Today’s authors are Shane Simmons and Candas Jane Dorsey. Playground of Lost Toys, by its nature and the guidelines Ursula Pflug and I set up, has many stories that deal with nostalgia and loss. Not all but many look at family as well.
Shane Simmons wrote “When the Trains Run on Time.” It’s a very clever play on time travel, and I have to say that I don’t overall much like time travel stories. Shane’s tale was so poignant and sad that it grabbed me and tugged on my heart. It is one of the darker stories in the anthology and definitely worth a read.
1. What was your main reason for submitting a story to Playground of Lost Toys?
The only good reason for submitting a story to an anthology: I had an idea that was on-topic and a story worth telling. Playground of Lost Toys was a compelling concept for a collection, and I knew I had to come up with something that would fit.
2. Does your story relate at all to anything from your own childhood?
It was very much inspired by a model train set I got for Christmas one year. Mine didn’t come with a tunnel that warped time, however.
3. What theme or idea were you exploring in your story?
Every kid can’t wait to grow up. Childhood seems to take so long, but before you know it you’re an adult and the years fly by.
4. Is there anything else to do with your story or the theme of the anthology that you’d like to mention?
A lot of my work has to do with twisted, distorted memories of my youth. I’ve made a living for years writing cartoons for kids, so when I’m writing material for my own amusement, it often explores the dark side of childhood.
5. What other projects do you have in the works, pieces people can buy, or places to find you in the coming year?
I’ve had seven short stories published last year, with three more scheduled for 2016 so far, plus a novella. All the news about my career that’s fit to print can be found on my website, eyestrainproductions.com.
Candas Jane Dorsey’s tale “The Food of My People” has a very homey type of magic. It’s tied up as much in the person as it is in the rich visions of food. This story explores not so much the loss of a toy as the loss of something or someone special in a child’s life. (brackets are added by me)
I loved the idea of the anthology, and the editors are great, and I had a story in progress that I could finish in time! As people probably know, I am a slow writer, so I don’t usually write anthology stories to order for calls for submission. But I tried with this one–but it wasn’t this anthology–and of course, I missed the deadline. But the outcome was great. I was really impressed with the editors and with the publisher, so meticulous about catching the errors and typos and little bits of illogic that crept in unbeknownst. So first off, thanks to everyone involved!
About half of Cubbie is based on my godmother. But my godmother was also really different: she was plump, yes, but rather more elegant, wore corsets and those black lace-up oxfords with Cuban heels, and her son was a diplomat so she was always going off to live in Japan or somewhere, and sending me presents from there (her daughter-in-law was in a famous diplomatic incident in South Africa actually, where she marched in an anti-apartheid march, but that’s another story). The half that is Cubbie is the comfort and love half. I meant to put in her candy jars but the story was already too long.
What is really based on my life is the food. It’s Alberta prairie family reunion food (non-Ukrainian variety–so alas, no pyroghy!) My relatives in central Alberta all had gardens, went berry picking, cooked well, and food was central to the experience. Jellied salads at family reunions–a staple food. My mother made an awesome flapper pie–though it’s a pain to make and you have to be in the mood–and used to whip up a bread pudding every couple of weeks to use up the stale bread. Saskatoon pie. Kraft dinner spun out with some “real” macaroni and some real cheese, but still that electric yellow-orange colour. Makes me hungry–even now it says comfort-food to my backbrain.
There was a lot of food I didn’t have a chance to include. Beets and beet greens–yum. The Galloping Gourmet’s curry sauce, so mild and therefore beloved by all the prairie food conservatives even in the 1960s. I just found out that one of my best friend’s mom made the very same sauce, from the same source. My mother is in the story as “the lady in the next bed” who was 99 and still telling stories, because she was both those things. That was one of the last things I put in. My mother died this spring (2015) at the age of 99 years 5 months. Even though she worked at home for years during our childhood, she wasn’t temperamentally suited to it. She always said “cook” and “bake” were four-letter words, and was a reader and historian and toponymist–but whatever she took on she did well, and I still remember her flapper pie and bread pudding. And a candy called “seafoam” that was really little meringues, and too hard to make more than about once a year. That was the first recipe I asked for when I left home. (Bread pudding was the second one I wrote in my recipe book in my own house, but I knew it from watching–it was never written down.)
And we had a jigsaw puzzle that was a big red dot. We did it. Once. (Once.)
3. What theme or idea were you exploring in your story?
My original idea was for an anthology Nalo Hopkinson edited called Mojo Conjure. I have always been annoyed at how fantasy writers who come from what’s now being called “settler” roots have taken over the voudoun and First Nations mythologies because they are “cool.” Don’t we have enough imagination to think about where our own cultures’ magic comes from? But at the same time, I am divorced from my own heritage by immigrant circumstances, so I have no idea what the Celtic or Anglo-Saxon stories from my family’s origins were either, even though my heritage is English and Scots. I am third and fourth generation on this land–but what is the magic of my people? So I decided to think up some “mojo conjure” of my own personal heritage, and this is what came out.
A lot later, long after I’d missed Nalo’s deadline, the image of the last red piece dissolving on Cubbie’s tongue came to me, and I realized then where the story had to go. When I saw the call for this anthology, I was delighted, and I pushed myself to finish the story on time. I sent it to Ursula (and Colleen) thinking that it was too long but it was too new to be objective about it so I told her she had to help me cut it! When she accepted it, then I was motivated, and I did manage to cut it back, a bit.
Reading the anthology when my author copy arrived was really a wonderful experience. Such a variety of works! I’m always surprised at how a story looks in print, so formal, after having ideas for it in the bathtub, or while half alseep. The readers can’t see the state my hair was in when I was writing it! I was really impressed with the range of ideas. Also how spooky some people think childhood is. That comes of all those years being the weird kids in the class, I guess. Or at least, I was. (Baby writers probably mostly were That Kid at the Back–or the Picked-On Kid…)
My novel Black Wine was recently re-released by Five Rivers Publishing, and is available as an eBook or paper book. Originally my novels were from Tor, and I also have two short fiction collections that are out of print at the moment. Five Rivers and I are talking about bringing some of those out again too, in the fullness of time.
In progress, I have finished two mystery novels about a nameless bisexual downsized social worker and her cat Fuc…er, Bunny-wit. She lives in the inner city and knows a lot of diverse people, and has gotten into two very different adventures, one with drag queens and religious fundamentalists, and one with software millionaires. I also have a YA novel about an intersex teen. All these are off in the slowly-grinding mills of the gods, being Pronounced Upon. I’m working on a Great Looming Serious Novel which may or may not be fantasy, and which I am completing with the help of a project grant from the Edmonton Arts Council which is finished soon, so I am off in a fog at the moment, thinking about scene order…