Resonance & Revolt shortlisted for BFS award!

Screenshot 2019-07-30 18.03.32Some brilliant news – Resonance & Revolt has been shortlisted for Best Collection in the British Fantasy Awards. For a full listing of the nominees and jurors in all categories, check out the BFS link.

I’m in fabulous (and female) company on this shortlist, which also includes All the Fabulous Beasts by Priya Sharma, The Future is Blue by Catherynne M Valente, How Long ‘til Black Future Month? by NK Jemisin, Lost Objects by Marian Womack and Octoberland by Thana Niveau. I found it very interesting that this shortlist has turned out to be all women.

This is the first time that I’ve appeared on a BFS shortlist so I’m thrilled to be included alongside these brilliant writers. And I’m especially excited to see that women writers have made a strong showing in all categories as well as the collections shortlist.

27654537_1364622573643699_4256024437919273175_nI’m also very pleased to see that Eibonvale Press has done well – David Rix has been nominated for Best Artist and Humangerie (edited by Allen Ashley and Sarah Doyle) shortlisted for Best Anthology.

Meanwhile, to mark World Con in Dublin I’m looking back on my visit to the city last year for the Dublin Ghost Story Festival at the Milford SF blog with an update of my 2018 post: Return to Dublin. These are two very different cons: one will be massive while the other was designed to be small and intimate. But Dublin’s rich heritage in the speculative and the supernatural provides a common thread through them both. I look forward to visiting this city again to talk about weird stuff! I’ll be back very soon with more details about my panels in my next post.

20190803_07071620190803_070338In other news, I’ve contributed a two-part piece to zine extraordinaire Dykes Ink. This is produced by Dead Unicorn Ventures, an LGBT+ events company based in West Cornwall.  My old friend Julie Travis, who is one of the moving spirits behind this project, suggested I write something about dykes and squatting in the past. Seeking a connection to Cornwall, I hit upon my tender memories of the notorious Treworgey Tree Fayre, which has become legendary in the chronicles of festive excess and headbanging. Then I remembered that the festival was the second event of a paradoxical and exciting summer in 1989; the first event on our calendar was the International Revolutionary Women’s Gathering just outside Ruigord in Holland.

So I ended up writing about both: “From the vantage point of 30 years, these two events may stand in contrast to each other. Yet they were both very much part of our stream of partying and politics.”

Finally, the Pareidolia anthology came out last month. You can read about my story “Geode” and what inspired it here in my last blog post. Now I look forward to reading all the stories in my contributor’s copy. And here is an overexposed shot of my copy seated on a purple velvet cushion that seems suitably pareidolic.

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Resonating & resonacting

unnamedTime to highlight a wonderful and thought-provoking review of Resonance & Revolt from Rachel Hill at Strange Horizons. It’s been out for a few weeks so yeah, I don’t exactly blog at the speed of light. But in case you’ve missed it, I’m here now to share it and express thanks and appreciation for the knowledge Hill brings to the review.

To begin with, she has a winning familiarity with the history of south-east London: “A location which, from the 1381 Peasants’ Revolt to 1977’s ‘Battle of Lewisham’ (where local counter-demonstrators prevented the far-right National Front from marching), has a rich history of revolt and features heavily in her stories.”

Some reviews inspire writers to look at their own work in a new way and that’s the case with this one. Hill references the writing of philosopher Ernst Bloch on music and the utopian impulse when discussing my story In the Pines  (natch, Ernie now occupies a place on my TBR list):

stramge horizons-logo“Bloch places music as the foremost form of utopian impulse, as it affords “ways in this world by which the inward can become outward and the outward like the inward” (Spirit of Utopia, p. 231). These ways of being are full of productive “revolutionary tension.” In other words, music yokes together listeners in a shared experience of resonance which can be the basis of collective action. Similarly, Rabinowitz echoes Bloch’s structure of harmonious oscillation between self and world(s), prompted by music, as demonstrated by the collection’s first story, ‘In the Pines’.”

Hill coins a cool new word: resonacting or a “process of resonance which catalyses new action”. Such resonaction “refracts throughout the collection, propagating further revolt through new and extended frequencies”.

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She stresses the prominence of psychogeography in my stories and the role of the dérive, a concept that comes from Guy Debord (his classic text pictured left) and the Lettrist and Situationist International. A dérive is a critical wander through a city or a landscape that opens up our understanding of the environment and how it manifests its social history. It can involve breaking out of everyday relations and discovering new ways of occupying space. She suggests that Evelyn in Return of the Pikart Posse goes on a dérive through the town of Tábor and the ruins of a fortress that had been occupied by the free-loving anti-authoritarian heretics that she is researching: “Evelyn attunes herself to the resonances of the Czech landscape, enabling her body to become a channel, or a transtemporal site.” Transtemporal – I like that.

At the time I wrote the story I was thinking: hey, Evelyn’s pissed on the pivo and having a wander. As you do. While I’m no stranger to psychogeography and situationism – and I’ve taken part in activism where they were influences – I wasn’t thinking about these elements consciously.

But yes, my character is indeed dériving under the influence of heightened emotion and perception (perhaps helped by a few drinks) and a deep longing to connect with the past and a different kind of future. And then there are sensual encounters with “psychic residues”, an idea that casts some of my motifs in a different light too.

Hill also offers insight into The Turning Track – co-written with Matt Joiner – and the way its multidimensional train unites the layers charted throughout the collection. 

I’ll add that after reading Rachel Hill’s piece, I reacquainted myself with the general excellence of the reviews and critical essays in Strange Horizons – which describes itself as “a free weekly speculative fiction magazine with a global perspective”. And then there’s the fiction! This brings us to their current fundraiser and a link to their Kickstarter if you’d like to donate something to ensure that this good work continues. Be assured I’m not just making this plug because they gave me a good review – I believe it’s a project worth supporting. Really.

Des Lewis review book 3

And since we’ve been on the subject of inspiring critics and criticism… Des Lewis has collected his online ‘real-time reviews’ into a series of books. I’m in this one, alongside Nicholas Royle (as editor), Ron Weighell, Andrew Hook, Helen Marshall and Malcolm Devlin. Needless to say, I’m there in excellent company. If you haven’t read it, you can still check out Des’ real-time review of R&R online and see my comments about real-time reviews (and rugelach) here.

Finally, you might be amused by visiting a link to a humorous look at psychogeography in a cartoon by Tom Gauld. Pigeons and focaccia are involved!

 

 

May Day sale plus more reviews for R&R

Only a few more wicker-weaving days until May Day! You also have the opportunity to nab a book bargain…

To mark May Day, Resonance & Revolt is on sale with the Kindle edition going for a mere 99p! For those who prefer paper, the very handsome hardback edition is also slashed to a third of the price. In addition, prices are also cut on Hive and other online booksellers (or they were the last time I looked). 

priyaAnd if you want to find out more before you spend your 99p, Priya Sharma – author of the wonderful collection All the Fabulous Beasts and forthcoming novella Ormeshadow – gives a good rundown in her February 2019 review on Goodreads:

“Medieval activists lie side by side with modern scholars, Jewish protesters bend space to seek an alien Golem and a woman walks through the past in her pink patent leather boots… There’s a fascinating archeology in this book, some of the work revealing London’s sociopolitical geography by slipping through time. And it’s shot through with droll, knowing humour.”

The first review for 2019 was followed by several others that definitely put a spring in my step. On the morning of 30 March I woke up with a sore throat and a headache, sure I was coming down with something nasty. But then I came across a new review of R&R from Nancy Oakes on the Oddly Weird Fiction blog and I recovered from whatever ailed me. Oakes writes:

“The book is a beautiful blending of the historical, the mystical, the surreal, and the strange, but more than that, it is a book that is absolutely relevant to right now in her rendering of many recognizable contemporary issues. The stories do not easily yield answers, but the more you read the more in tune you become, as her writing not only crawls under your skin, but deep into your pores, your veins and your entire being.”

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Oakes’ review also includes a shoutout for Lynda E Rucker’s “excellent and most insightful introduction” and praise for the quality of books published by Eibonvale Press. She also suggests: “There is just something about this collection of stories that makes me want to buy a gazillion copies of it, then hand it out to people and tell them “you really need to read this.” 

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Supernatural Tales then published a review on 5 April. Editor David Longhorn mentions some difficult personal circumstances so I particularly appreciate that he took the time to write these kind words:

“These stories are fun to read, as playful and intelligent as anything you will find elsewhere… I recommend it to anyone who likes well-written imaginative fiction that has something passionate and thoughtful to say about our human condition, and how we might struggle to improve it.”

Melanie Whitlock’s review at Super Ink Arts first asked the question “Should I read this book?” I am pleased that the answer is ‘yes’:

“Rabinowitz has delivered us a collection of short stories and tales that are completely out of the ordinary, spanning from the medieval era all the way to modern day London, covering quantum entanglement and the often gritty anti-austerity life in-between. Rebellions, war-torn Munich, the swinging free-loving 1960s and Russia, all becoming key places of interest and stop offs along our journey back and forth between the past and the present. Each story set, linking to the last and filled with the mysterious, wondrous and often at times the weird.”

Screenshot 2019-04-25 20.28.46I keep hearing that it’s not the done thing to respond to reviews in any way. If you’re talking about arguing with a bad review or harassing a critic, I certainly agree. But I wonder how it could be wrong to thank someone for the time they took to read and review a book, or to respond to a thought-provoking point. 

So I’ll say here, on my own blog, that I was delighted with all of these reviews. Thank you to all the folks who wrote them. And I’ve been especially chuffed when the words ‘fun’ and ‘humour’ came up. I hoped to avoid any impression of worthiness and preachiness while I was putting the book together, and I’m very glad that it’s worked for at least a few people. 

Meanwhile, the voting for the British Fantasy Awards shortlist is open until 3 May. If you are eligible to vote I urge you to do so and support the authors you’ve enjoyed. R&R happens to be eligible in the single-author collection category but 2018 was also a bumper year for excellent collections from many of my favourite writers. So please vote for the books of your choice – it doesn’t have to be mine! And if you’re as indecisive as I am you’ll be pleased to find that several choices are allowed in each category.

I’m thrilled with the growing interest in short stories and collections of shorter fiction – not too long ago they were seen as a dying breed. Here’s a chance to affirm that’s not the case.  

Finally… here’s a fine version of In the Pines/Where Did You Sleep last night. I confess that I responded to the Super Ink Arts review, which mentioned this song, by tweeting the video below. So shoot me! 

 

 

 

R&R review roundup

After that first wonderful review from Des Lewis in May, there was a vast silence of several months on the Resonance & Revolt review front. To be honest, it had me worried.

But eventually the reviews began to appear, starting with a couple on Amazon and GoodReads.  Clare Bonetree wrote: “Rabinowitz has an incredible imagination, but a really down to earth style… Totally recommending this to speculative fiction fans, and anyone who wants to live in a different, more creative world.”

A certain Steve describes “radical and mysterious journeys” and “stories from London, in the recent past and near future, from medieval and contemporary Europe and from a century or so of America. Music, pictures, sounds, and acts of rebellion resonate across time”.

And just before I packed my bags for Fantasycon I came across this post on Peter Coleborn‘s blog.  Peter brought up the same dipping vs devouring question that I mentioned in relation to Uncertainties III. And so it seems that R&R is one for dipping. Perhaps that’s why it took a  while for the reviews to appear, what with all the dipping and sipping going on! 🙂

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“Rabinowitz is a wonderful stylist who writes compassionately about characters you want to care about. She writes from the heart… I suggest that you dip in and out of Resonance and Revolt and savour the tales along with a glass of wine (or coffee or tea or G&T; your choice, I’m not being prescriptive).”

I personally would recommend whisky myself to accompany an R&R reading session, but I wouldn’t want to be prescriptive either.

panNext up is the Pan Review. Like Deborah Walker in her Goodreads (and Amazon.co.uk) review, editor Mark Andresen singles out “Bells of the Harelle” as a favourite story:

“This collection’s finest, most satisfying tale, deserving of future anthologising. Served mainly by its narrative’s sense of urgency, the opening line alone pulls you in…”

Mark also mentions certain stories as ‘lesser tales’ that didn’t quite do it for him. I found this most interesting in light of my deliberations as I put the collection together. When I was reading through the stories I was thinking that a bunch of back-to-back novelette-length historical tales might be kind of… too much at once. So I concluded it’s best to have something short and snappy and lighter between them. I received some advice suggesting this as as well – and I wrote about the process in a guest post I contributed to the Milford SF blog.

Of course, I discovered again that everyone has their own preferences. Later, comments from Steven Andrew at the Morning Star reflected both on the larger themes and the smaller stories:

DrZ0P7BWkAEJRet“Rabinowitz eschews clumsy agitprop-style didactics and doesn’t offer easy answers. Given to open-ended responses, her interest is largely driven by wonder at people’s continued ability to love, think and rebel against capital, often in the most difficult and unlikely circumstances… Another strength is that Rabinowitz brings to her writing a deeply rooted sense of place and many of the passages are informed and affectionate celebrations of her now-native London.”

Along with ‘insurrectionary insights’ this reviewer also enjoyed the quieter and more personal elements of the stories:

“Lots of the radicals dip in and out of struggle, get drunk, fall into relationships and are often wracked with self-doubt, jaded librarian Richard in Pieces of Ourselves being a prime illustration… Often a quiet, gentle and comedic perspective ensures that not all the contributions are full of frenzied street fighting. The magical realism of Tasting the Clouds is kick-started by a chance tasting of Zapatista coffee and an all too familiar conversation about the merits or otherwise of ethical shopping.”

So I found it very enlightening to read through different reactions. All these stories received multiple critiques before they were first submitted and published but there’s nothing like an overview of a collection from a fresh eye. This is all part of a learning curve and offers food for thought as I plan my second collection.

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Later, Phil Smith wrote about my use of realism in writing the fantastical in his Mythogeography blog. That gave me a glow because I’ve always responded most to works that mingle the concrete and gritty with the strange and numinous. This applies to what I enjoy reading and the effects I try to achieve in my own work.

“There is nothing predictable in Rosanne Rabinowitz’s short story collection Resonance & Revolt. Rabinowitz’s writing is very precisely detailed, drawing realist worlds and then infiltrating them; there are only a few monsters here, but mostly everything is monstrous. The most effective of Rabinowitz’s stories are those in which the realist details are radically possessed by shifting energy: tiny patches of skin that become a double in ‘Pieces of Ourselves’, a naff landscape painting that won’t stay fixed in ‘Keep Them Rollin’, a scruffy cap that passes for a mask in ‘The Peak’, an old bloodsucker in ‘Survivor’s Guilt’ and the spirit of ‘The Pleasure Garden’.”

And in the most recent review, Jaine Fenn makes this observation about how the stories fit together and complement each other.

jaine_green_bkgnd“Overall these tales are vibrant and relevant, displaying exquisite writing, passionate characters and strong sense of place. Although each story stands alone, I took great pleasure in spotting the links – or should I say resonances – between them. They cover themes including quiet but persistent rebellion, love without borders and the malleable nature of time and space as revealed by physics or ritual.”

There are also a few words of thoughtful criticism in Jaine’s review that are appreciated just as much as the praise.

Peter Coleborn’s comments have made me think more about the dipping vs devouring approach to anthologies and collections. Is one better than the other? I imagine that a novelist’s first thought would be: ‘I want to keep the reader reading FFS’. On the other hand, one friend has said that a powerful collection for her usually lends itself to dipping – the best stories are so intense that she needs space between them to think and truly appreciate them.

I’d be interested to hear what other writers and readers think on this score. And I’d also like to thank all the reviewers for taking the time to read and write about Resonance & Revolt. If anyone else reading this post would like to review R&R then get in touch with Eibonvale Press, or you can contact me if that’s easier. Or feel free to scribble a line or stick up a rating at Goodreads or Amazon or any review site of your choice.

Last, I’ll mention that not all the reviews were strictly literary. Jason Whittle speaks well of the rugelach that accompanied my reading of “The Matter of Meroz” at Fantasycon; he described my first attempt at concocting the Jewish pastries (with almond, sour cherry and apricot fillings) as “delicious”. So thank you too, Jason.

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Dorian’s doing well!

grande_scarlet1Here’s a very nice review of The Scarlet Soul in Lovecraft Ezine, which praises the quality of all ten stories and the physical production of the book. Acep Hale also describes my contribution to this anthology:

“Rosanne Rabinowitz’s “All That Is Solid” is another story from The Scarlet Soul that has stuck with me. It is the story of two friends, Gosia and Ilona, living in London after the passage of Brexit. As both of them have Polish backgrounds uncertainties start to creep into Gosia’s psyche as more and more overt examples of British nationalism start happening around her. Ilona passes on the number of a counselor who suggests that since Gosia is a freelance designer art therapy may help? I feel that Rabinowitz displays an acute sensibility with “All That Is Solid” that is as respectful as it is chilling.”

Last thing I heard, Dublin-based Swan River Press said that they were down to their last five copies of The Scarlet Soul. So to quote Janis Joplin, get it while you can!

Swan River does put out some very fine books, concentrating on strange and supernatural fiction with an Irish connection. I look forward to meeting editor Brian J Showers and others in person this summer at the Dublin Ghost Story Festival. And if any readers of this blog happen to be attending, I look forward to meeting you.

Meanwhile, I’ve set up a new page for R&R. It includes a table of contents that links most of the stories with a related post or review giving background or thoughts about the story. I’ve also linked to the blogs of Lynda E. Rucker and Mat Joiner, friends and fellow writers who’ve contributed to this book.

The paperback edition of Resonance & Revolt will be released on the very appropriate date of 1 May. You can pre-order it from Eibonvale or from Amazon. Keep an eye out for news about a launch event and an ebook edition.

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Off to the printers…

Final tweaks and twiddles done. The book has been sent!

Back in my ‘zine mongering days, ‘going to the printers’ meant stumbling onto a train after pulling an all-nighter, lugging the artwork in some unwieldy and tattered portfolio. I was always terrified that something could happen along the way that would scupper publication. A train wreck, perhaps. Or I’d be mugged for the very coveted contents of my portfolio.

Now it’s so much easier. Just a click of the button, according to Eibonvale editor David Rix.

And glasses are now raised in Kennington and Hackney…

Cheers!

Resonance & Revolt on its way…

unnamedThe final touches to my collection Resonance & Revolt are in progress and it should be ready to go to the printer very soon. Ebook editions will also be produced. There may be a further tweak or two on the cover but the picture above should give you a good idea of what it will look like. Meanwhile, the book is available for preorder at Eibonvale Press.

Eibonvale describes the book as an “intense and erudite collection of slipstream stories steeped in European history and the world of modern Britain”. This extract from the introduction provided by Lynda E Rucker – friend, fellow writer and cohort in several anthologies – expands on this:

At the heart of Resonance & Revolt is a radical reimagining of what the world could be, both politically and metaphysically. Revolutionaries spill out of its pages, whether they hail from 15th-century Central Europe, the present-day era of austerity in the UK or one of its likely near-futures…
Reading Rosanne’s stories feels like standing in the ruins of a thousand-year-old fortress where you can almost hear the past breathing around you, or in some other liminal place: a magical wood, perhaps, but sometimes the most ordinary of city streets, where you might slip into somewhere else before you realise what’s happened.
You will find all of those places in here, ruins and enchanted woods and city streets that unexpectedly contain magic, and more besides. This sense, of the permeable nature of time and place, is one of the things I love best in these stories, but there are others as well: the striking characters, artists and misfits and activists, many of them existing on the fringes but all of them tough survivors still engaged with the world around them.
The stories here make you want to look at the world more intently, for it is heaving with possibility if only we know how to look. This is an idea that comes up again and again, the sense that we need to pay attention. That there really is a deep mystery at the heart of it all, and it’s worth seeking it out.

When I’m so close to my own work, rubbing my nose in it on a daily basis, it’s easy to lose sight of its essence. It often takes another eye to put it all in perspective, and I thank Lynda for her inspiring comments. I hope those of you reading this will join me in seeking out the deep mystery and discovering that vision of the world as it could be.