Flesh and Steel
|Title:||Flesh and Steel|
|Publisher:||The Nut Hatch|
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A Zine With an Odor!
According to the author's editorial, this zine's pages were originally impregnated with the smell of sandalwood.
Series: The Wolven Trilogy
All three novels were also published in one 450-page volume called Wolven Trilogy Omnibus.
Summary of Her Own Zine
Summary from the flyer, where Jane, as Kathy Keegan, reviews her own novel:
Possibly this writer's most astonishing project yet... Imagine a world where the vampiri are as real as the discovery of gunpowder, and the First World War rages late in the Fifteenth Century; when the witch and wolven, the enchanter and sorcerer, the Moor and Saracen rise out of the night with the ancient houses of Europe that trace their lineage to a time before the pharaohs, and make their stand against the witch persecuting Church of Rome...
In the vaults beneath the cathedral, a young wolven prisoner by the name of Bodie waits for the man who will liberate and capture him at once. But he is poisoned, and though he does not know it, he may not live to claim freedom. Tranced, he has Seen a green-eyed avenging angel, heard the thunderous voices of the cannon. But what is to become of him when 'the their war is not the same as that fought out in regiment from hell' marches into Beaujolais?
In the merciless cold of mid-winter, an ancient vampiro general leads an infamous army upon the city of Beaujolais, known as 'the city of death.' Raymond d'Elan is of a timeless pedigree, but now he and his companions are struggling to preserve their place in the future. In the smashed city, he will find a blue-eyed, ailing wolven who will change his life.
Tanis and Sabin, the unforgettable Genitori, so different and yet so alike ... d'Angeli and Vittorio, malicious, ruthless and doomed ... Sebastian, with his dreams of a new church built on Rome's ruins ... Angelica, a nun trapped by a macabre secret ... Domenico, one-eyed and filled with the wisdom of the ancients ... and Leon Giacomo Bertolini, whom Bodie calls 'the gargoyle,' the devil-Cardinal, the man at the heart of the 'city of death.'
Available as of August 1994. 140pp. A4, photocopy, illustrated by JJ. Coil bound.
"This novel is filled with haunting characters, magic and myth. Flesh And Steel will haunt thereader for days. I was amazed." — Kathy Keegan.
Excerpts from the Zine's Editorial
The zine's editorial is very, very lengthy (two, single-spaced pages, tiny font).
This novel came out of nowhere and demanded to be written, and if we seem to be springing it on you unexpectedly, we are! Flesh And Steel just 'happened,' and was mostly scribbled on odd sheets of paper at improbable hours, to be typed up later, when, it was convenient to get behind a keyboard (for which. I owe a debt of gratitude to Barb Jones).
In fact, I got 'flu. The real, genuine, full-throttle 'flu that not only makes you feel like you're about to die for a week, but also takes another couple of weeks to get over, in which, time the boredom factor cannot be over-emphasised. So I read a lot, and watched a lot of videos ... and Flesh And Steel is probably the result of all that was consumed. In fact, I dreamed this, literally in the form in which, you read it here, in its entirety, and just about finished! Very little work remained to be done to make the story coherent enough to write and publish. No, I wasn't stoned that night, and nor had I been drowning my sorrows in cognac! But I did have a fever, and I think that, added to all the stuff I'd been reading and watching, formed what was one of the most vivid dreams I ever recall. And the fact is, I do remember it, even now, weeks later, which, is peculiar indeed, for a dream.In the previous week or so, I'd read a stack of B/D zines; a text on Renaissance and Reformation art; a feature article about Vatican politics of the time of the Waring Popes (testimony to how bored I wast), plus Poppy Z. Brite's astonishing, erotic vampire novel. Lost Souls; and on video, I'd watched a lot Professionals episodes, and Michael Caine's The Last Valley, the last episode of Covington Cross, and Ladyhawke, also another Rutger Hauer film that's a shocker, Flesh And Blood; plus several of the magickal Robin Of Sherwood episodes; Frank Langella's Dracula; dozens of Zorro episode-lets; Highlander (original film), and a very silly movie from around 1970, The Devus (because Michael Gothard was in it, no other reason for playing the tape; he was also in The Last Valley). And then I ran a high, fever and went to sleep.
The date I've put on this (tentatively) is something like 1470. About the time of Leonardo, Columbus, the Borgias, the Medici, a lot of asinine popes, blood-crazed happenings within the church, horrifying wars, and ... the witch hunts.
Which leads me to The Disclaimer. This novel is not intended as an impeachment on modern Christians, their faith, church, their priesthood or any other element to do with Christianity. This is purely a historical statement. The church was filled with corruption, the cruelty even (or especially) of priests was appalling, and the massacre of people accused of witchcraft was so dire, that between nine million and twenty million people were tortured and executed during the course of several centuries that defy description. (I have all this in black and white). Modern Christians cannot refute their own ghastly history, but I want to stress again that this novel in no way attempts to impeach any church, sect, or element of the Christian credo as understood today.Also, on a historical note ... to a degree, I sanitised the era in which I was writing to make it easier to swallow. The cruelty, depravity and sheer filth of these times would send Twentieth Century people like you and me screaming into the night I've just cleaned everything up and toned everything down to make this story readable. So please, don't criticise me for understating the more raw aspects of this, or handing you the 'Walt Disney' production. Q. was once criticised for euphemising attitudes to whale hunting in the last century. I had made my a/u Bodie and Doyle sympathise with the creatures being murdered; this made the characters attractive, acceptable, to Twentieth Century readers. If I'd told the truth and said they didn't care a fig for whales, which were a harvest, to be slaughtered as fast as Man could do it, you'd hate the characters (and me along with them!), as if I'd said that in 1980 Bodie and Doyle have a charming hobby: they torture kittens to death on weekends, for fun. 'Writer's licence' must be employed to make characters acceptable and attractive to our era, and in this way I admit, I've sanitised the Fifteenth Century to make it more pleasant to read. Written with neon-light accuracy, it would be so dismal, you'd read ten pages and throw this book away.
Formatting the test for printing was also fascinating. We wanted a printout that looked like (or at least reminded you of) an old, old manuscript. So we used single column, and a type font called either Timbrel or Fantasy, depending on which font pack you buy it in. The artwork was designed to be reminiscent of early engravings, and we think the whole thing turned out well "zine noir.' (The headers and footers are in Old High German, packaged as Luftwaffe; and if you think you smell sandalwood joss every time you open the zine, you're right. We scented it, to give it an olfactory kick, since the text revolves around olfactory triggers). Someone somewhere is almost certainly going to say, 'this novel wasn't done fannishly, this is a B/D version of something done for the pro market' Not true. That weird dream which completely haunted me inspired exactly what you have here. No other version has been produced, and I don't intend to get Into that Cat least not until inspiration strikes and time permits, which could mean between two years from, now, and never). This story was purely- B/D from the moment I turned off the video, my body temperature soared and I started to dream!
I hope you'll write to me after you finish this piece ... I'd like to know which actors you see as Tarns and Sabin, Sebastian and Domenico, and the others. (Raymond and Bodie are, or should be) pretty obvious! ... and I can already hear people saying, 'what happened then? Is there any more of this?' The answer is, maybe/probably, but it depends how well this one is received. If it's liked, I would love to do more. But if it sells three copies, gets rubbished by critics and receives either no LoCs, or horrible ones, I know how to give a piece of work a decent burial and go on to something else. Please enjoy this novel! Jane, July/August 1994
Reactions and Reviews
Reading Jane's Flesh and Steel trilogy at the moment which I'm (surprisingly) enjoying....Flesh and Steel has a lot of the style I associate with "bad Jane" elsewhere - repetition, rotten grasp on history (even when doing an alternate timeline), florid prose. But somehow in this work it doesn't bother me as much. It's very dream-like. And sensual. And I like her characters. 
It's a trilogy, actually, but the first story is the most readable. Well, yes, as with most of Jane's work, this trilogy lacks in-depth characterisation, repeats itself endlessly for pages and pages, and the plot seems to lose itself in a huge black hole midway through. However... those flaws notwithstanding, it hits various kinks of mine. I love the alternative medieval history, the huge conflict and edge-of-darkness war between the Inquisition and the Church and the forces of the Vampires, Witches, Werewolves and so on (Magick United). Doyle is a tough, centuries-old vampire who bears on his shoulders the destiny of this war, the fate of his people, despite his being young in comparison to other vampires. And Bodie is an abused werewolf who has lived the past five years in a cell, used as Seer by the evil forces of the Church (in between other evil abuses). Bodie has to work through various stages of slavery and serving to gain the trust of the vampire household before being allowed to become part of it. Of course, a Bodie in various stages of nakedness and chains and mostly in bed under Doyle, a Doyle moody and tough, brave but lonely... it works for me, obviously. And I have to say, the endless repetitive descriptions (of Doyle's chestnut hairy chest, of the army of darkness, and so on) which usually get me quickly bored with Jane, in this case work as a hypnotic influence, and I don't mind them so much.
Flesh and Steel is very, very, Gothik. Bodie is a werewolf and Doyle is a vampire, part of an army that is conquering some vaguely Mittleuropean territory. The writing is lush, but not over the top for this kind of vampire story. Moons are gibbous, people swoon, there are bits of pseudo-Latin and Italian scattered about. There's more than a bit of bondage and dom-sub flavor to the relationship.
Jane has written a flamboyant and imaginative fantasy set in an age where vampires, witches, were wolves, sorcerers and witches are not myths, but real and the Christian church is waging a bitter, brutal and bloody battle to root out and destroy them. The setting is an alternate 15th century, with the Moor and the Saracen in partnership with the vampires, and allies, against their mutual enemy.
In Flesh and Steel, Raymond D'Elan, the vampire general, leads his army against the 'devil cardinal' while the wolven Bodie, prays for release from his five years of torture, poisoning and abuse as the prisoner and involuntary 'scryer' for the cardinal, and see the city's, and his, green eyed, wild ringlet haired, leather clad rescuer in his visions.
As this is the first of a trilogy, some time is spent in setting up the main characters and providing them with backgrounds and motivations for their actions. Much of this is quite fascinating, as is the description of the powers that the vampire, witches etc. possess. Jane has given her vampires the ability to consume the life force of humans, but has chosen for them to eat, and drink normal food and not be reliant on blood for nourishment. She has also made them ancient and ageless. Bodie, the wolven is a wolf at the full moon, but human the rest of the time, and possessed with the gift of farsight.
The main story is about Raymond and Bodie, their meeting and their instant attraction, counterpoised with the vampire's distrust of him. Bodie convinces Raymond and his more sceptical lieutenants, Sabin and Tanis, of his sincerity in wanting to be part of them, and in so doing introduces us to Sebastian, the troubled priest, and Domenico, Bodie's one-eyed mentor. Once accepted, Bodie has to go through a years probation and service before he can be fully accepted into Raymond's clan. The story finishes with Raymond off to battle and Bodie beginning his indentured service.
Blood and Fire and Soul and Storm are the second and third parts of the trilogy. Blood and Fire is the preparation for the final routing of Rome with Raymond called away to fight and plan and Bodie left at the mercy of the Slave master and the traditions and daily humiliations of slavery. I found this part variable and a little repetitive, while Soul and Storm brought the trilogy to a magnificent end with Bodie, now a free man, in great demand as a highly skilled scryer. He scrys for the Scotlanders, who will support the pagano army if the auguries are favourable, and foretells victory, but tells no one, not even his lover Raymond, the truth. Bodie grows in stature, strength and self esteem as he commands his own troop of men, despite Raymond's misgivings, and their relationship slowly becomes one of true equals.I'd heard a great deal about this trilogy before I read it, much of it totally contradictory, but what did come through was the rich imagery of the story. Having now read all of it I think that the setting, the style, the descriptions, the characters, the imaginative plot and the sheer flamboyance of the piece far outweighs any occasional tumbles into somewhat verbose purple prose and repetitions. I also like the characterisation of the alternate Bodie and Doyle, despite Bodie's initial weakened and subservient position. There were sufficient similarities to the originals to engage me, and Jane managed to maintain the plots momentum and intrigue, while developing Raymond and Bodie's relationship throughout the three books.
I keep coming across new stories, though. Reading Jane's Flesh and Steel trilogy at the moment which I'm (surprisingly) enjoying.
Flesh and Steel has a lot of the style I associate with "bad Jane" elsewhere - repetition, rotten grasp on history (even when doing an alternate timeline), florid prose. But somehow in this work it doesn't bother me as much. It's very dream-like. And sensual. And I like her characters.
One of the first things I ever read in Pros was Jane's Wolven trilogy - Flesh and Steel (1994), Blood and Fire (1994) and Soul and Storm (1999).
Bearing in mind that it's well over five years since I read these stories, my recollection of them is that Doyle is the dominant character here - he's a vampire, the leader of an army, and a man who knows exactly what he wants and doesn't hesitate to take it. Bodie is a werewolf who can foresee the future and is a far more submissive character, readily agreeing to a life in Doyle's service until such time as he can prove himself to be as great a leader of men as his master. By the end of the trilogy the two are living together as equals.It's quite likely that the passage of time may have clouded my remembrance of these stories, but I'm fairly certain that I haven't seen this same Bodie/Doyle dynamic in any of Jane's other stories. If there are any that follow a similar pattern then I'd be very happy to read them! 
- Close Quarters Desert Island Episode/Zine/Fic] dated July 18, 2009; reference link.
- June 2005 comment at Crack Van
- from Discovered in a Letterbox #24
- a fan reviewing the zine on the CI5 List in 1997, quoted anonymously with permission
- review by Ali at The Hatstand
- a 2005 comment at Crack Van
- a 2005 comment at Crack Van
- 2008 comments at byslantedlight’s journal, Archived version, see that page for more discussion about Jane of Australia's writing