Category Archives: art

Writing Update

toys, childhood, nostalgia, fantasy, SF, fiction, short stories

Playground of Lost Toys is available through Amazon published by Exile Writers

My busy year has been full of many things, writing or other. Playground of Lost Toys, co-edited by Ursula Pflug and me, is up for an Aurora Award. The winners will be announced in August at When Words Collide in Calgary. I’ll be there, on several panels, a reading I think, and a blue pencil session where you can sign up and have a few pages edited by me. And kudos to authors in the anthology who have been nominated for other awards. Karen Abrahamson’s story “With One Shoe” was shortlisted for an Arthur Ellis Award, and has been longlisted for a Sunburst Award in short fiction. Catherine A. MacLeod’s “Hide and Seek” and Dominik Parisien’s “Goodbye is a Mouthful of Water” are also longlisted for the Sunburst.

And mentioning Dominik Parisien, editor of Clockwork Canada also published by Exile Editions, my story “Buffalo Gals” is in the anthology. Airship Ambassador has done a four-part interview with me about the story (and with other authors as well). The first part is here and you can click in the right column of the site to get the other parts as well.

steampunk, cogs, clockwork, Buffalo Gals, fantasy

Clockwork Canada is available on Amazon and through Exile Editions. Steampunk stories about Canada’s revisioned history.

Other fiction that has been published this year includes “Freedom’s Just Another Word” free to read at Agnes and True, “Mermaid’s Curse” and “Paul Bunyan’s Toils” at SpeckLit. These two are drabbles, which means they’re 100 words exactly. They were fun to write and good practice for having the purest essence of a story. And just hitting the shelves for pre-order now is Alessandro Manzetti’s anthology Beauty of Death, which includes my story “Season’s End.” It’s chock full of stories and I quite like the cover.

horror, dark fantasy, death, speculative fiction, Season's End.

The Beauty of Death, edited by Alessandro Manzetti.

Earlier this year saw my poem “The Hedge Witch” come out in OnSpec along with an interview (that’s two interviews in a year), and “Book of Shadows” in Devolution Z #8. More recent, “Beltane Fires” came out in Eternal Haunted Summer’s Spring issue, and “Patchwork Girl” has just been released at The Future Fire. And two more poems “Short Sighted” and “Pilot Flight” have been released in Polar Borealis #2. Most of these poems and stories are free to read on the net so go and read great fiction and poetry and discover some new authors.

I have many more irons in fires, with more poetry and stories coming out this year but I’ll leave that for another post. I can say I’ve received approval to edit another anthology but it will be another year until you see info on that. In the meantime, I’m working on a poetry collection, and a fiction novel, and was honored to be one of the judges for Exile’s Carter V. Cooper short fiction prize. The longlist can be seen here. Gloria Vanderbilt will now choose from that list.

I’m diving back in to more fiction as well, so away I go. And if you’re a writer, don’t stop, never give up. Every skill takes practice and practice. I’m still practicing my craft and getting better all the time.

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Movie Review: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

apes, chimps, planet of the apes, war, racism, simian virus

Copyright: 20th Century Fox

There will be massive spoilers and I realize this movie came out last year but others, like me might still be deciding if they want to watch it.

Many of us are familiar with the Planet of the Apes movie franchise. We have a secret love for the overall monkeyness of Roddy McDowall’s Cornelius in the original Planet of the Apes, and his subsequent role as Cornelius’s son, Caeser, as savior of ape and humankind. And for anyone who wonders, Caeser seems to be a chimpanzee (or possibly bonobo) in the ape family. There have been several versions of Planet of the Apes since those early years, in cinema and on TV. I haven’t seen them all.

With the great range of special effects and digital motion capture available now, any film is possible. Creating more realistic apes as well as developing great new plots should make for a lot of great cinema. And if you look at Rotten Tomatoes or other review sites Dawn of the Planet of the Apes rated high, to which I must say I’m truly stunned. Rise of the Planet of the Apes was good; it wasn’t great. And having Andy Serkis add his skills into realistic  primate movements of the ape definitely enhanced the visual richness of the film.

But…I just am not sure about the rest. Plot. We open with an idyllic scene of apes in the woods, then they move into the great hunt (even though apes are herbivores!). From this we understand their complex society and that they use mostly sign language. Pan to the lovely ape village and Caeser becoming a proud papa to a second son while the first, injured from a stupid move, looks on with doe eyes. The mother is thrown in as a later heart-string to pull, and isn’t even named; pretty much a token female if I ever saw one. But that’s not important. Caeser sits with a buddy overlooking his land and they speculate: Do you think they’re all gone? Haven’t seen one in ten years. We know what’s coming next. Enter the humans. This is called foreshadowing and is an acceptable plot device but gee, was it really needed?

Here’s where the blatant plot devices jumped up and shot me in the face. Dumb guy walking through the woods encounters two apes, Caeser’s son, Blue Eyes and friend Ash. Outnumbered, even though they’re standing there stunned, the guy shoots one which brings all apedom down on his ass, so that he and his compatriots are evicted by Caeser from the garden of Eden. The apes follow them back to their home (San Francisco).

Gary Oldman looks like he’s not the bad guy (for once), but the nominal leader of the little band of humans that have survived the simian virus that wiped out most of earth. But while everyone assures the humans that they are immune to the virus or they would already be dead, Gary, as Dreyfus, lives up to morally ambiguous bad buy status by believing the apes will come to kill humans because they are “animals.” Those of us with primate brains realize we’re all animals. Thankfully we’re not hit over the head with this comparison.

Malcolm (Jason Clarke) is the feeling guy who believes the apes are okay but they need to get to the dam and see if they can start the generators because San Fran is almost out of power. Really? It takes people 10 years to get off their butts to check this out? They’ve been getting by on what, frozen vegetables in all this time and nobody thought to look to the future until they have less than a month of power remaining? And neither the apes (in swinging distance) or the humans (in proximal driving distance) were aware of each other in all this time? Good lord. The humans deserve to die off if they’re this stupid. And somehow the apes didn’t know there is a dam nearby.

apes, chimpanzees, Dawn of Planet of the Apes

The noble ape rides up to the palisade of the humans. Copyright 20th Century Fox

So let’s back up a minute to the apes, who like to wear white warpaint across their ribs and faces. The female apes like to wear some sort of flower fringe over their mouths (why?) or on their brows as Caeser’s spouse does, because you know, apes have to follow human characteristics of gender differentiation. They also ride horses, though earlier they swung with ease and swiftness into the San Fran precincts. Did no one else notice the blatant comparison to the American Indians in the days of white settlers and the army? They ride their horses the same. They have spears whereas the humans have greater fire power, and eventually lay siege to the palisades of San Francisco. They fit the trope of the noble savage. But one caveat here: no matter how science fictional or fantastical our tales are, if there is war or aggressors they will always, always look like one cultural group or another; because we are human and only have our cultures for perspective.

Apes are noble…except for the bad guys. Dumb guy who shot the apes may as well be called Doubting Thomas and naysays everything, as a suspicious dude and isn’t moved by Caeser’s baby crawling all over them in cuteness. (By the way, what ape mother would allow her baby away from her side at such a young age, as in just born?) Of course Doubting Thomas is the only guy who can turn on the generators (really?) so he must come along and they know he’s skittish so no one searches him even though he’s a liability for violence. You know it’s going to go bad, right? Well it does but he’s not the initiator after the first shot.

baby ape, apes, Caeser, Planet of the Apes

Who doesn’t like an icebreaker moment with a little baby…that discovers a hidden gun? Copyright 20th Century Fox

Enter Koba, the ugly ape, scarred by human testing, hateful and distrustful and Caeser’s right-hand chimp. Koba wants to kill all the humans while back in the human camp Dreyfus wants to kill all the apes because, by god, they’re animals! We already know that ugly people/creatures are never the good guys. Blue Eyes loses faith with his human loving dad and joins Koba who goes to the human stockade and searches, to turn up their arsenal and folks doing target practice. Koba is so hateful, he mimics a happy chimp to cause homicide, and then arrives back in the ape lands to shoot Caeser, which of course no one sees. None of this was a surprise to me. I knew how almost all of it would play out from the first shot fired in the first 10 minutes. Koba or Doubting Thomas were going to start the inevitable war.

Caeser and Malcolm represent the calmer, peace lovers when everyone else is an over-the-top, two-dimensional hate monger. Things go bad, because you know they must, as Koba goes on a killing rampage, after locking up the good apes. But oh no, the leader is dead and only he can stop this madness. But guess what, he’s not dead. When the killing rampage began I tuned partly out and started playing solitaire. (Queue predictable killing sequence.)

Koba, apes, Dawn of Planet of the Apes, simian virus

Koba plays coy before becoming murderous. Copyright 20th Century Fox

Koba ends us killing Ash, Blue Eyes’ friend while Blue Eyes stands and watches with those big sad doe eyes. And Ash doesn’t really fight back at all. It’s the same thing that Frodo did in LOTR and it drove me nuts. Too much standing around and emoting with big, liquidy eyes. Do something!

Dreyfus has his last rally and is willing to kill all the humans (like Koba killing the apes) because of some weirdness that’s never clear. The apes can’t have the tower. So what? So he blows it sky high, along with himself. But while the good guys rally, the end is near and war will ensue, and away we go. Next, more Planet of the Apes remakes. Please please please, try to get a plot that’s half way original and not so predictable.

Overall, besides the awesome special effects, the plot was snoresville. I give this only two slippery banana peels.

 

 

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Edgar Allan Poe and Crowdfunding

Poe, macabre, dark fantasy, horror, Gothic fiction, Edgar Allan Poe, crowdfunding

Poe themed coffin art by AhtheMacabra. There are only four and two are claimed.

I have to mention this particular crowdfunding because I just love it. There are many projects out there from books to gadgets and many add perks that entice people to donate. Not only do you often receive the item that the crowdfunding is for but you also get extras. With publishing it’s a hard numbers game. Costs of printing and distribution are set. So you have to add those costs into a cover price but if you go too high no one will buy your book. (For the purposes of this blog, book means paper and/or ebook.)

Publishers have to pay their staff and if they’re small or independent presses that staff might include unpaid interns or no one but the editor and possibly another dedicated soul or two. Those publishers have to pay their writers and while no book would exist without the writer, we are often at the bottom of the pay pile. I do not agree with publishing “for the love” as it’s called and believe that if you’re publishing a book for the love you should still pay the authors for their labor. Because of this structure, often paying everyone hinges on selling enough of a book. The publishers must market and sell and promote in as many ways as they can and a great amount of money can get caught up in marketing alone. These days the business models include the authors also trying to market themselves. And of course, there is crowdfunding, where you get a more direct piece of the pie and can buy into projects you might never have seen otherwise.

mystery fiction, Gothic fiction, fantasy anthology, Nancy Kilpatrick, Caro Soles

The anthology nEvermore! will collect tales from authors of mystery, murder and the macabre.

So I come to nEvermore! Tales of Murder, Mystery and the Macabre. Editors Nancy Kilpatrick and Caro Soles have come up with a great idea. The anthology will contain many tales. The indiegogo campaign says:

Poe is the father of the modern detective story.  And his genius at writing dark, supernatural tales and poems is legendary.  Poe wrote at a time when genres didn’t exist.  Readers wanted a good story; how it fit on a bookstore shelf didn’t matter.  We want to recapture that sense of excitement and discovery of short fiction. 

nEvermore! will bring together mystery writers who include a slash of the supernatural and dark fantasy/horror writers who slip across the shadows and touch on the mystery genre.  This will be a  “big book,” an homage to the glorious, Gothic style of the master, Edgar Allan Poe, bringing Poe-inspired fiction into the 21st century.  A book that will revive and refresh all of us who love to read short fiction! Help us create this unusual anthology.  Be a part of it!

poetry, Gothic fiction, Edge Publishing, horror, fiction crowdfunding, fantasy anthology

Living Dead Dolls of Poe and Annabell Lee, with coffin, raven and death certificate.

As with most crowdfundings, you donate different amounts and receive different or more perks. The perks here are wonderful and unique. For writers, there is a writing contest to be included in the anthology. For $50 you get “Descent into the Maelstrom,” which includes a nEvermore ebook, a free download of The Raven by Masochistic Religion, and entry into the writing contest. Only three stories will be chosen and there are 100 spots in the campaign. For $125 you get one of the coffins pictured above (each one individual and only four were made), an ebook and the music download. These adorable Poe dolls are rare and only one set is available for $250, under “Premature Burial,” which also includes an e or print book and the music download.

For other writers, you can pay $1,000 to have a full-on critique of your manuscript and face to face time (or phone depending where you live) with Nancy or Caro. This is a fair price (plus you get the book and the download as well). As a copyeditor, I have easily charged this to copyedit a novel manuscript, though copyediting is somewhat different than critiquing. Who are Nancy Kilpatrick and Caro Soles?

Nancy Kilpatrick is an award-winning author and editor known for her dark fantasy/horror and mystery stories.  She has published 18 novels, over 200 short stories, 6 collections, 1 non-fiction book, and has edited 14 anthologies.  She has worked for major publishing houses and small presses and some of her fiction has been translated in several foreign languages.  Poe’s works have been a lifelong passion and she is thrilled to have this opportunity to create an anthology that honors this exceptional author of style and genius.
Poe, the Raven, nevermore, Caro Soles, Nancy Kilpatrick, horror

Quoth the raven, I have to have my nails done. You know you want them.

 

Caro Soles is best known for founding the Bloody Words Mystery Conference to highlight Canadian mystery writing. She received the Derrick Murdoch Award from the Crime Writers of Canada, was short-listed for the Lambda Literary Award, and inaugurated the Bloody Words Mystery Award several years ago.  She has published 11 novels and many short stories and has edited several mystery anthologies.  She writes and reads mysteries, teaches writing at George Brown College and loves a good ghost story.

Nevermore, the Raven, Poe,

nEvermore! a Poe-inspired anthology. Support the crowdfunding and get the book.

There are many other perks in this crowdfunding campaign, from Poe lunchboxes, action figures, stamps, band-aids and air freshener as well as raven books, nails, magnets and plushies. Some items are very limited so check it out now. New perks will be arriving as others sell out. So how fun is that? Support authors, get an awesome anthology and other fun items. Go here. On for two more weeks. It’s definitely a win-win.

 

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Art: To Offend or Not

This last week in Vancouver a mysterious life-size statue appeared. It’s not far from my place but I missed seeing it. Let me first describe the area. Clark Dr. is the truck route in and out of Vancouver. If you’re coming over the border from the US it’s one of the routes that lead you into the city on the east side. Clark and 4th Ave. are a juncture with a major road going west into the city. The SkyTrain station tracks go over the top and a college campus is nearby.

East Van cross, Ken Lum, red devil statue, public art, art statements

The East Van cross sits at Clark Dr. and 6th Ave. Photo credit: vancouverisawesome.com

Riding high above the tracks is the East Van cross by artist Ken Lum. I’ve already written about my opinion of this cross in Ho Hum, Ken Lum. At night it glows white against the evening sky. Overall this is a blue-collar, industrial area filled mostly with cars zooming by. People don’t linger here. There are no coffee shops or funky places in which to hang. There’s an autobody shop, an auto glass shop, a few warehouses. Nothing special. So I suppose every piece of art adds something to a dreary commuter route.

Now, this other statue I mentioned wasn’t commissioned by the city or through some high-end artist. In fact it’s very much like the graffiti that adorns the walls near by. It was made and placed by the unknown artists who feel a need to make a comment or change the streets of our city.

red devil statue, East Van, Clark Drive, Angelo Branca

The area where Christopher Columbus and a red devil once rested. Photo credit: http://www.allele.com

The area where the statue was erected has had a bare podium for years. It supposedly once held a statue of Christopher Columbus to honor Angelo Branca, a prominent Italian-Canadian judge who had once been a middleweight boxing champion. East Van has Vancouver’s largest Italian population. Around 2000, that stature disappeared and ended up in Hastings Park, supposedly rescued from a bad location. And it is a bad location. People don’t go to this area for a picnic, while I’m sure drug addicts do go there. So this odd, Stonehenge-like park was empty for years.

red devil statue, naked devil, East Van, guerilla art, East Van cross

The devil is in the details.

No one knows who erected the statue or when, but a life-size red devil appeared in the last few weeks. It was very red, very identifiable as the classic red Satan and was wearing nothing but a very large erect penis. Suddenly, this unknown un-park (which I remember with the Christopher Columbus statue and barren for years) was a place of pilgrimage. Tourists and locals came by to take pictures and view the goods. From the SkyTrain, if anyone wasn’t looking down at their phones, they probably got a good view of the lil devil.

Was it just a prank, an idol placed by Satanists, guerrilla art? I think it was much more than that and a statement. I’d already stated that to place a piece of blatantly religious art such as the East Van cross, whether hearkening back to early neon art history or East Van heritage or not, was offensive in its own way when we live in a much more multicultural and multi-religious world. But if we take in this somewhat cliché, a bit tacky, definitely bawdy sculpture of a devil, we have a piece that could also be considered offensive.

red devil statue, East Van, Christian symbolism

The cross overlooks the devil, a piece of art that completes a set in Christian iconography. Pic from gangsters out blog.

Perhaps the unknown artists wanted to show that what is offensive to one may not be to another. And when you look at it in another light, these two pieces of art actually complement each other. Yes, they do. They are both Christian iconography. The devil’s right hand is making a devil horns symbol but it is also pointing up…to the cross that stands above and to his right. Salvation and damnation; what could be more Christian and recognizably so? To me, having the devil standing there actually made the cross less offensive and kind of balanced the piece with more depth about a particular religion and its recognizable symbols. However, the city didn’t see it that way and took it down.

While I never liked the cross, I do believe certain types of art are meant to provoke thought and discussion. The devil brought that out and truly lived up to the reputation of a devil; he sowed unrest, disturbed the piece, was ribald and drew attention. Here’s to the unseen artists who thought to complete Ken Lum’s sentence.

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The Chi Reading Series

ChiSeriesVancouverPoster - July 2014The truth is I’ve been far too busy to blog of late and so my blog has been suffering badly. My day job became overwhelming and has eaten all of my energy. I’m hoping that will change soon. So, in trying to keep a toe over the threshold and into the world I’d like to mention that I’m still hosting the ChiSeries Vancouver, part of the Chiaroscuro Reading series started in Toronto some five or so years ago by Sandra Kasturi and friends. In Toronto, where the wild things are, and there is an abundance of culture and population, the series has run successfully every month.

Cov_TheDoorThatFacedWest_large

On sale at the reading, as well as A Parliament of Crows, and Of Thimble and Threat The Life of a Ripper Victim

Last year, along with Ottawa and Winnipeg, we launched in April, and ran quarterly, with readings in July, Oct. and then in February. The next one would have been May but EDGE Publishing was bringing dark fiction author and vampire aficionado Nancy Kilpatrick in May so we did a reading with Nancy, which included  Rhea Rose and me reading as well. With these readings we had several hurdles to get beyond. One was the venues brought some challenges, and with the new reading for this July 22nd we will be moving to the Cottage Bistro at 4468 (or possibly 4470) Main St. The Cottage Bistro is known for hosting live music as well as several other reading series and is happy to have the ChiSeries on stage.

This is an exciting and very central venue so I’m hoping that many people will come out and enjoy the tales. ChiSeries is free and the readers are TheIncomingTidepublished authors of speculative fiction and poetry. This includes science fiction, fantasy, magic realism, mythical, dark fiction, horror and all subgenres in between. This July, we have guests arriving from Oregon: Alan M. Clark, Kirsten Alene, and Cameron Pierce.

Some people might recognize Alan’s name. He has been a well-known and award-winning artist in the dark fiction genre for a number of years. He was this year’s emcee for the World Horror Convention, as well. His paintings range from thoughtful to disturbing and he has created illustrations for hundreds of books, including works of fiction of various genre,s nonfiction, textbooks, young adult fiction, and children’s books. Awards for his illustration work include the World Fantasy Award and four Chelsey Awards. He is the author of thirteen books, including seven novels, a lavishly illustrated novella, four collections of fiction, and a nonfiction full-color book of his artwork. His latest novel, The Door That Faced West, was released by Lazy Fascist Press February, 2014.

bizarre fiction, fantasy, US authors, ChiSeries, readings in Vancouver

Kirsten Alene’s book will be available at the reading.

Writing couple Kirsten Alene  and Cameron Pierce live in Portland, Oregon. Kirsten’s books include Japan Conquers the Galaxy, Unicorn Battle Squad, Love in the Time of Dinosaurs, and the forthcoming short story collection, Rules of Appropriate Conduct from Civil Coping Mechanisms in 2015. Her work has appeared in such places as Amazing Stories of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, Bust Down the Door and Eat All the Chickens, Innsmouth Magazine and The Magazine of Bizarro Fiction.

Cameron Pierce’s ten books include the Wonderland Book Award-winning collection Lost in Cat Brain Land, Our Love Will Go the Way of the Salmon, and the forthcoming novella The Incoming Tide. His work has been praised by The Guardian, Cracked.com and many others. Cameron is also the editor of three anthologies, most recently In Heaven, Everything Is Fine: Fiction Inspired by David Lynch, and is head editor of the popular indie publisher Lazy Fascist Press.

The reading runs from 7:30 until about 10;30 pm on July 22. Come join us or leave me a message here if you’d like to get onto a mailing list for future events. If you’re interested in the other ChiSeries events in the other cities, check out the Facebook pages and the website:  http://chiseries.com/

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Tesseracts 17 Interview: Megan Fennell

SF, tragedy, speculative fiction, Tesseracts 17, anthology

Megan Fennell’s story “Bird Bones” talks about the monsters that live among us.

Tesseracts 17 is now available. In continuing with the Tesseracts interviews, I have Megan Fennell, whose story “Bird Bones” is in the anthology.

CA: Family is at the core of this piece. Have you explored what family means in other aspects of your writing?

 Absolutely. In most of what I write there will be at least some screen time given to the concept of families, either family by blood or family by choice. People do truly incredible things and make enormous sacrifices for family that they wouldn’t dream of doing for anyone else. Upon reflection, my stories tend to include a lot of sibling characters, albeit with varying degrees of oddity and functionality. This is probably a side effect of having possibly the best kid sister in the world and thus being intrigued by the nature in which the sibling dynamic can turn bizarre.

 CA: Do you think humans run the risk of the god complex by too much scientific tinkering or do you think there are restraints that keep us in check?

There are absolutely restraints that keep us in check, which is why the first trick of writing a mad scientist character (at least in my experience) tends to be isolating them. You mentioned Dr. Frankenstein… Add to that list a few more of my favourite brilliant madmen: Dr. Moreau, Dr. Jekyll, Griffin from the Invisible Man, and you’ll notice that secrecy, isolation and working within limited means play a big part in what they were doing. None of these folks were exactly in line for a government grant. In ‘Bird Bones’, Feyton’s controversial experimentations in his day-job are plagued by protestors and review boards. It’s his secret side project where he can really go wild. I believe that the all-seeing public eye and our tendency to ask this very question will ensure that cutting-edge science never galavants too far ahead of morality.

CA: What else are you working on these days and will we see other tales of transformation or escape?

You’d better believe it! Along with shopping around my short stories and trying to find the illusive market interested in love stories about squid-like aliens, I’m presently in the honeymoon stage with a new YA novel. This typically consists of me wandering around in a smile-y daze like a lovestruck teenager, murmuring happily about these wonderful new people who’ve turned up in my head. I’ll get to the hard work soon enough and start grumbling about it as is good and proper, of course! But yes, the crux of that one will be the nature of being human and the relative weight of what you are versus who you are, so more variations on some of my favourite themes for sure.

anthology, speculative fiction, SF, fantasy, Canadian authors

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

Megan Fennell was born in Victoria, BC, but has spent the majority of her life in a variety of Albertan cities and considers herself a creature of the prairies. Having disqualified herself from the great Calgary versus Edmonton debate by obtaining degrees at both the University of Calgary and the University of Alberta, she now lives with her two cats in Lethbridge, Alberta, drawing inspiration from the more rugged beauty of the Badlands. She has previously been published in OnSpec Magazine and the charity anthology Help: Twelve Tales of Healing

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/megan.fennell

Twitter: @FennellFiction

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/MeganFennell

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Book Review: Over the Darkened Landscape

Canadian fiction, speculative fiction, Fairwood Press, fantasy, SF

Derryl Murphy’s collection is stellar.

When I go to writing/fan conventions I usually try to pick up a couple of books or magazines to purview. Last year, at When Worlds Collide in Calgary I picked up Derryl Murphy’s reprint collection Over the Darkened Lanscape. Derryl is a fellow Canadian writer and I know him somewhat (translation: like many writers, we’ve chatted writing over a drink or two). But I wasn’t sure I knew his writing. As well as Derryl, I wanted to help support Patrick Swenson’s Fairwood Press, out of Washington, who has always done a quality product.

The trade size book has an intriguing cover. I don’t know how it was made but I’ve never felt a cover that was so velvety, almost like skin. It holds up well to greasy paw prints as well. The cover art is not necessarily dark or even speculative in the SF/fantasy sense, and in a way it reflects Murphy’s stories perfectly. As well, this guy with a distorted face is sliced by a canvas that he peers over. When you read Derryl’s coven of stories you’ll find they are poignant perspectives of delving into a very human psyche, sometimes in extraordinary circumstances, sometimes in that visceral way where life tugs on you revealing its glories and sorrows.

I’ll try not to give away too much about the contents so you can enjoy the slow reveal of them. Murphy does a deft blending of science with the human machine and this is seen in the unique perspective of “Body Solar.” “Last Call” is not really speculative except for imagining what you would say to your wife while in space. Very poignant and one of the stories I had read before. “Frail Orbits” is a sad and tender handling about used up veterans. “Voyage to the Moon” is probably one of my favorites for a very fresh way of handling a fairy tale as science fiction. I won’t say more but even that might be too much. I really enjoyed the deft new twists.

“More Painful than the Dreams of Other Boys” deals with a world where kids don’t always grow up and one who does; growing pains always hurt. “The Day Michael Visited Happy Lake” is another tale about the reality we give our favorite childhood tales. One of the more disturbing tales, another that I had read before, “Clink Clank” examines a future where government farms out the feeding of prisoners and what children who don’t listen to their parents discover. It’s a cautionary tale of how one can place a command in someone’s thoughts. By saying “don’t touch that” we can no longer think of anything else but touching that object.

Louis Wain, H.G. Wells, paranormal, horror, speculative fiction

Wain’s paintings grew increasingly more demonic.

The collection covers vast reaches from the earliest times, to our future travels in space. But “Ancients of Earth” truly links the past and the present with a teacher in Dawson City at the time of the Gold Rush, who tries to save an ancient find, and is targeted by those ancient memories. A careful blend again of science and magic. “The Cats of Bethlem” begins with the true tale of H.G. Wells intervening in the commitment of Victorian artist Louis Wain to a sanitarium Wain was obsessed with drawing cats and it’s now believed that as he aged he grew more schizophrenic while his paintings of anthropomorphized cats grew more abstract and wild.  But what if….

Other tales take Canadian history and put it into a Gordian knot. “Canadaland” is a very tongue in cheek look at our (Canada’s) future. While the Canadians reading it will truly get the nuances, there are ample narrator-biased footnotes. Well worth a trip through our cultural foibles. “Northwest Passage” is a lonely tale of fighting the frozen winter environment that holds its ghosts close. “Cold Ground” travels into the vestiges of the Riel rebellion from the point of view of its surviving sorcerers. The title piece of the book, “Over the Darkened Landscape” was probably one of my other favorites with MacKenzie King (Canada’s 10th prime minister) and his talking dog who solve mysteries, including what happened to the missing painter Tom Thomson, who was one of the famous Group of Seven. Here, the painting is the medium, in all senses of the word.

These stories are both historic and speculative, fantastical and empathic. If I could choose only one word I would say that Derryl Murphy’s tales are visceral in pulling you along the emotional ride of  humans in odd or life threatening situations. Ingenuity, acceptance and compassion flavor Over the Darkened Landscape. I didn’t know what to expect originally but I found the stories resonated for a long time with me. It’s an excellent collection well worth reading. I’m not the only one of this opinion. Murphy’s collection has been nominated for this year’s prestigious Sunburst Award. Check it out.

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Writing: Demographics of Tesseracts 17

anthology, speculative fiction, SF, fantasy, Canadian authors

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

Okay, I said I would give a breakdown of the types of stories and the areas that people submitted from for Tesseracts 17. Since this was a open theme, stories could be any subgenre of speculative fiction or poetry. From what I could tell we received more stories than most Tesseracts anthologies of the past. The submission window was six months long, which was  a bit too long in my view.

Steve Vernon and I live on opposites coasts and have never met, though we’ve co-judged before and I asked him to do an introduction to my reprint collection Embers Against the Fallen, so we communicated through Facebook as well as using Dropbox to record entries and leave our comments. And let me tell you, some of them will be kept in lockdown in a tight metal box until the very Earth explodes. You see, when we’re leaving comments and have read the fiftieth submission of the day and are tired and have seen yet another timid wife and brutish husband tale or yet another zombie munching its way through humanity, we tend to leave snide and very cutting remarks that we would never forward to the author. (I did once do so by accident while editing for Chizine and I was mortified. The author took it with good grace and luckily I wasn’t that horrible–I apologized though.) But some are very funny, and that Steve, he’s downright hilarious and sardonic.

Anyways, (cough) I would like to think that Steve is still speaking to me though I believe I drove him crazy with my highly organized, extremely color-coded (colors!), tab-enhanced Excel spreadsheet. I’m very visual and I like being able to find the Alberta entries at a glance or the Quebec ones. Steve was probably left spinning in a psychedelic haze more than once. But in the end, we worked fairly well together and were probably about 80% unanimous on our decisions. The closer we got to the final choices the more we varied in some ways. If I was editing alone, not all of these tales and poems would have been my final selection, nor Steve’s, but we compromised.

On top of that, we had to balance between provinces and territories (for those not from Canada, we have ten provinces and three territories). Other aspects to watch for were making sure there weren’t all male or all female authors, that we had some new authors as well as experienced. In that regard, it was relatively easy to get a balance of genders as the final pieces we chose were already pretty evenly divided. And while we would have needed to re-balance if all the stories were fantasy and only one or two SF, it turned out we could live with what we had though it wasn’t half and half, but then, more fantasy is published in general these days than SF. Last, but not least, we also had to consider how the stories and poems fit together. We had some very good ghost stories but then it’s a popular trope and this wasn’t a ghost anthology. We also had some very good (and not so good) werewolf stories, as well as vampires, zombies and other reanimated creatures, but again, it wasn’t an undead anthology.

There were stories that were brilliant but we just couldn’t take too many fairy, or alien, or wendigo, etc. tales. Some of the pieces we rejected made me weep at having to let them go and I would have loved to do a subsidiary anthology of all the ones that got away (that would be a great title). Brian allowed us 100,000 words for the anthology. We scrimped and squeezed and hardcore edited some submissions down to their extra tasty, crunchy essence. I held two poems past the bitter end but Brian said, no room at the inn. In fact, we probably went over the word limit since we never included the author bios in our final count. That final number, including my introduction and Steve’s afterword, came to 99,441 words, more or less.

All of these factors made it trickier to edit than, say a theme-anchored anthology on dumptrucks or space dumptrucks. But in a way, it was interesting to see what Canadian (meaning born here, living here now, or born here and living abroad) writers would send if they could send anything at all. Tesseracts 17 paid close to (even a little more than) what other anthologies pay so it was on par there. The nice long submission window meant that some people sent us their trunk stories right off the bat. The early birds got a chance to send in rewrites, if we were holding the stories, or could try again if we rejected.  Those that came later in the final flood month didn’t get that luxury unless we were holding into the third round of reading.

I’ll start with the easy demographics. These may not be completely accurate. I became too busy to do this earlier and a couple of months have passed. But here we have the totals. I will try to give a breakdown of types of stories on another day. We received:

  • 449 individual submissions
  • 104 individual poems (The poetry number might be slightly off because I can’t quite tell if some were poems or not.)
  • 340 stories of varying lengths

Further breakdowns:

  • 4 poems were accepted
  • 25 stories were accepted
  • 14 accepted pieces were by women
  • 15 accepted pieces were by men
  • 305 individuals submitted
  • 139 women submitted (approx. as some names began with initials or could be male or female, additionally one translation was writer and translator were female)
  • 166 men submitted (approx. as some names began with initials or could be male or female, additionally two translations were male writer, female translator, which I included here but could be part of the women [141])
  • 5 was the highest number of stories submitted by one person
  • 15 was the highest number of poems submitted by one person
  • 16 was the highest number of individual submissions by one person
  • 3 translations were sent (female translator; 2 male, 1 female writer)
  • 4 collaborations were sent (including the 3 translations)
  • 1 story was rejected unread because it came in near to 10,000 words, far past the specifications on the guidelines
  • 2 stories came in that were not speculative: 1 was a history of Wounded Knee. The other was excellent and we would have taken it if we could have found one speculative element. It was very Canadian too. (You know who you are.)
  • 1 submission was neither read nor rejected because the person did not read the guidelines, sent us a story chapter,  wanted our address to send us buckets of other chapters and when we said to reread the guidelines, he said “reread my submission.” Sorry, buckaroo, in this case you pissed off the editors.
  • 2 people submitted far more than the allotted number of stories/poems allowed at one time. While the guidelines stipulated no more than 5 poems or 1 story, and although we were pretty grumpy about this, we actually read them all. The authors who did this should have known better because they were pros but hey, I’ve made mistakes as well.
  • 1 author got to submit just past the window closing because she had sent an email querying and saying she thought something had gone wrong.
  • 1 author did not get to submit past the submission window because it was over two weeks past the deadline and we just couldn’t .
  • 1 author sent a submission without the story attached. Since it was past the closing deadline, we rejected the non-submission (included in the above numbers)
  • 3 authors sent in stories with track changes and their editing included. This certainly did not put them onto the winning track. Writers, yes, edit and proofread your stories but get rid of track changes when you’re submitting.

We also had a few first time authors. In some cases these stories take more editing to polish them but we had a mandate to have some new or first time writers. We had chosen one story and sent an acceptance, conditional upon working with us and rewriting. We never heard from that young author. If this was me, even at the stage of having published stories and poems,I would have seriously worked with and responded to the editor.

We asked for several rewrites early on, when we were still holding stories and poems but the deadline hadn’t been reached. Of the rewrites, we did take a few pieces. Other writers, once we had accepted the pieces, had to do rewrites or edits. We did at least three edits on some pieces as Steve and I would each go over them, thus catching things that were missed or didn’t quite flow. One poet chose not to go with a second rewrite, which was unfortunate. Authors should remember that they do not have to take every edit an editor suggests but they then have to argue why they don’t think the edit makes the piece stronger. There is leeway for discussion and when that far along the track, an editor isn’t asking for two rewrites if they plan on rejecting the piece.

Still, we all have our own ways of dealing with writing and editing. I will try to come back with a second post that will delve into the breakdown of writers by province and territory, and the types of stories we received. Again, it’s been a while since I read these so this will be the least accurate and most subjective breakdown of all.

Tesseracts 17 is due for release on October 1.

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The Devil Reads Prada

Prada, fashion, writing contest, Prada fiction contest, taking moral rights, devil, satan

This is a tarot card, but maybe the devil is saying, if you don’t wear Prada, you wear nothing.

You know the movie, the one where sweet Anne Hathaway is sucked into the world of high snobbery and is Meryl Streep’s minion at a fashion magazine. The world where it’s backstabbing and anorexia but somewhere in amongst the fashionistas true wuv takes root? Yeah that one.

Well, besides making clothing and creating a fashion magazine, it seems Prada really does want to lash out with that forked tail and snare artists of all flavors. They don’t just do magazines and sunglasses and backpacks and clothing and fragrances and boat races. No, they want to capture the creative essence of other artists. “Prada, in keeping with the brand’s innovative spirit, launches a literary contest in cooperation with Giangiacomo Feltrinelli Editore.” They have something called the journal project which includes a writing contest. The crucial statement when considering what to write is: “What are the realities that our eyes give back to us? And how are these realities filtered through lenses?” Obviously they would like to tie it into to their sunglasses line.www.prada.com/journal

As I read the rather long and convoluted contest rules (the English translation is a bit off), I thought €5,000! Well, yes, I will definitely enter that. Oh but wait, should you win the contest then you give up all moral rights, which means your name will stay with the piece but they own it in all forms and media, can print it on clothing or put in books or chop up the sentences and stick them wherever, in perpetuity. You lose all rights to read your story, put it in a collection of your writing or do anything else with it.

writing, Canadian anthology, Steve Vernon, Colleen Anderson, Tesseracts 17, Edge Publications

Get writing but don’t sell your soul.

That’s not the true deal with the devil though it gets close. As I read on it turns out that while there would only be one monetary winner Prada reserves the right to create other categories and choose winners on the spot. But those winners receive no prize and lose all rights to their stories as well. This pretty much amounts to theft even if they have you acknowledge you’re selling your soul to the devil but don’t get anything out of it except perhaps some bit of elusive fame. Or perhaps we should just call this exploitation. It’s not like Prada is hurting for money.

To make sure it just wasn’t some misinterpretation that happened in the translation, I wrote to Prada.

Dear Madam,

The winners of the Contest, if any, will receive the amount of Euro 5.000, while the winner of the thematic prizes, if established by Prada and Giangiacomo Feltrinelli (it is not sure that such thematic prizes will be established), will not receive this amount. But in both such events the authorship of the short stories will remain with the winners in accordance with the applicable law in the copyright field.

In fact, PRADA and Giangiacomo Feltrinelli shall have the right to use the short stories as per the provisions of the “T&C” of the Contest and on the basis of the rights granted by the winners to Prada and Feltrinelli  as specified in such “T&C “: “(the Winner) he/she grants exclusively to PRADA and Feltrinelli any and all right to use, reproduce, publish, edit, distribute and divulge the selected Short Story(ies), on its(their) own, in full or in part, or in a collection book, at PRADA and Feltrinelli’s discretion in perpetuity and at a worldwide level for any uses either commercial or promotional, in any language or version, and in any print and/or digital and/or multimedia materials and media, including Internet, now known or hereafter invented. Moreover, You acknowledge and agree that PRADA and Feltrinelli will be entitled to edit and to adapt the Short Story(ies) at its(their) sole discretion and to reproduce the very same in its(their) edited and/or adapted version in any print and/or digital material and/or multimedia materials and media, including Internet, and for whatsoever purposes to the extend permitted by law”.

Should you have any further query, please do not hesitate to contact us.

My advice would be to save your soul, and your writing and not enter the contest on the off chance you’ll get the grand prize. The devil, you know, is in the details.

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Supporting the Arts

I’m highlighting a few worthy causes today. One is local, taking place in Vancouver, and the other takes place somewhat virtually through Canada.

COLLABORATIVE ART

First is the Magpie’s Nest Community Art Space Events. This is a group of local artists who are trying to create pop-up art spaces for artists to come by and work in, and just spread the fun and love of art.

artists, community art, Vancouver art space, painters, collage, creativity, local events, Vancouver

May 25 at Astorino’s
1739 Venables Street, Vancouver, BC

Magpie’s Nest Community Art Space invites you to create a patchwork of ideas and creativity with your neighbours, young and old.

The completed collaborative mural will be a tapestry of painted and embellished circles – each circle being made up of four quarters.

Each quarter completed by an individual will connect to the work of three others, creating a visual representation of continuity within and encircling our neighbourhood.

The Community Circles Collaborative Mural will be kept and put on display by Britannia Community Centre.

All supplies will be provided by Magpie’s Nest. We will provide paints and printing inks, objects to print with, and ephemera to embellish with: beads, buttons, ribbon, embroidery floss, yarn, and needles.

artists, local events, arts, Vancovuer, East Van

June 2: if you’re in Vancouver, come out and get good food and support the arts.

As well, they have a fundraising dinner for more of those community supplies. East Feast takes place on June 2 and for $20 you get a meal, entertainment and three artist presentations that you can vote on.  I find I love public art, whether it’s a mural paint on the wall by the community (see my previous post on East Van wall art), the knitted cozies wrapped around trees and fences, people bursting into song in a mall, the zombie walk, the machine animals of Nantes (see previous post for this as well) or a myriad other things. These pieces are not done for more than surprising people and bringing smiles to our faces. We need more of this in our everyday lives and to recognize that we are community.

CROWDFUNDING AN ANTHOLOGY

Canadian award-winning author Ursula Pflug is editing an anthology called They Have to Let You In. It is due for a 2013/2014 release through Hidden Brook Press.

Details can be found at the site (by clicking the title above) but here are the basics:

“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

 Whether or not we agree, we have probably heard Tolstoy’s famous quote. “What is unarguable is that our family shapes us as nothing else.” Family elicits our strongest emotional responses, whether joy and love, or rage and fear. For this anthology don’t feel you have to sugar coat your work—we aren’t timid and want to include stories and poems that explore the darker aspects of family life. After all, healing requires our truth as well as our forgiveness. But also—please don’t forget to include work that expresses the deep sustaining joy our families can provide. The love we give and receive within families is irreplaceable.

This month’s government cuts to CSUMB (the Community Start Up and Maintenance Benefit ) will put more families on the street. 100% of royalties from the sale of They Have To Take You In will benefit the shelter system in eastern Ontario.

This anthology will have poetry and fiction and is open to almost any genre. If you’re Canadian or expat you can enter. And instead of crowdfunding to buy a video from drug dealers on Toronto mayor Rob Ford’s alleged drug abuse, why not put the money to something that can doubly benefit people: both the family shelters in Ontario and to writers who submit? And, like all crowdfunding, by donating you’ll also get cool stuff. Go here to support and read more about it: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/they-have-to-take-you-in/x/2238410

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