Wednesday, September 16, 2015

'Lady Killer' and Bloodlines ed. Amanda Pillar and Current Reads

The October release of the dark-fantasy anthology Bloodlines ed by Amanda Pillar (Ticonderoga Publications) and a little on my included story 'Lady Killer' 

I'd written the following several days ago but I was eagerly awaiting the gorgeous cover by Kathleen Jennings before posting. How things change in Canberra - thought I'd leave the post as it was though (can't beat a good dose of irony). 
    Bloodlines will be pre-launched over East in Canberra on October 3rd (at Conflux).

    I was tempted to visit our own capital for the first time (if only Perth were closer). But then again, I don't know what I'd say if I chanced upon our regressive politicians.

    Hey there, Tony! Climate change is real and affecting the world. Take a leaf out of Obama's book! 

    Dutton, your recent joke about water lapping at the doors of the Kiribati Islanders - just hilarious, what wonderful comic timing. I'm sure the Kiribati Islanders found it a hoot. I admire your lack of compassion - it's what I want to see in a politician.

    Christopher,  university reforms to Americanise education and privilege the wealthy? That's so cool...

    Are we stuck in the medieval times regarding gay rights, Tony? I thought living in a time-warp would rock ...

    What about the Arts, Brandis? Afraid of some oppositional discourse?

    Since when do we lack compassion regarding refugees (you're not to blame Di Natale)? Tony, I forgot that basic civil liberties relating to freedom of the press are something you don't believe in. What's really going on along our maritime borders and in those damned detention centres? 

    Hunt, are you the Minister of the Environment or a campaigner for dirty brown coal mining? 

    Hands off our ABC!

    The table of contents in Bloodlines, however, is cause for celebration in our political capital.

    There are some familiar faces here in the table of contents - I think I've been in anthologies or journals beforehand with at least five other authors. It's also exciting to have a multiple Hugo Award finalist and New York Times Best Seller, Seanan McGuire (also writes as Mira Grant) involved but there's a wealth of other superb writers on display here too.

    Skip to currently reading if you want to avoid spoilers as the following relates to my own story 'Lady Killer'.

    Since reading Neil Gaiman's magnificent 'Trollbridge' and Joyce Carol Oates' equally superb 'Fossil Figures' (two of my favourite stories), I've been interested in covering a lifespan (a few stages within a lifespan to be more specific) in a long short story. And Bloodlines provided the ideal opportunity for that. Hopefully 'Lady Killer' will be my own small addition to the oeuvre of dark fantasies/horrors exploring stages within a life span.

    'Lady Killer' contains a sphinx. I asked myself when generating ideas about the bush in Mandurah: what better way to explore life's stages than link to the Sphinx's riddle to Oedipus? The sphinx itself - whether real or imagined, metaphorical or literal -  is a mystifying creature: a grotesque hybrid yet it remains an alluring and powerful seductress, potently dangerous, favoured by both the Muses and the Goddess Hera. Jorge Louis Borges examines the horror of the sphinx best in 'Ragnarok' but I'll save his quote regarding the sphinx for the story's opening.

    Does the sphinx reflect our own horrors? Does it lure us? Does it parallel or reflect our own nature?

    Whether it's due to the hybrid or whether due to the riddle to Oedipus, the sphinx is a unique vehicle with which to explore the human condition.

    The unnamed protagonist in my story is a womaniser. Naturally all reading is subjective, but my intention here is to convey an uncomfortable sense of predation in sections of the story. I've focused on  a few stages of the protagonist's life, each entailing an encounter with the sphinx, so in essence the story is framed around the riddle (with a few liberties taken). That's why the narrative has a cyclical nature with events semi-reoccurring at various stages.

    Yet the protagonist's love of reading and of nature, two qualities that I value, hopefully builds both atmosphere and intrigue. Can you completely despise the protagonist? Perhaps you can? Hopefully you'll be left thinking about the story for a while. What about life's stages? The protagonist's nature? Victim or predator or both?

    Writing 'Lady Killer' has left me firmly believing that time itself, and what we make of it, is very precious. It's encouraged me to embrace the cliche: time is not something to let slip away lightly.

    Bloodlines ed. Amanda Pillar is available at various bookstores in hardback and paperback. And also from Amazon, Book Depository, and Indie Books Online (HB & TPB)

    Currently reading:

    Just finished  
    • My Mistress Sparrow is Dead ed by Jeffrey Eugenides.

     A few stories are conservative choices with ubiquitous homes (Checkov, de Maupassant, Faulkner) but other selections here are fresh and innovative.

    On the down side I've always found Guy de Maupassant dry and dated and the story 'Mouche' only confirmed this for me. Nabokov's story 'Spring in Fialta' is excessive; Moore's second person story 'How to be Another Woman' is difficult to digest (although that may relate to a natural aversion of mine towards second person narratives) and Denis Johnson's 'Dirty Wedding' falls flat.

    Other than these all other works are strong and what's more, many are 
    outstanding including: 'First Love and Other Sorrows' by Harold Brodkey (his other somewhat experimental story in the anthology 'Innocence' slows time right down with its famed many-page cunnilingus scene), the incredible 'Jon' by George Saunders (and if you want to talk about Hugo Awards, which seems a current hot topic due to some poorly trained puppies, then maybe the real discussion should focus on 'Jon' instead -  and why on Earth didn't it win a clean sweep - Locus, Hugo and Nebula - back in 2007?),'The Hitchiking Game' by Milan Kundera, 'The Moon in its Flight' by Gilbert Sorrentino,  'Red Rose, White Rose' by Eileen Chang, 'Fireworks' by Richard Ford, 'Something that Needs Nothing' by Miranda July, 'The Magic Barrel' by Bernard Malumud and 'The Bear Came over the Mountain' by Alice Munro. Nine sensational stories, which simply demand to be read, makes this anthology one to be savoured, and as previously mentioned, there are other great stories too. Sure, there's a handful not to my liking but isn't this the case with most anthologies?

    My Mistress Sparrow is Dead explores the many facets of love and Eugenides is to be congratulated on not solely focusing on the romantic. I'd recommend  My Mistress Sparrow is Dead for lovers of the short story rather than just those interested in love stories. 

    •  Read the creepy gothic romance My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier for my book club (looking forward to discussing it with the gang). The opening is brilliant and the ambiguous ending, which encourages pensive reflection, serves the novel much better than what could have been a stereotypical resolution. Nice prose. Felt a little bogged down in parts of the early-middle and I wasn't entirely convinced of Phillip's credibility as a male protagonist. Hope that's not gender bias creeping into my reading but Phillip's thoughts and emotions didn't feel authentic to me. Not disappointed at all by my first novel-length experience of du Maurier. The slow burn worked away and by the last hundred pages I was enthralled. In a structural sense both the opening and ending give My Cousin Rachel a real edge.
    • The Year's Best Australian Fantasy & Horror, 2014 ed Liz Grzyb & Talie Helene. Really liked 'Black Swan Event' by Mago Lanagan, 'Sticks and Stones' by Ryan O'Neil, 'After Hours' by Thoraiya Dyer, 'Wyrding Women' by Rowena Cory Daniels, 'The Ninety-Two' by Claire McKenna and 'The Nest' by C.S. McMullen. But the absolute standouts for me were 'Born and Bread' by Kaaron Waaren, 'Almost Beautiful' by Angela Rega, 'The Oblivion Box' by Faith Mudge and 'By Bone Light' by Juliet Marillier. There are plenty of other worthwhile stories too -  the anthology displays the ludicrously high standards of spec-fic in the Antipodes. Nice to notice that my story 'Oleander:An Ottoman Tale' from Dreaming of Djinn is in Liz Grzyb & Talie Helene's 'Recommended Reading List'. 
    Also reading:  

    • Rogues ed George R.R. Martin & Gardner Dozois. Three stories in and wow!
    • That Glimpse of Truth ed David Miller which contains a mere 100 stories. Only read a half-a-dozen or so, so I'll update you down the track. 
    • Love and Romanpunk by Tansy Rayner Roberts. 
    • A Dark Matter by Peter Straub
    • And the history The Great Sea (A Human History of the Mediterranean) by David Abullafia, which is of extraordinary scope and detail. One for  history buffs like me. 

    Other News:
    In two more anthologies soonish. One 'realist' the other 'genre' but I'll save that news for a later post.