Unity of Vision in a Story Collection

Rhys Hughes, whose short story collection ‘Salty Kiss Island’ has recently been released by Immanion Press, shares his thoughts on creating a unity of vision in compiling a collection of short stories.

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My new collection of stories is my favourite among my books of stories, but I wasn’t fully aware of this fact until I actually held a published copy in my hands and took a deep breath. The sigh that came out was one of deep contentment and then I knew.

I have often said that such-and-such a book is my personal favourite and there have been many candidates for that distinction but Salty Kiss Island has a quality, I’m not sure what, that most others don’t have, an unplanned quality. Purity perhaps.

Not purity in the sense of lacking bite and darkness, but purity in the unity of the visions that the book assembles and disseminates. The stories just seem to fit together very nicely. They amplify each other. I feel great delight at the final sum of the parts.

We write stories over a long period of time, years, even decades, and when we collect them together into a book we can’t really know what the end result will be like. The stories weren’t written to be together, they are discrete pieces existing on their own.

And now they are suddenly required to appear with other stories, to dwell with neighbours between the covers of a book, and they are asked to do this because they have themes in common, or an approach or tone that categorizes them. They are allied.

How will they get along? This is impossible to predict accurately until the book is ready. Sometimes they will interfere with each other, quarrel, contradict, attenuate, decay. If they are juxtaposed like this, elements that weren’t weaknesses may become so.

For example, any repetition of ideas, moods, events and reactions will be plain to see. Such repetition may not be self-plagiarism on the part of the author, it may not be indolence, it might be convergent evolution, the same solution to utterly different texts.

But it won’t look that way to the reader, it will appear like a limitation or an obsession, unless the repetition has strong intertextual attributes and adds its pulsation to the bigger rhythm, to the heartbeat of the entire book, the general health of the fictive gestalt.

That is a difficult thing to engineer. It means that every time a story is being composed, the author responsible must take care not only with the aesthetic parameters of that particular work but also consider how it will unite with and complement every other story he or she has written or will write. This is surely too much to ask. The writer therefore must fall back on the emergency option of serendipity.

Happy chance can assemble a short story collection from many pieces that turns out to be harmonious, cohesive, synchronised. The stories may amplify each other in ways the author never imagined, reveal aspects that were hidden before the gathering. Such a story collection has the unity of a novel while remaining a true collection.

I never supposed that the majority of my fantastical love stories would appear in a single volume. It wasn’t planned at all. I didn’t even realise I was in thematic thrall while writing them. Each was just a new tale and a striving to express burning ideas, to get them out of my head and onto the page, where they would leave me alone.

But I truly believe it has turned out very well, better than I had hoped, and that Salty Kiss Island is an important stage of personal fulfillment on the somewhat rickety career ladder of my writing life. I am not especially successful in terms of sales, despite the critical acclaim my work garners, yet I am satisfied now. This book exists.

Every writer has a host of influences and inspirations. These might be situations and circumstances, remarkable people, abstractions, sensations, the desire to be different or to be the same. And other authors will always play a large part in the creation of a prose style, in the fundamentals of a writer’s vision and method. We attempt to imitate, then we rapidly go off on tangents, and our tangents collide and mesh with other tangents given off by other influences, and fly off again.

My fantastical love stories were influenced by my love of whimsy and invention, by certain individuals, by memories of (and yearnings for) the tropical life, by music from Brazil and Cape Verde, by the sea and stars, by the incredible writers Amado, Pessoa, Couto, Vian, Calvino, by hope and anticipation, and always by language.

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New Fiction Titles for June 2017

We’re pleased to announce two new fiction titles this month. First up is Storm Constantine’s ‘A Raven Bound with Lilies: Stories of the Wraeththu Mythos‘.

Wraeththu – a new species or the next step in the evolution of humankind? Androgynous, and stronger in mind and body than their human predecessors, Wraeththu rose from the ruins of human civilisation to start afresh. New custodians of a battered planet, they have a choice:  work and grow to become worthy custodians of the world, or succumb to the lingering humanity within them, and perish as their forerunners did. Naturally magical, often possessing unearthly beauty, and sometimes deadly, the Wraeththu have captivated readers since Storm Constantine’s first novel, The Enchantments of Flesh and Spirit, was published in 1988.

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Since then, the author has completed three trilogies, three novellas and numerous short stories. This anthology collects all her published Wraeththu stories into one volume, and also includes extra material, including the author’s first explorations of the androgynous race and their world, dating back to the late 1970s.

From the ‘creation story’ Paragenesis, through the bloody, brutal rise of the earliest Wraeththu tribes, when hara fought for control and power, (Pro Lucror), and on into a future where they have overcome their savage beginnings, and strange mutations are starting to emerge from hidden corners of the earth, (Painted Skin), the fifteen stories within this book explore different shades and colours of the Wraeththu world.

With sumptuous illustrations by official Wraeththu artist Ruby, as well as pictures from Danielle Lainton and the author herself, A Raven Bound with Lilies is a must for any Wraeththu enthusiast, and is also a comprehensive introduction to the mythos for those who are new to it.

The second new titles is from Rhys Hughes, a prolific creator of strange and wonderful short stories. Salty Kiss Island collects for the first time Rhys’s fantastical love stories.

What is a fantastical love story? It isn’t quite the same as an ordinary love story. The events that take place are stranger, more extreme, full of the passion of originality, invention and magic, as well as an intensification of emotional love. Also, the voice that tells them has rather a different tone to a conventional romantic narrator.

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The stories in Salty Kiss Island are set in this world and others, spanning the spectrum of possible and impossible experiences, the uncharted territories of yearning, the depths and shoals of the heart, mind and soul. They are adventure yarns, whimsies and comedies, tragedies and paradoxes. They are melancholy, gleeful, philosophic or mystical. A love of language runs through them, parallel to the love that motivates their characters to feats of preposterous heroism, luminous lunacy and grandiose gesture. They include tales of minstrels and their catastrophic serenades, dreamers sinking into sequences of ever-deeper dreams, goddesses and mermaids, sailors and devils, messages in bottles that can think and speak but never be read, shadows with an independent life and voyagers of distant galaxies who are already at their destinations before they arrive.

The authors of these books are available for interview, as well as guest posts on blogs, and review PDF copies can be applied for by mailing info(at)immanion-press(dot)com.

Para Animalia – New Wraeththu Anthology Call for Submissions

Storm Constantine’s Wraeththu Mythos

Para Animalia: Creatures of Wraeththu

Following on from the previous anthologies of Wraeththu Mythos stories, this new collection will focus upon the Wraeththu’s relationship with the animal kingdom – creatures both existing and imaginary.

We are calling for submissions to this anthology, of stories between 3,000 and 10,000 words. As with the former anthologies, we are mainly looking for pieces that do not involve characters from the original Wraeththu books, although such characters may have ‘cameo appearances’ if it suits the story. Writers who were included in the previous collections may also expand upon characters (or their descendants or ancestors) who they created for their earlier stories, if they so wish.

Contributors can explore how various Wraeththu tribes interact with animals, have spiritual or working relationships with them, or even encounter zoological mysteries out in the world. Stories may also include Wraeththu shape-shifting, or their relationship with the sedim. As long as the story focuses around some kind of animal, your imagination is otherwise given no restriction. The stories can also be set in any time period of Wraeththu history.

Please let us know if you are interested in contributing and provide a short synopsis of your idea, by mailing Storm at the above email address. The deadline for completed submissions is 31st March 2015.  As before, there will be a one off payment of $25 per story. Contributors are welcome to submit more than one.

If you know of anyone who might like to contribute, please feel free to pass this information to them.