Monster Blog : Karina Shainyan

While we endure the real life horror of processing delays and our book being out of our hands, we thought you’d enjoy another blog posts from one of our amazing contributors.


Bagatazh Pass

by Karina Shainyan

This is what my summer job looks like: I’m just a cook but I have a very different workplace. My kitchen, house and everything else that may be needed, are tied to the saddle behind my back. Because here, high up in the Altai Mountains, there are no roads and almost no people: there are only mountains and taiga. I’ve been working here every summer for over twenty years, and I still haven’t had enough.

This picture was taken at Bagatazh Pass, on the first day of a two-week trek. I have just told the tourists that mountain spirits live here. This place seems deserted but ancient Masters dwell here, and they are not human. For the time being, everyone thinks it’s just funny. But in the evening, when it gets dark and everyone gathers around the fire, and fog crawls down from the pass to the camp, the tourists will feel odd. To calm them down, I will tell them that the creatures that reside here don’t show themselves and never pay attention to people.

Almost never. Nearly.

 

Karina Shainyan grew up on the island Sahalin in the Far East of Russia, before she left to study psychology at Moscow State University. Karina has worked as a school psychologist, journalist, and editor. She says “I composed my first horror story when I was five, sitting in a closet with my best friend. It had such a strong effect on him that my parents scolded me for a long time. But I liked it anyway. As I got older, I started writing down my stories, and then it turned out that quite a few people wanted to climb into my closet and become scared”. Karina has written seven novels, including Долгий путь на Бимини (“Long way to Bimini”), Западня (“Trap”), and С ключом на шее (“With a key around my neck”). She’s also published about a hundred short stories, in magazines like Если (“If”) and Реальность фантастики (“Reality of fantastic”), in Кетополис (“Ketopolis”)—a mosaic novel composed of short stories by many authors, united by the pseudonym Грэй Ф. Грин (Gray F. Green)—and in anthologies such as Предчувствие Цветной волны (“Premonition of the Colored Wave”), Новые мифы мегаполиса (“New Myths of the Metropolis”), and Бомбы и бумеранги (“Bombs and Boomerangs”). Find out more about Karina at her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/karina.shainyan

 

Monsters Blogs : Editor’s Blog

The editor’s blog – Eurasian Monsters

The seventh and final volume of Fox Spirit Books of Monsters is out December 20th. The journey started in Europe in 2014 before it continued to Africa, Asia, the Pacific region, then the South, Central and North America. The series has been like a grand world tour exploring old myths, folklore and monster tales continent by continent. Sadly, most travels must have an end, and we close up our journey with a stop in Eurasia.

In Eurasian Monsters you’ll find tales of beasties and monstrous terror from the part of Eurasia stretching from the Chinese border (but not including China) to Eastern parts of Europe. I am proud to present you stories told by seventeen authors who are either from, have lived in, or have another strong connection to Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Poland, Hungary, and Bulgaria.

Not only do I wish to scare people with monsters they probably have never heard about. I also want the books to give the readers a realistic insight into the continents we cover—it is a journey after all. By returning to the place of origin, by giving authors who grew up with stories of these dark creatures a chance to write about them and own cultures, I hope these books give readers a glimpse of a contemporary, everyday life that is seldom seen by most of the West.

In Eurasian Monsters you’ll find tales about loneliness, living in a harsh climate, and everyday struggle—be it on the streets of Moscow or Varna, at a hospital in Elista, or in a nightclub in Tbilisi, in the forests of Poland, or in the Altai mountains. You’ll find stories with an underlying critic of aspects of society, be it poverty, illegal working or the life of immigrants, border conflicts, the relationship between east and west, or the tension between a traditional life and a modern society. 

I’m pleased to tell that we have as many as seven translated stories in this book, six are exclusively translated for this volume—from Russian, Ukrainian and Polish. I believe the book is much better when these tales are included—and I hope that the translators are just as happy as I am with the stories. The translations also make it possible for me to introduce you to authors that not many in the Western parts of the world know about, there’s even a few who has never been translated to English before.

So why monsters books? Fox Spirit Books of Monsters came out of a discussion seven years ago, where myself and a few others, including my co-editor of the two first monster volumes, Jo Thomas, demanded that something had to be done. We felt that most monsters are forgotten today, while the rest are watered down and overused in the popular media, and then only a few of them dominate the scene—vampires, werewolves, ghouls, demons, zombies—and they are almost all from Western popular culture.

In these books we wish to re-establish the monsters’ dark reputation, to give them a comeback. I want to drag them out from the darkest corners, to show how many great monsters we have from all over the world. And we want them visible in the middle of people’s homes, as coffee table books with lush art. Happily Adele Wearing at Fox Spirit Books liked our ideas, and the first book about Europe quickly developed into the world series of seven volumes, one each year.

I am sad to now see the end of my story hunt around the world. Reading these tales has taught me that every country and region in the world has wonderful dark and eerie stories about monsters or dark creatures, some of them maybe thousands of years old. You can find traces of them in old texts and even in old sea maps. Monster folklore is passed down from generation to generation, and these stories are important in traditions and customs. The tales serve not only as entertainment, but often teach a lesson as well. 

Some monsters are universal. You will always find the shapeshifters, the flesh-eating walking dead and the great monsters of the lakes and sea. But what is important to one culture might not be so vital to another. When I have edited the monster books I’ve tried to see if I can spot a specific pattern in each book, be it a main theme or the choice of monsters. I don’t know if it is a coincidence or a proof that there are geographical differences, but I do believe I’ve spotted some variations between the continents. To mention a few: Magic is one strong theme in monster narratives from Africa and Latin America, for instance, though it manifests in slightly different ways. The volumes focused on Africa and the Pacific region have more beasts, when compared to the other volumes in the series. These two volumes also have a multitude of dark creatures from the wilderness or oceans, or natural forces, such as hail storms or thunder storm. This is also the case in Eurasian Monsters, where especially the thick forests and the mountains are a natural habitat for several dark beings.

Quite many of the stories in Eurasian Monsters take place in the home, however, and wow, the bedroom and kitchen are some truly haunted places. There are also several stories about people and monsters forced to leave their homeland, and so origin gets a strong meaning, just like in the Africa volume. I feel however that this volume is closer to the feeling of home created in the Asian Monsters book—especially regarding those creatures hailing from the folklore of Slavic cultures—and the bond between the living and the dead, whether it is the soul of dead children or dead ancestors. 

I hope you will like this volume as much as I have while working on it.

The monster volumes have been such fun books to edit. I wish to give huge thanks to all the authors and artists. I would also like to extend a warm thank you to Adele Wearing at Fox Spirit Books for believing in this idea to begin with, and all the work she and her wonderful crew have done for so many years in creating such great books.

Margrét Helgadottir

 

7 Books with 7 covers

With the launch of our last Monsters cover, I though it would be nice to revisit the whole series of stunning desolate covers by Daniele Serra. 

We began in Europe, which really only covered Western European Monsters, something we decided to correct.

A lot of these stories were tied to the relationship with the land, in different ways. 

Across Asia, the relationship to family and ancestors was a recurring theme, 

Drop bears are real and will brook no debate on this. 

These ended up being split into two volumes as it doesn’t just cover the USA. They books have quite distinctly different personalities and the second volume was I think one of the highest levels of translations we have had.

Correcting the issue with European Monsters, picking up a huge area, and another one with a high number of translations. 

Eurasian Monsters Cover reveal

So here we are at the seventh and final volume in a huge project. You’ve travelled the world with us dipping a toe into many local tales and mythologies, seeing the continents through their monsters. We end our introduction to the worlds horrors with Eurasian Monsters and another of Daniele Serra’s amazing bleak landscapes on the cover.

A huge thanks to everyone who has been involved with these books, especially our cover artist, editor and typesetter. It’s been a huge project and I am very proud of everything that has been achieved in creating this series. Anyway, enough from me. I’ll run a post of all the covers in a few days, but for now I offer you, Eurasian Monsters.

 

Eurasian Monsters, coming soon.

Table of Contents – Eurasian Monsters

We are proud to reveal the table of contents for our last volume in Fox Spirit Books of Monsters: Eurasian Monsters!

The series, edited by Margrét Helgadóttir, has dark fiction and art about scary monsters and dark creatures from around the world, seven volumes between 2014 and 2020. The series is our grand world tour and we have so far been to Europe, Africa, Asia, the Pacific region, and Central, South and North America. 

A number of the stories have been award winners individually across the series, many more have picked up nominations, and our editor won the  very first Brave New Words award for her work on Pacific Monsters. These are beautiful books full of incredible tales and monstrous images.

It’s been a hell of journey so far. Sadly, all travels must have an end, and now this series will close with Eurasian Monsters. This December we bring you 17 dark tales from the vast region stretching from the Chinese border (but not including China) to Eastern parts of East Europe. We are proud to tell that we have stories from all over Russia, from Ukraine, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Poland, Hungary, and Bulgaria.

We have as many as seven translated stories, six are translated exclusively for this book. You will not want to miss this – we have stories from authors who’s never been translated to English before!

 Table of Contents:

  1. K.A. Teryna: Morpheus
  2. Marta Magdalena Lasik: Daemons of their time
  3. Yevhen Lyr: Sleepless in Enerhodar
  4. Karina Shainyan: Bagatazh
  5. Vlad Arenev: Rapunzel
  6. Haralambi Markov: Nine Tongues Tell Of
  7. Maria Galina: The Visit
  8. Alex Shvartsman: A Thousand Cuts
  9. Daryna Stremetska: The Whitest Linen
  10. Shawn Basey: Lysa Hora
  11. Karolina Fedyk: Our Lady of Carrion Crows
  12. Bogi Takács: Veruska and the Lúdvérc
  13. Eldar Sattarov: Mountain Maid
  14. Kat Hutchson: The Housekeeper
  15. Natalia Osoianu: The Serpent
  16. Alexander Bachilo: This is Moscow, Old Man!
  17. Ekaterina Sedia: Sleeping Beauty of Elista

 

The stories will be illustrated by K. A. Teryna, Kieran Walsh, Elzbieta Glowacka, Nata Friden and Vincent Holland Keen.

Daniele Serra is once again providing cover art, which we will be revealing soon.

Editor is once again Margrét Helgadóttir.

Translation by Mike Olivson, Maksym Bakalov, Piotr Swietlik, and Alex Shvartsman

Please can I have a bit more time?

Also more words….

Yes, yes you can. 

Floof Will Out

Over to your editor:

Hello everyone! We’ve had a lot of questions about word counts and many people are feeling pushed by the deadline. Some folks might say that’s what deadlines are for but – HOT DANG – it’s been a weird old summer, hasn’t it? Time has been bendy at best. So, with that in mind, we’re going to extend the submission deadline to September 30th and increase our word count limit to 5,000 words. If you’ve already submitted a piece but think you have something else that’s longer and you like better, then send it along. We’re happy to accept multiple submissions.

We’d also like to take this opportunity to reiterate that, as a publisher, we focus on Horror, Science Fiction, Fantasy, and all the Weird and Interstitial skeins that weave in and around those genres. This anthology is no exception.

Thank you.

 

 

The Flame and the Flood by Shona Kinsella

Out now, new novella from Shona Kinsella with fantastic cover art by Sarah Anne Langton.

 In Slyvo, one child in a hundred is born with an affinity: a magical link to an element, able to shape and use it as they choose. If they are lucky they will become a master craftsman, able to command high prices; if they are unlucky, the factories always demand new wielders, kept as slaves and worked to exhaustion.

Talis and Almoris are free wielders, dedicating their lives to helping wielders leave the country for better lives abroad. But not everyone believes in their mission, and not everyone can be trusted – when Almoris takes in a runaway, they find themselves pulled into a mission that puts their lives in danger and threatens both their loyalties and their love.

Still not convinced, check out this  review by RunaAlongtheShelves.

Available now in ebook from our store and ebook and ppbk from Amazon.

Not The Fox News: Capitalism Doesn’t Care About Us

the DC FanDome logo

(Image c/o DC Fandome)

I’ve spent a little while trying to work out how to title this and honestly, I think ‘blunt instrument’ is the way to go.

I love the movies. I always have. Film was the medium that taught me there was life beyond where I grew up. Film taught me about stories and emotion. People taught me narrative and the amazing things that happen when you subvert it. Film is where I go to heal my hurt and I’ve never, not once, failed to feel better after seeing a movie than I was when it started.

I haven’t been to a movie theater since February. The last two movies I saw were Emma and Underwater. Both pretty good and a deeply weird and lovely double bill. Check them out.

When lockdown took hold, I made my peace with the fact I wouldn’t be going to the movies again, odds are, this year. I have streaming services, we have a monthly rental budget, I watch plenty of movies. But I won’t be setting foot through the doors of a cinema again until there’s a vaccine. It isn’t safe.

This is not a memo several studios, and any government on either side of the Atlantic, seem to have received.

Let’s burn a couple of straw men before we go any further shall we? First off, if your first response to this piece is ANY variation of ‘It’s just the flu’ or ‘It’s a cover up’ or any of the bilious, clammy machismo drivel that’s been spouted by people who saw a scientist once on TV, then leave. Now. This is not for you. Go stand in the corner with the depressingly large bunch of professional MMA fighters so scared of admitting they’re scared they’re trying to out macho a virus.

‘But what about businesses? How will they stay open?’ This is a great point and it’s one there are two responses too. The first, which has zero empathy and isn’t one I back, is that capitalism’s greatest sin is that it isn’t dying fast enough and we should let it do just that. I see that point, I really do. But I’ve worked retail jobs. I’ve worked service jobs. I enjoy paying bills, eating food and not having to worry about either on top of a global pandemic. Jobs, if this is the societal framework we exist in, are good. People should have them and be paid fairly for their time.

But COVID-19 is an unprecedented global event. Every government has the responsibility to look after their people and their economy although God knows the last time they were mentioned in that order of priority. At times like this, governments need to crack open the piggy bank. Cinemas, theaters, the entire arts sector is in massive, relentless trouble in this country and it desperately needs help. Their help. Not our health.

A very brief diversion; this is the perfect opportunity to trial Universal Basic Income. Finland just finished a two year successful trial of this. It’s remarkably simple and terrifies the UK government because there’s no chance to hurt people who aren’t their voter base with it. Simply put, you get a flat, unconditional amount of money from the government every month. If it’s enough to cover your costs and everything else, you don’t have to work. It doesn’t go up if you’re fired. It doesn’t drop if you’re employed. It’s redirected instantly back into the economy whether through shopping, utilities, rent or whatever else. It’s a foundation for people to build on, not a cushion for the groups the UK has been conditioned to hate for decades to relax on. It’s a brilliant idea. We need it. Right now? It would mean retail staff wouldn’t have to risk their lives for minimum wage and the chance their company was still there in a year. But instead of that we get the richest chancellor in the country’s history handing out short term furlough grants, giving some freelancers two entire payments months apart of a percentage of projected earnings and basically saying ‘good luck’ to everyone else.

That’s a simplification sure, but not much of one. UBI is a good system, Finland just proved it worked. Everywhere else needs it, not to mention an unprecedentedly large amount of financial support to keep  organizations afloat while they functionally shutter for a year. We don’t have that, which means we’re now at the point where cinemas aren’t just reopening, they’re using this to entice people in.

I love cinema. I love breathing more.

And here’s the thing, I hear the folks saying the cinemas have to reopen, I really do. I know this is a no-win situation for them. I also know their staff will be directly impacted, in every way, long before any board members and shareholders are. Know what else I’d like them and every retail organization to do, if they are re-opening? Pay a living wage. Hey, Waterstones, what’s up? Aside from profits?

This doesn’t have to be a zero sum game. Yet here it is. Because who we’re told are the ‘best’ really do lack all conviction, ‘zero’ is ALL CINEMAS GO OUT OF BUSINESS and ‘one’ is SEE IF TENET IS WORTH POSSIBLE PERMANENT RESPIRATORY DAMAGE. Given the rules in place, that’s too much of a risk for some folks. Including me.

But that’s the choice we’re being given by multiple studios and, honestly, it’s made me angrier than I was expecting. Tenet opens over here shortly, and the few critics able to see it have said it’s definitely a Christopher Nolan movie for better and worse. Wonder Woman ’84 just released its second trailer which finishes with the words ONLY IN CINEMAS. New Mutants too will be cinema only and honestly, that one plays like a genuine crotch punch. The thing’s had it’s release moved around as much as Cabin in the Woods did, is an overhanging artifact of the Fox X-Universe and would have soared on Disney +. Instead, the football is being taken away YET. AGAIN.

Oh that Wonder Woman’84 trailer? Released at an online event, because San Diego Comic Con was cancelled due to COVID-19.

If you see irony at the bar, take his keys, yeah? The dude’s had a shitty year.

There’s no hint of a VOD release for any of these just yet although Tenet has a notional bluray release in December. Hopefully the others will follow, but even if they do, the studios behind these movies are doing two awful things, one awful for us, one awful for them. The first is they’re creating a class system which is based on a potentially fatal dare. Do you want to be spoiled on Tenet? Or do you want to maybe get sick for months? Step right up, folks! Christopher Nolan has a show for you and this time he’s remembered to put women in it!  That doesn’t just appeal to the sort of macho bullshit that only ever gets louder when people are bored. It preys on human weakness. It’s cruel. We’re all tired. We’re all scared. We all want to go out. The movies are right there.

And so is the risk.

The second, awful, thing it does? This is capitalism, a system designed to do nothing but perpetuate itself, leaving money on the table. Day-and-date VOD releases, Hell, VOD releases inside two months announced at the same time as the cinema date would clean up. Crucially, it would also send a message that every organization, for all their ‘we’re all in this together’ emails has utterly failed to communicate:

Everyone matters. Everyone gets to go to the movies, even if the movies have to come to them.

Imagine if that had happened. Imagine if, in this dog’s arsecrack of a year, studios had been together enough to reach out to their entire audience, not just the ones they could get the quick, possibly not sanitary, buck from. Some tried it. Disney releasing Hamilton to Disney + did remarkable business and the increasingly platform agnostic dual release of Mulan plays a lot like a pilot scheme for future titles. Meanwhile, Bill and Ted Face The Music IS doing day-and-date cinema and VOD in the US but only the US (DUDES! *BOGUS*). Even the much rumored ‘mature tier’ on Disney + looks a lot like a possible home for Black Widow. There is some progress. There is some innovation.

But there’s also the doors to the cinema, open when they shouldn’t be, staffed by people who don’t want to be there and aren’t being paid enough, presented as the only option and surely if this horrible trudge around the Sun has taught us anything it’s that there should always be other, safe options. But instead of answering the call to welcome their whole audience, studios are preying on boredom, on the desire to escape for a while. In doing so they’re not just adding a distinctly sour note to movies about heroism, they’re also proving something else. Capitalism doesn’t care about us. So we have to do it ourselves. Look after yourself. And, next year, I’ll see you at the movies.

 

Guest Post : Believing is Seeing by Julie Travis

Believing Is Seeing by Julie Travis

 Nothing is ordinary.

Many years ago I read a couple of lines in a travel guide that have influenced and inspired much of my writing and photography; the author described how he’d spent two hours just watching a dung beetle doing its work. He wasn’t rushing around visiting attractions or checking out cafes or bars – he’d spotted an insect and become immersed in what it was doing. In doing so he’d pinpointed something I’d always believed, but not consciously acknowledged; that the details, the smallest things, are extraordinary.

We are not usually encouraged to stop – most of us are under pressure to live and work at a speed that doesn’t allow us to notice anything much (it’s notable that lockdown has benefited many who’ve been forced to slow down, to the point where some don’t want to return to ‘normal’). Many times when life has been tough I’ve stopped to watch a bee collecting nectar from, heard its buzz take on a different tone when it’s inside the flower and seen the incredible movement of its wings as it takes flight. How many times does this occur around the world over the course of a day? A mind-boggling amount, but each time it happens it’s remarkable and it gives me some perspective on my insignificant woes. There is magic everywhere – in the natural and the super natural world, but the key to unlocking this is, I think, in the power of imagination, the power of being open to what’s around us. Imagination is another thing that isn’t encouraged. People love the products of imagination – books and films, for instance, are a huge part of our lives – but there can be a contradictory dismissiveness of those who create these things for not doing a ‘proper’ job. The full potential of the world – and us humans – needs more than a scientific, rational eye – although it’s fair to say that the two approaches can overlap at various points.

Trees talk to each other. Plants are connected by underground threads of fungi (mycelium), and share nutrients, or toxins if an unwelcome plant is among them. Grass sends a distress message when cut (that lovely, fresh smell is not as joyful as it seems). Time is a physical thing. I find all of these things mind-blowing. Science has proved their existence but the other worlds around us are tangible to those who can tune into them (voluntarily or not) but are currently unprovable. The story of Hamish Miller is an interesting example: Miller was a businessman until he suffered a near death experience during an operation. It changed him profoundly. He became a dowser, a blacksmith and an author. He’d seen the ‘other side’ and it didn’t scare him; he just realised there was so much more around him than he’d previously believed. When he passed in 2010, he was reportedly happy and completely at peace with what was about to happen. Was his experience real or was it, as has been claimed by science,  just an hallucination?

Can a person will something into being? People from every culture claim to have done so for thousands of years. I know people who have cast successful spells, or put a hex on those who’ve hurt them. I believe these things are possible as I’ve seen the results, just as I’ve had so many paranormal experiences that I can’t help but accept them. My fiction has been described as magical realism; that is, magic as part of everyday life. This was never a deliberate plan – my original aim was to write contemporary horror that reflected myself and the worlds I moved in, which I wasn’t seeing in the stories I read (apart from in Clive Barker’s work). But that was thirty years ago and of course other influences and experiences have changed my writing direction and purpose to some extent.

As you can see from this piece, the lines between the wonders of the natural world, actual magic and the paranormal are somewhat blurred for me. I cannot separate them in my worldview so I shaln’t try to do so here. 

 

 

The Flame and The Flood – Full Wrap

The new novella from Shona Kinsella is due out in days so we wanted to treat you to the full wrap cover.

Stunning work by Sarah Langton to cover a brilliant novella.

‘In Slyvo, one child in a hundred is born with an affinity: a magical link to an element, able to shape and use it as they choose. If they are lucky they will become a master craftsman, able to command high prices; if they are unlucky, the factories always demand new wielders, kept as slaves and worked to exhaustion.
 
Talis and Almoris are free wielders, dedicating their lives to helping wielders leave the country for better lives abroad. But not everyone believes in their mission, and not everyone can be trusted – when Almoris takes in a runaway, they find themselves pulled into a mission that puts their lives in danger and threatens both their loyalties and their love.’