Category Archives: Culture

TV Review: Into the Badlands

badlands

AMC’s Into the Badlands

I’ve been watching Into the Badlands, and I think I’ll categorize it under guilty pleasure. It’s like a good mix of all those classic Chinese martial arts movies (Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, any Jackie Chan film) with impossible feats using swords—Daniel Wu is amazing, like Jackie Chan who was a mentor, and it’s fun to watch. Badlands is some sort of weird world where the baron’s banned guns and people seem to use candles, mostly, but they have cars, opium and oil refineries. Lots of opium for some reason. (there will be some spoilers)

So, it doesn’t quite make sense that you have everything from vixens in skirts and high heels fighting, skintight dominatrix style outfits, steam punk clothing, weird semi-Chinese armor, and the proles in medieval castoffs. I would get tired of wearing all of one color which is what the “clippers” (warriors) wear for each baron they serve.

It’s awfully gory yet campy (think Kill Bill) and a future where violence is always the first answer, a bunch of conniving assholes as barons, and a lone warrior with honor. Yeah, part western, part martial arts, and the theme songs reflects this. I do love the clothing and the action scenes but some stuff is predictable and some is so dumb.

badlands 2

Ally Ioannides plays Tilda, one of the Widow’s butterflies flown free.

Take the “Blind Cannibal Assassins” episode. Our intrepid adventurers (there is a sidekick and a man hunting them who feels he was done wrong—and made fun of because of silly “honor”) stumble upon blind cannibals. These people’s eyes were stabbed out by none other than our hero. All good conflict stuff, but for some reason, while these blind folks are so good in their blindness that they can do all sorts of crazy fighting feats and acrobatics—they can hear a breath, a concern, almost an idea, but somehow, they can’t hunt so they only hunt people. Yum yum! Because, yeah, once you’re made a monster you’re always a monster. They scrape their weapons along the walls of their underground cavern because if you’re blind you need to also live in squalor in the dark but preserve your dead babies in jars that you can’t see (I said there would be spoilers). And of course people who have been blind for a while actually already know where the walls are and can do it without touch. Oh, and these blind cannibals have an impeccable sense of color and all wear white. But they don’t wash and they don’t clean.

bad

Castor is a dark one, imbued with a mysterious power that only some have.

You can see some of the silliness here, used to make the show more visual, with more contrast between evil and good and downright crazy. The storyline is good enough and there are some interesting powers beside superhuman martial prowess. Who are those dark-eyed ones?

It’s absolutely unclear what happened to the world before but there seems to be a lot of space, and a lot of idiot barons running the show in their two-dimensional nastiness. Mayhem constantly ensues. Shot mostly in Ireland, there are awesome backdrops to the wars and petty intrigues. The storyline has enough twists and the acting is competent and it’s visually enthralling so I’m still watching it. And hey, the lead actor is Asian. That’s refreshing. I’ll keep watching this guilty pleasure.

 

1 Comment

Filed under Culture, entertainment, movies, SF

Women in Horror: Caitlin Marceau

WiHMX-horizontal-WhiteCanadian Caitlin Marceau talks about horror in film and a few Canadian authors of horror fiction today for Women in Horror Month.

Great Canadian Horror

When you think of great American horror authors, a myriad of names come to mind: Stephen King, Edgar Allan Poe, Anne Rice, Dean Koontz, Shirley Jackson… the list goes on and on. When we think of great British horror authors, there’s also no shortage of names: Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, Clive Barker, M. R. James, Neil Gaiman, Susan Hill… youMarceau JulianneSnow get the picture.

But how many popular Canadian horror authors can you come up with?

It’s okay if you need a moment to think about it, most people do.

In truth, there aren’t many Canadian horror authors who are as popular or internationally renowned as those from other English language countries. Australia has the likes of Angela Slater, Kirstyn McDermott, and Greig Beck, and even New Zealand has Maurice Gee, but when you mention Canadian horror most people stare into the distance and come up empty.

Although there are a few powerhouse names that can be found here in the great white Bittennorth—like Black Christmas’ Roy Moore, Ginger Snaps’ John Fawcett, and horror twins Jen and Sylvia Soska—few of them are known for their literary contributions. Even David Cronenberg, praised internationally for his work (which includes The Fly, Dead Ringers, Scanners, and Shivers), is left out of the authorial conversation despite his reputation and having released his debut novel, Consumed, back in 2014.

But why does this matter?

Because storytelling is an invaluable tool in building a nation’s identity, an issue that Canada has struggled with since it was first formed. We’re a country with a complicated past, and an even bigger identity crisis. Summed up best in Earle Birney’s poem “Can. Lit.,” we’re a nation that’s always been at odds with ourselves, at odds with our history and origins, and at odds with what it even means to be Canadian (just ask someone from Quebec, Alberta, and Nunavut). Where other countries have fought to forge empires, to gain independence, and to find their place in the world, Canada has never really needed to. We didn’t revolt against England’s rule, our internal conflict between the French and the English never had the same violent conclusion that America’s Civil War had, and so—as Birney eloquently writes in his poem—”it’s only by our lack of ghosts/we’re haunted.”

Marceau OmensAlthough, if Canadian women in horror have anything to say about it, hopefully not for long.

Horror fiction has always been a great way of bringing people together. It gives audiences a safe space to explore their deepest fears and understand national anxieties. Horror also allows people to explore socio-political issues in a visceral, engaging, and sometimes more approachable way. While film has been especially great at this (just look at 2017’s Get Out, written and directed by Jordan Peele, which explores racial tension and problematic white liberalism in the United States or 1954’s Godzilla, by Japanese director Ishirō Honda, which explored the fear of nuclear weaponry), literary works have been effective in this too (including both Rosemary’s Baby and The Stepford Wives, by American novelist Ira Levin, or Dracula by U.K. born Bram Stoker).

While Canada has a slew of great horror films that examine everything from gender issues to sexual assault through a cinematic horror lens, more and more female authors are doing their part to build Canada’s pantheon of horror creatures.

Nancy Kilpatrick is reinventing vampire lore through her Thrones of Blood series, and Marceau Nancymade speculative fiction with erotic undertones mainstream long before Stephenie Meyer. Kelley Armstrong is a fan favourite and legendary horror author, with her thriteen-book Otherworld series inspiring the show Bitten (2014-2016). Armstrong not only caters to adult horror fans, but has written several young adult trilogies (like the Darkest Powers & Darkest Rising series) which appeal to young readers and older ones alike. Her work features a diverse range of women, and explores both the idea of what it means to be a woman and what really makes a monster. Julianne Snow’s Days with the Undead series takes a northern approach to zombies, and breathes new life into an otherwise lifeless monster.

Canadian women are creating a national horror canon, are encouraging more women to get involved in the genre, and are inspiring new readers. It’s a legacy that—unlike Canada’s complicated identity crisis—will hopefully last for years to come.

Caitlin Marceau is a Canadian author and professional editor living and working in Montreal. She holds a B.A. in Creative Writing, is a member of both the Horror Writers Association and the Quebec Writers’ Federation, and spends most of her time writing horror and experimental fiction.

Marceau_AuthorPhotoShe’s been published for journalism, poetry, as well as creative non-fiction, and has spoken about horror literature at several Canadian conventions. Her workshop “Bikinis, Brains, and Boogeymen: How To Write Realistic Women in Horror,” was acclaimed by Yell Magazine, and her first co-authored collection, Read-Only: A Collection of Digital Horror, was released in June of 2017.

As of 2018, she is the co-owner and CEO of Sanitarium, an indie publishing house dedicated to encouraging diverse voices in horror media.

If she’s not covered in ink or wading through stacks of paper, you can find her ranting about issues in pop culture or nerding out over a good book.

For more information, or just to say hi, you can reach her through infocaitlinmarceau@gmail.com, her website, or via Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Culture, entertainment, horror, movies, Publishing, Writing

Women in Horror: Sara C. Walker

 

WiHMX-horizontal-WhiteToday, for Women in Horror Month, we’re back to Canada with Sara C. Walker who gives a list of some inspiring female authors and Canadian writers who do science fiction horror.

walker f

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is an early example of SF horror.

When asked to name a woman writer with stories at the intersection of horror and  science fiction, Mary Shelley is first to come to mind. Author of Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, originally published in 1818, Shelley is credited for writing the first science fiction story, though it’s often forgotten the story was intended to be horror. With that story, the sub-genre science fiction horror was born.

Science fiction horror ponders the current state of science and projects all the worst ways things could go wrong. As in Frankenstein, the true monsters of science fiction horror are human. From horrible dystopian societies to nightmare post-apocalyptic landscapes to brutal experimentation in the name of science, the stories are varied but also seek to answer the same question of every horror movie: who will survive?

Two hundred years since Mary Shelley’s creation, the genre crossing is a fertile playground for Canadian women writers, and while there are plenty of short stories that fit the science fiction horror genre, here are several suggestions for novel-length works to keep you up at night. This list is by no means exhaustive but is meant as a beginner’s guide.

Walker cancer horror

Real life SF horror–cancer ad from the 1800s

When looking for Canadian women who write science fiction horror, the first to come to mind is Margaret Atwood, specifically The Handmaid’s Tale, published in 1985, which has been adapted into a film, an opera, and now an HBO series, airing since 2017. This dystopian story imagines a pretty horrific future for women.

Ten years ago, the Canadian documentary Pretty Bloody: The Women of Horror interviewed actors and producers in the genre, along with Tanya Huff and Nancy Kilpatrick, two of Canada’s top horror writers. Huff’s contemporary vampire series was turned into Blood Ties, a television show that aired in 2007, but Huff also writes military science fiction series with a female protagonist—start with Valor’s Choice (DAW, 2000). Kilpatrick is also known for her vampire series, Thrones of Blood, but she also writes science fiction horror, as in Eternal City (Five Star, 2003).

Well known for her Otherworld series, especially her first novel, Bitten (Vintage Canada, 2009), which became a television show for three seasons in 2014 to 2016, Kelley Armstrong also dabbles in science fiction horror. The Darkness Rising series, beginning with The Gathering (Doubleday Canada, 2012), is a trilogy in which the main character, who lives in a medical-research town, finds strange things happening, beginning with the drowning of the swim team captain. Armstrong is also brilliant at writing psychological thrillers that will scare your pants off. Just try reading the beginning of Omens (Random House, 2013) or Exit Strategy (Seal Books, 2010).

Author Ada Hoffman’s novel The Outside, a science fiction horror, is due to be published June 2019 by Angry Robot. Hailed as “fast-paced, mind-bending Big Idea science fiction, with a touch of Lovecraftian horror”, The Outside features cyborg servants, a heretic scientist, and an autistic protagonist.

walker ht

The Handmaid’s Tale, base off of Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel.

I do love Frankenstein, The Handmaid’s Tale, and stories that seek to show us what future might come of our choices, but my true love is for urban fantasy, a genre that’s a sibling to horror as both have roots in urban myths. So, with that in mind, I have one more reading suggestion for urban fantasy that fringes on horror, although this one leans more toward fantasy than science fiction.

These days she lives in Los Angeles and is more known for being the ex-wife of Elon Musk, however, Justine Musk is from Peterborough, Ontario and wrote horror back in 2005 with her first book, BloodAngel. The sequel was released in 2008, Lord of Bones (both published by ROC, in imprint of Penguin Books). We’re still waiting for more books from Musk.

walkerSara C. Walker writes fiction, usually urban fantasy, from short stories to novels. “True Nature” can be found in Alice Unbound: Beyond Wonderland (Exile Editions, ed. Colleen Anderson) and “If Wishes Were Pennies” in Canadian Creatures (Schreyer Ink Publishing, ed. Casia Schreyer). Forthcoming stories include “Stag and Storm” in Canadian Dreadful (Dark Dragon Press, ed. David Tocher) and “Call of the Ash” in Not Just A Pretty Face (Dead Light Publishing). She’s edited two anthologies of stories set in the Kawartha Lakes. When not writing, she works at a library and is always ready to give reading suggestions. You can find out more at www.sarawalker.ca.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Culture, entertainment, horror, science, science fiction, Writing

Women in Horror: Colleen Anderson

WiHMX-horizontal-WhiteIt’s the ides of February. Well technically, that would be true possibly every four years, but it is halfway through the month and there are still many other women in horror to showcase. I would be remiss if I left myself out of the Women in Horror Month. So I too will talk about how I stumbled upon horror.

story collection, fantasy, horror, SF

Available on Amazon

Like many of the people who have already posted, The Haunting of Hill House and The Lottery were stories that stayed with me but I really don’t think I read them when I was a child. (And I have to mention the very good TV series of The Haunting of Hill House.) Most likely I watched these as a teenager. My first brush with horror was earlier with movies though. Not so much Dracula for me, though I do remember Frankenstein. When I was about six or seven my parents fought so badly that my mother would bundle us in jammies into the car and off to the drive-in we would go. The House of Seven Gables and The Fall of the House of Usher with Vincent Price, another king of horror, are forever conflated into one movie for me. I was that young and my mother certainly didn’t seemed worried about our young minds being warped.

Those two movies where Vincent’s character pickaxes his sister and buries her in the walls (or under the floors) stuck with me, along with the first nightmare I remember at age six. After that, the endless recycling of The Twilight Zone and the Outer Limits coupled with reading Edgar Allan Poe and Ray Bradbury made me who I am today.

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

The Beauty of Death contains “Season’s End”

While I always liked the weird I was not a fan of horror. I detested most horror and gore movies. Slasher and murderer thrillers were not and still aren’t really my cup of tea. But the strange is and always has been, and that may be reflected more in the shows I watched and books I read.

When it came to writing, I was writing fantasy and SF. I wasn’t writing horror. I was a member of SFWA for a long time before I even knew of the Horror Writers Association (HWA). But I found stories I sent to magazines of SF or fantasy would be rejected with a note that they didn’t do horror. I was confused; maybe I still am, but my stories didn’t seem scary to me. Of course, they came from my mind so I knew where they were going.

received_312365166192812

Colleen’s launch for A Body of Work takes place Feb. 23 at The Heatley.

Somewhere along the way I started to submit to some of the darker markets and like the sun setting on the longest day, I finally figured out that I sold more stories if I went darker. I have written a few truly terrifying depictions of horror in the gore sense, such as my flash piece “Amuse Bouche,” but while it was an exercise for me, it wasn’t where my heart lay. A writer friend once asked, “What theme are you exploring? We all explore a theme.” Hers were animals. Another writer’s was children…

 

I never thought I explored one theme until I put together my first collection of fiction Embers Amongst the Fallen. At that point, it became clear that I do morality tales. Not all of them but there is often a disturbing moral dilemma that a character must face (“The Healer’s Touch,” “An Ember Amongst the Fallen,” “Season’s End,” “Hold Back the Night”). In that sense, as opposed to the “other” outside of you invading your sanctity of life or home, it is the “other” inside. What deals with the devil will a character make to save something dear? I find that extremely interesting and personal, something to which we can all relate.

SF, fantasy, horror, jabberwock, mad hatter, bandersnatch, Alice, March hare, dormouse, mock turtle

Alice Unbound contains 22 speculative stories and poems inspired by the world and character of Lewis Carroll.

As with many of the writers here, we have a fascination with vampires, or werewolves, or creepy crawlies, or disturbing dolls, or clowns, or the dark, or subterranean depths or things hidden in fog or water or space. Just a readers do. It is as old as humankind–that fear and need to conquer it, and an intense curiosity about the unknown and the strange.

I have written several stories that also explore the psychopath/sociopath (modern studies don’t really distinguish between the two) intellect. The mind encased in a human body where that the person doesn’t think like a regular human. It is alien. I’ve look at aspects of this mind in such stories as “Exegesis of the Insecta Apocrypha,” “Sins of the Father,” “The Book With No End,” and “Gingerbread People.” The first was one story that very much disturbed me in the writing, and the last was an examination of the nature of evil based off of the two Canadian serial killers Paul Bernardo and Carla Homolka, where she was given a lighter sentence because she said he made her do the terrible crimes. Can you be made to commit horrors that go against your fundamental core, and who is more evil–the person committing the crime or the one making that person do it?

And this gets down to what is the scariest thing: to many it is man/woman as monster, the feral side, the side the loses control; like Dracula, like werewolves, like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. You could say my fascination with the weird is my fascination with people and that no matter how normal all of us look there is something that makes us individual, and sometimes it is disturbing. Thankfully though, most of us are just  harmless eccentrics.

hoodieColleen Anderson is a Canadian author with over two hundreds works published including fiction and poetry. She has two fiction collections, Embers Amongst the Fallen, and A Body of Work which was published by Black Shuck Books, UK in 2018. She has been longlisted for a Stoker Award and shortlisted for the Aurora and Gaylactic Spectrum Awards, as well as having placed in several poetry contests. A recipient of a Canada Council Grant, Colleen has served on Stoker and British Fantasy Award juries, copyedited for publishers, and edited three anthologies (Alice Unbound: Beyond Wonderland, Exile Publishing 2018).

Look for some of her work in Canadian Dreadful, Tesseracts 22, Heroic Fantasy Quarterly, The Pulp Horror Book of Phobias and By the Light of Camelot. A book launch for A Body of Work will take place in Vancouver of Feb. 23, at 3pm at The Heatley. Come by and say hi and hear Colleen read. Read a review of the collection here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Culture, entertainment, fantasy, horror, movies, science fiction, Writing

Women in Horror: Maura McHugh

WiHMX-horizontal-WhiteToday we stop in Ireland to hear from Maura McHugh for Women in Horror Month. Maura gives a thoughtful review of a movie cult classic: Ginger Snaps.

Howling for Blood: Power and Puberty in Ginger Snaps

One of my favourite werewolf films is Ginger Snaps (2000), based on a story by Karen Walton and John Fawcett, with a screenplay by Walton, and directed by Fawcett. It has developed into a cult classic for a reason: it’s a well-crafted film about the body horror of puberty and learning to deal with new and powerful urges.

McHugh GingersnapsPoster

Cult classic Ginger Snaps explores werewolves and puberty.

Central to its story is the bond between two sisters, Ginger (Katharine Isabelle) and Brigitte (Emily Perkins) Fitzgerald, who don’t fit in at school due to their death obsession and Goth tendencies. Most of their peers are relentlessly replicating middle-class American attitudes exemplified by the boxy suburban landscape they inhabit. Although 16 and 15 years old, they remain on the cusp of puberty, so an interest in boys is just beginning to impinge upon their intense friendship.

Ginger is bitten by a werewolf just as she begins to menstruate, and she starts to change in literal and metaphoric ways. Brigitte tries to protect her sister as Ginger becomes more predatory and lost to her lycanthropic self. Power for Ginger is depicted as becoming more sexually aware and depending upon her ability to draw male attention. There’s the vamp walk down the High School hallway with the boys biting their fists at her attractiveness (a scene central to so many teen films), but this is not the “mousy girl becomes Prom Queen” dynamic. Ginger has always been attractive but was previously uncomfortable with the attention it brought.

This is the Jekyll & Hyde narrative with the girls representing both sides of the self. The werewolf is violent ID, rampaging without restraint. The more Ginger enjoys her destructive power the more alien she becomes. The physical transformation into a werewolf is slow in Ginger Snaps, it hits peak power during the full moon but it is a continuous build. As it progresses, the bond between the sisters erodes. Brigitte begins to embody the rational self that Ginger has rejected, so Ginger will eventually be driven to destroy her sister.

Brigitte attempts to figure out a way to stop her sister from becoming a beast (Ginger graduates from killing animals to killing humans with ease), but Ginger enjoys the power and has the strength to carry out her lethal impulses. “I’m a goddamn force of nature. I feel like I could do just about anything.”

The werewolf is a metaphor for the physical transformation (hair growth, strange appetites and smells) and the emotional roller coaster triggered by the onset of menstruation: mood swings, hormonal imbalances, etc. The film glories in its taboo subject and even offers a biology lesson about some of the more unpleasant aspects of monthly bleeding described in plain language. Older women encourage the girls to embrace it. Menstruation−that hidden, messy issue that usually described in euphemisms (one of the film’s taglines is “She’s got the curse”)− is central to the film.

An overlooked and under-appreciated character in Ginger Snaps is Pamela (Mimi McHugh ginger-snaps-sisters-togetherRogers), the girls’ mother. She has a calm, open and nice relationship with her children, but she doesn’t suppress or shame them. When she realises what’s happening after discovering a dead body, she tells Brigitte, “First thing tomorrow I’ll let the house fill up with gas and I’ll light a match.” The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. A mother’s instinct to protect is as strong as a werewolf’s need to devour.

When the two sisters confront their estrangement Brigitte says, “You want me? You want me, stop hurting everyone else and take me, take me!” But Ginger is too far gone, and Brigitte is unrecognisable to her.

Brigitte realises that she needs to reconcile the two parts and willingly takes the curse to demonstrate to Ginger that she will continue to have an ally who understands what she is experiencing. She has faith in a cure that will save them, as developed by the local weed grower Sam (Kris Lemche). Ginger’s earlier beau Jason (Jesse Moss) has not been a true threat to the girls, but Sam is thoughtful, smart and rejects Ginger’s advances. When he attempts to help Brigitte cure Ginger, the fully transformed Ginger attacks him with all her rage.

Brigitte shares a communion of blood with her sister (courtesy of Sam), and though she feels the draw of lycanthropic power, she cannot lose herself to it. She rejects this frightening power, doubting her ability to control it (and she’s given no sign that’s possible).

The final denouement happens in the sisters’ bedroom, place of their childhood and shared secrets. Now a symbol of their divide.

Brigitte knows what the uncontrolled monster will bring: a destruction of her ability to fit into the world rationally. “I’m not dying in this room with you!” she yells. But it is werewolf Ginger’s leap onto Brigitte’s knife that kills Ginger—a deliberate act or animal impulse? The beast cannot win against life’s sharp realities.

The girls had played at death in their earlier, staged death scenes, but truly being riven from each another is far more tragic than they ever imagined. Brigitte weeps over the corpse of her werewolf sister/self. To live in the world, she has given up something essential.

Ginger Snaps remains a rare horror film that concentrates exclusively on women’s struggles with their powerful urges and desires, and the double difficultly involved with inhabiting that power in a healthy way in a society that continues to mistrust powerful women−for at any point they might bleed, and of course, lose control…

mchugh-2018You can view a trailer to Ginger Snaps here.

Maura McHugh is a horror writer living in Galway, Ireland, who writes articles, prose, comic books, plays and screenplays. Most recently she wrote a book about David Lynch’s Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, and has a collection of fiction forthcoming from NewCon Press in the UK. Her web site is splinister.com and she tweets as @splinister.

3 Comments

Filed under Culture, entertainment, horror, movies, Writing

When Life Sucks You into a Vortex

I have written very little on this blog this year and I was trying to do at least a few posts every month. But I really do have a good excuse or few. Sometimes life gets in the way of doing all those things you plan in life.

Here’s how my year started: I was driving to work on a dry January day when my brakes locked at 100 km/hr and I spun out into a cement barricade, smashing the car and myself. The thing was, my mechanic had never found the issue and it had only happened (sporadically) at low speeds. That was the one and only time at high speed, and if it wasn’t that traffic was light, I left lots of space in front of me (because I was always cautious of the car’s issues), and that there was a barricade, someone would have died. My leg was smashed badly but unbroken and I needed about four months of physio and chiropractic to get everything fixed. But because I’ve done pilates for several years, I’m better now.

At the end of June, I broke my hand, but they only figured it out two weeks ago. In July, I was ending one job and starting another so it was a hectic few weeks of finishing up the old job. In that time, my kitty, Venus, who was about 16 years old and had a slow going tumour, hit the hard part and I had to put her down. I finished the last ten days of my job and on July 13 (yes, Friday the 13th) I finished and within 12 hours was booking a flight back to Calgary as my mother was not doing well. I was supposed to start my new job the next Tuesday.

mom

My mother Amy Anderson was almost 95 when she passed.

By that Sunday, it looked like my mother had made a turn for the better so I booked my flight back on the Wednesday. Then before I left, she started to go downhill again. I flew back and started my new job late on the Thursday, and my mother was doing very badly. I worked one day at my new job when my new boss gave me a ticket back to Calgary. I arrived Friday and it was the last day my mother was aware and able to respond even a little. She had a bad heart and it finally gave up on Sunday morning. She was an amazingly tough woman and was not always easy to get along with. I’ll do another post about my mother but I wrote this about Amy Anderson for the obituary.

I then spent two weeks in Calgary with my siblings, going through my mother’s effects, writing her celebration of life and generally dealing with stuff. I then went back to my new job. I was only back a little over a week when my landlady, out of the blue, evicted me (because they didn’t want to be landlords anymore). It became very messy and nasty but needless to say after a couple decades and the cost of rentals in Vancouver, I was dealing with a move. The reality in Vancouver is very bad and that will be all for another post.

received_312365166192812

A Body of Work, available through Black Shuck Books & Amazon

In amongst all of that I had a trip to the UK planned and paid for so I went to England and Wales and my book A Body of Work was launched by Steve Shaw and Black Shuck Books at Fantasycon. This collection features my dark fiction and I hope to do a N. American launch soon. I came back to more moving and packing and I haven’t stopped yet.

Needless to say, I’ve done little writing in six months. Yet, I have to remember the good things: I edited Alice Unbound: Beyond Wonderland, and that came out in the spring from Exile, and a review in Publishers Weekly. I also was working

SF, fantasy, horror, jabberwock, mad hatter, bandersnatch, Alice, March hare, dormouse, mock turtle

Alice Unbound contains stories and poems inspired by the world and character of Lewis Carroll.

on fiction through my Canada Council grant back in the spring. “Sir Tor and the River Maiden” came out in By the Light of Camelot by Edge Publishing. I managed to sell another story but cannot as yet mention it.

And I would be remiss to not mention the poems that came out. It’s amazing I sold anything considering I’ve submitted very few things this year. “Mermaid’s Comb” came out in The Future Fire  #45, “Cinderella’s Pumpkin” in Polu Texni, “Savor” in the HWA Poetry Showcase Vol. V, “Learning to Run” in Polar Borealis #7, “Washday Blues” in Polar Borealis #6, and “The Sand Witch” won second place in the Balticon poetry contest. There could possibly be a few other things but I’ve really lost track, including contracts that I’ve signed/been signing.

I hope to be here more often in the near future and might pull in a few guests to write some posts. But this is the reason I’ve been quiet of late.

 

2 Comments

Filed under Culture, family, horror, poetry, Publishing, Writing

That LGBT Thing & Writing Guidelines

flag

Benson Kua, Wikimedia

This post probably won’t be what you think it is. It’s about writing and my submission guidelines for Alice Unbound but it’s about more than that. The above letters refer to people of various gender preferences or identities. It’s also called QUILTBAG, for ease of remembering the letters in the acronym.

It is very common to now see a statement in submission guidelines that states something like: “Submissions from the QUILTBAG community are accepted/encouraged/not discriminated against.” The words vary but the intent is the same: inclusion. That’s the basis, though I’m not sure of the full evolution of this in terms of writing.

As some point in the past, someone or some people felt there was a prejudice against  gay or lesbian people or those identifying with any other version of gender identity. I’m going to state this here first, though I’m sure to offend someone. I’m an egalitarian. I believe in equal rights and the same treatment for all people. Now I’ve judged and juried several writing competitions and awards, edited some magazines/zines and a couple of anthologies. And even before I did any of these things I was a reader. Never did I choose to read a person because of their color, their gender or who they liked to have sex with. In fact, the latter especially is none of my business. I read because I liked the story and I went back to the same author because I liked their style.

As an editor and juror, I read for great stories first. I may know by a person’s name whether they’re female or male, but not necessarily. I don’t know if they’re a person of color or if they’re gay and asexual, or bi-curious, or bi, or gender fluid. And really, as far as I’m concerned, it does not matter. I’ve never submitted a story and said, hey, I’m a white girl whose Italian mother was ostracized by my father’s Scandinavian family, and I’m bisexual but only like black guys and white women. (Some of this statement is true and some is fiction, but again, it doesn’t matter. Some of that statement could be valid in submission, if the magazine only published Italian writers, or people of color. And likewise, the anthology I’m editing must have Canadian or residents of Canada as writers.) It is nobody’s business and has absolutely nothing to do with my writing. I also would feel uncomfortable stating any of this while submitting to an anthology/magazine, because I want my story to be chosen on its merit; not who I know, who I bed or how I identify.

Now, I’m not saying that there has been no prejudice. There probably has been in some cases or some areas. I just have lived in a bubble and don’t know about it overall but I don’t know every magazine out there. But an editor reading relatively unknowns from different geographies isn’t going to know these things about a person, unless that person is already known to them, or tells them. So where does this prevalence for guidelines saying “LGBT welcome” come from? I’m not sure. Some is general gender awareness and the rise of equality for gay and lesbian rights, and then more awareness of other gender identities/preferences. It’s only natural that it would get tagged into something as powerful as writing. And in the speculative genre, some might say that there has been a predominance of white Amerocentric characters, while at the same time, and long ago, speculative fiction was one of the first places where strong female characters and other types of sexual relationships were explored, even if it was once white men only writing them (and Samuel Delaney). Robert Heinlein was a product of his times but he was exploring identity and genders in his own way decades ago. Spec fiction has always been open to pushing boundaries. And yes, some female writers started out with male names to stop any prejudice against women.

This blog piece has evolved from comments on a thread where I posted the guidelines and someone said, why list this LGBQT stuff? At the same time, another person said editors were lazy for posting this and should solicit people directly. So let’s address that aspect.

If I have open submissions and the anthology is not invitational, then to solicit specifically from a transgendered person, or a gay person means I’m giving preferential treatment over other people. It’s an open submission and I’m an egalitarian. Second, editors don’t always have time to solicit this person and that. I’d have to start researching writers I know of, as opposed to those just starting out where there would be little to research, to find out who is gender fluid, transgender, asexual, bi, gay, lesbian, etc. to solicit a story from each of them. And I’m sure to leave someone out and cause more ill feeling. And then what about the hetero people, or cisgender? By being equal and fair, I list the guidelines so anyone can submit. Just send great stories.

Well then, why are you encouraging QUILTBAG in your guidelines? Because, if you don’t these days, someone is sure to attack you as being prejudiced. And in Canada, many small presses receive grant funding from provinces and the federal gov’t. Those governing bodies also require fair and equal attention to all types of writers. The statement is pretty much standard. So, if anyone of color or whatever gender identity feels like they might be ostracized or blacklisted, this tells them that they are not. And again, I’m really not going to know 99% of people’s gender identities or preferences.

Lion and unicorn, Alice, Through the Looking Glass

Lion or unicorn, or girl, you’re welcome to submit to Alice Unbound. Sir John Tenniel illustration.

In the end, as I’ve said before, I read for good stories. I don’t even read the submission letters first, and I don’t care who you have sex with. And please, don’t tell me. I don’t need to know. It’s none of my business and I will not reject or buy your story because you are any of the above. However, sometimes for those grants, if the publisher says, yes we had three transgendered writers, then that might help with more grant funding. Exile Editions actually has authors sign (voluntarily) a form that discloses if they are a minority of any type, but it doesn’t affect my selection.

And to those who decided to call editors lazy, try being an editor first before you make that statement. To close this post, I’ll state again, I’m an egalitarian. I don’t care who you are, or how you identify. I care that I have the best stories to emulate the premise for Alice Unbound.

2 Comments

Filed under Culture, people, Publishing, relationships, sex

Fall Update & the Environment

steampunk, cogs, clockwork, Buffalo Gals, fantasy

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

Fall is definitely falling here in Vancouver, with days on end of rain, rain and more rain. Twenty-eight out of thirty-one days, so what’s a drenched soul to do? Many things have happened, including trips and busy busyness. I’ve been lax with this blog so I’ll do an update on fiction and poetry. I’ll mention briefly that I went to the UK in Sept./Oct. and to British Fantasycon by the Sea in Scarborough. Adventures with writers and others, but that will be a post that I hope will happen soon. In the meantime…

The World Wildlife Fun just mentioned this last week that many species are in rapid decline. This is happening to birds, fish, mammals, amphibians and reptiles and by 2020 they estimate we’ll have lost two-thirds of all species. This is catastrophic and heartbreaking. The only species that won’t be in decline are humans and insects. Many of these other species control the insect populations and with even  just a few being out of balance we’ll be overrun in a short time. When I wrote “Exegesis of the Insecta Apocrypha” I researched this buggy phenomenon and it was frightening in its own right. That story was reprinted last year in the Best of Horror Library Vol. 1-5. In relation to this topic is m story “Freedom’s Just Another Word” about the last elephant on Earth. It can be read for free at Agnes and True and came out earlier this year. I hope that we’ll wake up before it’s too late and realize that by saving these species we will save ourselves.

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

The Beauty of Death, edited by Alessandro Manzetti.

“Buffalo Gals” came out in Clockwork Canada in the spring and is an alternate history steampunk tale about BC’s early history. I touch on the murdered and missing women which has been part of BC’s and really, the whole country’s news for quite a few years. I have a feeling that if other countries started looking at their stats we would see a lot of the same; more women murdered or missing, as seems to always be the case. As well, “Seasons End” came out in the massive Beauty of Death. This story too touches on the decline of the environment but from a more mythical aspect, with hope woven in. On a lighter note, there were two drabbles (100 words exactly) up at SpeckLit but they are no longer drabbling so these are in the archives.

Stories sold and yet to come out include “Love in the Vapors” in Futuristica Vol. 2, “Awaking Pandora” in the Goethe Glass anthology about climate change (yep, another environmental tale), “Shoes” to be reprinted in Polar Borealis 4, “Changes” in Deep Waters #2, and “Sins of the Father” (a fungal horror story) in OnSpec. These will probably all be out next year. There are a few others in the works but I can’t announce those yet. I should also mention that Playground of Lost Toys, edited by Ursula Pflug and I, was nominated for an Aurora Award but didn’t win. Several of the authors were nominated for various awards and Catherine MacLeod won the Sunburst Award for short fiction with her tale, “Hide and Seek.”

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

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

There have been many poems this year so I’ll just list these: “The Hedge Witch” in OnSpec #101 (plus and interview), “Book of Shadows” in Devolution Z #8, “Patchwork Girl” in Future Fire #37, “Pilot Flight” and “Short Sighted” in Polar Borealis #2, “Triptych (Amsterdam)” in Wax Poetry #11 (4th place), “Come and Go,” “Oh You!”, “Cuntipotent,” “Cremating Love” in Maple Tree Literary Supplement #21, and “The Persuaders” in Heroic Fantasy Quarterly #29. About to be published are: “A Good Catch” in Tailfins and Sealskins (UK), “Garuda’s Gamble” in Heroic Fantasy Quarterly #30, “Mermaid” in Spirits Tincture #2, “Wolf Skin” in Myths and Fables, “This Song” in Deadlights, “Spirit Bottle” and “Geomystica” in the summer solstice 2017 edition of Eternal Haunted Summer. Many of these are free to read online so Google away.

I hope to post again next week with the first part of m UK trip, which involves writers and editors, and saving someone’s life. I’m also hoping to revamp this blog in the next few months and there will be some book give-aways. So stay tuned to my sporadic posts.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Culture, environment, fairy tales, fantasy, horror, myth, poetry, Publishing, science fiction, Writing

Convention Update

I’m at When Words Collide, an ever expanding convention in Calgary. While it has a heavy focus on speculative fiction there are romance and mystery writers here as well. Yesterday I was on a panel about writing and making a living at it. The four of us on the panel agreed that you can’t make a living but talked about the money you can make, some innovative ways to market poetry and some of the reasons we write poetry, as well as what is a poem.

I was then on a panel with Nancy Kilpatrick, Pat Flewwelling and Brandy Ackerley on why we need dark fiction and horror. We discussed how it dark fiction/’fantasy has evolved, marketing and genre names (weird fiction, dark fiction, horror, etc.) and why we need it. Why are people repelled, why are they drawn to it and what are our monsters and fears.

I also sat on the panel for one of the live action slush groups, where people turn in one page, which is read out loud. The panel of four editors put up there hand when they would stop reading. We made it through several pieces and overall the writing was good. A full house on that one.

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

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

Today, I’m only on the autograph signing and of course attending the Aurora Awards, where Playground of Lost Toys is up for an award (co-edited with Ursula Pflug). I’m also in the anthologies nEvermore! and Second Contacts (cowritten with Rhea Rose), which are up for the same award. I’ve also been visiting with and getting reacquainted with many of the writers I sometimes only see virtually.  On Sunday, if you’re attending the con, I’ll be on the panel for poetry markets and approaches and doing a reading afterwards with three other poets. At 4pm I’ll be doing a blue pencil session. There is one space left and if you bring 1-2 pages I will edit and comment on it. There really isn’t time for more than one so first come first served.

I have other sales to report but that will have to wait. Though you can check out Heroic Fantasy Quarterly for my poem “The Persuaders,” and Maple Tree Literary Supplement for four poems titled “Cuntipotent,” “Cremating Love,” “Oh You!” and “Come and Go.” These are hard hitting poems about sex and sexuality. Now, back to the con. 🙂

Leave a comment

Filed under Culture, entertainment, fantasy, horror, news, poetry, Publishing, science fiction, Writing

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.

2 Comments

Filed under art, Culture, fairy tales, fantasy, horror, people, poetry, Publishing, science fiction, Writing