Islam and Sci-Fi Interview of Valeria Vitale
For our latest interview we talked to Valeria Vitale who is the co-editor of the new anthology Fae Visions along with Djibril Al-Ayad. Vitale is from Southern Italian based in London doing PhD on 3D visualization of cultural heritage and an an avid reader of fiction. In her own words, “The idea of this anthology comes partly from our longing for the sea, and partly from our being disappointed by the amount of stories about the Mediterranean area just reflecting tourists’ or foreigners’ stereotypes.” We think that Fae Visions would be of great interest to the reader of Islam and Sci-Fi. Without further ado here is our interview with Valeria.
M A Ahmad: First of all, congratulations on the publishing of the anthology. What was your main source of inspiration for starting the anthology project?
Valeria Vitale: Thank you, we’re very excited about it!
The idea of a Mediterranean themed horror anthology was born when, doing some research on folk tales, we realised how difficult it was to find stories coming from that part of the world, especially if compared to English-speaking countries. I was surprised and disappointed. I was born in a port city of the Mediterranean, and I know that the stories I grew up with are full of terrifying and fascinating wonders. It felt like a missed opportunity that those tales were so little known outside their country of origin. So, we decided it was time to publish Mediterranean stories! But we didn’t want simply a collection of maritime horrors. We wanted Fae Visions to tell something about the Mediterranean; about its very long history, and its role of connector between different people and places that have been mixing and blending for many centuries. We envisioned our anthology as a reminder of how the Mediterranean has always been a place where multiculturalism and multilingualism were the norm. We looked for stories of travelling people, words, objects, traditions, showing the commonalities among the Mediterranean countries but without forgetting their uniqueness. This is why, along with the longer stories in English, we decided to publish short pieces in different Mediterranean languages. In the end, we produced a book that is complex, diverse and slightly bizarre. Like the Mediterranean.
M A Ahmad: Are there any stories in the collection that particularly stand out?
Valeria Vitale: I think all the stories in the anthology are remarkable, in a way or another. Some—like “The Heart of the Flame” by Mari Ness—have, in their words, an echo of the soothing sound of the waves in a calm, sunny day. Others, like “The Strangest Sort of Siren” by Lyndsay E. Gilbert, hit you like the furious tides against a rocky shore. Stories like “The Wisps of Tabarka” by Hella Grichi are full of melancholic tenderness, while stories like “Xandra’s Brine” by Claude Lalumiere challenge the reader to go beyond stereotypes. We have stories that play with traditions, myths and folklore from various parts of the Mediterranean, from classical mythology to Medieval tales, and stories that are painfully real and deal with the heartbreaking tragedy of thousands of refugees swallowed by the sea.
I think that this anthology talks to a large and diverse public, and different readers will love different things, or the same things but for different reasons. We wanted a portrayal of the Mediterranean in all its contradictions and we like to think that we moved in the right direction.
M A Ahmad: How has been the response to the anthology? Are you also considering a follow up?
Valeria Vitale: It is too soon to say what will be the fortune of this anthology, and we keep our fingers crossed! What we can say is that we really wanted to let Mediterranean authors talk about their land. And we’re proud that almost all our authors come from, or have strong connections with, the Mediterranean. We’re also quite happy with the range of diverse places and languages that we managed to cover.
However, there are still voices that we would have liked to be more represented in Fae Visions, and themes that we were really hoping someone would cover, but didn’t happen. But we also received so many beautiful things that we decided we want even more. So, although this anthology just came out and now we are very busy with the launch and promotion, we already have the project of a second volume in the back of our minds. If all goes well, we do hope to start working, in a not too distant future, to find more amazing stories, with a special focus on what was left out of the first anthology. In particular we really want to reach the communities of horror and fantasy writers in or from Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Palestine, Syria, Israel, Turkey and Albania. So, if any of your readers has a story for us, we’re happy to talk about it!
In the meantime, we hope you’ll enjoy the series of interviews and blog posts we have organized to promote Fae Visions at press.futurefire.net. We also have review copies available. If someone wants to request one, feel free to send us an email.
M A Ahmad: The idea of a multi-lingual anthology is unique, how did that come about?
Valeria Vitale: Surely there are other bilingual projects? We might actually be one of the first, and certainly there are very few horror/fantasy, polyglot anthologies. To be honest, the choice came quite naturally, when trying to represent the Mediterranean. People in Mediterranean cities have been friends, allies, customers, enemies, teachers, spouses with each other for centuries. Place names and borders have changed, but the connections have always been strong and multi-layered. And languages are intertwined as well. I discovered when I was sixteen that, for me, the best way to communicate with a French person was to speak the dialect of my Italian hometown. I’m told that if you come from the north of Sardinia, you’re halfway to understanding Catalan. My grandparents come from a region of Italy were Albanian communities have been established since the 15th century. My Sicilian friends were surprised at how many Arabic words they could recognise once they were read aloud. We are used to know bits of many languages and to sew them together. Sometimes a little creatively…
The majority of the content in Fae Visions is in English, but there are bits in various other languages, sometimes translated, sometimes just glossed. We obviously don’t expect our readers to be fluent also in French, Spanish, Arabic or Maltese. The point is not to get every single word, but to represent the Mediterranean in its charming, and sometimes infuriating, chaos. We wanted the readers to become curious about foreign words, to try them and see if they remind them of other words, in other languages. In this sense, the Mediterranean is intrinsically poetic. And we hope Fae Visions has captured a spark of it.
M A Ahmad: Are you also reaching out to literary communities in the Mediterranean and if so how has been the response?
Valeria Vitale: We did try to reach communities of writers and artists when the call for stories was out, but we were not always very lucky or effective. Working on this project, we realised that we would have needed a stronger and wider network of connections with diverse national and international groups. But we hope that we can use what we learnt this time to publish a better second anthology in the future.
Now we’re aiming at reaching readers and reviewers, to promote Fae Visions. The community of authors and translators that was naturally born around this anthology is proving very active and enthusiastic, and they’re all part of the effort. Thanks to everyone’s contribution, we’re gaining a little visibility, and I think we’re getting quite good responses so far. Let’s keep our fingers crossed!