Interview by Stephanie Gunn.
Talie Helene is a musician and writer, from Melbourne, Australia. 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, Saba Persian Orchestra, Maroondah Symphony, and Eden. She will be blogging her adventure in completing a sound production diploma and awesome internship/s in 2017 at Soundgirls.Org.
You can learn more about her creative activities at her website www.taliehelene.com
You’ve been co-editing The Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror for six years now. Can you tell us about the process of selecting works for the anthology? What lessons have you learned about editing over the years of producing the anthologies?
The process is more complex than a set of arbitrary rules, because each year is different. The broad strokes stuff that is almost “by the numbers” just to get through the first high-volume reading is not a very interesting process, and I think the sense of theatre of the finished books would be broken if I outlined that process here.
As for what I have learned – for the most part, I cannot tell you, as the annoying stuff, the gritty observations, those are rarely diplomatic, and given the nature of an annual anthology, that would make my life interesting in ways I do not need. Discretion is the better part of PayPal, or something.
The most shareable thing I have learned is to never form fixed opinions about writers: accomplished writers can still botch a solo, and a writer who may seem of middling ability one year, can hone their chops and improve out of sight in twelve months. Fans can hold fixed opinions, but editors should not. Getting attached to a notion of who a writer is, and what they can do, and fixing that notion in some kind of hierarchy of worthiness, would be a really counterproductive way of thinking. Keeping an open mind, taking things story by story, ignoring the ego game, not being a “fan” of anyone, and staying open to being surprised – those are good processes.
As well as being an editor, you’re a musician. How do the two fields interplay for you? Do you find that they feed into each other, or are they something that you keep separate in your life?
Ugh. My musicianship has been plagued by injuries, and this has made me feel my identity as a musician is amorphous, and that is fairly distressing and very self-erasing – which is not even an original experience, there are SWOT teams of music therapists ineptly beat boxing about it as I type this, and power to them (or more likely tenure).
Earl Livings cautioned me I would have to be careful people didn’t start thinking of me as “just an editor, and not a writer” – derp.
But, OK, trying to answer this – I think editing and music would feed into each other more if I was in an advantageous situation to complete formal qualifications.
What can we expect in the future from you?
Snapshot has cycled around at a time when I am engulfed by secrecy in my life, for various reasons, and I’m not maintaining that is an entirely good thing – but if you are going to be swallowed by secrecy, go all the way down the gullet of the whale, and see what the belly of the beast can do for you before you get regurgitated back into the doom saloon spittoon of over-sharing.
I am also moving house. RIGHT NOW. I’m so tired and stressed, that thinking past packing the Taxiboxes like a game of scary expensive Tetris just breaks my brain.
What Australian work have you loved recently?
I love this podcast, a conversation between Lisa Gerrard and Dave Graney at the Melbourne Recital Centre this year, which was one of the awesome free events for members presented by APRA.
The conversation is a refreshingly candid mix of inspiration and discouragement, the misadventure and frustration, and the transcendent moments that make it worthwhile. Lisa Gerrard talks about how destructive her creative peerage was, she talks about how so many were destroyed, and she expressed such disappointment at not being allowed to be an equal in her collaborations, even when she knew she had the skills… I can really relate to much of this. Creative communities are not necessarily nurturing or healthy or beneficial. It’s frequently a Tour of the Ugly Inflated Rabid Egos. There are a lot of people you need to learn not to listen to. Those people may include educators, who have insinuated themselves into a hierarchy, but may not actually be very talented. They may include peers of whom you might expect better. You need to develop a core that nothing can touch, so that other people cannot kill the vision of your mind’s ears or eyes. People may exploit you, plagiarise you (perhaps clumsily, like bad community theatre), trick you, dupe you, terrorise you, waste your time, they may not pay you properly (or at all), value you, or acknowledge you… How do you refuse to be annihilated? How do you hang onto your kindness and your verve? Without going into any specifics (and giving anyone free promotion), Lisa’s words really spoke to me. I highly recommend listening to this podcast if you are feeling the need to replenish your creative mojo.
Which author (living or dead) would you most like to sit next to on a long plane trip and why?
It’d be kinda neat to share a jaunt with Jessica Hopper, former editor-in-chief at The Pitchfork Review, and author of ‘The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic’. She cracked open the embargo on gender politics discourse in mainstream music industry with a simple tweet: “Gals/other marginalized folks: what was your 1st brush (in music industry, journalism, scene) w/ idea that you didn’t count?”
I didn’t respond to it, because Twitter is not my publishing goal.
Weirdly enough my first brush with the idea I didn’t count happened in the context of “the new musicology” at The University of Melbourne, when a visiting academic from the United States, Dr Robert Walser, told me to my face I was “not allowed in metal” because there were “no girls allowed” – but that wasn’t damaging for me, it was merely provocative of participation, and he was also totally wrong. (Damaging came later.)
Hopper did not crack open the embargo on gender politics discourse in text-based academia (musicology, music therapy, or cultural studies) where gender politics has been mainstream as part of “the new musicology” since the 70s, or zones where a flag is being openly flown for feminism such as the Listen Collective in Melbourne. Both those worlds intersect with a different portion of academia, where notions of feminist pedagogy exist and have an effect. But there were dudes talking about her like she’s a hero at ‘Face The Music’ conference, where the gender politics is so cockeyed, the panel about gender equality is titled ‘Hens in the Cockhouse: Shake a Tail Feather’ with a male MC who announces “I think it’s important there is at least one man, so men can relate…” when there has not been a minimum of one woman included on all the other panels on the conference program (women are expected to somehow relate anyway, through this supernatural ability they possess, called “empathy”) and there’s no irony whatsoever! Super fun! So in the male dominated music industry, or the portion of music education that purports to instruct this, which can be even more retrograde in attitudes (the formal hierarchy makes it worse) – I find her profile interesting. Of course, men allowing one woman to occupy the role of figurehead (it helps if she is far away, in Chicago), while shutting down the voices of women in the trenches close to them, where they might have to give away some of their power (or their tenure), that is probably a thing.
I am planning a foray back to a sector of music industry where the gender disparity is much worse than it is in rock music journalism (where it is still pretty shithouse). I’m super anxious about it, but I have a job lead that would make me hate my life less, and I I really need that, so I am going in for round three. Ding! Ding! Ding! On a bad day, the rape culture is like Gamergaters being formally trained by The Trio from Buffy. I’m not being even mildly dramatic. I’ve had big meaty fists shoved in my face and been threatened with gang rape. This shit ruined my life. What’s the difference between a misogynist and a psychopath? Would you like some thinking music?
If you cannot get more than two degrees of separation away from the rape culture dudes in a system of mentorship (assuming you can even get that far away from them), how do you manage being no more than two degrees of separation away from that hazard? Two degrees can become one degree in a heartbeat, because protégé emulates mentor without reflective practice. No one should have to run such a gauntlet to do anything, but this is our crazy hostile patriarchal world.
I would love to pick Jessica Hopper’s brain for her “off the record” stuff, be it inspiring or appalling. Maybe it would help.
The studio where I have my internship organised is awesome and not a hostile environment, and this is one of the reasons I think making it through the formal qualification is now viable for me.
Mostly I just like this fictional world where I can afford a long plane trip…