Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine issue 52 is out! (Cover by Olivia Kernot). My copy has arrived, but my housemate has pinched it and is lying on the sofa reading out extracts, preceded by, “This story contains the immortal line…” She appears to like it so – go, buy, read.

I am always delighted to see a new ASIM (even if I can’t get near it) but particularly so with this issue, because (in addition to two illustrations) it has one of my stories in it: “Undine Love”.

“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.

It’s a world away, now, from Peter Haining’s Great British Tales of Terror. Along with a terrible pun it has acquired Tori and Jack, Bartok and George and the Damsons, a ute, bagpipes and an out-of-place apple orchard, and I’m still a little inclined to be in love with them all. It’s about… well, contracts and family businesses, longings, faithfulness, promises and fences, and a setting that – if it existed – would have been badly damaged by the floods which swept down this January, after the story was written.

To my delight (although I would still love to see another artist’s version of my words one day) I was asked to illustrate “Undine Love”, and filled several pages with detailed scribbles, but couldn’t suit any of them to a finished style (or get my sister to pose with the bagpipes). I think these sketches were a better representation of the word-pictures remaining in my head, but they were still made up of words and more like story-boards. I couldn’t pin them to the page to my satisfaction. Here are some of them (click to view larger on the Flickr page):

Rough sketches for Undine Love

I settled, at last, on a stark, decorative style (with a definite nod to Ichijo Narumi’s Female Nude Seated in Water, although I could never hope to match those beautiful ripples):

Undine Love

I will not rule out the possibility that the apple orchard is a reference to Anna Tambour’s heartbreakingly beautiful story “The Valley of the Sugars of Salt” (together with Dirk Flinthart’s “The Ballad of Farther-on-Jones” it is one of my very favourite stories). There is, however, another and entirely unplanned connection to Anna’s stories. We were discussing upcoming publications and I told her about the introduced species in “Undine Love”. She sent me a copy of her story “Gnawer of the Moon Seeks Summit of Paradise” (published in Sprawl) and our two stories touch on almost exactly the same theme in similar settings from opposite standpoints – in some cases, down to sentences which directly contradict the other story.

I also illustrated Liz Colter’s haunting story “The Unseen Truths”, although in an entirely different style. I really like working with new authors and stories, drawing out an illustration from unfamiliar words. The process is not at all like the process for illustrating one’s own story, which already has so much visual baggage associated with it.

The Unseen Truths