FS Book of Love : Cover

Those of you who subscribe to Alasdair Stuart’s the Full Lid got a preview of this, those who don’t well it’s here  and we highly recommend it.

Created by C.A. Yates, Paul Yates and Vincent Holland-Keen the book of love cover is here!

Love. That many-splendoured thing. It can move mountains and make
fools of us all, but what is it? Does it come courtesy of a cherub’s bow? Is it a
battlefield? Endless? Crazy? Only available on a Friday? Well, the answer
might be between these covers. Inside you’ll find stories from fantastical
worlds to fairy tales, from dark places to virtual reality, tales of transformation,
hope, and despair. Above all else, each one is, at heart, about love.

With stories from Douglas J. Ogurek, Dolly Garland, Alec McQuay,
James Bennett, David Tallerman, Joyce Chng, Xan van Rooyen, Michelle Ann
King, Lawrence Harding, Charlotte Bond, Kit West, Emma K. Leadley, Ro
Smith, Lisa Shea, K.A. Laity, Jenny Barber, and G. Clark Hellery.

Monster Blog : Kat Hutchson

The Horrors of Childhood – What Inspired “The Housekeeper”

by Kat Hutchson

In my first draft of this blog post, I wanted to write that there were few things that terrified me during my childhood but then I had to reconsider. There was the domovoy, the toilet monster from the X files, the fear of being kidnaped, the instability of a looming war with Chechnya on the borders of Caucasus – although it was a mere nervous feeling that crept into the mind of everyone, even children that were not quite ready to grasp the actual impact. It was a ghost, another monster that hid under your bed.

Although most of this fear faded away and with it the physical memory, some parts are still not quite vivid. I find it impressive how events that might look more traumatic to the outside eye only left behind a movie scene without a clear emotional response while other less striking events still feel more close to home.

My story “The Housekeeper” was inspired by a saying that had terrified me most of my childhood and had effectively stopped me from begging my parents to ever go home early. If you asked your parents to go home, you received the answer that there is a domovoy who is drying his legs and will strangle you.

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

The Russian version of this sounds far more poetic due the rhyme sushit – dries-  and sadushit – strangles – at the end of the sentence. Although the poetic aspect doesn’t make it less terrifying if you ask me. 

In my research I wanted to explore the origins of the proverb but unfortunately I was unable to find any clue. I know that it was passed on from my grandmother to my mother – and that it hadn’t terrified her as much as it had me. Some sources mention that it was part of a children’s song and that there might be a version where the domovoy dries his shoes instead of his legs.

The concept of the story draws from the definition of the Fantastic as a state where the reader as well as the protagonist are uncertain if the events actually happened. There is no way of telling if the protagonist purely imagined them or if something supernatural took place. Based on Tzvetan Todorov’s definition of the Fantastic in Introduction à la littérature fantastique there are two ways to interpret such events: as the fantastic uncanny or fantastic marvelous. While the uncanny has a rational explanation such as an illusion, the marvelous defines the events as real.

Photo by Paige Cody on Unsplash

In case of “The Housekeeper” the Fantastic is tied to the traumatic. The divorce of the protagonist’s parents, separation from the father, moving to a new environment could all be considered as the culprit for his physical symptoms and experiences. The subjectivity of the events, the passing of time and the memories of a child do not allow for a simple decision if the Fantastic is marvelous or uncanny. They seem real to the protagonist but his visits to the psychiatrist suggest a rational explanation. To confirm one or the other would negate the state of the Fantastic.

I guess, you’ll have to read for yourself and form your own opinion. 

***

Kat Hutchson was born in Kislovodsk, a Russian spa city located between the Black and Caspian Seas. As a child she fell into the fountain of the Narzan Gallery and started writing shortly after. The magic powers of the Narzan contributed to her trying various forms of writing including slam poetry, academic publishing and poetry, and led to her finally finding her current home in the weird and the fantastic. Kat holds two master’s degrees (in Comparative Literature and Scandinavian Studies) from the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich, Germany, where she currently lives. Follow Kat on Twitter where she is @HutchsonKat or check out her blog www.KatHutchson.wordpress.com

 

Photo Credits with links

 Photo by Paige Cody on Unsplash  
 Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

The Fox Spirit Book Of Love TOC

Well my fair foxes, it’s Valentine’s Day and admit all the chocolate and flowers and hastily purchased garage cards we thought this was the perfect time to announce the contents of our forthcoming FS Book of Love edited by the fabulous C. A. Yates

Further monster blogs and news of other 2021 releases coming soon

Todd & Reynard on Valentines
art by Jenny Haines
  1. DECOMPOSING CORPSES – Douglas J. Ogurek
  2. THE HOLY WATERS – Dolly Garland
  3. JIXXA, MY LOVE – Alec McQuay
  4. END TIMES IN PARIS – James Bennett
  5. LOVE IN THE AGE OF… – David Tallerman
  6. THE FIRST DAY OF KHIRSHI-DA – Joyce Chng
  7. BY BLADE AND BLOOM – Xan van Rooyen
  8. THE FINE ART OF FORTUNE-TELLING – Michelle Ann King
  9. A CURSE THAT’S NOT FOR BREAKING – Lawrence Harding
  10. A TRUE WISH – Charlotte Bond
  11. NOTES ON A HAUNTING – Kit West
  12. SUBATOMIC FOR ‘IT MUST BE LOVE’ – Emma K. Leadley
  13. THE TWELFTH DAY – Ro Smith
  14. THE WIND’S SON – K.C. Shaw
  15. SALT OCEAN – Lisa Shea
  16. ENCHANTED GARDEN – K.A. Laity
  17. RAPTURE ON THE LONELY SHORE – Jenny Barber
  18. THE WHALE AND THE MOON – G. Clark Hellery

A note from the Editor:

I don’t think anyone really knows what love is or where it comes from, but so many of us feel such an extraordinary connection to another person at least once in our lives that it can make us feel and do the most incredible things. I’m not talking about romance, all that hearts and flowers business. There are many people who don’t feel romantic attraction at all, but they experience love. Some people love more than one person at a time; some truly love only one person their entire life. For some, love is platonic, while for others it has to be sexual. There are those for who one glance, one moment, can connect them so deeply to another person they are never quite the same again.

So why create an anthology based on such an unknowable yet ubiquitous creature? Well, I believe love is a power for good. Of course it has its ups and downs; it can be a comfort or a wild ride; it can mean sacrifice or abundance; it can taste of the ripest, sweetest strawberries or turn as rotten as a certain something in the state of Denmark. Whatever it is, I believe it can change the world. Or, at least, it can change yours forever.

 

Monster Blog – Kieran Walsh

Illustrating Fox Spirit Books of Monsters

By Kieran Walsh

Self Portrait

When I was approached at the beginning to illustrate a series about monsters from all over the globe, the first thing I thought was “Wow – what an opportunity!”. As a child, my visits to the local library in the Irish small town of Kells in County Meath, were always a chance to scour the shelves for any kind of monster or folklore-related books I could get my hands on. These books often contained stories translated from other languages and depicted tales of creatures that were both thrilling and horrifying in equal measures. The illustrations were sometimes few and far between but the ones that were there were definitely something I’d never forget.

Growing up, my tastes moved more towards comics and graphic novels, particularly the likes of 2000AD and other British and American publications. I was always drawn to the darker sides of these comics and in particular the work of some incredible artists who have since gone on to achieve worldwide recognition. While I could never aspire to their level, I always felt that some of these artists influenced my own creative style and certainly provided inspiration for a lot of the darker elements of my own artwork. Around this time, I also became interested in adventure game publications such as D&D-themed Fighting Fantasy books, and the now-forgotten Proteus magazine, which also contained amazing illustrations of ghosts, demons and monsters that were beautifully rendered in ink and pencil. These creatures are often depicted in amazing 3D detail in modern video games but in the mid 1980’s, comics and board games were really pushing the boundaries of what could be achieved in fantasy art.

Being asked to illustrate the Monster series felt like I had come full circle – here was my opportunity to actually be involved in producing something that I loved as a child, while also collaborating with other amazing artists and authors. There was no way I could say no. I’m proud to say that my illustrations featured in all of the books in the series, and in the process I discovered new creatures and tales that I had never even imagined. My young self would have definitely approved…

***

Kieran Walsh is an Irish artist living and working in the UK. Based in Leicester, he has worked for over fifteen years delivering community-based arts programmes in disadvantaged areas. Kieran works in a broad range of media, from digital art to sculpture, as well as more traditional crafts including knifemaking. Kieran has illustrated stories in all the seven monster volumes from Fox Spirit Books.

 

Monster Blog – Maria Galina

We really appreciate the extra effort some of our authors go to in providing these blogs and this would have made an excellent New Year Eve post, so my apologies to Maria for the lack of timing on this one.


 

Ded Moroz

by Maria Galina

Ded Moroz (The Old Father Frost) is a personification of deadly winter cold, and (presumably) an old chthonic god of Slavic tribes confronting deadly continental winter in their poor huts. In Russian fairy tales he still bears relic features – for he may be generous and reward the meek and obedient, but be deadly to those who is obstinate and greedy (and he is still the same in the children’s Soviet film “Morozko”).

During the period of Modern with its inevitable revival of “the Russian national spirit”, Moroz became an object of both poems and plays – where he was still presented as the incarnation of the terrible Russian winter.

But after the October Revolution (1917) an interesting transformation took place. Bolsheviks aiming to substitute religious feasts with the “new” and “atheistic” dates, considered X-mas and even (from 1927 to 1935) the New Year’s Day as “bourgeois” and “ideologically inimical”. When returning New Year’s Day, it was appointed to be a substitution of X-mas and subsequently it was purified from all Christian connotations. Even the Star on the top of a Christmas tree was now the Bolshevik symbol. The problem was: who would substitute Saint Nicolaus, children’s favorite personage? And so Ded Moroz (just an ideologically harmless frost, not a dangerous Saint) was chosen for the role.

And thus it happened – the old and cruel chthonic god became a bearded jolly old man in the red or blue caftan visiting children with gifts on the New Year’s Eve. But of course, it is only a mask, we ourselves know who he really is, and if not – read my short story.

***

Maria Galina is the author of several fiction books, including several novels and the three short story collections Red Wolves, Red Gees (“Krasnye volky, Krasnye gusy”), Chicken God (“Kuriny Bog”) and Not Looking Back (“Ne Oglyadyvayas”). Several of Maria’s novels (Iramifications, Autochthones and Malaya Glusha) and short stories are translated to many languages such as English, French, Ukrainian and Polish. Her short stories can be found in anthologies like Glas New Russian writing, Moscow tales: stories, and Racconti russi al femminile. She’s also awarded for her work in the speculative fiction field and has received many awards, including Personal Boris Strugatsky Award (Saint-Petersburg, Russia), Portal award (International SF Convent, Kyiv, Ukraine), and Readers’ award (Big Book Award, Moscow, Russia). Maria is also a prize-winning poet and a translator of English poetry and SF—she for instance translated Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti into Russian. Maria was born in one of the oldest Mid-Russian town—Tver, and lives and works in Moscow. Find more information about her at https://fantlab.ru/autor1342 and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maria_Galina

 

Monster Blog – Shawn Basey

A question on nationality

by Shawn Basey

It is an odd trend to only see regression in today’s world. We look at the last 18 centuries as a reversal of some sort, as though the pagan era were an idyllic time of matriarchy and peace, when neither were remotely true. Perhaps triggering this mindset was Daniel Quinn’s Ishmael, but here he’s referring to a time even before that, a pre-agricultural revolution time. But always this looking back to a mythical yesteryear, of better times – it is persistent throughout modern Western culture, whether looking only a few years back or millennia. This looking back is a political tool, of course, to inspire revanchism, to pass the blame game around and build up an active base of support. It is part of saying it’s their fault when the fault is not in everyone else, but in ourselves.

It is a point I bring up in my latest short story for the Fox Spirit Eurasian Monsters anthology, “Lysa Hora”, which takes place in Tbilisi, Georgia, my home. In Georgia, currently, they have long been undergoing a process of national identification. Ever since the latest unification of the country – the liberating of each half from the Ottoman and Persian yokes – there has been an ongoing struggle of the definition of “Georgian”. So much so, that the most respected writer of the time, Ilya Chavchavadze, concerned himself with the question of “Georgianness” throughout his years. The question was delayed by the Russian and Soviet occupations, only to be reignited after the fall of the latter.

It seems a settled question now: Georgian Language, Georgian Orthodoxy, and Georgian citizenship. But in a historically multicultural society – and one that remains so to a large extent – these are flailing definitions at best. Among native Georgian speakers, we find Orthodox and Catholic Christians (among others), Jews, and Muslims. There are four distinct languages within the Kartvelian (Georgian) language family, and one of those exists only outside of Georgia’s borders in Turkey. Among Georgian citizens and those who have lived here for centuries, we find not just Georgians, but Azeris, Armenians, Os, Abkhaz, Russians, and so on – a larger percent of minorities than all the other countries in the Caucasus region combined. Finally, there’s an ever-growing Georgian diaspora, many of whom have broken many of their ties with Georgia fearing it’s not civilized, wealthy, or modern enough for them.

Be that as it may, Orthodox Christianity is what many latched onto as the defining agency of “Georgianness” after the fall of the Soviet Union. And now many are looking towards Europe and identifying it with some brand of secular, even atheism, which casts a growing doubt in their Church. This sentiment, not shared throughout the population, is creating a growing unease about their role with the European West.

And though I don’t disagree with the direction they are looking, I do disagree that the Church – and the Christian Churches of Western Europe – are necessarily the catalysts of all that is evil in history. In fact, it is this viewpoint that is being driven by many in Europe and here, that’s being picked up and waved about as a sword by Russian propagandists. But let’s not go further with that. Let’s go further on why I don’t think Christianity was such a bad influence. Namely in regards to one single story: the Georgian creation myth.

Not much is known about the religion before Christianity. We know some of the primary figures of the pantheon, we know that both Zoroastrianism and the Greek pantheon were big here, and some of the larger myths, and that it has many influences from the Hittites. Most of the myths we know, like those of Amirani and others, have passed along into Christian stories, with the tales of Christian saints often having been transferred from pagan deities before them. The pagan myths held the strongest in the mountain regions, which were the last to Christianize and to this day still hold a great slew of pagan beliefs and practices, from mass sheep sacrifices to a loosely Christianized shrine practice.

In the ancient days, the world was split up into three planes: Zeskneli, Shuaskneli, and Kveskneli. Zeskneli being the home of the gods and the upper plane, Shuaskneli being our plane, and Kveskneli the home of demonic creatures. Shuaskneli is in mythology more of the battlefield between the two planes.

It is from the mountain people, the Khevsurs, that we get what is left of the story of Morige Ghmerti, the chief god, and his sister. Morige Ghmerti so hated his sister that he banished her from Zeskneli, and she was bent on revenge ever since. For every good creation he made, she made an equal, opposite evil creation. He made gods, she made demons; he made men, she made women. Inhabiting as they all did Shuaskneli at that time, it’s said that the gods finally got tired of battling the demons and left for Zeskneli, leaving behind men. Demigods persisted in banishing the demons from Shuaskneli, leaving behind women.

The situation being, all the bad in the world remaining was from women. The beings of Morige Ghmerti were civilized, social, divine. Those of his sister: wild, chaotic, demonic.

It is perhaps the only religious system in the world that has such a bizarre differentiation between men and women. We do get ideas of the subservience of women to men from other cornerse, but never the idea that women are inferior in such an absolute moral sense from the moment of Creation itself.

We have now in fashion this kind of pagan revivalism, which is made ironic in that it’s coming from the left. In the 19th century Europe, we had such a neo-folk movement, but that from the right, molding into the pseudo-mythology of the Nazi elite. Indeed, the right wing volkists still hold such beliefs today. You can find White Nationalists sprinkled all throughout the folk metal and other folklore communities. You find a rise of pagan symbolism as well, with the Slavic sun wheel, Nordic runes, Georgian Borjgali, and others being coopted by nativist/volkist groups.

The interesting trend in Georgia though – and indeed in many circles throughout the collapsed Soviet Union – is that instead of the neo-pagan revival, we see a neo-Christian revival. Looking back to a Christian utopia that never was.

What I’ve attempted to do in “Lysa Hora” is to turn these ideas around. We have the main character, Otar, a simple-minded taxi driver who is drawn in by the poisonous narrative “Georgia for Georgians”. He’s a hard-core Orthodox believer because that is the definition of Georgia that’s given to him. He rejects all things Western, and sees only the “gayropa” that’s being sold down the propaganda mills. Then there’s his sister, Tinatin, who he assumes is “perverted” by her Westernism. But actually, all that he sees in her as evil is innately Georgian, and the actual old Georgian mythos, with its heart devouring kudiani, is much more horrific than the liberal West. Indeed, Christianity itself is an alien religion, brought from the outside.

But it also echoes that question of national identity. “What is Georgian?” Is it Orthodox Christianity? Is it the paganism before it? Is it something current, something new? And I think we can replace this question of national identity with any nationality, not just Georgian. This period of globalization is a huge stress on identities. National, individual, and so on. It is of course, too hard to cast all those off and be the “New Human”, or a “globalist”. We as humans, need positive definitions by others, so we fall back into these accepted classifications. We find safety and reassurance, and that’s what we really need in this changing world.

***

Shawn Basey is originally from Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA, and he first came to Georgia in 2009 as a volunteer with the Peace Corps. It was then he fell in love with the country and decided to stay. He is now married and has a son named after the founder of Tbilisi, the city which they call home. He works freelance as a writer, teacher, and editor and enjoys traveling the world with his half-Georgian family. He keeps up a regular blog at www.saintfacetious.com and has published the novel How It Ends and the short story collection Hunger, both available on Amazon. He’s currently working on a novel about Georgia during World War II with strong Georgian, Azeri, and Kazakh folklore elements.

 

Believing the Big Lies

There is a wonderful part at the end of Terry Pratchett’s the Hogfather, where Death explains to Susan that we believe in the Toothfairy, the Hogfather etc as practice, believing little lies before we can believe the big ones like Justice. You can look up the exact quote, but it’s on my mind today.

With everything that happened in the US yesterday,  with the UK in it’s 3rd national lockdown, a number of those big lies, things that rely on everyone quietly following the laid out accepted terms of engagement and pretending they are unassailable seem more fragile than ever to me.  

I don’t know what to do about any of this. I remain tucked in relative safety and my own privilege at home, working through the pandemic, and watching the fires (literal and figurative) burning all over the world, including here on my own Island, and hoping we all make it out still relatively whole.

It feels as though all I can do right now is reiterate the things I believe, so I want to take a moment to do that. We will return to Monster Blogs and books and cheerful matters soon, but first from us here at Fox Spirit and specifically your Aunty Fox:

Black lives matter
Trans rights are human rights
LQBTQ+ rights should be equal and unassailable 
Democracy, flawed as it is should be protected and there must be consequences for attacking it
Disabled lives matter
Own voices need to be heard
First people’s land and rights should be protected 

As far as our own world of fiction diverse and own voices are essential.

Just in case anyone was in any doubt where we stand. 
Be safe folks, as best you can.

Not The Fox News: The 4 Kinds of Fire

Image of Beach fire sketch

(Image from fieldwork)

The first kind of fire is what you saw at the edge of the horizon. Low and grey and intimidating certainly, but definitively far away. That was where it hid, in the complacency of distance and difference. It was happening there not here. To them not us. A fire, yes? But not one we could do anything about.

But fire spreads in a way which hypnotizes, which steals memory and perception of linear time. One day the fires were on the horizon. The next you walked past a lady having a nervous, hurried phone call about hand sanitizer.

That weekend the panic buying started.

*

The second type of fire is much closer to home. This is the sort encouraged, but never quite enough, by politicians as terrified as they are outmatched. These are the fires that set distances and because there are so many, for a while, this seems like the cruelest type of all. The archipelago of enthusiasm has always thrived on company in every sense of the word. Culture and joy are team sports, communal experiences where you come in alone but leave as part of a benign conspiracy of joy.

Now you leave one at a time, two meters apart. Now, the fire surrounds you, the floor really IS lava. Now you know where you aren’t provably safe and it’s basically everywhere. The clock is started. It will be stopped. But no one knows when yet.

*

The third type is the fire of the common purpose, of the actual truth spoken to power. A floundering government is worked around. Yet more senseless, un-regarded murders power countless thousands onto the streets, their fire internal, their fire shared. The virus, it transpires much later, not so.

The world, the archipelago is locked in place. But it isn’t frozen. That’s what this fire teaches you. It can be changed, even within your miniscule bubble. It can be healed. By all of you moving as one. Like a fire. Like a flame.

*

It’s the end of the year and you are so, so tired. You stare out across the archipelago, now a collection of islands again. All string lit and salt crust. A gentle tropical faded elegance, like Jagger before Richards fell out of the tree. Chiseled from hedonism and sandstone.

You haven’t heard from anyone for a while. That’s okay too, Everyone’s busy. Everyone’s sheltering under their tier. So you sit and you look absently at your computer screen. It takes you eighteen full minutes to realize it’s blank.

And a further ten to realize the fires are back. This time you don’t wait. This time you’re up and moving. Seal the island, lock the bridges and…

 

You stop and look around you. From your position in the archipelago of human enthusiasm you can see thousands of islands and islets. You can see the places which have been dark for too long. You can see others that may yet return and everywhere else?

Life.

People.

Fire.

Small groups, individuals but so many, dancing your gaze onto the next and the next and the next. Humanity. Damaged. Grieving. Isolated. Together. Burning the old year to prepare for the new one.

You set off for the beach. Time to start a fire of your own.

 

 

Happy 2021 everybody

 

 

Re-Release – The Mangrove Legacy by Kit Marlowe

We are delighted, this Christmas day to announce the re release of a book I reviewed some years ago. It’s always a delight to get a book I enjoyed back out into print/devices so other people can enjoy it, and this one is really fun.

The Mangrove Legacy by Kit Marlowe, with cover art by the fabulous S.L. Johnson closes out a 2020 that has been strange and challenging at best, for all of us. It has not however, lacked in good books to read.

Gothic castles, highwaymen, ghosts, pirates-and a surprising variety of cheeses!

The adventure begins in the middle of Lord Mangrove’s funeral cortege, when cousins Alice and Lizzie are spirited away by masked riders. Next they’re sold to nefarious seamen-then captured by pirates, until they’re lost at sea without so much as an improving book to read! The two intrepid young women discover romance, heartache, fisticuffs, and the vital importance of pockets.

Heartily recommended to anyone who has a sense of humour, even if comedy, gothic and romance are three genres they firmly shun under normal circumstances. ~ Un:Bound

Buy it here!

A free read for Christmas Eve

There will be more monsters blogs in the coming days, but we always like to do a free tale or two for you over Christmas itself, and this one has just the slightest whiff of gingerbread, so I thought it matched the mood nicely. Thanks to Alex for letting us put this up. 

The Gargoyle and the Witch

by Alex MacFadyen

Despite all signs to the contrary, Eileen was not a witch. She had come to the conclusion long ago that if magic did exist in the world it was not hers to wield, but she knew how she looked. Her spine had curved over time and her eyes had never been the same color, the left one the peat green of moss and the right a pale cloudy grey. She wore sensible black boots and a black cape with a pointy hood. At her age she always needed to keep out the cold, the sun, or the rain, and she’d found nothing could beat a good hooded cape.

Continue reading “A free read for Christmas Eve”