CA: Leaving Cape Roseway speaks to a primal feeling. Do you think that feeling takes on a supernatural quality when we are confronted with the unfamiliar?
A few years ago a veteran lobster fisherman, who grew up on McNutt’s Island in Shelburne Harbour, took me out to the island and showed me the remnants of a once thriving community. As we toured the abandoned buildings and the ruins of fortifications, I wondered how Poe or Lovecraft might respond to this place and its emptiness, transforming a Nova Scotia landscape into mindscape and dreamscape. However, I didn’t want the sense of dread to be too overt. Instead, I aimed for a more subtle evocation of fear and its contours.
CA: Eileen Kernaghan’s poem is of another forest, yet you both have drawn on the power of nature. Once humans created gods and beings to comprehend this power. Do you think we have lost that in our modern age?
Yes, I think we have to some degree; however, our response to nature remains primal (that word again). I think my poem and Eileen’s both speak to a yearning to reconnect with nature, to be enveloped in the natural world. It’s a feeling that combines wonder and fear – maybe even panic. (I’m sure the Germans have a word for it.)
CA: Would you ever wish to truly meet a supernatural or magical being or be in such a place?
I once published a poem, “Loup-Garou,” in the Canadian magazine Dark Fantasy , in which the narrator runs in terror from such
an encounter only to discover, in an EC-Comics-style ending, that he has become the supernatural being. I, too, would probably run in terror.
CA: Do you think the animals of the fields and forest live their lives in a world that is magical or in one devoid of anything but the search for comfort, sustenance and shelter?
I believe there is magic in the natural world for all creatures to experience in their own way. For instance, no one can convince me that crows are not living in a magical world. Just watch them.
CA: What themes do you like to explore in your writing and what other projects do you have on the go?
I am currently editing a book that collects the wartime diary and letters of my wife’s great-uncle, a working-class guy from the north end of Halifax who served as a gunner in the Canadian Army during the First World War. Although he worked all his life as a mechanic, he was also an aspiring writer (his middle name was “Byron”). In fact, his papers include several story manuscripts and rejection letters from pulp magazines such as Adventure. I hope to honour his service and fulfill his literary ambitions.
John Bell was born in Montreal and grew up in Halifax. After a long career at the National Archives in Ottawa, he returned to Nova Scotia and now lives in Lunenburg. He is the author or editor of nearly twenty books, including Invaders from the North, a ground-breaking history of Canadian comics. A former editor of the poetry magazine Arc, Bell has contributed to numerous anthologies, among them Ark of Ice and Nova Scotia: Visions of the Future, both edited by Lesley Choyce. In 1981, Bell and Choyce co-edited Visions from the Edge, one of the earliest Canadian SF anthologies.