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Mind Seed – Remembering Denni

I’m especially honoured to have author and editor, David Gullen as guest blogger today. Dave is here to talk about Mind Seed, The science fiction anthology he co-edited along with Gary Couzens. The anthology is a memorial to Denni Schnapp, a brilliant woman, gifted writer, and a lovely person.  Denni was a member of the London  writing group I had the privileged to be a part of for several years. After Denni’s untimely death, the group decided to honour her memory in a way I’m sure Denni would have appreciated, and David Gullen is here to talk about that very special memorial and the woman it honours. Welcome Dave.

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Helen Callaghan Sex Hive mindproduct_thumbnailEditing and publishing Mind Seed was a real privilege and a big learning experience. Above all we wanted to create an anthology that would be a fitting tribute to the person who inspired the project – Denni Schnapp.

Denni was a remarkable person, an adventurous and independent traveller, highly self-motivated, a very capable zoologist (Oxford & St Andrews), with a love of field work and freshwater cetaceans – all things her husband John Howroyd writes of in his Introduction.

She also struggled. Her own life wasn’t easy, more than anything she wasn’t easy with herself, always driven to travel, to move on, searching for a place where she could be at peace. I’m not sure she ever believed she would find it, but she kept on looking until the day the effort became too much. Initial treatment for her depression only increased the severity, her underlying bipolar disorder was diagnosed too late.

Writing, her journal, and her science fiction, became a significant part of the ways Denni tried to heal herself. Her journal is a tragically difficult read, in contrast her fiction exuberantly roved the universe. Many of her stories were set on other worlds with complex and beautiful biologies. Her own piece in this anthology is a prequel to such a story, a novel that John and I plan to publish one day.

All the other authors who contributed to Mind Seed knew Denni in some way, some are members of the same writing group she belonged to. The writing is top quality. We have full-time professionals, award winners, and award-nominated authors. One person is published here for their first time, and theirs is without doubt the best debut story I can remember reading. Many of the stories are originals, written especially for this anthology, and themed on the subjects Denni was fascinated by in her own writing – travel and journey, interaction and transformation, strong characters and their weaknesses. Everyone gave their work for free.

It was inconceivable that we’d do anything other than give all money raised to charity. The one that meant most to Denni was Next Generation Nepal, an anti-child-trafficking charity, and so this is the one we chose.

Buy Mind Seed Here:

Mind Seed is available as a paperback and an e-book, from Lulu, and from Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats, and elsewhere. However, Lulu is where we raise most money per unit sale for our charity.

About David:

David Gullen was born in South Africa. Three years later his parents returned to England, and he was baptised by King Neptune when they crossed the equator. As a result his first girlfriend was a mermaid. Since then he has studied biology, worked as a van driver, dish-washer, armourer, leatherworker, and IT geek; and become the father of three children.

His novel, Shopocalypse, a near-future story of fast cars, consumerism and nuclear war, is available from Clarion Publishing. His short fiction has appeared in various magazines and anthologies, one of which was shortlisted for the James White Award, while another was an Aeon Award winner. His collection, Open Waters (theEXAGGERATEDpress), appeared in early 2014. He recently co-edited, designed and published, Mind Seed, an anthology of science fiction stories. He is represented by the John Jarrold Agency.

David lives in Surrey, England, with the fantasy writer Gaie Sebold, and too many tree ferns.

Find David Here:

http://davidgullen.com/

 

The Story behind Helen Callaghan’s Deliciously Chilling Story, Sex & the Single Hive Mind

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It’s a total pleasure to welcome my dear friend and fabulous writer, Helen Callaghan to A Hopeful Romantic to share a bit of the story behind one of my favourite short stories of all time, Sex and the Single Hive Mind. Even better still, the story is now available in the vibrant new Science Fiction anthology, Mind Seed and as a podcast with CrimeCity. Enjoy! –K D

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Sex and the Single Hive Mind is set in the near future. It’s a very dark story about Susannah Watson, a woman who is kidnapped and then made into an immobile living host for carnivorous algae that devours her. The result is then to be sold on as an illegal drug. All of which is terrible news for Susannah, of course, but has unforeseen side effects.

Believe it or not, it’s a comedy.

I wanted to write something about body theft – not Burke and Hare cadaver thieves, but something more like Invasion of the Body Snatchers – things that come from outside, and steal your body for their own wicked purposes.

Helen Callaghan Sex Hive mindproduct_thumbnailPersonally, I find that kind of thing terrifying. When Donald Sutherland starts that unearthly shrieking at the end of the movie, I freaked out as a kid.

It’s the exact same wellspring of horror that The Exorcist draws from – something that doesn’t mean you well now has control of you, while you look on, horrified. Whether you are locked in there still, or your own personal will simply evaporates, the terror lies in the loss of your agency, your control over your own flesh, the very thing that is dearest to you, and is indivisible from your sense of self.

In all of these cases, the reader’s sympathy lies absolutely with the possessee, if you like – the possessing entity barely has a motive, never mind a personality (spewing out pea soup and rude words hardly counts as character).

So I thought it might be kind of cool to explore the idea of body-snatching from the body snatcher’s point of view – in this case the point of view of a divorced middle-aged cat lady who suddenly finds herself with access to the bodies of the spoiled young things that have effectively murdered her.

And I’d be lying if I said it didn’t turn out that doing this was tons of fun, but nevertheless, there is, I think, a core of sadness – Susannah has access to their flesh and its pleasures, but can’t enjoy it because ultimately her victims all reflect only herself, and her attempt to use her newfound powers to reach out to her object of desire does not go as planned.

Her absurdity and loneliness, is, in a way, also similar to the loneliness of the writer and her characters. Characters, however fascinating, are still just creations, manifestations of a single will.

Anyway, the story appears in the anthology Mind Seed (http://www.lulu.com/gb/en/shop/edited-by-david-gullen-gary-couzens/mind-seed/paperback/product-21702685.html) edited by David Gullen and Gary Couzens. The book has been put together to remember Denni Schnapp, biologist, traveller, science fiction writer, and alongside me (www.helencallaghan.co.uk) a member of the T Party Writers group (http://tpartywriters.wordpress.com) based in London, which also included KD.

 

Excerpt from Sex and the Single Hive Mind:

It’s not Conor this time, but Imogen. Raoul and Conor and Imogen, named for the pretensions of their parents, carriers of their bougeousie. Colonised by them.

But for now, I’m dreaming Imogen. I know this because she’s in a tiny neat kitchen, looking at our mutual reflection in the darkened window. She still looks supercilious even with no-one on hand to disapprove of. I suspect that it might just be a cast of her features, something she can’t control but which her character does little to mitigate.

She’s washing dishes. She’s doing this very slowly, as she’s obviously drugged out of her tiny mind. I can taste the sharpness of cut grass in her mouth.

She’s eaten half a piece of steamed fish and boiled vegetables, without salt or pepper. I know this and am not sure how. My/her hands stir through warm soapy water.

Time to try it, then.

Her head raises, she looks into the window.

“My name is Susannah Watson.”

The words emerge without ceremony. I don’t know what I was expecting, to be honest. I thought perhaps there might be some sort of intense psychic battle, where I warred for dominance against her innate personality, but she doesn’t appear to have one. Her body is an empty house and I control it utterly, without let or hindrance.  The drug has reduced to her to a series of mannerisms, which fill her head like ugly furniture left behind by the previous tenants.

“My name is Susannah Watson,” I say again. My voice is a stranger’s, filled with unfamiliar music. “I am fifty-two years old. I am a detective in the Metropolitan Police, Smithfield division. I have two cats and one ex-husband. I have been… I am…”

My voice fades away.

Imogen stares back blankly at me from her reflection.  From my reflection.

It’s too much, too much, and I fly, back to my concrete room. I linger there, my consciousness circling above my green body, buzzing. I see what is happening. I have colonised the flies. They ate me, and I fill them. Spider-Girl ate the flies, and I filled her.

I understand, I think.

I gather myself. I tell myself, “I want to be Imogen now.”

Nothing happens.

“Take me to Imogen.”

I summon up the memory of being her, of hot soapy water over my hands, of the taste of cut grass.

I’m standing in the kitchen again, as if I had never left. She has not moved in the meantime, as far as I can tell, and a little trail of saliva drips down from the corner of her semi-open mouth.

I wipe it away with one of her wet, soapy hands, fascinated by her soft, unmarked skin against my face. She must be thirty years younger than me, at the very least.

“I am Susannah,” I say, and my voice rolls with confidence. I laugh then, and the girl in the window’s reflection laughs with me. In a bare instant, her superior squint vanishes and I shine out of her, like the sun breaking through fast passing clouds.

Enjoy a podcast of the complete Sex and the Single Hive Mind here:

http://www.starshipsofa.com/forums/topic/crime-city-central-no-109-helen-callaghan/

 

*****

 

The anthology, Mind Seed,  celebrates Denni’s interests and all of the proceeds go to Next Generation Nepal (http://www.nextgenerationnepal.org), who are an anti-child trafficking organization. We had the launch at LonCon 3 in the ExCel centre in London, and we’re all very proud of the book and hope it will do well.

 

Buy Mind Seed Here: 

Amazon UK

Lulu.com

 

Helen CallaghanAbout Helen Callaghan: 

Helen Callaghan writes genre fic­tion inspired by her love of intel­li­gent books and brain­less movies. Her first novel, Mephistophela, is set in a near-future Lon­don and inspired by ele­ments of Marlowe’s Doc­tor Faus­tus. She is cur­rently work­ing on Bethan Avery, a psychological thriller about a teacher who receives letters from a (presumed) murder victim.

She lives in Cambridge with a hamster called Zenobia, a beloved car, some muti­nous house­plants and too many books. Her per­sonal web­page and erratically updated blog describing the writing of Sleepwalker and Mephistophela is here. She is rep­re­sented by Judith Mur­ray atGreene and Heaton.

 
© 2018 K D Grace
The Romance Reviews

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