There’s more to “once upon a time” than meets the eye…
A version of this story appeared in TEXT.
In a fairy tale equal parts gorgeous and gruesome, village couples seek approval for marriage from a stag with golden rings adorning its horns. That is until one suitor, determined to convince a woman to fall in love with him, makes a rash decision.
Like most Gothics, the Australian Gothic has acquired its own distinct aesthetic—most frequently, an abject unpleasantness and atmosphere of sand-scoured horror. Personally, I’d like to blame both Evil Angels (aka A Cry in the Dark) and Gary Crew’s memorably effective Strange Objects (1990) for many of my own nightmares.
It is also, like most Gothics, tangled up with the genre’s own past, and inextricably knotted into colonial and imperial histories as well as the multitude of other mirrored and recurring histories typical of a Gothic plot. And Australia has a bloody history, with terrible things done and still being done. Yet there are also stories which, without shying away from terrors (although not necessarily innately any better at handling the true history than other varieties of Australian Gothic), manage in a variety of fascinating ways to capture a sense of great (even sublime, often terrifying, never false) beauty.
In a small Western Queensland town, a reserved young woman receives a note from one of her vanished brothers—a note that makes her question memories of their disappearance and her father’s departure…
We’re excited to share an excerpt from Kathleen Jennings’ debut novella Flyaway, a beguiling story that proves that gothic delights and uncanny family horror can live—and even thrive—under a burning sun. Available July 28th from Tordotcom Publishing.
Tor.com is thrilled to reprint “Undine Love” by Kathleen Jennings, which first appeared in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine in 2011.
In the words of the author:
“Undine Love” started as a symptom of reading Gothic fiction (as in, actual Gothic fiction written in the late 1700s and early 1800s, with people being dragged off to hell and screaming “Wertrold, Wertrold, save me!” and wrestling anacondas in Ceylon, in case you ever wondered what Jane Austen’s characters were reading). I began writing a story in suitably anguished prose, then wondered whether (as an exercise) it would work if updated from wuthering medievalish riverbanks to a modern beachhouse. It worked, but it felt rather sandy and unpleasant, so I shifted the story to something like the Lockyer Valley, where my parents live now and where the side roads plunge into deep romantic creek-valleys, and set it at a farmhouse and a bed-and-breakfast above a little river.
After “Undine Love” was first published, a few people asked if I’d write more about Tori and the Damsons and their world. It was an idea I played with now and then, in between other projects and hinted at in other stories, without ever quite naming the connection. But as I wrote Flyaway, set in the more remote areas of (something like) Queensland, I realised it had echoes (though considerably more Gothic) of the concerns that drift below the surface of “Undine Love” and that, indeed, some cobweb Damson relations would be involved in the events of Bettina Scott’s life…
Until recently, I’ve been known more as an illustrator than as a writer (although I’ve always done both). But I rarely do both together.
Although writing and art draw from the same storytelling aquifer, they come up through different wells. Ideas sometimes shift fluidly between the two in the early stages of a project, but usually one—art or words—will quickly take over. In fact, it becomes a challenge to strip an idea entirely of words, or to create a painterly impression using only text, and a challenge for my editors to bring me back to the purpose of a comic.
I’ve been trying to bring writing and images together more often (for example, in short stories for some patrons on Patreon). And when I began a practice-led MPhil at the University of Queensland, researching “The Visual Evocation of the Beautiful Sublime in Australian Gothic Literature”, it was with the grand plan of doing just this with the creative component, which became Flyaway.
Australia is on fire.
It is not the only disaster happening in the world. It is not that we have not had fires before. But the breadth and impact are unprecedented.
This post will not summarise the situation, or lay out all the causes and consequences. Much of it is obvious, and there are so many people in the midst of it who are yet to tell their stories, and many good journalists, scientists and historians who are taking on that responsibility — most reputable news sites have by now published overviews. And the fires are still burning. They are moving slow and fast, high and low, through places that have burnt already, and others that have rarely been threatened before. The stories are still emerging.
A composer in an unstable city-state accidentally discovers the perfect singer for his work—a clockwork man—and sows the seeds of revolution.