Selena Chambers

I imbibe words and consume past minds. As a result, I often awake next to strange sentences and forgotten meanings. I am the Bas Bleu Zombie.

17917211_1494939143881552_7421868425875040407_oSo, this one is going to get a bit personal, so bare with me.

I am very lucky to live in the same town as Ann VanderMeer. She lit a torch with her lit zine, Silver Web, that illuminated experimental and weird writing here in Tallahassee (and everywhere) that counteracted the academic literary presence that looms from the local universities. For years, she was a mystery to me. I’d see issues of Silver Web on the racks of my favorite used bookstore Paperback Rack (R.I.P.) and marvel that this was all happening in my proverbial backyard…way out in the dark beyond. Who was this Ann Kennedy? What was she like?

Tallahassee being Tallahassee, I eventually got to meet Ann, now VanderMeer, and better yet, got to learn and work with her when I started collaborating with her husband Jeff  on The Steampunk Bible. Even though her torch had exploded into the sun-like body of work with her editorship at Weird Tales, and seminal anthologies The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories, The Time Traveler’s Almanac, and Sisters of the Revolution: A Feminist Speculative Fiction Anthology, Ann took the time to talk to me like a neighbor and a friend who just happened to be into the same bizarre stuff. She talked to me like a peer and made me feel like a real writer.

I learned a lot from her during that time, and felt bolstered to pursue my fiction and be more public with it. Thanks to the encouragement of both she and Jeff, I was honored to have my first professional sale with them for “Dr. Lambshead’s Dark Room,” which appeared in their Dr. Lambshead’s Cabinet of Curiosities. (Jeff is taking his Lambshead history into the YA world with a newly sold trilogy The Adventures of Jonathan Lambshead).

So…perhaps this is way more personal than a professional thing about a book should be…but I can’t help it. When I met Ann, not only did I gain a mentor, but a friend, someone who embodies everything I ever wanted in a cool, older sister. That is why I am blabbering on because it meant the world to me that she approved of this work, because she knows what is off these pages as much as on them.

Thank you, Ann!

SPEAKING OF BACKYARD:  Tonight in Tallahassee, Jeff will be appearing at an event from Midtown Reader and The Tallahassee Democrat celebrating his new, tour de force, Borne. Ann will be joining him to interview him and help present the book. It should be a great night, and if you are in the area, definitely check it out.

Here’s info about the event, if you are in the area:  Jeff VanderMeer-Borne!

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This is my mixtape to the world that never jammed with me…or something like that. Actually, it’s a playlist for my collection, Calls for Submission, which came out last week. Each tale has its own song and in turn its own story.

I had a blast with this one. In some ways, the playlist had formed itself while I worked on the stories over the years. In other ways, a new serendipity formed as brand-new songs, like Chagall’s Sappho would send me back into “Remnants of Lost Empire” and created a more appropriate soundtrack than the music I had used while drafting. I also feel more connected with the work being able to reminisce on their creation in a way that wasn’t solely about words, but about evocation and feeling in a Schopenhauer-way.

I’ve been a longtime reader of Largehearted Boy since its early days, and have always viewed it as the epitome of what a blog can actually achieve with focus and citizenship. Just like LitHub felt like taking communion, having a playlist on Largehearted Boy is a wonderful and rare moment of self-actualization–HOLY CRAP I PUBLISHED A THING!

So, just to go back to riffing on Emmy D, I guess that does make this my mixtape to the world that I hope will take a listen and read back to me.

A thousand thanks to David Gutowski for giving me the space to jam literary with everyone!

You can check out my Book Notes to Calls for Submission, and access the playlist, here.

___

“From the dazzling mind of Selena Chambers, we are treated to fifteen provocative stories. Whether in collaboration with other writers, or on her own, her voice shines brightly through each tale.  Although these stories have an underlying darkness within them, they are still gloriously illuminating.”–Ann VanderMeer, co-editor of The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories and Sisters of the Revolution.

CALLS FOR SUBMISSION can be ordered from the publisher directly: Pelekinesis,

But it is also available from SQUARE and SPD and the following locations:

Prefer an ebook? Yes m’am, we can do that:

Liked what you read? Please leave a review at Amazon & Goodreads! Or share on your social network. The hashtag for the book is #CFSBOOK. You can find me and Pelekinesis on Twitter and Instagram at: @BasBleuZombie & @Pelekinetic.

 

RELEASE DAY: CALLS FOR SUBMISSION now available from Pelekinesis!!! Here’s how you can help!

May 14, 2017

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IMPORTANT LINKS:

CALLS FOR SUBMISSION can be ordered from the publisher directly: Pelekinesis,

But it is also available from SQUARE and SPD and the following locations:

Prefer an ebook? Yes m’am, we can do that:

Liked what you read? Please leave a review at Amazon & Goodreads! Or share on your social network. The hashtag for the book is #CFSBOOK. You can find me and Pelekinesis on Twitter and Instagram at: @BasBleuZombie & @Pelekinetic.

Thank you, again!

 

 

 

 

 

Wow. What a day! The response to “The Women Surrealists Helping Me Through Our New Political Reality” received a great response! I have spent the day nerding out about Women Surrealists, and finding out many other people have been dealing with similar feelings about how to creatively approach the nonce insanity. Thank you so much to everyone who read, commented, tweeted, retweeted, and shared on FB!

As a thanks, I’m posting a little bonus addendum to the piece. First, if you’d like to read more about Leonora Carrington’s quote about the Surrealist Survival Kit, it was part of a series of conversations Penelope Rosemont had with Carrington towards the end of her life. Published as “A Revolution in the Way We Think and Feel—Conversations with Leonora Carrington,” you can find it in Ron Sakolsky’s Surrealist Subversions: Rants, Writings and Images by the Surrealist Movement in the United States.

While I recommended 3 books in the article, my original draft had 5. I cut two of them for length, but still find them essential writings for my kit.

Insel, Mina Loy, Melville House, 2014

LoyAn interesting aspect about Women’s Surrealism is that many members evaded the Feminist label. Not Mina Loy. She made it her mission to polish the flaws she saw in its ideology not only writing blatantly about enjoying sex, but also by observing, documenting, and subverting the various roles of womanhood. You could say that she set down the intellectual premise all women surrealists would follow in her “Feminist Manifesto,”: “Leave off looking to men to find out what you are not —seek within yourselves to find out what you are.”

Insel is a feminist response to Breton’s Nadja, and the male Surrealist concept of amour fou and the femme enfant applied to the Surrealist Woman. In Insel, these dynamics are flipped. The narrator Mrs Jones is not a woman-child, but a widow in her fifties, dependent on her children, firmly established in her career, and creatively bored. The one thing she has is an established reputation and far-reaching influence, which attracts a young, German junky mystic, Aaron Insel. While he then, becomes the homme enfant, he is physically repulsive. It is Insel’s unhinged perspective that appeals to Jones, and eventually she begins supporting him. It doesn’t end well, of course, but what is important is that throughout the novel, Mrs. Jones holds all the cards—she has all the money, she has the career, connections, and experience Insel most covets.

That isn’t why I have this in the kit, though. While this is something of an anti-romance, Loy uses the notion of mad love to show its true delusion. Mrs. Jones uses her relationship with Insel to distract and confront her aging, as well as how society and art movements dismissed women of a certain age.

The Diary of Frida Kahlo: An Intimate Self-Portrait, Abrams, 2005

KahloYou won’t find any gossip here. Reproduced in full-color facsimile and in translation, Khalo’s diary is a full testament to internal fulfillment. It has no concern for dates or time and is a straight connection to her creative mind. On the page you can see her exploring and meshing Greek mythology with Meso-American folklore, lists of associations and puns, days described only in nouns, and poignant spatial mediations like that on the loss of her leg.

While it’s part of legend that Kahlo used her art as therapy to cope with lifelong health complications and mobility limitations, in this diary you see the messy and raw work that went into the final finessed products. You also get to see all of the doubts and anxieties that echo our own creative worries. Towards the end of her life, after having only seven operations on her back in one year, she reprimands herself for not doing enough, or being relevant enough: “Above all I want to transform it [her work] into something useful for the Communist revolutionary movement, since up to now I have only painted the earnest portray of myself, but I’m very far from work that could serve the Party.” And yet…and yet! Those earnest portrayals that analyzed her most intimate tragedies while upcycling Mexican folklore and remixing post-colonial history, have served, nourished, and inspired within more than one political ideation. It achieved a new universality, and that universality was feminine.

 

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An essay I wrote about my “Surrealist Survival Kit” for Literary Hub.

I’m doing a mini-Guest Blog tour for Calls for Submission, and my first stop is at the incomparable Literary Hub! I am very pleased to share that “The Women Surrealists Helping Me Through Our New Political Reality” is now live.

My original intention, and pitch, for this piece was to be a discussion about the last ten years effort at a Women Surrealist Revival. An effort I believe is at its apex, what with the Leonora Carrington centennial, a first ever monograph of Eileen Agar, and the two new Claude Cahun books coming out this summer, including Exist Otherwise, the first English biography of the gender-bending photographer.

But as I started drafting, the essay took a different and much more personal route. I’d been re-acquainting myself with these artists since the election, and fully realized in the writing of this piece how they were helping me reassess and reaffirm what I believe the potential of art truly can be.  Something I had been struggling with all year, and as a result lead to a lot of dead ins and head-wall banging.

But as I started to look at what and who I had been dipping back into–Carrington, Cahun, Césaire, Kahlo, and Mina Loy–all women who commented on the political by drawing upon the personal, I realized I had to step up and go there myself. The Revival turned into Survival.

So, here then, is an achievement of a few things. First, it is the first finished thing I’ve produced since the election; Second, it is both a celebration of the internal resistance of the past, and advocation of its exploration in the future; three, it’s on LITHUB!

I hope you’ll take a few minutes to check it out, and if you liked it, please share it widely with your friends on Facebook and Twitter!

THE FINAL COUNTDOWN:  My debut collection, CALLS FOR SUBMISSION, will be released May 15th (but you can pre-order from Pelekinesis now, if you’d like). That isn’t that far away, and to get pumped for the big day, I will be showcasing the awesome blurbs the collection has received. Every author that we queried has influenced me in some vital way, and as a thank you and token of my gratitude for their time and effort, I’ve written a little about each person and what their work has meant to my work.

So there are about 7 days left! In the past week or so, a few developments have occurred. First, more ordering options–including e-book versions–of Calls for Submission were made available. You can view them here.

Since then, Amazon announced it’s new diss to living writers, and I would like to personally urge you to purchase from Pelekinesis directly, or through Powell’s or your local indie bookstore. On those latter two, you may have to request a special order through the store and wait a hot minute, but ultimately you would be helping to defend working artists and contributing to a healthier literary community.  Plus, that would be helping me out too. However you want to do it, many thanks again to those who are pre-ordering!

Speaking of indie bookstores, I am excited to finally announce that I will be reading and discussing Calls for Submission at Tallahassee’s brand new and baller Midtown Reader.  That event will occur on June 16th at 5:30 pm.

Oof, and this was suppose to be about blurbs! It is, it is, my friends. Today’s blurb comes from the man who has single-handedly made Stephen King afraid of the dark:  Paul Tremblay!

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You all know Paul Tremblay as the best-selling rock star of A Head Full of Ghosts and Disappearance at Devil’s Rocks, but I first became hooked when I found a copy of The Harlequin and The Train at a friend’s house. My friend had already done the interactive bits, so that aspect was spoiled for me, but I got to see the final outcome, and it was just a light bulb for me.

The whole concept of an interactive text like this–mixing play with narrative responsibility and transparency–was just one of the coolest thwartings of how we read and consume mysteries. And it was one of the first contemporary examples of how to thwart and play within genre I’d come across. Something I needed badly at the time. Unfortunately, the experience is lost to a time and a place, as it was a limited edition of 400 copies and isn’t readily available now. But, believe me, the subversion of tropes and pop culture and all sorts of other surrealistic-punk principled goodness permeates in Ghosts and Devil’s Rock (which just came out in paperback). If you haven’t read Paul yet, rectify that now.

 

Yesterday was fun! I learned on Facebook that pre-orders of CALLS FOR SUBMISSION seem to be shipping out a bit early, and are showing up in the wild! I am so excited for everyone to read this, and if you have already pre-ordered, thank you so much and I hope it is enjoyable!

My own author copies also arrived, reminding me that there have been a few developments I’d like to share.

She Arrives

CALLS FOR SUBMISSION  will be released by Pelekinesis on May 15th.

In addition to ordering directly from Pelekinesis, CALLS FOR SUBMISSION is now also available from SPD and the following locations:

If you prefer an ebook:

If you are in Canada, it is also available at Chapters/Indigo. (h/t to Alexis for letting me know!).

While the official release date isn’t until May 15th, it is possible those who pre-order hardcopies might receive their copy sooner, but it isn’t guaranteed.

TO REVIEWERS AND INTERVIEWERS:  I still have a few ARCs available. If you are interested in reviewing CALLS FOR SUBMISSION, drop me a line at: LeFilleHST@gmail.com, or hit me up on Facebook or on Twitter @BasBleuZombie.

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