Angela Slatter’s stories display a vision of the world which is a slight shift away from reality. I love that. Slatterworld is lyrical and full of imagery, but it’s also harsh in its reality, and cruel, and disturbing. She’s another powerful, original voice.
Her Sourdough and Other Stories collection is up for a World Fantasy Award. Here, she talks about the title story.
My stories either start with a first line or an image in my head. “Sourdough” came to me with the first line ‘My father did not know that my mother knew about his other wives, but she did.’
Hot on the heels of these word was the image of this woman in a kind of mixed Medieval/Victorian setting, her attention caught by all the kids in the city with a certain shade of bright red hair – the shade that said they were her husband’s children. It was quite filmic, all these kids flashing in and out as they ran through the town square – almost like the flashes you see in koi ponds when the fish swim quickly, disappearing under lily pads and the like, then reappearing.
The story then wandered away from that first line and became the tale of Emmeline, the eldritch baker and daughter of the woman in the first line. Her thread was influenced by the idea in the old Grimm fairy tale “The Princess in Disguise” of putting jewellery into food. In that tale, it’s a ring or necklace. Emmeline puts in a ring and something far less pleasant than in the fairy tale happens. I was thinking about how everyday activities might have magic in them and that kneading dough might be something that can create something powerful and strange. Fortuitously, the images in the story gave the fabulous writer and artist, Stephen J. Clark, the inspiration for the cover art for the book, Sourdough and Other Tales.
The spark for the city came after reading Margo Lanagan’s “Wooden Bride”. In the end my city is about the squares, it’s all squares within squares, with the idea being that within this terribly ordered and well-organised city there is so much chaos.