Talie Helene is a musician and writer, from Melbourne. She writes poetry, fiction, and songs. Talie is horror editor for the anthology The Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror (Ticonderoga Publications); she was news editor for the Australian Horror Writers’ Association for four years (2006-2010). She is a member of the SuperNova writers’ group. Talie has a background in music journalism – especially extreme genres – and has performed with many artists including The Tenth Stage, Wendy Rule, Sean Bowley, Saba Persian Orchestra, Maroondah Symphony, and Eden. You can find out about her latest news and projects at www.taliehelene.com.
1. You have been editing the horror component of Ticonderoga Publications’ ‘Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror’ for 4 years now, with the 2012 edition joint winner of the Aurealis Award for Best Anthology (Congratulations!) What draws you back to this project each year and when can we expect the 2013 volume to be out?
Thank you. That Aurealis Award was a surprise and a delight.
The next book will hopefully be finished in a few weeks; nursing a damaged paw for our workload of hundreds of personalized emails has been a bit of a drag.
This anthology was never something I imagined myself doing. I set myself a volunteer project of learning the scope of the Australian horror publishing scene when I was AHWA News Editor, and that knowledge turned into a commodity as an unexpected outcome. What draws me back to the project? Well, it is too cool a job to not do it. I am still learning about literature from doing it, so I am genuinely interested in the process.
2. One of the features of the ‘Year’s Best’ is the overview of fantasy and horror that you and Liz Grzyb write, as well as a list of recommended titles. Why do you think these are important to include with the stories, and have you noticed any trends in Horror over the 4 years since you have been editing the series?
An overview essay and a list of recommended titles are conventions of a ‘Year’s Best’ anthology. It isn’t something we originated, but I think it adds value to the series by making it a true reference library, and it creates continuity between volumes. The list of recommended titles is important because there are many more fine works published each year than the ones we collect, and to not acknowledge that would be arrogance. It also makes something meaningful of all the work we do trying to read everything, and read it closely and with critical appraisal.
I haven’t been consciously dividing my research into streams of data for analysis of sub-genre popularity, trope trends, or gender participation – I certainly have the data, but a scholarly analysis hasn’t been my objective. Really to do something interesting, it would be better to just keep collecting the information, because that luxury of time is something that a PhD candidate doesn’t have. Without cracking open the archives of the last four years, zombies were hugely popular when we started the series, and they are far less fashionable now.
3. In a recent interview you mentioned that you are developing an idea for an anthology of original fiction for Ticonderoga, to be co-edited with Jodi Cleghorn. Can you tell us more about that anthology? Are you looking forward to the opportunity to edit previously unpublished work, compared to the reprints collected in the ‘Year’s Best’?
That interview was before my gnarly skateboard accident! Jodi and Russell and I haven’t hashed out enough about that anthology for me to satisfy your curiosity. I cannot tell you much beyond it being set in the world of gigs and performance. I’m so tunnel vision on the Year’s Best this month, I honestly haven’t given that book much thought, but it will be cool to edit the project. Everyone has his or her area of specialised knowledge. When fiction authors get “your thing” wrong in their fiction, it really grates. (Of course, no one beyond the specialised field really cares – we all have “our thing” that we are obsessed with, that we think everyone else should be equally obsessed with!) So it will be cool to make this one book, where I can make sure there are no wrong notes in that context.
4. What Australian works have you loved recently?
I saw double bassist Nick Tsiavos and friends perform ‘Maps For Losing Oneself’ at the Melbourne Recital Centre. The brilliant energy of newly composed works – the ink was “still wet” – and the tremendous humour, Nick joking, “If you see us with furrowed brow, it’s probable we’re wondering ‘Where are we?'” Motifs were based on the traditional Greek mourning laments that widows sing to the dead. There was gorgeous layering of textures and limited material being passed between instruments – bowed percussion, bowed vibraphone, saxophone, some really lovely use of legato arpeggios on the double bass, unfolding as a slowly evolving minimalist texture. Both the soprano and double bassist had lovely vibrato and intonation. I have ten pages of incredibly music-nerdy notes, the minutia of which I will spare you – but ‘Maps For Losing Oneself’ was just awesome!
I’m also enjoying a CD called ‘The Unlovable’ by Melbourne band Falloe, a melancholy country band based around songwriter Wade F. Piva. Unfortunately Falloe released the CD and immediately went on indefinite hiatus; if they had not, you might know who they are, because this album deserves to be gigged around the world. I caught the launch at The Workers’ Club, the only gig they are doing in support of it, and I was lucky enough to hear various songs in the production process. They have some throwaway drinking songs, but the darker back-woodsy songs, set around the rural town of Ayr (about 85 km south of Townsville in Queensland) – there is some really cool storytelling going on with this band. The opening and closing songs on the CD are magnificent. The Ballad of Pierre & Annabelle is a tender, oddly whimsical murder ballad. The closing song The Wedding Dress – the producer Adam Calaitzis was aiming to make it sound like Nick Cave at Abbey Road, and it is seriously bone-shaking. I won’t spoil the twist, but The Wedding Dress is such a headfuck, it is as much of a horror story as any work of prose I’ve read this year.
If you were hoping I’d recommend books… between being jury chair for the Short Fiction Jury for the Bram Stoker Awards, judging the AHWA Short Story & Flash Competition, and reading for Year’s Best – there is nothing I can tell you without plagiarising myself elsewhere!
I’ve been enjoying Beraldo Coffee quite a lot.
5. Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work? What do you think you will be publishing/writing/reading in five years from now?
Which recent changes? Honestly, I am so underground; a lot of industry shuffles don’t sink low enough to touch me. (Not that I haven’t applied for shiny editorial jobs and internships, but having “horror” on one’s CV in publishing, is a bit like submitting a porn show reel when applying to be a serious actor.) If you mean self-publishing – I trained in audio engineering just as the digital recording revolution went domestic. That revolution taught us gatekeepers make art better, accessing experts makes art better, and being rejected makes art better. There are always exceptions to the rule, incredibly talented people who can smash out great art by pulling together an expansive skill-set, but for those people the patience to skill-up is their talent. It is pretty rare. If you mean digital publishing and piracy – this surprises no one with a toe in music industry. I was expecting piracy to hurt publishing. It sucks, but digital content is too vulnerable. Welcome to the music industry, where every day is “Talk Like A Pirate Day”. If you mean that other thing… what was that other thing?
In five years, I will still be reading horror (like The Hotel California, you can never leave), but I’ve never been exclusive to a genre with my tastes. Having genre expertise is smart arts business, but to be too insular is unhelpful in growing one’s writing. As for writing… I will still be writing songs. I would probably still be writing poetry and non-fiction. I would hopefully not only have a novel in print, but have a couple in print. And saying more about that… would be like not using the phrase “The Scottish Play” in rehearsal in the theatre.