Monthly Archives: October 2013

Tesseracts 17 Interview: Tim Reynolds

anthology, speculative fiction, SF, fantasy, Canadian authors

Tesseracts 17  has tales from Canadian writers that span all times and places.

Tim Reynolds is one of the four Alberta authors to grace the pages of Tesseracts 17 (already available on Amazon).

CA: Tim, your story “Why Pete?” struck us right away as being true science fiction. It wasn’t a veneer and it had a ray of hope. A lot of space SF seems to be laden with gloom or madness, and yours could have been but you resisted. Was it pure coincidence or did you plan it?

Both, actually. I already write a lot of gloom and madness with my horror (and a new fantasy novel I’m planning) so my science fiction tends to be a bit brighter and upbeat. Of course there will always be death and danger and heartbreak in my stories, but that’s the nature of life. With “Why Pete?”, the upbeat nature sort of came out of the situation. It may sound corny, but once I decided that the hero was female and the computer voice was male, the banter between the characters dictated the tone. It was supposed to be a bit dark and claustrophobic, but when I asked how a well-trained, professional commander would truly react, humour and hope shone through. The last thing I wanted was a screaming, crying cliche.  The ending was not planned in detail prior to the writing. I wrote the story and when I got to the part where it all needed to be tied up, gloom and despair just didn’t seem to fit as well as hope. To be honest, my stories ALL end with hope. It may not be the hope the reader or characters expect at the beginning of the story, but there is hope. I’m also known for killing all my characters, some with dignity and some without any grace or style whatsoever. Que sera sera.

CA: Too many SF movies deal with technology doing the characters in? Why do you suppose that is?

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Alberta author Tim Reynolds’ story “Why Pete” is in Tesseracts 17.

I believe that when technology is “doing the characters in” in a film, it’s not SF (or at least not sci fi), it’s horror, or maybe a thriller. If the technology can be replaced with a werewolf, a shark, a dream dude with razor-sharp gloves, or a former camper in a goalie mask, then it’s a horror story written in a science fiction/science environment. The technology can then be symbolic of whatever aspect of mankind (racism, corporations, dictators, religion, etc.) the filmmaker wants to take a shot at.  Now, in Alien (the perfect horror film set in space), the technology “doing man in” is actually the android, who sees the pursuit of knowledge as the purest of endeavours, and greater than the needs and wants of the individuals. I think we also use technology as the antagonist in order to avoid offending any particular group (ie., people not of the race, creed, colour, religion, political stance, height, weight, or dietary alignment of the author/filmmaker). Technology is simply a common threat outside mankind, like alien beings. Even slasher films portray their killers as something much less than human. It’s how we can tell such horrific stories and still have the readers come back for more. The sad thing is that worse horrors are perpetrated in reality by “the nice person next door” than any imagined monster or tech in film or literature.

CA: Do you think SF is getting a bad rep these days?

I think Science Fiction has always had a bad rep, because when it’s badly done it’s horrible; but when it’s well-executed, it asks questions and makes proposals and puts forth ideas that scare the hell out of the people whose jobs it is to maintain the order they’ve designed and must maintain. In my mind, good science fiction should shake up the status quo, at least a little bit. If you haven’t pissed off at least one or two people with your story’s ideas/concepts, then you haven’t done your job as a SF writer. I do this in my fantasy as well. I think that a story lacking a belief system (politics, religious, scientific) and something attacking it, is missing an entire layer that takes the story from an enjoyable read to  topic of discussion and argument. In my recently submitted novel, I have a character compare Jesus Christ to Adolf Hitler. That sounds incredibly daring out of context, but in fact it fits with the over-all conversation. Of course it’s also meant to infuriate people and have them screaming at me. Even if they’re discussing it negatively, they’re discussing it. “Why Pete?” is not particularly controversial, though, unless you count Lilly and Pete’s different points of view on marital fidelity.

CA: You mentioned that you were looking at a phobia. Do you have other stories where you explore phobias and ones process into or through them?

No, not really. I should clarify that the phobia of being buried alive which inspired “Why Pete?” is not meant to be the character’s phobia, but the reader’s. There’s no way Commander Rayn would have been sent into space if she were claustrophobic, at least in my story. Instead, I want the reader to be terrified and sweating and not coping well in the situation, while the character keeps a level head and solves the problem at hand. In part, the story is meant to say that logic, patience, and a few deep breaths are more effective than freaking out, so calm down and solve the problem.  I do enjoy using fear as a motivator, though. None of us know what is beyond death, so that’s always the first one I play with. I have an entire novel, though, where every one of the “team” of heroes is reincarnated whenever they die, so the fear they are working with is that their failure means the deaths of of tens of thousands of others who do NOT get reincarnated. Although I don’t treat it as a paralyzing phobia, I do cripple some of the characters with an overwhelming fear of failure, over and over again. And then I gave the hero MS, just to up the stakes a bit.

CA: In your ideal future of space travel, what would you hope to see and do (presuming that it could be there tomorrow)?

If I won the lottery tomorrow, I would reserve a seat on a shuttle into space, even for 30 seconds of weightlessness. On a bigger scale than my own self-satisfaction, though, I would love to see mankind find efficient and safe ways to colonize space before it’s too late and we’ve beaten ourselves down so far that there’s no money for space exploration any more. I would love to see us also take more risks and push the envelope like the early astronauts did for both Russia and the USA. We will not go as far as we need to by playing it too safe. My story, “Why Pete?”, actually describes where I want us to be going. Mankind should explore and populate the stars. That’s the ideal, what I hope for.

The reality I foresee is much darker and far less positive. I live like an optimist, but I have a great deal of faith in the self-righteous dregs of humanity finding a way to ruin our future. I don’t see a way to fix it and it’s a problem I’m currently wresting with in the sibling-novel (is that a term? I mean a novel set in the same universe with the same backstory, but in a different location and a different set of characters) of “Why Pete?”.

Tim Reynolds is a Canadian twistorian, bending and twisting history into fictional shapes for sheer entertainment. His published stories range from lighthearted urban fantasy to turn-on-the-damned-lights-now horror, and include the story of a bus driver who kills all his passengers, a tale of a dying folk singer’s moments teaching Death a love song, and a dark, depressing view of the near future of reality TV and child-rearing. His first love, though, is science fiction and is working diligently at his first science fiction novel, while marketing an urban fantasy and editing the first draft of a paranormal romance.

His 100-word story “Temper Temper” was a winner of Kobo Writing Life’s Jeffrey Archer Short Story Challenge. He can be found online at www.tgmreynolds.com & www.TheTaoOfTim.com (blog).

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Tesseracts 17 Interview: Lisa Smedman

Tesseracts 17 has authors from across Canada. Today’s interview is with BC writer Lisa Smedman, a long time writer and game designer. Her story “2020 Vision” examines the logical side of religion.

anthology, speculative fiction, SF, fantasy, Canadian authors

Tesseracts 17 is out this month with tales from Canadian writers that span all times and places.

CA: Lisa, your story “2020 Vision” looks at cultlike behavior, politics, and the use of social media. It’s a very strong and disturbing, even ironic, social commentary. Religious topics can always be a very sensitive hotbed of opinion, or even rabid denunciations. What fascinated you enough to write such a story?

The story started from an anecdote a friend told, about being asked whether she believed in God. She said, “No, but I believe in Santa Claus.” That got me thinking about the nature of belief, and blind “faith” being the basis of so many religions. One could just as easily assert that Santa Claus really does exist, utilizing the same “prove he doesn’t” arguments used to assert that God exists.

The story also sprang from the idea that any religion that doesn’t allow one to question its practices and teachings, that doesn’t allow (or even punishes) its followers to laugh at the religion’s foibles, is setting a dangerous precedent, since it sets up the possibility of religious leaders twisting the religion to their own ends — ends that go unquestioned and are blindly obeyed.

To paraphrase the Emma Goldman quote about dancing and revolution: “A religion without laughter is not a religion worth having.”

Another big influence was the movie Life of Brian. In it, an ordinary, bumbling man is mistaken for Christ, and people begin to blindly follow him, hanging upon his every word and finding deep religious significance in his every action. My favorite scene is when a mob of religious fanatics is following him, and he discards a drinking gourd and loses one sandal. Half of the mob cries “We must follow the gourd!” and the other half cries, “No, we must follow the shoe!” and a fight breaks out over these two “sacred” objects as each half of the mob turns on the other. Religions are constantly dividing into smaller and smaller factions, every single one of them convinced that they are the “true” faith.

Canadian writers, speculative fiction, religious satire, SF

Lisa Smedman is the author of 17 novels, and a game designer.

I’ve often reflected upon why so many religions start out with the message “be nice to each other” and wind up teaching their followers to hurt, with words or deeds, or even to kill.

Life of Brian was boycotted by some Christians when it first hit movie theaters. Ironically, it portrays Christ and his message quite faithfully. When Christ says in his Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are the meek,” a listener too far away to hear clearly interprets it as, “Blessed are the cheesemakers.” That so eloquently sums up how the original message of a religion can be mangled, by accident, due to translation errors (or be willfully skewed) and yet still regarded as gospel.

Another influence was a talk by the Dalai Lama I attended back in 1981. When asked about religions other than Buddhism, he compared the world’s religions to a smorgasbord, and encouraged people to “eat” whatever dishes most nourished them. Instead of saying “my religion is the only true one” he embraced all faiths that led one to become a better person. That, in my opinion, is what a religion should be: a practice one follows, “eating” only those portions of it that ring true, and rejecting (or perhaps politely declining) the rest.

CA: Do you think fanaticism is ever likely to have logic?

There is a “logic” to fanaticism, but it is a twisted logic. If you ask no questions, pull no threads, the fabric of belief hangs together. But pull one thread and it all unravels. Of course, the fanatics are wearing the “emperor’s clothes,” and never notice the holes.

CA: Have you explored this theme in other work?

I’ve explored many themes in my science fiction and fantasy writing. One I keep coming back to is the nature of identity. As an anthropology major, cultures fascinate me, especially the question of who “belongs” to a social construct and who doesn’t. How groups overlap, how boundaries mutate. Points of commonality that allow us to see other people as “one of us” and the myriad of ways we can divide “us” and “them.” We tend to see things in polarities: A or Z, ignoring all of the letters of the alphabet in between. This theme can be found in 2020 Vision, in the notion of who belongs to a religious group… and who does not, who is “in” and who is “out.”

A native Vancouverite, Lisa Smedman is the author of 17 science fiction and fantasy novels, numerous short stories, two best-selling books on Vancouver’s history, and dozens of roleplaying adventures, primarily for Dungeons & Dragons. She also writes plays and screenplays. Her fiction explores both Canada’s past (the steampunk Apparition Trail, set in the 1800s) and its possible futures. A journalist for many years, she currently teaches game design at the Art Institute of Vancouver. She hosts a biweekly writers group that grew out of the B.C. Science Fiction Association 30 years ago. She is also a mom to two humans, three cats and a pug.

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Tesseracts 17 Interview: Rhea Rose

anthology, speculative fiction, SF, fantasy, Canadian authors

Tesseracts 17 will be out this fall with tales from Canadian writers that spans all times and places.

Another BC author, Rhea Rose’s story “The Wall” graces the pages of Tesseracts 17. It is a disturbing tale of love, obsession and loss.

CA: Rhea, your story “The Wall”  is a classic descent-into-madness story, or is it?

I think you can definitely describe this story as a classic descent-into-madness tale.  It’s also a horror story. When I wrote it I was playing with both those aspects of storytelling, madness and horror. I asked myself, “Is she crazy” or “Is this really happening?” I decided at some point that the “Wall” needed to be more concrete, more of a real creature rather than an imagining on the part of the main character. At that point, when I made the wall more of a creepy little character, was when the story turned from a one-dimensional descent- into- madness story to a more multidimensional  horror tale, as well.

CA: The disturbing imagery both draws the reader in and repulses at the same time. What made you explore such a strange world, and have you ever seen the Wall?

Nope.  I’ve never seen the Wall, and I hope I never do, except perhaps in the movie version!  When I’m trying to write something scary, I ask myself what are the things that disturb me, and when I figure out what those are, I try to put at least three of them into a story.  In this case I wanted to play with the fear of being a mother, the pressures of being responsible for a baby, combined with a fear – the Wall – of something you can’t get rid of, or control.

CA: What do you think it is about madness that fascinates people?

Rhea Rose, Canadian writers, horror, fantasy

Rhea Rose taps into the vein of madness in her tale. If you’re at VCon this weekend, look for Rhea.

Hmm,  madness goes hand in hand with creativity and a connection with genius, so madness can be the negative extreme of both those conditions. The mad scientist is a genius with wondrous creations that are also destructive. The mad woman may have moments of lucidity when wisdom issues forth, losing control of paradigm is terrifying and exhilarating, a kind of madness.  Of course real madness, as in the case of diagnosed schizophrenia is just plain terrifying.

CA: Have you dealt with this theme in other pieces of your work?

Only in a meta sense.  Descent into story writing is a form of controlled madness, but I can’t think of another story I’ve written that deals with any form of “crazy.” It’s a difficult place to live in even for a short time, which is what you have to do when you’re writing the story. Generally, my characters are trying to deal with the madness that others have foisted on them.

CA: Many of your stories have involved children from their POV. In this case, the child is both peripheral and integral to this piece. Are you done exploring tales which put children into strange dilemmas?

I doubt I am done with children in strange dilemmas, as you say.  That seems to be my psyche’s theme, but I do consciously work to move away from those stories, although if a really good one pops into my head I won’t hesitate to write it down.  I find children’s responses to the world both fascinating and frightening. It’s such a scary ordeal to have to figure out how the world works when you can’t yet read the instructions.

Rhea is a Vancouver, BC writer and a teacher. She’s a graduate of UBC’s Creative Writing program and a Clarion writer. Most of her work has been published north of the 49th parallel. Her short stories and poetry have appeared in the Tesseracts anthologies. Many of her pieces have been nominated for awards, including the Rhysling award for poetry, and a nomination for an Aurora award. There were a couple of preliminary nominations for Nebula award nominations. A short story of hers appeared in a David Hartwell’s, Christmas Forever anthology. TaleBones has published a short story and poem. Rhea’s Big Foot story (not her foot) was published in NorthWest Passages: A Cascadian Anthology, and a horror tale made it into Tesseracts 10 from EDGE Press, which received honorable mention in  BHOTY, as did her latest story in the first Evolve anthology.  Look for her most recent poetry at Chizine. http://www.chizine.com/authors/davidclink.  All of these stories and many of her poems can be found in her collection, Pandora’s Progeny, at Amazon.  Her latest works appear in Masked Mosaic, Dead North and Tesseracts 17.

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Chi Reading Series Vancouver

writing, readings, speculative fiction, Canadian authors, Chizine, CZP

The ChiSeries features published authors every quarter. Also in Toronto, Winnipeg and Ottawa.

Coming next week  is the third event in the ChiSeries Vancouver, which Sandra Kasturi and Helen Marshall first started in Toronto. I chair the Vancouver branch and we started in April with Claude Lalumière, Camille Alexa and Steve Erikson, with a second in July with Eileen Kernaghan, Linda DeMuelemeester and Hiromi Goto. This third reading has Peter Darbyshire (also writing as Peter Roman) author of Mona Lisa Sacrifice, Melia McClure with her first novel The Delphi Room, and Silvia Moreno-Garcia, editor of Innsmouth Free Press and author of the collection This Strange Way of Dying.

dark fiction, speculative fiction, Canadian authors

Melia McClure’s The Delphi Room debuts this month.

Melia McClure’s The Delphi Room is a quirky, darkly surreal novel currently out from ChiZine Publications. She has adapted The Delphi Room into a screenplay. Her fiction has been shortlisted in the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) National Literary Awards, and she is the editor of Meditation & Health magazine, which is distributed in multiple locations in the United States and Canada as well as in Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Indonesia. Melia grew up dancing and acting, and now, when not penning strange tales populated by quirky characters, or creating other varieties of writing, she can be found collecting vintage coats, dabbling with paint and perfecting her Charleston.

Click on Melia’s name above and you’ll get a taste of her very evocative writing. If you can’t make Oct. 9, she is having the official launch of her book on Oct. 18 at the Cottage Bistro at 4470 Main St.

Canadian authors, dark fiction, speculative writing

Peter Darbyshire’s novels have received rave reviews.

Peter Darbyshire is the author of the books The Warhol Gang and Please, which won the ReLit Prize for Best Alternative Novel. He’s also the author of the supernatural thriller The Mona Lisa Sacrifice, under the pen name Peter Roman. When he has time, he writes strange short stories, but they’re never as strange as real life.

Mexican by birth, Canadian by inclination. Silvia Moreno-Garcia lives in Vancouver with her family and two cats. Her short stories have appeared in places such as The Book of Cthulhu, Imaginarium 2013: The Best Canadian Speculative Writing and Shine: An Anthology of Optimistic Science Fiction. She has edited several anthologies, including Dead North and Fungi. Her first collection, This Strange Way of Dying, is out this year. Her first novel, Sound Fidelity, will be out in 2014.

publishers, editors, Canadian author, Mexican writers

Silvia Moreno-Garcia is editor of Innsmouth Free Press and author of This Strange Way of Dying.

These authors have impressive writing styles and they’ll be reading from their works next week. The event is free, as are all the Chiaroscuro Readings Series (sponsored in part by ChiZine Publications) across Canada. Other reading events are in Winnipeg, Ottawa and Toronto (which receive some sponsorship from the Ontario Arts Council), where national chair and co-founder Sandra Kasturi has been running monthly readings for about four years.

It’s a great way to spend a rainy or cool October evening. Come out and meet the authors and listen to them read. If you’re in other parts of Canada, check out the ChiSeries there and keep an eye out for more events in other cities in the future. The next one for Vancovuer will be in January. https://www.facebook.com/ChiSeries

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