Category Archives: history

Playground of Lost Toys Interviews: Adler & Davies

Lost ToysPlayground of Lost Toys hit the stores in December and is available on Amazon and through Exile Writers. The holidays and being in no WiFi land put another gap in the posting of these interviews so without further ado, here is Nathan Adler and Joe Davies. Nathan, who wrote “The Ghost Rattle,” gives us a a tale about consequences of mistaking something for a toy.
1. What was your main reason for submitting a story to Playground of Lost Toys.

 I’d finished a novel, and wasn’t ready to commit to another large project, so I started writing short stories. The Ghost Rattle fit the theme, so I submitted.

2. Does your story relate at all to anything from your own childhood?

It was important that the teenagers in the story weren’t the good or bad guys, just the run of the mill fuck-ups a lot of us probably were when they were younger.

3. What theme or idea were you exploring in your story.

ghost stories, nostalgia, fantasy, horror, First Nations, Indian

Nathan Adler brings us “The Ghost Rattle,” a different take about Indian burial grounds.

I started out with the idea of having three objects, and three characters, and three ghosts, and how the objects which had once belonged to the dead connected them all together. It was important that the ghosts weren’t purely malevolent, they needed to be as well-realized as the living characters. Tyler’s story-arc is part of a larger narrative that follows the arc of his friends, Dare Theremin and Clay Cutter, and the associated objects and hauntings.

I wanted to tackle the trope of the Indian Burial Ground, which is a pretty common theme in horror movies as the basis for a bunch of scary shit happening, but it’s usually a back-drop without much depth: “Oh yeah, also, this pet cemetery/hotel/house was built on an IBG,” and then never mentioned again. I also had real world events like the Oka Crisis swimming around in my head, which revolved around the construction of a Golf Course on an IBG, and also the flooding of my reserve, Lac Des Mille Lacs First Nation, which unearthed coffins and damaged traditional burial sites.

I think part of mainstream horror narratives is the discomfort settlers have with the reality that this is Indian land, that it’s basically all stolen, and an IBG is this blank canvass for stories of white guilt and fear. So I didn’t want to fall into any of those ways of approaching a story about an IBG with mindlessly angry ghosts. Instead the ghosts have their own histories, and react in very different and unexpected ways.

4.Tells us anything else to do with your story or the theme of the anthology.

The setting of Ghost Lake is part of a larger fictional universe. The story also operates as something of a back-story for the character of Dibikazwinan, as she has living descendants who appear in other stories, and she also has a cameo appearance in a novel I wrote called Wrist, as a minor (living) character in 1872.

5. What other projects do you have in the works, pieces people can buy, or places to find you in the coming year?

My novel called Wrist is slated to come out in the Spring of 2016 through Kegedonce Press, Available for pre-order here: http://kegedonce.com/bookstore/item/73-wrist.html.

I have some of my published writing on my blog here: https://nathanadlerblog.wordpress.com

And I’ll probably be having a Book Launch for Wrist in Toronto sometime in the summer, and doing some readings. And I’ve been working on a collection of inter-related short stories, as well as another novel that follows after Wrist.

Joe Davies wrote “The Compass,” another piece that deals with the consequences in childhood of taking something that is not yours.

The idea for my story, “The Compass,” evolved the way many of my stories do. It began with an image, a moment, in this case two boys pushing their way through tall grass on a bright summer day and that feeling of being young. For me it was an evocative enough moment to build a piece around, but to be honest, I don’t remember the details of the rest of the process very well, or even how the compass presented itself as the lost toy to be. When I write, it feels like what I produce comes together by cobbling the bits and pieces out of whatever I happen to come across while feeling around in the dark. A lot of it may be associative, but if it is, those associations made while writing aren’t usually available to me afterwards when I try to figure out what it is I’ve done.

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

Joe Davies is the author of “The Compass” where nostalgia and regret play a part.

The genesis of each story is a bit of journey, and a bit of a mystery. The only other thing I can really think of to say about the process is that I know that when I’m writing I don’t try to make a story bend one way or another. I try to respond to what’s happening on the page, to what kind of story it could be, what different directions it could take and to be open to the possibilities. In the case of my story, “The Compass,” I had a couple of details: the image mentioned above, and knowing that somewhere along the way a toy was going to be lost and then found once again. Enough to get a good start.

At the moment I’m working on a couple of projects, both of them short story collections. One is a set of short absurdist pieces where the basic premise or setup of a story gets repeated in another to become a different kind of story altogether. At the moment this project has the ridiculous title Fluff & Balconies (one story of which will appear shortly in The Dalhousie Review; others have appeared recently in PRISM International and Crannog, in Ireland).

The second project is a collection of longer pieces that are derived and spun out of changes happening in our society, for example, the changing roles around gender, and with a particular eye to how men are (or aren’t) adapting. And actually, there’s one other project I’m tinkering with. Lately I’ve unearthed a novel sort of thing I wrote almost twenty years ago, and I’m just weighing the prospect of a rewrite.

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Culture, fantasy, history, Publishing, spirituality, Writing

Writing Update and Free Book Giveaway

More news on the writing front, which has kept me seriously busy.

erotica, books, writing, historical, Greek

Dance of the Minotaur, by T.C. Calligari

So, in reverse order: I write different types of fiction and have some late summer sizzlers now available. Until Thursday you can get a free download of two books on Amazon.com. That’s right! Absolutely free. They are Crossing the Line: Four Sultry Tales of Submission and Dance of the Minotaur. The second is historically set. Yes, these are erotic tales, so be forewarned. Go ahead and download them (click on any underlined title), spread the word, and if you are so inclined, please leave a review. The kindle app can be downloaded to your computer and you can read them that way if you have to reader device.

fantasy, myth, poetry, writing

Pantheon Magazine’s Nyx issue

New out in the last few months: “the moon: Fever Dream” has just come out in PantheonMagazine’s Nyx issue. Also available on Amazon. “Scar Tissue,” written with Rhea Rose, is coming out in Second Contacts from Bundoran Press and should be on the shelves soon. Another free to read poem is “Persephone Dreams: Awakening” in Eternal Haunted Summer’s Summer Solstice issue.

There are alas, some long delayed works that I’m still waiting to see from Nameless, Burning Maiden, Our World of Horror and OnSpec. I’m hoping those will all come out this year. Other recent works include “Asylum” in nEvermore: Tales of Mystery, Murder and the Macabre, based on stories from Edgar Allan Poe. It’s available on Amazon as an ebook and pre-order for paper, due Oct. 1. The Best of Horror Library Volumes 1-5 includes “Exegesis of the Insecta Apocrypha,” which received an honorable mention in the Year’s Best Horror is doing very well and currently #1 on Amazon in hot new releases.

Yet to come and recent sales include selling “Hold Back the Night” to Blood in the Rain. This is a vampire anthology and my story is a reprint first published in Open Space. It was shortlisted for several awards and received honorable mentions in the Year’s Best anthologies of SF and of Fantasy. I’m pleased it’s going to appear again. I’ve also sold “Buffalo Gals” to Clockwork Canada. Edited by Dominik Parisien, this collection of Canadian tales will look at alternate histories where steampunk redefines the face of Canada. I believe both of these tales will come out last year.

The Playground of Lost Toys has been completed by Ursula Pflug and I. It’s an anthology due out from Exile Editions this November and contains 22 tales about toys and games. They range from humorous to darkly disturbing and from fantasy to SF to horror. I think it’s a good collection that explores toys, games, childhood, nostalgia, loss, love and many other things very well. On top of that I completed my synopses for books 2 & 3 and have sent the whole kaboodle to an agent. I’m trying not to bite my nails. And last, but not least, I’ve written 33 new poems for a poetry book competition. They just need a few more tweaks and I’ll be submitting it.

This is why I haven’t been posting very often. I’ve just been far too busy of late. In October I’m going to the Stanley Hotel Writers Retreat in Colorado. This is the hotel that inspired Stephen King’s The Shining. I plan to start a new novel that will take place in the world of my Evolve story “An Ember Amongst the Fallen” but a few centuries before. I’m hoping I can post a bit more often, so stay tuned for more writing news and just other pieces about stuff. 🙂

Leave a comment

Filed under erotica, fantasy, history, horror, Publishing, SF

Sailing a Viking Longship

longship, Vikings, Scandinavian, Norse

The Munin is a half-size replica of the boat Leif Erickson sailed to North America. copyright 2015

Last summer a friend and I were walking along the beach, off to see an art barge behind the Vancouver Maritime Museum. The barge had wooden staircases and rooms built on it and a little shuttle ferry took you out to it. It was interesting if not fascinating and we noticed that the dock we left from was called the Heritage Harbour. There were about a dozen wooden boats, all with signs indicating their history and construction. Some were sailboats, some fishing trawlers, all relatively small (but what do I know about boats).

It was a beautiful summer day so we read the information on each boat, figuring this was where owners of vintage boats could show off and attract additional attention for the Maritime Museum,which houses the Saint Roch, the first boat to sail the NW Passage, complete the sailing in one season and circumnavigate North America. We noticed two women stowing gear for a dark brown Viking longboat. The sails were down but it’s distinctive carved animal heads gave it away. I mentioned that I’d seen it out in the bay a few times.

Scandinavian Center, sailing, Viking longboat

The boat is out for repairs, and the heads are stowed for now but you can see some of the details.

It turns out that the ship is named the Munin (after one of Odin’s ravens) and for a donation you can reserve space on the boat for an approximate two-hour sail. That sounded fun, so we signed up. There is an upper and lower limit for sailing the boat as you need enough people to row the boat out of the harbor and not to many that there are no seats. Imagine a giant wooden rowboat and then imagine Leif Erickson sailing one to North America. The Gokstadt was the name of that historical boat and the Munin is a half-size replica at 40 feet long and 20 feet wide.

After I went out the first time, I had another group of friends who wanted to go so we went a second time. By the end of that trip, I was hooked and signed up to volunteer. I know nothing about sailing, or rowing for that matter, but I liked that sailing is outdoors, social and true exercise. Munin will sail in winter if weather permits and except for the bilge pump it’s all the way it was centuries ago. There are 10-foot wooden oars (approximately) and you must row in and out of harbor, then you can put up the sail.

hull, keel, longship, longboat

Some of the maintenance is check the boards for cracks and scraping the hull.

I’m learning the ropes, literally, and very green. I managed to go sailing twice more in the fall, with the last day being quite a challenge. The winds picked up and where the Munin usually goes no faster than 20 knots, I was told we hit 35. We had to row with the sail up just to try to get back to the harbor. As many hands as possible had to row that day. I’m still very new to rowing so my grasp of the oar isn’t very strong. Even my pinkies hurt the next day. The current and wind can grab the oar and slam you out of your seat. I wasn’t the only that got knocked over and we almost lost an oar once or twice. But it was exhilarating.

Now, we’ve had to pull the boat for the winter because the moorage is changing but more importantly the boat needs some repairs as it was taking on water. Part of volunteering is committing to the nitty gritty of boat maintenance. We are housing the longship at the Scandinavian Centre, (in Burnaby) where Norway House (one of the five Scandinavian houses) was the original sponsor for the construction of Munin 14 years ago.

Munin, Leif Erickson, Scandinavian, Norway

Even the captains scrape and clean.

Everyone who works on the boat or who is crew is a volunteer, giving time for free. Moorage is covered somewhat by people reserving for a ride and donations. But there are many costs. I worked at scraping the old paint off of the boat. The next stage is replacing the cracked or damaged boards, repairing other pieces, making sure the bilge pump is working, repainting the hull and then re-launching the ship. I learned a valuable lesson; when you’re scraping the hull of a boat, even if it’s been out of water for two months, the wood is still wet and there is wood, paint, dirt and who knows what else flying off. I didn’t have goggles (didn’t even know I should use them) and got debris in my eye. Now I’m dealing with a blocked duct.

I’ll be having more adventures once the boat is back in the water. I never knew that I would connect with my Danish & Norwegian heritage this way. In fact, I only knew the family name and the area in Norway where my ancestors came from.

Scandinavian Centre dinner, Munin ship. Viking longboat

Come out and support the Munin and meet the community on March 20.

To help support the continuance of this bit of history, the Scandinavian Centre will be hosting the Munin Ship Annual Pork Dinner. It takes place on March 20 and cost $30 for adults (cheaper for kids–clinic on the line above). You can support the Viking Longship, take a look at it, view the center, have a nice meal, and hear some seagoing songs by the band Corryvreken. I’ll be the MC and in traditional Norse dress to boot. Tickets should be bought by March 13, and it always sells out, so book early. Details:

Cash Bar 6 pm       Dinner 7 pm
Traditional Pork dinner with all the trimmings  
(gluten-free; dairy free choices)
Tickets from: Anne Haug     annehaug@eastlink.ca     604 943 0340

On another note, I saw this ad. You could go to Norway and get a summer job as captain of a Viking sailing ship. Too bad none of our crew is able. Imagine sailing the fjords as the Vikings once did. Here’s to more sailing and who knows what might be next, raiding and pillaging? Fair winds!

1 Comment

Filed under Culture, history, life, nature, travel

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under art, Culture, entertainment, history, news, religion

Tesseracts 17 Interview: Mark Leslie

Tesseracts 17, ghost stories, Ontario writer, Canadian authors, fantasy

Mark Leslie takes a caper with dramatic ghosts in Hereinafter Referred to as The Ghost.

Today, I interview Mark Leslie, the first of four Ontario authors in Tesseracts 17, and a ghost hunter of a sort.

CA: Hereinafter Referred to as the Ghost is of a very popular trope; ghost stories. In fact, we could have had a full anthology of just ghost and zombie tales, so choosing one of quite a few good ghost stories was a bit of a feat. While your tale is of a haunting, it’s jaunty and fun. Why did you choose such a well worn subject to pursue?

 Though I have always written horror fiction, I rarely have ventured into what might be considered the standard tropes of the genre. I have avoided writing stories of vampires, ghosts and zombies and other standard and traditional “monsters” that grace horror fiction. But when I have drawn upon then, I’ve tried to approach the story from what feels like a unique perspective. For example, the first successful “haunted house” story I had published was called “Requiem” and was about a man who collected haunted artifacts. The story explores what might happen if a bunch of different ghosts were thrust together and forced into the same space. Sure, it was about ghosts, but it explored a “what if” that intrigued me. In this case, the idea was whether or not ghosts could be territorial in nature.

In a tale I co-authored with John Strickland called “Til Death Do Us Part?” we explored what might happen if a married couple who constantly fought continued to fight and bicker in the afterlife, and what it might be like for their only son who, believing that his quarreling parents had finally come to an end not only witnesses their postmortem bickering, but gets drawn into it, yet again. It’s a very dark humor treatment of the ghost trope.

For “Hereinafter Referred to as the Ghost” I took a similar exploration. I imagined an afterlife in which there are those who “live” their afterlife in quiet desperation, and others who seek more, who want their death to be something larger than they are—those are the dead who become “actors” and work at playing legendary ghostly roles. I thought it would be fun to look at the concept of a well-known haunted place, such as the Museum of Nature in Ottawa, or the London Tower, and explore some of the behind the scenes elements, with a somewhat tongue-in-cheek look at a struggling actor coming to terms with the loss of his long-held skills and abilities to properly perform the roles he seeks to play.

The story, for me, wasn’t about setting up a scary haunting, but rather exploring what it might be like for someone trying to succeed in making that haunting real for humans.  So, sure, it’s a ghost story, but it is not one mean to inspire chills in the traditional sense—it’s one that asks the reader to consider the “what if that perhaps ghosts aren’t what we believe them to be, but rather roles that virtually any “talented” dead spirit can play if only given the chance to strut their stuff on the “stage.”

CA: The story touches on drama, and theater cannot be mentioned without invoking the Bard. While you didn’t bring in Shakespeare outright, how involved was he with your vision for this story?

anthology, speculative fiction, SF, fantasy, Canadian authors

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

Shakespeare was at the forefront of my mind when I was working through this tale.  When you think of Hamlet, you might consider the thrill, for an actor, to be cast in the legendary role, or of the countless various actors over the centuries who have portrayed the prince in various manners and interpretations on both stage on screen.From Laurence Olivier and Peter O’Toole to Kenneth Branagh, Mel Gibson and Ethan Hawke, so many different actors have played this role as well as many other classic Shakespearean roles, each bringing something unique and different to that.

I imagined the dead auditioning to play legendary and classic ghosts in the same manner that actors might audition to do stage runs of Shakespearean plays, and thus the conflict between my protagonist, Patrick, and the surly “casting director” Snyder.

When I was thinking about actors and their desire to seek out coveted roles—after all, it’s much more prestigious to play the role of Hamlet than to be Horatio or, even worse, a role like Barnardo, one of the sentinels who encounter the ghost of Hamlet’s father in the opening scene of Hamlet.

I took the idea of the different roles actors aspire to and thought about what happened when an actor aged. How sometimes the actor could play the “leading man” roles, and how as time went on, he might be relegated to supporting role material.  You see the same thing with news anchors and in sporting professions.  Great figures that we admire grow old, drift off into the sunset while we seek out younger, fresher ones to take their place.

I tried to imagine how the same thing might happen for spirits playing the roles of various legendary ghosts around the world.  I drew upon the lyrics from one of my favourite Rush songs entitled “Losing It” that explores these themes with both a writer and a dancer, and how, as they grow old the precious moments, the echoes of old applause and everything they had built could slowly slip through their old wrinkled fingers, and I had some fun with it as Patrick faced those same things.

CA: Do you believe that ghosts do exist and if so do you think they have a lasting consciousness or are just after-images, an imprint of one’s life? Have you ever experienced an apparition?

I do believe that ghosts exist. As Hamlet expressed to his dear friend Horatio, there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our philosophies. I’ve never seen a ghost, and, as I have explored in a few different stories that I have written, I believe that ghosts can be both a lasting consciousness stuck down here on earth, rather than being fully and properly released into the ether of the afterlife, but that they can also be imprints left in the universe around us, echoes of things that have happened. In my short story “Spirits” for example, I explored the concept of people leaving their spirits behind in a place they were somehow tied to, even without dying; that a place or moment in time or experience can have such a lasting and important impression that the spirit of a person, of a moment, of an experience, can echo in that spot for eternity.

No, I can’t say that I have ever experienced any sort of apparition; at least nothing that I couldn’t attribute to being over-tired or having an over-active imagination.

And that’s a good thing. Because I’m such a chicken that if I did see a ghost, I’d likely pass out or have a heart attack.

CA: Will we see any more escapades in this style of ghostly realm?

Definitely. I have been kicking around another speculative story about ghosts and the side-effects for those who attempt to control or contain poltergeists. It is, in many ways, a tongue-in-cheek exploration, like “Hereinafter” and “Requiem”—except, though it will contain a slight bit of dark humor, it’ll be darker and a bit creepier in delivery, much like a traditional ghost story.

CA: What else do you have in the works and what themes are you exploring?

I’m continuing to compile non-fiction paranormal explorations. My next book in that series of “stories told as true (a term that John Robert Columbo beautifully described this style of book) coming from Dundurn in 2014 will be called TOME OF TERROR and will focus on haunted bookstores and libraries around the world.

My forthcoming novel from Atomic Fez takes a look at how a teenager might deal with a bizarre death curse, where everybody he gets close to dies some sort of tragic horrific death.  That book, ironically, draws a great deal from Hamlet as well as from several texts I admire from several different science fiction and horror writers.

And, on Wattpad, I’m currently rolling out the novel A CANADIAN WEREWOLF IN NEW YORK. One might suspect, given that it’s a werewolf novel, that I’m using a popular trope. And I might just be, but the focus of the novel isn’t on the wolf, but on the side effects of being a wolf. The novel opens with my hero, Michael Andrews, waking up as a human in Battery Park with a bullet hole in his leg and no memory of the night before when he was wandering around the city in wolf form.  I wanted to focus on how he deals with not having any idea what his canine alter ego was up to, and the various frustrations of dealing with the logistics of having such an affliction while trying to live a normal urban life.  It’s a dark humor thriller more than a horror novel, but has been a lot of fun to write.  So far I’ve posted up to Chapter Twenty-eight, and the entire thing will be available to read for free here:  http://www.wattpad.com/story/3961496-a-canadian-werewolf-in-new-york

Once I finish rolling out this draft I’ll be using reader feedback to do another re-write before either sending it to a publisher or commissioning an editor to help me revise the final version.

Mark Leslie fell in love with storytelling, and, in particular the brand of Twilight Zone style tales he often writes, at an early age, and has been writing pretty much since the first day he discovered the magic of stringing one word after another to create a narrative.  The editor of the anthologies North of Infinity II, Campus Chills and Tesseracts Sixteen, Mark has also produced a series of non-fiction paranormal explorations in the books Haunted Hamilton and Spooky Sudbury from Dundurn Press, with more books in that vein in the pipeline.  Mark’s One Hand Screaming, published in 2004, contains a selection of previously published short fiction and poetry, and his first novel, I, Death, is slated for publication in late 2014.

1 Comment

Filed under entertainment, fantasy, history, people, Publishing, Writing

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.

Leave a comment

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

Women Were Meant to be Victims

women's rights, abuse, subjugating women, female victims, sexual abuse, spousal abuse

Did you tell your woman that god would disrespect her if she shows her face? Did she believe you? Creative Commons: lakerae, flickr

Did that get your attention? If it did, then what happens every day in the world around you and probably in your city should also get your attention. Unfortunately, it sometimes seems people don’t care to read about such things unless they’re titillating and sexy. As a woman, and a human being, I can do no less than talk about this.

Recently the sexual assaults (which covers everything from rude and suggestive language to groping to rape) in Egypt was highlighted on the news. Some women have created harassmap site to alert others to areas where women have been abused. But this isn’t new. We have heard of numerous nations, groups, and forces who, as part of their terror, overthrowing or rebellion, rape women and girls as part of their undermining of the other side. It’s horrible and we know it’s horrible. Or at least everyone says that until they’re involved, so in fact there are some (and I mean ONLY SOME) men who do not feel it’s too horrible to be a perpetrator in such times of violence.

virgins, sexualization, victimization, women's rights, subjugation

If you’re not a virgin, you must be a slut, and maybe, like this cover, you’ll be both.

How long have women been made victims in one way or another? I don’t know but we know one aspect begins with the Bible when Eve was blamed for taking the forbidden fruit and giving it to Adam. As if he couldn’t make up his own mind. As if he were a child. As if she used coercion that was more than handing it to him. Myth for some, apocryphal for others, yet truth for yet another group, this motif has flavored treatment of women for many ages. Yet Christianity is by far not the only religion to blame. While religion may or may not be the reason women are treated as lesser beings, it also goes to cultures that decided to make cultural rights and practices part of their religion. (the veil is not part of the Quran). Ownership and a man’s superior physical strength made women chattels, or possession or slaves. So yes, there is a long history of women being victimized.

Adam and Eve, sexism, women's rights

Was Adam too stupid to get the fruit for himself, or was he just making Eve do all the work? Lucas Cranach 1538

There are those who, for whatever misguided reason, believe that women belong in these categories. Are you one of them? Should a woman walk behind a man, answer only to him, be kept housed or hidden for only his desires, be blamed for all the faults of humankind? Think about it. Most women are not the perpetrators of war and violence. It is mostly men who go to war.

Let’s take religion out of it for a minute. Yes, women are still victimized. Raped because a criminal won’t control his urges. Beaten because a man is angered. Killed because she leaves her abusive partner or mars something as ephemeral and subjective as honor, in the eyes of a father or brother or husband. She’s the sex kitten who is of course a slut and good for one thing. She is a prude who won’t let a man control her, she is a virgin to be idolized by men because when they get her she hasn’t been tainted by other men, as if she’s a holy relic, as if it’s okay that they have been with other women. She is raped by a gang of men and yet she is charged with adultery or another crime. Look at that poor woman in India. Look at your own city and see how many women and girls have been raped or beaten or murdered or just hit upon. The news doesn’t report even half of them. George sleeps with a different woman every night and he’s just sowing his oats while those women are all sluts. That’s fair, isn’t it?

sexism, sexist ads, women's rights

Ask yourself, why isn’t it a man’s body for a man’s shoe?

A police officer recently told women to not dress provocatively if they wanted to avoid being sexually assaulted. In some Middle Eastern countries anything less than covered in the burqa is considered provocative. In other countries you can be in a loincloth and nothing more and that’s not provocative. Whether a person’s dress is considered to be salacious or not, that is no reason for sexual abuse of any sort. They’re not “asking for it.” If you think your god will disapprove, let him or her decide, not you. If you are afraid it will incite a man to his base desires, then what are you saying about men, that they are only beasts and uncontrollable? And if that’s the case, then it’s they who should be caged. I like to afford everyone the same right. The right to be free, think for themselves and have an equal chance at jobs and life. Men and women. No one group gets painted with a big brush.

That means whether they’re of one religion or none, any color or ethnicity, any gender or gender preference. Unfortunately the world is not fair nor equal but we, you and me, could all do better at ethically getting rid of stereotypes and not feeding into this view. Scoffing and continuing in the vein of labeling women sluts, whores, tramps and seductresses only leads to more women being subjugated, raped, owned or downtrodden as lesser beings because of someone’s beliefs. The only belief that should really matter is that you can do what you want, as long as you do not hurt or subjugate anyone else. Let’s try living like that for awhile.

sluts, whores, tramps, subjugating women, sexual abuse

The slut walk came about because men’s attitudes mean women ask for or deserve whatever they get. Creative Commons: Spanginator

2 Comments

Filed under crime, Culture, history, life, people

Royalty and Rethinking the Importance of Blood

crowns, royalty, monarchy, mudblood, British royal family, Queen Elizabeth, Kate

Royalty isn’t in the blood; it’s in the deeds. Creative Commons: AllVectors

I was at a party on the weekend and of course the conversation came around to the Australian radio announcers who badly imitated the Queen and Prince Charles, to ask about Kate’s health, and the news of the death of the nurse who had answered the phone. Talk ranged from it being pretty weird to kill oneself for answering the phone, was she reprimanded, the announcers weren’t even convincing, etc. And then someone said something like, “well, mudblood Kate is diluting the family line.” I bit my tongue and said nothing even though the comment angered me. With a couple of Brits in the room and a lot of people I didn’t know, I didn’t think it would have been right to start a discussion (argument) over this sentiment.

And what sentiment is that? Well, it’s obvious here. I don’t even know if Kate is a “mudblood” or a “commoner” but both the terms used on an actual human being rankle me a lot. The British royal family, or any royalty for that fact are nothing more than human beings. Dissect one, sample their blood and hair, and you will not be able to tell a “common person” from a “royal person.” Royalty are not descended from gods though in some past cultures this was considered a fact. They are not imbued with blood that is blue, laced with gold, or any wise purer than yours or mine. Another reason why the continuing and devolving Star Wars saga rankled when it turned out Jedi knights didn’t attain their status through hard work and meditation but through some special gene. Still, that’s something royalty doesn’t have; a special gene.

Are they royal or are they common? Only money can tell. Jonas Ekstromer / SCANPIX/ FILE

Are they royal or are they common? Only money can tell. Jonas Ekstromer / SCANPIX/ FILE

Any one, any where who can claim they’re related to or are royalty can do so because in the past someone’s army, or conniving skills, or political savvy, or massive riches, or poison penknife was better than someone else’s. Kings and queens have come and gone and royal lines have died out because the opposing force got one over on them. There was no special blood, no divine ray of light, no mighty god-given powers that made one royal, just good old human skill and knowledge and charisma.

So why do we have this fascination with royalty? If you or I were born with a gold spoon in some part of our anatomy, we would suddenly be more special. Is Paris Hilton and Stephen Harper (kak!) two of our modern royals? Well, one has money and one has power but their reputations and compassion are questionable. In fact, in many cases what denotes someone as royal is a wealth of worldly riches, sometimes built up over generations and centuries and often on the backs and tithes of the common people. Once, way back in feudal times, the point was that the leader/land owner was supposed to protect the community from outside forces (invaders, pillagers, etc.) but it became a way of prestige and power over. I doubt Britain’s queen (or any other country’s) does much to protect the people from the ravening hordes.

magic, mudblood, royal family, roryal prank, Duchess of Cambridge, British royal family

Hermione was a mudblood because her parents had no magic talent. In that case, there was something in the blood (genes) but offspring could still become wizards.

Monarchies are outdated in today’s world and as an egalitarian I cannot support any royalty based on blood and riches. Every person has the right to be treated well, and respect is earned. Give me the wealth of the royal family and I will look as elegant and do as much good (or ill). Why put someone on a pedestal for being “royal” because they were born into a state of privilege? In that case, worship Donald Trump, or Warren Buffet or Idi Amin or Richard Branson or J.K. Rowling, because they at least seized their power in different ways.

So, let’s wind this back around to mudbloods and a woman alleged to have killed herself over passing on a phone call. The fallout is the woman is dead and that is tragic. The fallout is that the radio announcers’ program has been suspended. The fallout is that other radio stations (one in Vancouver for example) have announced they will no longer do pranks, as if pranks are evil in their own right. Overreacting and doing the overly politically correct thing is what we do these days. But it is so much overreaction that it’s created more questions than why do people fawn over royalty? Why would someone kill themselves for such a thing? Was she killed? If so, that speaks of an even more corrupt and broken society than even suicide does.

I suggest everyone get out of the fairy tale world, don’t imagine themselves with a prince or princess, don’t wait for a knight in shining armor, but go and live a life of worth. Do wonderful things, be a compassionate person, make your deeds and words count. And in that way, it matters not what blood courses through your veins, nor how much money is in your bank account, but what you do with the life you have. Then you too will be noble and that’s all that really counts.

 

3 Comments

Filed under Culture, history, news, people

Traveling in Europe: Calais

Europe 2011: Calais

Click on the above picture to go to the album.

Well, it seems a year after my travels I’m still going through photos. Life just got busy and I got distracted. So, tracking back in time, I needed to get to Calais from Belgium because I had to catch the Dover ferry to England and then get to Brighton for the British Fantasy Convention, held at the beginning of October.

Calais, travel, war, photos, Europe, France, French coast

The bunker in Calais. I’m not sure if it’s from the first or second World Wars.

There were ferries closer to where I was in Belgium but it turned out none took foot passengers except for the Dover ferry. By this time, I was getting a cold and my feet were actually blistered from walking so much. I was a bit tired. The train to Dover from Ghent took 2-3 hours with a stop in Lille. It was a beautiful clear day in Calais, a fairly modern looking city but then it was probably bombed a fair amount during WWII. I stayed in the Hotel Richelieu, a very short walk from the station and run by a man who was slowly renovating each suite. Breakfast was included but  declined as I needed to get up early the next morning to catch the ferry.

Calais, France, travel, Europe, Dover ferry

Calais’ warm, brown sand beach.

I wandered down to the beach, passing a bunker that I explored. It was sealed but obviously left over from the war. The beach itself was this amazing very fine-grain beige sand. I took my shoes off and walked into the water to soothe my feet. I wandered after that, taking a few pictures, then stopped in a cafe. I thought, because I was in France I would find cider, and using my very sad French, prefacing it first with “My French is not very good” (in French) I asked, “Vous avez cidre de pomme?” My answer was “quoi?” by a rather rude waiter (who tried his best to ignore me). I repeated and he said non so I ordered a glass of red wine. When it came time to pay the bill,  and I didn’t understand what he said, he reverted to English.

Later, when I wandered into a chocolate shop and repeated the experience I began to suspect that the people of Calais won’t speak English if they can get away with it. With ferries from England you can expect that they deal with English daily and maybe it’s a resistance to assimilation or the belief, when in France do as the French. I at least tried but they certainly didn’t give much for trying.

Calais, gardens, travel, peacock, France, Europe

The very large floral peacock on the main street in Calais.

I didn’t have time or energy to explore farther afield but Calais seems a small resort town. I found what I thought was city hall, with a lovely floral garden and a foliate peacock across the way. That evening I went to Le Restaurant Ancienne and had sea bream with balsamic rucola (arugula), tomatoes, bell peppers and mashed potatoes. Dessert was creme brulee with caramelized strawberries and lemon. It was creamy and all very good but too much for me to finish. In Europe so far, I found that unless you were ordering a bottle of wine, restaurants only have one choice by the glass.

The next morning I took a taxi to the ferry dock. I’m very glad I did as it turned out to be a very long and winding way. I would probably have missed the ferry and been exhausted. It didn’t cost that much for a taxi and I had a pleasant enough journey chatting with a man and his sons. The ferry ride was about three hours and for some reason, none of the sites seemed to have given an accurate time for the crossing.  I got to see the white cliffs of Dover but had no time to dally on the other side and made my way to Brighton.

Dover ferry, travel, France, Calais

The only ferry that takes foot passengers is in Calais. The Belgian ferries are only for cars.

Leave a comment

Filed under Culture, history, travel

Evolution of the Tie

ties, neckties, neckwear, scarves, fashion, clothing, accessories, men's fashion


A myriad of modern ties. From GQ.com

Ever wonder where the tie came from, that rather useless modicum of clothing that has become the standard of business attire? It actually has a long evolution from a functional item to what it is today. The tie began its life in a very different form. Imagine a frog’s egg that becomes a tadpole and eventually a frog, or a caterpillar that builds its chrysalis and turns into a butterfly. That is the range from which the tie has evolved.

In the early days of civilization and human invention, people had to discover and puzzle out everything. When they finally moved from wearing furs, skins and large leaves, they began to figure out how to make threads from plants and weave them. The first looms were not large and like looms to this day, made rectangles of fabric. Once the weaver had their rectangle of fabric, they wrapped it around themselves. Pins and stitching developed, and because making fabric was time consuming and expensive, no piece was wasted. Early clothing was made by rectangular construction, meaning that rectangles from those looms were piece together. Sometimes the fabric was cut and piece but rectangles, squares and triangles were as inventive as early clothing got.

This is a simplification, and there are areas where sophistication in patterning was more advanced. But

tie, cravat, scarf, necktie, fashion, history, clothing, accessories

Ye old cravat from the early 1800s.

let’s get back to the tie’s birth. It actually starts with the outwear that people needed to protect themselves from the elements. The earliest forms were called mantles and were rectangles of fabric, sheepskin or furs. I’m talking mostly about European origins and these were closed with large pins and clasps. The mantle developed into the cloak, with piecing of rectangles. However, hats and hoods were made separately because the ability to put the two together was not yet there.

The hoods had an overlap and sat atop the cloak. The point or tail of the hood could be different lengths and was sometimes quite long so that it could be wrapped around the neck of the hood to keep the wind and rain out. The long tail was called a liripipe and eventually that hood was worn in different ways. Plopped on top of the head with the tail wrapped to hold up the dagged edge in a cockscomb way, the fashion changed away.

ties, cravat, neckwear, fashion, clothing, history

This cravat is more of an Ascot tie.

Collars came about and had been used in other countries for a while, such as with the Chinese and Mongols. A scarf or kerchief was used selectively, such as with the Roman army, but as an actual dress item it was a slower process. But the wrapping around the throat of extra fabric came about in the 1600s. Croatian soldiers in France wore red kerchiefs around their necks and the French decided this was a cool and wonderful thing. They adopted it into fashion and the word cravat comes from Croat.

The cravat was usually white and often an elaborate affair of frills and ruffs tied in various ways. Here is where something to keep the neck warm changed to something to adorn the neck. There was also the stock in the 1700s, a piece of fabric wound around the throat. In some weird way it might have been a very shrunken version of the ruff, which was popular in the early 1600s. A long separate piece of fabric, like the scarf, was not common until the 1800s. But that cravat got a workout from the Baroque to the Rococo and beyond.

By the 1800s you have scarves and ties, and the ties begin to morph in size and shape. There’s the Ascot tie, the bow tie, the long tie and the most essentially inane tie ever, the bolo tie, created in the 1940s. Ties became part of formal dress that hasn’t changed much since Victorian times. They’ve been long and short, narrow and wide, dull and paisley, and a variety of colors. Considering the conservatism of men’s clothing I imagine we’ll have another century of ties, and while some formal dress no longer requires the tie, it seems it will stick around as male fabric adornment for a while yet.

Leave a comment

Filed under Culture, fashion, history