Festival of the Imagination 1996 Souvenir Book – Storm Constantine

Transcribed from the Souvenir book for the Swancon titled Festival of the Imagination 1996, pages 19-20

Storm Constantine is 30 something, and lives in Stafford with eight cats and a husband. She has been making up and telling stories all her life. “I was always making up stories as a kid,” she remembers. “I didn’t realise it was wrong. I just made them up about everything, and when I got found out I always got into terrible trouble.” At a certain point it dawned on her that it might be better to be paid rather than punished for telling those stories. “It didn’t stop me. I’m a compulsive storyteller, only now I get a royalty cheque rather than a smack.”

With the storytelling urge came an early, wide-ranging reading habit and an interest in mythology and ancient Egypt that led to writers of the fantastic like Michael Moorcock, Jack Vance and Tanith Lee. Books on art, fairy tales, magic and angels all fuelled the Constantine imagination–her workroom is a dream library of the esoteric and eclectic, a browser’s heaven.

Her interest in mythology and the fantastic, and involvement in the burgeoning alternative music and Goth scene of the late ’70s and early ’80s mingled in the genesis of the Wraeththu. The Wraeththu–beautiful, androgynous, wild and magical–went through a decade-long gestation before The Enchantments of Flesh and Spirit was published in 1987. Followed by The Bewitchments of Love and Hate and The Fulfillments of Fate and Desire, the Wraeththu soon attracted a small but dedicated cult following. The cycle showcased Storm’s growing sense of assurance as a writer; as someone with a unique sense of style–a sense of style that was evident in person as it was on the page. Storm’s early appearances at SF conventions had jaws dropping. Black clad, with a million silver bangles, spiky hair and exotic makeup, the Constantine Crew would turn heads in astonishment, amongst the regulars at SF conventions.

After the early success of the Wraeththu cycle, Storm turned to a different setting for her next two novels, The Monstrous Regiment and Aleph. TMR was more strongly science fictional, set on the colony world of Artemis suffering under a despotic matriarchal regime. At the time it flew in the face of feminist sensibilities and was not well-received critically. “It was an angry, hurt book, based on a situation with a witchcraft group I’d got involved in and the woman who ran it. In retrospect, I should have toned it down a bit, made it less over the top. It was also the first time I’d written in the third person, and had to conciously think about plotting and pacing and all that.”

The sequel, Aleph, was less overtly political, following the refugees from the fallen matriarchal regime into unexplored regions beyond the settlements. Aleph was also the novel where two major themes that would feature strongly in future Constantine novels emerged: the theme of a journey into exile culminating in a magical, transcendent resolution that marked a turning point of self discovery and acceptance; and the theme of a psychic–sometimes physical–rebirth. In retrospect this spiritual rite of passage, when the world changes and the individual is faced with a choice between growth and evolution, or refusal of growth and stagnation, lies at the heart of all of Constantine’s novel-length work.

Her sixth novel, Hermetech, was a tour de force, fusing sexual and spiritual transformation and the electronic shamanism reflected in the book’s cover and chapter heading designs by Carl McCoy’s Sheer Faith (Storm would repay the compliment later with articles for the Nephilim Watchmen magazine and liner notes for the band’s retrospective album, Earth Inferno). Storm brought these three separate strands together into one tightly controlled, often exhilarating, vision. Hermetech is, perhaps, the quintessential Storm Constantine novel–a celebration of sexual power few other authors could have written, or would have dared to.

It was a bold move, then, to change direction almost completely with her next novel, Burying the Shadow, a fantasy of epic proportion. In Shadow, Storm draws on the myths and legends of the biblical Nephilim, Enochian magic, Gustav Davidson’s A Dictionary of Angels and Milton’s epic Paradise Lost. It is a story of the days after the Fall, when the scattered elohim live among humans in the protective seclusion of their atelier courts. But the immortal are falling prey to the Fear, a sickness of the soul that drives them to the unthinkable–suicide. In the courts the elohim trade their arts and knowledge for the sustenance of their patron’s blood. The parallels are obvious, although in a tale of angelic vampires the words angel and vampire do not appear once.

The novels written for Headline between 1991 and 1994 display a growing confidence, and are able to be read and enjoyed on a number of levels. They feature increasingly esoteric references and allusions, something that is most obvious in Sign for the Sacred, which adroitly combines the comic, the magical fairy tale and the dark tale of love and hate. It is a book of obsession, of the quest for the heretic prophet Resenance Jeopardy, who may be a charlatan or messiah, or both. Sign displays a lighter touch, a playfulness, which treads between whimsy and the grotesque, and even features a cameo appearance from the band Every New Dead Ghost as a strange group of musicians who attract and trap the spirits of the dead.

Calenture, Storm’s final novel for Headline, again takes several stories and combines them. Here though, the stories nest inside one another, a different approach to the parallel plot threads of Sign for the Sacred. Calenture is not simply a story: it is a book about story and how it can take on a life and potency of its own, become something real. It is a masterful novel, both in construction and in the images of a land crossed by great moving cities, and the tale of the mad or driven–the calentured–who leap from them to seek their own destinies in the lands below.

With ten novels complete, Stalking Tender Prey has just been published. Storm’s compulsion to tell stories is as strong as ever. Stalking Tender Prey explores her continuing fascination with the mythology of the Fallen Angels, drawing on characters and ideas from her earlier novel, Burying the Shadow, and her short story, “A Change Of Season” (which appeared in the Midnight Rose Anthology, The Weerde). Storm has written dozens of short stories, and has an eleventh novel, Scenting Hallowed Blood, due for publication later this year.

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