holdfast, Accessing the Future, Clarkesworld Chinese

For those who love excellent fiction, there's some more funky fundraiser projects you should take a look at!  May I direct your attention to the Accessing the Future anthology, the Holdfast Magazine anthology and the Chinese translation campaign for Clarkesworld...

Accessing the Future - a SF anthology exploring disability & the intersectionality of race, class, gender & sexuality.

The Pitch:
"We are raising funds to publish a special anthology of disability-themed speculative fiction, Accessing the Future, co-edited by Kathryn Allan and Djibril al-Ayad, to be published by Futurefire.net Publishing.

"Futurefire.net Publishing is the publisher of both The Future Fire magazine of social-political speculative fiction, and of two previous anthologies, Outlaw Bodies (2012, co-edited by Lori Selke) and We See a Different Frontier (2013, co-edited by Fabio Fernandes). Djibril al-Ayad, a historian and futurist, co-edited both volumes and has edited TFF since 2005.

"Kathryn Allan is an independent scholar of feminist SF, cyberpunk, and disability studies, and is the inaugural Le Guin Feminist Science Fiction Fellow (2013-14). She is editor of Disability in Science Fiction: Representations of Technology as Cure (2013, Palgrave MacMillan), an Associate Editor and Reader of The Future Fire, and her writing appears in both academic and popular venues. She tweets and blogs as Bleeding Chrome.

"This anthology will call for and publish speculative fiction stories that interrogate issues of disability—along with the intersecting nodes of race, nationality, gender, sexuality, and class—in both the imagined physical and virtual spaces of the future. We want people of all abilities to see themselves, as they are now and as they want to be, in our collective human future. The call for stories will open immediately after this fundraising campaign ends."

Why It's Cool: 
Dude, seriously, how is it not? As per Future Fire's previous and very excellent anthologies, this is an opportunity for seriously underrepresented voices to be heard, with stories that will cover disabilities in way that doesn't marginalize people's experiences by making their disability a cheap plot point.

The Link: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/accessing-the-future

And speaking of underrepresented voices -

Clarkesworld: Chinese Science Fiction Translation Project - Clarkesworld magazine wants to translate and publish a Chinese science fiction story in each issue, funding is for the first year.

The Pitch:
"China has one of the largest science fiction reading populations in the world and has produced a significant body of work that has remained relatively unseen by English-speaking audiences. In recent years, a few stories and novels have made their way to English language publication, but we are unaware of any project to regularly feature Chinese works in a science fiction magazine.

"Clarkesworld Magazine has always aspired to publish stories from a global pool. It's our opinion that different perspectives make the genre stronger. We've published authors from all over the world, but quality translations have been few and far between. In recent years, thanks to the efforts of writer/translators Ken Liu and John Chu, it's been our privilege to publish five. These stories include:
  • "The Fish of Lijiang" by Chen Qiufan (2013 Science Fiction & Fantasy Translation Awards Winner)
  • "A Hundred Ghosts Parade Tonight" by Xia Jia (2013 Science Fiction & Fantasy Translation Awards Honorable Mention, 2012 Locus Recommended Reading List selection, and reprinted in The Year's Best Science Fiction and Fantasy, 2013 Edition, Rich Horton ed.)
  • "Pepe" by Tang Fei

"and we'd like to bring you even more.

"I've recently signed an agreement with Weixiang (Storycom International Culture Communication Co., Ltd.) to add a translated Chinese science fiction story to each issue of Clarkesworld. Each month, Storycom's team of experts will send us a list of stories they think would work well for us—much like we use our slush pile to choose our current fiction offerings. I'll select one from that pile and then work with the author and translator to get the story ready for publication. Every story will appear in all editions of Clarkesworld—our free online edition, podcast (audio fiction), ebook and digital subscriptions, print issues, and annual anthologies—and provide these authors with significant English language exposure. (They'll be paid too.)

"We believe that providing markets that actively publish translated fiction is good for readers, authors, translators, and the genre as a whole. Our past experience tells us this is something we are qualified to and should do."

Why It's Cool:
Because there needs to be way more translated fiction out there. And if Clarkesworld make their stretch goals, there'll be translated fiction from other regions of the world too which will be all the awesome.

The Link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/clarkesworld/clarkesworld-chinese-science-fiction-translation-p

And for more awesome, check out -

The Holdfast Magazine Anthology - the first print anthology of Holdfast Magazine

The Pitch: "Holdfast is a free, online speculative fiction magazine (that means science fiction, fantasy, horror and all the stuff that falls between),that celebrates and examines these amazing genres. Check it out at www.holdfastmagazine.com

"The Holdfast anthology will be a beautiful artefact, comprised of new unpublished fiction, and some of the best articles from our online magazine, all in one, gorgeous good-quality paperback volume, including fantastic original artwork like this papercut piece from Issue 2 by Zoe Lee, as well as original cover artwork by artist Faye McNulty, who designed the Issue#2 header above.

"Read about a time-travelling law enforcer making a difficult choice, a cursed cycling tour that goes hopelessly and hilariously wrong, and what happens when the drugs don’t work on Sleeping Beauty in our fiction section. Discover what shark brains look like (spoiler: a human uterus), find out about the underrepresentation of Black women in science fiction, read a thank you letter to Margaret Atwood, and witness our attempts to convert a literary snob over to SFF in our non-fiction section."

Why It's Cool:
Because it's Holdfast Magazine, and Holdfast is fab. And there'll be some shiny new stories in it. Also there are not that many UK based online mags so supporting the ones we do have is always a good thing.

The Link: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/holdfast-magazine-anthology

11 September 2014

Urban Mythic 2: Lou Morgan Interviewed

Tell us a little about yourself and your writing.

I’m a novelist and short story writer, and I bounce infuriatingly between any kind of genre that takes my fancy. So far, that’s urban fantasy and horror for both adult and teen readers, because at the end of the day, I just like telling stories.

My first novel, Blood and Feathers, was an urban fantasy involving hellmouths and sarcastic angels with drinking problems, handguns and secrets, and which was nominated for British Fantasy Awards in both the best newcomer and best fantasy novel categories. The sequel, Blood and Feathers: Rebellion, picks up the story, and has also been nominated in the best fantasy novel category for this year’s BFAs. I’ve also written short stories for people like PS Publishing, Jurassic, Fox Spirit and Solaris – and Alchemy Press, of course.

And I have two cats, because that’s the law if you write fantasy.

What is at the root of your Urban Mythic story?

The idea behind “Death and the Weaver” came from Breton folklore. I spent a lot of time in Brittany growing up, and still go back most summers, so I know the stories pretty well. My favourite was always the Ankou,  a skeletal Grim Reaper figure whose role was to collect the souls of the dead from each parish. On the face of it, it doesn’t sound that unusual, but the interesting thing about the Ankou is that he is always one of the parishioners himself: the soul of the last person to die in the year serves as the Ankou for a year and is then replaced. I love the idea that this could (and probably would) mean it was someone you knew – and I started to wonder how that would change your relationship with death.

Bringing the Ankou up to date was a lot of fun. I read as many versions of the legend as I could, which stretched my French about as far as it could go! In most of them, the Ankou is very tall and usually has long white hair and a head which constantly revolves (so no death escapes him). He carries a scythe with the blade pointing forward and rides a cart pulled by two horses – one fat and one thin. Not all of these would work in a modern setting … but the C in a Citroen 2CV originally referred to “chevaux” (horses), so…

You’re known for having soundtracks for your work – did “Death and the Weaver” have a soundtrack or particular song?

Funnily enough, it did! Along with the Breton folklore, I love Breton music and I have quite a lot of it. I started out having some of the more traditional songs playing in the background, but even modern Breton music still has strong folk roots so there’re lots of bagpipes and accordions in there. I ended up with two songs pretty much on a loop, both by Anthony Chaplain. One was “Marie de la Dondaine” (click here) and the other was “Bzh” – basically a mash-up of several different traditional songs. The title is the abbreviation for the Breton name for Brittany: Breizh. Those two songs between them probably came to feel like a part of the story.

How has the transition between writing adult and YA fiction been? Is there anything you can do with your YA work that you couldn’t do with your adult work? Or vice versa?

I’ve probably been very lucky in that the kind of books I want to write hover around the border between YA and adult fiction. I’m always interested in the idea of identity and responsibility, which are two of the biggest themes in YA and still incredibly relevant beyond that. I mean, who gets to 18 and says, “Yes, that’s it. I know exactly who I am. This is me.”?

I love having the opportunity and freedom to work in both fields and I hope I don’t treat them that differently (although, in fairness, I try to swear a bit less in YA!). The one big change I’ve found, though, is that I feel there have to be more consequences in YA. Not in a judge-y, lecture-y sort of way, but the Blood and Feathers books have, for instance, a fair amount of casual violence in them … and I don’t think I’d be comfortable writing that into a YA.

Room 101 time: what one genre cliché would you get rid of?

Every genre comes with its own set of clichés; they’re what help us identify them as a particular genre, aren’t they? I think I’d rather get rid of the idea that there’s “literary” fiction and “genre” fiction and never the twain shall meet. There’s a fair amount of snobbery in either direction, and that utterly infuriates me. There are as many different stories in the world as there are ideas and not all of them will appeal to everyone … and that’s OK.

What inspired you to run a marathon next year and where can people go to sponsor you?

If only it were a full marathon! I’m actually running a half-marathon (although that’s still 13 miles which is enough to make me weep at the moment): the Bath Half, in March 2015. I’ve thought about it for a couple of years now, and never managed to talk myself into it, but I did one many years ago (the Moonwalk, which takes place at night through central London) and I loved the challenge. I am, clearly, a glutton for punishment.

As part of that, I’m hoping to raise some sponsorship money for Kids Company, who operate centres in both London and Bristol to provide practical, emotional and educational support to vulnerable inner-city children. You can find out a little more about them on their website.

Their work is amazing and incredibly worthwhile, with the potential to make an enormous difference to so many children’s lives, but they need at least £13.5 million a year to keep doing it. Even the tiniest donation helps towards that and is incredibly welcome, so if anyone would like to sponsor my months of running (which, believe me, is something you won’t hear me saying very often) to train through the winter, and for the race itself, you can find my sponsor page here: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/runloumorgan

What are you up to next?

I have a couple of stories I’m really excited about which should be surfacing in the near future. Besides “Death and the Weaver”, there’s a story about Oliver Cromwell’s other head which will appear in Fox Spirit’s Missing Monarchs issue of their Fox Pockets series, and I was thrilled to be asked to contribute to the third volume of the Zombie Apocalypse! anthologies. Zombies have never been my favourite monsters, so the chance to create one that interested me was too good to pass up.

The beginning of 2015 also sees the paperback release of Sleepless, my first YA book for Stripes Publishing as part of their Red Eye horror series, which follows a group of friends who take an unlicensed study drug they find on the internet. It’s all set around the Barbican and Smithfield meat market in central London, because ever since I lived there I knew I wanted to set a horror story there! And it’s probably not giving too much away to say that for it won’t end well for everyone…

For more information, check out loummorgan.wordpress.com or @LouMorgan