(Our chat began with a number of technical problems -- some people (including myself) were not able to get into the forum at all, and then we were all prone to being thrown off...)
Jim Freund: Good evening--our guest tonight is author, editor, anthologist and artist Terri Windling. Patrick Nielsen Hayden's entry on her in The Encyclopedia of SF gives a good background sketch:US editor, artist and writer who began in the first capacity in 1979 at ACE BOOKS, where she developed the company's fantasy line, discovering such authors as Steven BRUST and Charles DE LINT, and launching the Ace Fantasy Specials with Emma BULL's War for the Oaks (1987). Also while at Ace she launched the Fairy Tales series with Brust's The Sun, the Moon, and the Stars (1987). She moved to TOR BOOKS in 1987 as consulting editor; the 5th and subsequent Fairy Tales books were published by that house. The winner of 4 World Fantasy Awards for her editorial work, TW also edited with Mark Alan Arnold Elsewhere (anth 1981), Elsewhere, Volume II (anth 1982) and Elsewhere, Volume III (anth 1984), and edits with Ellen Datlow the Year's Best Fantasy annual anthology.Other works: Faery! (anth 1982); the Borderlands shared-world anthology series, the first 2 vols ed with Mark Alan Arnold: Borderland (anth 1986), Borderland 2 (anth 1986) and Life on the Border (anth 1991); and 2 anthologies of Twice-Told Wonder Tales with Datlow: Snow White, Blood Red (anth 1993) and Black Thorn, White Rose (anth 1994).
Terri Windling: Jim, are you still there? Ellen Datlow and I are sitting in her apartment in the west Village, drinking good single malt scotch, waiting for something to happen here.
JF: Hi! Just got back in myself!
I've reopened the forum, in case anyone out there can post and would like to ask questions--assuming we're here, and not struggling with software, that is. (weak smile)
TW: Jim, we seem to have lost you altogether. As I recall, you were planning to ask me to update the SF Encyclopedia data. Well, I'm still working part-time as a consulting editor for Tor Books, still editing a few folks like Charles De Lint, Steve Brust and Midori Snyder. But mostly these days I'm writing and painting, and editing a few anthologies -- primarily in partnership with Ellen Datlow. And writing a nonfiction column on Folklore for Realms of Fantasy Magazine. And working on an art book with Thomas Canty. And one with Brian Froud. And generally not getting a lot of sleep.
JF: I should say that I've never been that big a fan of shared universes--until I discovered Bordertown. Simply one of the most enchanting and evocative series of stories I've read in years...
TW: Jim, you seem to have disappeared again; are you there?
JF: Yes, I'm here, I think.
TW: I guess I'm going to jump in here, since you seem to be having techincal problems. Thanks for your kind words about Borderland. Those books were created quite a few years ago now, when I was in my early twenties, living in New York, and wore a lot of black leather. They were meant for kids, but I think can appeal to the kid in any of us. Twelve years later, living in the English countryside (with rather less black leather in my closet) it sometimes feels a bit odd to revisit the streets of Bordertown...like revisiting ones past....But its still fun, and we've a new anthology that is coming out from Tor next year, don't recall the exact release date, but the ms. was turned in this fall.
JF: I'm back.
JF: Is the new anthology already collected material, or is there new stuff?
TW: It's all brand new--quite a fat book, with terrific stories by Borderland regulars like Ellen Kushner, Charles de Lint and Midori Snyder, plus newcomers like Patricia McKillip, Delia Sherman, Ellen Steiber.... It's called The Essential Bordertown: A Traveller's Guide to the Edge of Faerie.
JF: Ah, that magickal word--Faerie. Why is Faerie important to us? Why is it that enchants so? (I know--perhaps too broad a question, but see what you can do...:-)
TW: Well...hmmm...broad question. Faerie is the mysterious Other, ...the land of dream, of desire, of longings never quite fulfilled and therefore doubly desirable. It shimmers with the magic of childhood, when tales were whispered into our ears.. and holds the poetry of tales passed mouth to mouth for thousands of years. Tales of faerie are ageless, and yet so changeable, reflecting each new generations dreams, concerns....That to me is their power. Each tale means something different to each generation, each listener.
For me personally, I'm drawn to fairy tales (when I write, or paint) because these tales have been women's stories for many generations. Storytellers through the ages (as Alison Lurie has pointed out, and Marina Warner) have been largely women, during times in history when written literature was almost exclusively the province of men. As a working class woman in almost any age but the one I was lucky enough to be born into, fairy tales would have been on of the few ways I could speak (artistically) about my life--albeit in a metaphoric language. And that's how I find myself using fairy tales today--to talk about real life, as I've experienced it, filtered through symbols and metaphors honed by women in ages past....
JF: What is the dichotomy (sp?) between the sweet nature of writers like Perrault, and the darker works of the Brothers Grimm, or Spenser, for that matter? Is the world split into two camps of what they desire out of Fantasy? Bettelheim believes that fairy tales are a way of facing terrors and situations we otherwise could not. Do you believe that this was a way for women to express themselves in times when they would not be taken seriously by the men who steered the culture(s)?
TW: Yes, absolutely. It certainly wasn't the only reason such tales were told, or even perhaps a reason the teller herself would recognize. (Pure entertainment value is an important factor too!) But yes, creative people expressed themselves with whatever tools were available to them. For many women, particularly poor women, uneducated women, the arts open to them were anonymous ones: tale telling, weaving, quilting, etc.
(For anyone interested in exploring this subject further I highly recommend Marina Warner's "From the Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales and their Tellers." As a history of fairy tales, it's nothing short of brilliant.)
JF: What you say there strikes me as similar to the attraction many people have had to Wicca. Perhaps Fairy Tales (in the mainstream sense) were/are a 'safe' way to find similar forms of expression...?
TW: I'm not a Wiccan myself, so I don't know how to speak to that.
JF: Fair enough--I've been a fellow traveler with Wiccans, so let's let it pass as an observation for now. Let's talk about "The Wood Wife" (or else the good folk at Tor will never forgive us). I'm sorry to say I haven't read it yet. (Mostly because I was reading "The Armless Maiden".) How would you describe it?
TW: The Wood Wife was written for my friend Brian Froud, basically. Robert Gould had created a series of novellas based on a series of 50 drawings by Brian. I was asked to write the fourth story in the series--with the stipulation that it be about faeries, and that it be set in the southwest (where I live in the winter-time) and also that it have an ecological subtext. Then the series got cancelled after book #2 when the publisher downsized its SF list...the usual kind of publishing ups-and-downs. So with Brian's permission, I turned my original novella into a longer and rather different novel...and it became The Wood Wife. It's not the novel I intended to publish first (which is another one that I'm finishing now, also for Tor)...but there it is. Life's a funny thing.
JF: It sounds like Serendipity. Fortunate for us--we get two of your books out of the circumstances.
To whatever audience got past our technical diffiulties: The forum is now open for questions, now if anyone would like to join in.
Guest: Hi, Terri. You mentioned one of the sources for folklore. What are some others? Both books and online. Love the WoF column, BTW.
TW: Any of the collections edited by Angela Carter, Jack Zipes or Jane Yolen are good. The Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library is wonderful.
JF: You have worked Fantasy in so many ways -- art, editing, short stories and novels. Does this come from different places/disciplines, or are these merely different facets of a greater well of inspiration? (Sorry--I'm asking the toughies tonight, I guess)
TW: That's a lovely question. I see it as all coming from the same place, all different ways of expressing the same vision. (I'm including editing in that only in terms of shaping an anthology, particularly ones close-to-the-heart like the adult fairy tales ones--"Snow White, Blood Red" etc.--and "The Armless Maiden". Book editing is another kettle of fish. There, the job is to help an author express his or her own vision, not *mine*.) There are so many ways to explore the creative impulse, from painting a picture to writing an essay to putting up a bit of William Morris wallpaper in the livingroom...and it's all of a piece, all part of the whole....Am I making any sense, or babbling? I warned you, I'm not a night person! (Nor is this excellent scotch Ellen Datlow is pouring into me helping!)
Don: Terri, who do you see as a modern storyteller whose work is likely to stand the test of time.
TW: Don: Angela Carter, certainly. Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Sylvia Townsend Warner. John Crowley. Robert Holdstock at his best.
JF: No, you're making perfect sense--and it fulfills my romantic notion of what your work does for me. I believe I can see the connections between say, your cover for Century Magazine and your fiction. (I wish I could take a pull on that single-malt, myself!)
I suspect it may be time for us to start wrapping up--how are you doing?
TW: I'm doing fine. Ellen says to tell you that if she could send you some scotch through the computer, she would... Can we please mention Armless Maiden before we go? Proceeds from the book are going to a shelter for homeless and abused children, so I want to flog as many copies as possible-- and it just came out this month (from Tor) in trade paperback. You said you're reading it now...what do you think?
JF: Eclectic in scope -- provocative, frightening. I kept hearing Pat Benatar's "Hell is for Children" in my head as I read it. The only story missing is Sturgeon's "Shadow, Shadow on the Wall", but that has been much anthologized.
JF: (s/b Children. BTW, thanks to Tor, we gave away 5 copies of the book on the air to listeners.)
TW: Yeah, that Sturgeon story is a good one. I think some of the writers in Armless Maiden were very courageous to submit the work they did. Ultimately, however, it's meant to be a book about healing and transformation, not simply about abuse. Which is why we used fairy tale themes--stories about transformation and survival. Writers like Patricia McKillip, Tappan King, Emma Bull, Charles de Lint, Peter Straub and so many others have some damn fine stories in there--NOT meant for abuse survivors only, and it would be a pity if readers avoided it thinking it was. Yes, it's a difficult book, but also magical and ultimately redemptive.
JF: I think writing those stories must be even harder than other kinds of abuse, given the innocence that is threatened in childhood. And yes, as you say, where else can one escape but to Faerie (or Bordertown, if one can't cross the curtain?) As we cited earlier, that is what fairy tales do for us--let us face that in our imagination that which is difficult (or impossible) to face in real life.
And, yes, I think the book is redemptive, which is how I could keep going to the next piece.
TW: Yes, you're right, we've circled back to our first topic, the lure of Faerie, the road to escape, survival and transformation...which is the road to Faerieland, Never-neverland, Oz, Middle Earth...or Bordertown. This is also an example of fairy tales used to talk about the subtext of women's (and men's) lives, as such tales were used in ages past. For me, Borderland is a metaphorical exploration of my own life (I was a runaway, homeless teenager once myself, albeit on less magical streets than Bordertowns); Armless Maiden continues that exploration; so does Wood Wife in its own way. That's what I value about fairy tales, and fantasy fiction--not their "escapist" qualities, but the use of magic, symbol and metaphor to face what is real and difficult and true...whether set once upon a time, or here and now.
JF: Sounds like that road upon the bernie brae that Thomas the Rhymer once saw. I often think upon the meaning of those roads, and I would venture a guess that you do too.
Your statement about having been a runaway puts Bordertown into a whole new light for me. I saw those characters in there, sure, but all of a sudden there's a new poignancy that I can't quite express. But it certainly seems you've taken your road to a good place.
TW: "....the road to Elfland, where thou and I shall go," as the Faerie Queen says to True Thomas. On that note, shall we call it a night? Scotch and the hour are taking their toll. Thank you, Jim -- and thank you to anyone reading this, for saintly patience.... G'night all. Cheers. -- T.W. New York City, 11/96
JF: And thank you, Terri! Once we got past the computer issues, it has been more than interesting. There are some links on my homepages to some of Terri's artwork, and a good bibliography at http://interport.net/~jfreund
Again, Thanks, and Goode Night!
Clicking on the book cover images above will take you to Amazon.com, where you can read more and order the books.