Category Archives: myth

Alice Unbound Guidelines Update

Alice in Wonderlnand, Through the Looking Glass, fantasy, speculative

Sir John Tenniel’s famous Alice illustrations. The Griffin, the Mock Turtle and Alice.

For those writers thinking it’s too late to get something in for May 31, know that the deadline has been extended to July 15. I’m just not getting enough stories of the caliber needed for an anthology.

If you are submitting, read all of this post–to the end. People are ignoring the proper submission format and I won’t read a story until it is sent double spaced, with word count, and full contact info on it. That should be easy enough to do, you would think. And page numbers, please.

Now, I’m seeing a lot of the main Alice characters so remember, if I have five Mad Hatter stories I might have to select the best. Alice, White Rabbit, Mad Hatter, Cheshire Cat are all becoming very popular. And tea parties and rabbit holes. I’ll post the expanded guidelines at the end of this but here are a few important things to keep in mind, Stories:

  • should not be rehashings of the same old tales.
  • need to take place in the modern world or the future
  • can take place on another planet
  • can be steampunk but if you stick it in Victorial England you need to bring it forward
  • can be time travel but know I don’t like these tales much as they can get too convoluted (but I do like most Dr. Who)
  • can be combined with characters from other times/place
  • should be as original and unique as possible–the farther you veer away from rabbit holes and tea parties, the more original it will be

Remember these rules of writing:

  • do not tell me someone was upset or mad; show me
  • watch for passive action–seek out words like was, could, would and try to replace them
  • plot–you must have one, even in a poem, and conflict–either resolve it or show the fail
  • use all five senses–this helps give setting and atmosphere
  • do not put a veneer of SF or fantasy on a story that isn’t–ask yourself if the story would work without the SF/fantasy element–if yes, then it’s not spec
Lion and unicorn, Alice, Through the Looking Glass

Sir John Tenniel illustration.

What is Alice Unbound about?

Lewis Carroll (Charles Dodgson) explored childlike wonder and the bewildering realm of adult rules and status, which clashed in bizarre ways. Many characters in his tales are anthropomorphic, whether talking cards, crying mock turtles or saucy Tiger Lilies. Over 150 years later, people still recognize characters from Carroll’s works. Who doesn’t know of vorpal blades and tardy white rabbits, protagonists and antagonists that resonate in a primal part of the human psyche? They hearken to the mysticism and mystery of the ancient world, when one wondered how the rain fell, or which gods empowered madness through drink, or whether a person was separate from an animal or could become one.

Centuries passed and myth became fairy tale, evolving to resonate with each era, showing the triumphs of the common man, the humble and generous woman who outsmarts tempters, jailers, and evil stepmothers, or the trials and tribulations of seeking the unknown. Carroll’s characters jumped forward, not just following the regular metamorphosis of an age-old tale, but leaping off the cliff of the familiar into something altogether new, different and endearing. We might not truly want to live in the world of Alice or have to deal with mad queens and bandersnatches, but what if that Wonderland ceased to exist on a separate plain, and melded with our modern world? How would these characters fit in, and what would they bring or change? Are we ready to accept Alice Unbound into our hearts and let the Jabberwock in the back door?

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was Carroll’s most famous work but there are other stories and poems (some within the greater works) where madcap creatures abound. Alice Unbound should contain an element of the speculative and may embrace fabulist, weird, myth, SF, fantasy, steampunk, horror, etc. Other speculative elements or characters may be combined in any way. I don’t want to see rehashings of Carroll’s tales but new stories taking place in a modern or slightly futuristic world. Your tale may take place in Wonderland but only if it has connections with this world. That’s not someone thinking about having a drink at the café they miss but actually integrating modern elements. If you have a talking cat, it must be recognizable as the Cheshire Cat. You should not be copying Carroll’s style but telling a new tale in your voice. Too many stories submitted with the same character will limit chances of the story being accepted. NOTE: I am getting many Alice, falling through rabbit hole and Cheshire Cat related stories. Which means competition will be harder in these areas. You might want to look beyond these elements.

Whether the Mad Hatter, the mock turtle, or Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, write a new tale. QUILTBAG or people of colour as characters are encouraged. Alice doesn’t have to be white and blonde. I will accept any characters from the following works . I have not read everything so if you want to write about another character that fits into Carroll’s fantastical tales, please write first and ask.

  •  Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
  •  Through the Looking Glass
  •  The Hunting of the Snark
  •  Phantasmagoria

These are story examples only but not requirements:

  • The caterpillar is the owner of a medical marijuana store but turns out to be part of a moonlighting superhero team by night.
  • The Walrus and the Carpenter’s strange relationship is strained farther when they both fall for a mermaid, who crusades for the murdered oysters.
  • The Snark is as elusive as the Sasquatch, but when they vie for the same space in an endangered environment, what happens?
  • The last Jabberwock is captured and used to battle an overpopulation of vampires.
  • From space comes a delegation that looks a lot like the card soldiers. They have a concern with Earth for harbouring fugitives from their world.
  • A company has perfected an AI that emulates the Mad Hatter, something to help run parties and liven them up. What could possibly go wrong?

Writers must be Canadian citizens (living in Canada and/or paying taxes in Canada) or permanent residents of Canada. LGBQLT, POC are encouraged to submit. I will read cover letters last and will choose stories on merit first. This resource may be of use in your research: www.alice-in-wonderland.net

Payment: .05/word CDN (that’s 5 cents a word, not a half cent)

Length: 2,000-5,000 words. Poetry: minimum 1,000 words (and 2 may be submitted at the same time: submit each in a separate document and submission).

Simultaneous submissions: No; if you submit to me, please do not send it anywhere else until you receive a rejection.

Multiple submissions: You may send one story, or two poems. Please wait until I’ve sent a rejection before you send anything else. I may hold some pieces until the submission window is closed.

Acceptances: Final acceptances will go out a month after the submission window closes.

Manuscript format: Please use standard manuscript format (Google William Shunn): double-space (except for poems), no extra spaces between paragraphs, indented paragraphs, title, etc.) This also means full contact information on the first page, unless you want me to attribute your piece to someone else. Failure to follow formatting may see your piece rejected without being read. Canadian spelling would be awesome but I won’t turn down a story that comes in UK or US spelling. Submit .docx, .doc, or .rtf only.

Deadline: Extended to July 15, 2017

Publication Date: April 2018 (tentative)

Rights: First English-language rights & non-exclusive Anthology rights for one year from publication (print and eBook).
Submit here: https://exilepublishing.submittable.com/submit/77982/alice-unbound

 

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Filed under entertainment, fantasy, horror, myth, poetry, science fiction, Writing

Alice Unbound: Call for Submissions

Hello, world, and happy new year.

books, publishing, collection, reprints, ebooks, Smashwords, writing, book production

Creative Commons: Ninha Morandini

I can’t guarantee I’ll get more posts out this year but I can start with a bang. I last co-edited Playground of Lost Toys with Ursula Pflug. The anthology was nominated for an Aurora Award, as well as one author being nominated for an Arthur Ellis Award, and three longlisted for the Sunburst Award with Catharine MacLeod’s Hide and Seek winning in short fiction. Now, to hopefully repeat that sucess, I will be editing an anthology of speculative fiction, due to be published by Exile Editions in the spring of 2018. Read on for Alice Unbound guidelines.

Lewis Carroll (Charles Dodgson) explored childlike wonder and the bewildering realm of adult rules and status, which clashed in bizarre ways. Many characters in his tales are anthropomorphic, whether talking cards, crying mock turtles or saucy Tiger Lilies. Over 150 years later, people still recognize characters from Carroll’s works. Who doesn’t know of vorpal blades and tardy white rabbits, protagonists and antagonists that resonate in a primal part of the human psyche. They hearken to the mysticism and mystery of the ancient world, when one wondered how the rain fell, or which gods empowered madness through drink, or whether a person was separate from an animal or could become one.

Alice in Wonderlnand, Through the Looking Glass, fantasy, speculative

Sir John Tenniel’s famous Alice illustrations. The Griffin, the Mock Turtle and Alice.

Centuries passed and myth became fairy tale, evolving to resonate with each era, showing the triumphs of the common man, the humble and generous woman who outsmarts tempters, jailers, and evil stepmothers, or the trials and tribulations of seeking the unknown. Carroll’s characters jumped forward, not just following the regular metamorphosis of an age-old tale, but leaping off the cliff of the familiar into something altogether new, different and endearing. We might not truly want to live in the world of Alice or have to deal with mad queens and bandersnatches, but what if that Wonderland ceased to exist on a separate plain, and melded with our modern world? How would these characters fit in, and what would they bring or change? Are we ready to accept Alice Unbound into our hearts and let the Jabberwock in the back door?

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was Carroll’s most famous work but there are other stories and poems (some within the greater works) where madcap creatures abound. Alice Unbound should contain an element of the speculative and may embrace fabulist, weird, myth, SF, fantasy, steampunk, horror, etc. Other speculative elements or characters may be combined in any way. I don’t want to see rehashings of Carroll’s tales but stories taking place in a modern or slightly futuristic world. I’ve seen many of the Alice as well. If you have a talking cat, it must be recognizable as the Cheshire Cat. I will consider a few very select poems, but they must have a storyline and not just be an observation or an image. You should not be copying Carroll’s style but telling a new tale in your voice.  Too many stories submitted with the same character will limit chances of the story being accepted. The anthology needs to go beyond Alice in every way.

Whether the Mad Hatter, the mock turtle, or Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, use Carroll’s elements and characters to write a new tale. QUILTBAG or people of colour as characters are encouraged. Alice doesn’t have to be white and blonde. I will accept any characters from the following works . I have not read everything so if you want to write about another character that fits into Carroll’s fantastical tales, please write first and ask.

  • Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

    Lion and unicorn, Alice, Through the Looking Glass

    Sir John Tenniel illustration.

  • Through the Looking Glass
  • The Hunting of the Snark
  • Phantasmagoria

These are story examples only but not requirements:

  • The caterpillar is the owner of a medical marijuana store but turns out to be part of a moonlighting superhero team by night.
  • The Walrus and the Carpenter’s strange relationship is strained farther when they both fall for a mermaid, who crusades for the murdered oysters.
  • The Snark is as elusive as the Sasquatch, but when they vie for the same space in endangered environment, what happens?
  • The last Jabberwock is captured and used to battle an overpopulation of vampires.

Writers must be Canadian citizens (living in Canada and/or paying taxes in Canada) or permanent residents of Canada. LGBQLT, POC are encouraged to submit. I will read cover letters last and will choose stories on merit first. This resource may be of use in your research: www.alice-in-wonderland.net

Payment: .05/word

Length: 2,000-5,000 words. Poetry: minimum 1,000 words.

Submission window: Feb. 1 to May 31 at: https://exilepublishing.submittable.com/submit Please go to this site to see some expanded information.

Simultaneous submissions: No; if you submit to me, please do not send it anywhere else until you receive a rejection.

Multiple submissions: You may send one story, or two poems. Please wait until I’ve sent a rejection before you send anything else. I may hold some pieces until the submission window is closed.

Acceptances: Final acceptances will go out a month after the submission window closes. I may ask for rewrites before making a final decision.

Manuscript format: Please use standard manuscript format (Google William Shunn): CDN spelling, double-space (except for poems), no extra spaces between paragraphs, indented paragraphs, title, etc. Failure to follow formatting may see your piece rejected unread.

Now, don your Mad Hatter’s cap, clean out the teapot and start writing.

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

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.

 

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Playground of Lost Toys Interviews: Abrahamson & Renwick

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

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

Karen Abrahamson’s “With One Shoe,” and Alex C. Renwick’s story “Between the Branches of the Nine” are two of the last three stories in the Playground of Lost Toys, with Geoffery Cole’s “Wheatiesfields in Fall” in between. When editing a themed anthology, the editors always look at balance. Are there too many SF stories and not enough fantasy; are there authors of various genders; are there too many doll stories, etc.

As well as that balance, after we’ve selected the final stories, we need to decide on what order they should appear. Do you put all the SF together, do you put the train stories or the chess stories together? There were many ways to arrange everything. Because several of the stories are very dark and horrific and some are lighter and uplifting, would it make sense to put the darkest next to the lightest?

In some cases we eased readers toward the dark and then eased them back away. Cole’s story is humorous and SF. Abrahamson’s is a tale of hope and a mystery. Last was Renwick’s, which deals with games of the gods and it seemed a great way to end the anthology with the cyclical and immortal aspect of time. Karen comments first on her tale.

  1. What was your main reason for submitting a story to Playground of Lost Toys?

 When I heard about the anthology theme it gave me a little shiver down my spine. I immediately had the idea for the story and so I just had to write it. I haven’t written a lot of short fiction over the years as I seem to prefer novel length. This was a chance to practice the short form.

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

    fantasy, magic, mystery, swings, toys, hope, speculative fiction, Karen Abrahamson

    Karen Abrahamson is the author of several serial novels. She also writes as Karen L McKee.

Funnily enough, yes it does. I had very vivid dreams as a child and one of them was of a magical swing. In my dreams I could swoop down and rescue my family and friends from evil giants and escape afterward. Writing the story was just a natural extension of the scenario of what would happen if a child really did leave on such a swing.

  1. What theme or idea were you exploring in your story?

Hope and how society kills hope through our expectations and institutions. I’ve been doing some work with youth in my day job and I hear so much about the importance of youth finding their passion in order to successfully transition to adulthood. The trouble is, too often we tell young people that their passion is impossible, like you can’t make a living as an artist so you’re better off becoming a lawyer. This story is about the desperate need to be what you are.

  1. Is there anything else you wish to mention about your story or the theme of the anthology?

I was surprised and a lot pleased that “With One Shoe” turned into a detective story. I’ve written a lot of fantasy and romance, but these days mystery really has me by the throat. I had fun with experimenting with that jaded Harry Bosch-type voice. I can see myself writing more like that.

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

Hmm. Lots to tell. My first mystery novel, Through Dark Water just came out this fall under the name K.L. Abrahamson. I also have an urban fantasy series, The American Geological Series that involves map magic, with the first book, Afterburn, currently available for free. Finally, along with a number of romantic suspense novels set internationally, I have a paranormal series, The Unlocking Series set in the sunny Okanagan. Book 4 was out over Christmas, Book 5 in January and Book 6 in February. More mystery and fantasy will be coming out next year. You can check out my novels at www.karenlabrahamson.com

Alex C. Renwick’s “Between the Branches of the Nine” is a great adventurous romp with two warriors bent on besting the other.

  1. What was your main reason for submitting a story to Playground of Lost Toys?

I’m a huge fan of the short story form, and always excited to be invited to participate in any worthy anthology endeavor. Shortfic FTW!

  1. Does your story relate at all to anything from your own childhood?
gods, Norse, fantasy, games, speculative fiction, Alex C Renwick

Alex C. Renwick’s tale deals with Norse gods and the game pieces they move through Midgaard.

My Norwegian grandmother had one of the most amazing private SF paperback collections I’d ever seen, all stirred together with her illustrated Scandinavian mythology books and cheesy 1970s Harlequin romances. She came to live with us when I was about ten years old, and nothing in her library was off limits. The character Sigunna’s name is a nod to my gran’ma Sigrid.

  1. What theme or idea were you exploring in your story?

I’m fascinated by the uncaring nature of the universe. We’re conditioned (by dint of being human) to try to attribute reasonableness and pattern to the courses of our individual existences…but the universe doesn’t care, no matter who or what is—or isn’t—running the show. Fate, Cosmic Intelligence, Ancient Norse Gods, Random Molecular Trajectory: we’re just ephemeral playing pieces on a vast and unfathomable board.

  1. Is there anything else you wish to mention about your story or the theme of the anthology?

I so rarely write full-tilt fantasy! Fun stuff. Had a blast.

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

I’d urge everyone to read another fantastic Canadian anthology from Exile Editions, cover to cover; (it) was one of the best contributor’s copies I’ve received in ages: The Exile Book of New Canadian Noir. Other current short stories of mine are just out or out soon in Tesseracts 19: Superhero Universe, Blurring the Line, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, and PS Publishing’s Postscripts anthology, Breakout. If you’re up for more sword & sorcery mayhem check out my “Ravenblack” in Women in Practical Armor from Pacific Northwest micropress Evil Girlfriend. Anyone in this neck of the woods in 2016 can come find me at Seattle’s Norwescon, or around the known universe at alexcrenwick.com.

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Writing: Expanding on the Playground of Lost Toys

trunk stories, submission guidelines, lost toys

Trunk stories are valid, if they actually fit the theme.

I realize that when one puts up guidelines for a themed anthology that you will always get trunk stories, those tales already written that have not yet found a home and that might just fit the theme even if not tailored toward it exactly. Trunk stories can be perfectly well-written stories that just don’t mesh with what’s out there, or they may be your B grade stories, never selling because something just didn’t gel in the telling.

I’ve sent trunk stories to anthologies before and I’ve sold some and not sold others. It’s fine to do this. And sometimes you write a story for a particular theme but it’s not accepted, so you try to sell it elsewhere. With Tesseracts 17 we saw a number of superhero stories because there had just been an anthology on superheroes. We saw a few green man stories because there had just been an anthology on the Green Man. There was a story from each of these that we nearly accepted.

playgrounds, lost toys, speculative fiction, fantasy, SF, guidelines

Now here is a great playground, and it’s made by humans. Or perhaps it’s a toy. Creative Commons: Sizuken, Flickr

The Playground of Lost Toys is experiencing this so far, to some degree. I suspect that many of the tales we’ve received were already in existence.There are tropes within all fiction and while many great tales come from them, the fact that they’re tropes mean that they’re popular themes. There are hundreds if not thousands of ghost stories. Likewise, we’re getting a lot of doll stories. It’s a toy that is universally recognized. I’m beginning to suspect that some people are also getting stuck on the “toys” aspect without really thinking about what toy means.

We will accept a few stories (possibly) about dolls or trucks but the anthology is not a doll anthology. If it was, then we would only want dolls. It’s speculative fiction so this opens quite a realm. Google some images and see if they give you an idea. Combine words that are unlikely, such as alien and playground.  Or toy and magnolia. Here are some further suggestions, to get the creative juices flowing:

  • What would be a Sasquatch’s toy?
  • Boy toys–are they cars or men who are playthings, such as in the realms of Faery (this isn’t an erotica anthology either so be careful if you use this)
  • Game consoles–maybe they change the world or the person.
  • Computers–how many games do people play on their electronic devices
  • Games–board games will be considered as toys for this
  • What would you, an animal, or an alien toy with?
  • What would an Ent find to be a toy?
  • Do snakes have toys?
  • Playgrounds have slides, swings, ladders, etc. These can all be considered toys.
  • What would be a toy’s toy?
  • Is it a toy or is it a being?
  • Sentient  or self-aware toys.
  • Are there beings where toys are sacrilegious?
  • Are there aliens with no concept of toy and on finding one they..
  • Synonyms for toy: plaything, game, model
  • Places where toys are: playgrounds, chests, rooms, stores, manufacturers, middens heaps, museums
Dr. Who, toys, SF, fantasy, anthology submissions, guidelines

Dr. Who’s sonic screwdriver. It whirs, it has lights, it’s functional, but is it a toy too? Copyright BBC

Let your imagination encompass the act of playing and see what comes up. The full guidelines are here, and you can submit your story as well: https://exilepublishing.submittable.com/submit. Note that 90% of the anthology has to be Canadian. We’re looking forward to weird and wonderful tales.

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Book Review: The Warded Man

fantasy, epic fantasy, Peter Brett

The Warded Man was released in the US in 2009, Harper Voyager imprint

The Warded Man by Peter V. Brett came out in 2008 in the UK (as The Painted Man) and 2009 in North America. It’s the first of the Demon Cycle. Yes, there are spoilers.

This fantasy takes place in world that once had the age of science but something happened and demons from the core (of the world) materialized every night, bent on destroying humans. Small villages and hamlets use wards on posts and homes that keep the corelings at bay. Everyone knows how to ward, but some are better than ever. If a ward is drawn wrong, or gets marred, it leaves a way in for the corelings to destroy everything. Larger towns have warded boardwalks  so one can cautiously get place to place but pretty much the night is owned by the corelings.

The “free” cities are encircled by huge stone walls, with the streets lined with stone. Everything is warded with sigils by the guild of warders, and demons rarely get in. But still people only very carefully venture into the night. This leads to an isolated society, where travel more than a day is difficult and people must ask for succor in another place before the sun goes down. The centuries of isolation has lead to various places jealously guarding the wards they use, as opposed to sharing. News and merchandise must still get from town to town and this is left to Messengers and Jongleurs. The jongleurs bring the news and tales and a respite from the terror, with their songs and acrobatics. The Messengers are combinations of merchant, knight and postman and hardened souls used to the vagaries of the night world. They carry portable ward circles, warded shields, weaponry and a host of scars.

The elemental air, rock, wood, sand, water and fire demons. While the wind corelings seemed similar to pterodactyls they are terrifying creatures of nightmare. The story begins with eleven-year-old Arlen, a good warder who witnesses the coring of his mother. The subsequent search for healing lead him on a journey to one of the free cities where he apprentices as a warder and messenger. Over ten years pass in the span of Arlen’s life as he hones his skills, faces betrayals and alienates himself from humankind in his relentless search for the old battle wards and artifacts, and his vengeance against the demons.

Leesha is a young girl, unjustly marred by a braggart fiance and spiteful mother. She apprentices to the extremely old, cranky and mean herb gatherer Bruna. Leesha’s gains independence and eventually travels to help neighboring towns. But she runs into her own hardships and terror when she returns to help her village and the Warded Man rescues her and Rojer.

Rojer lost his family at a young age and was raised by a drunkard jongleur. With his damaged half hand he’s never very good at juggling but is a passable acrobat and plays a mean fiddle. On the road with his master they meet calamity and then Rojer meets Leesha. He has found that the sound of his fiddle can repel the demons and Leesha knows how to make a burning liquid that can injure the previously thought indestructible demons.

While these two have their own threads as they grow and learn their strengths and fears, Arlen is the main focus.He ends up in desert city Krasia, the only place where they actively fight to repel the demons. Arlen hopes to pass on his discoveries of the battle wards but is betrayed by a culture where he is considered an outsider.

Overall I found the story engaging and it kept me reading. The action is clear, but I would have preferred descriptions of the characters to come more as part of the story as opposed to exposition. But the exposition is light. Most of the logic for the warding works. Demons can’t go through stone but can go through wood. The wards have to be in a circle to work on buildings, but you can repel with a ward on an object such as a shield. The battle wards were lost because the demons had been expunged and people forgot. I just don’t quite see how three centuries can go by where people put wards on shields but never put them on swords or spears.

There are two aspects I disliked about this book; one is endemic in many medieval fantasies. Game of Thrones suffers from it as well, even if Aria and Brienneare are exceptions. But they are exceptions in a patriarchal world where women are still chattels and brood mares and expected to be good and silent wives. In many cases, these worlds are styled on our own history, if given different trappings such as species, magic or geography. But I’m getting heartily sick of the role of women always being virgin, mother, whore or sacred warrior (Joan of Arc anyone?). In this way it’s still a man’s world. While Leesha and Bruna are strong women, they don’t step outside the traditional roles. If exploring a patriarchy and the liberation of women was the goal, then this would have been more acceptable.

The other aspect I really hated was the Krasians. They’re a desert nation who put no god before the Creator and the Deliverer is his prophet, where their women are veiled head to foot and outsiders are considered dirt. They eat figs and dates and dress in baggy pants. Medieval Middle East, with not even a veil to disguise it. At this point I threw up my hands. Do terrorists always have to be Middle Eastern? Yes, there are plenty of white-skinned bad guys in this book, but the thin veneer of our world’s cultures made me sigh in exasperation. I knew what the second book was going to be about. The betraying Krasians steal the magic spear and decide to take over the world, delivering people from demons but changing them into believers of the new faith. And the Warded Man must stop the holy war.

I find it annoying to have our world with just a touch of different icing for fantasies. I liked the book well enough and the overall premise of battling these corelings, but I don’t think it went far enough. I’d be tempted to read the second book but I’m not dying to. I saw enough of this world to feel I had a complete story. I’d give The Painted Man three and a half wards.

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Tesseracts 17 Interview: Elise Moser

anthology, speculative fiction, SF, fantasy, Canadian authors

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

Elise Moser brings a softly undulating tale of  discovery and transformation in Tesseracts 17: Speculating Canada from Coast to Coast to Coast.

CA: Your story “Sandhill” is one of transformation. Such stories harken back to the earliest myths and rituals. Were you building on that tradition?

I wasn’t building on that tradition in a conscious way, although I like the idea. Really I started off just loving the cranes and trying to think my way closer to them somehow. I think a lot of our human socialization works to separate us from animals and animal consciousness, and we would be better off, as individuals and as planetary citizens, if we could find a way to open ourselves to the animal world again. And then of course once my characters were teenagers, it became all about the struggle through transformation.

CA: Childhood is in itself a transformation until we become adults. Do you think our transformation, like a butterfly or moth’s, ends upon adulthood?

No, with possible exception of some very sad and unlucky people.

CA: Are you exploring this theme in any of your other works?

Yes, probably always, one way or another.

CA: “Sandhill” is also a tale of being one with nature, whether animals or the environment. Where do you feel humankind is in this respect? Do we need to pay more attention to nature or do we, as individuals, manage it as best we can in a modern world?

animals, environment, fantasy, myth, Tesseracts 17, Canadian writers

Elise Moser explores transformation and environment in “Sandhill.”

I gave part of my answer to this question above, but I will add here that I don’t believe we are managing very well at all; on the contrary, our “managing” is disastrous. We need to pay more attention to nature — our nature, the natures of others, the nature of reality, of power, of suffering, of respect and of compassion.

CA: What other projects do you have in the works?

In September my YA novel, Lily and Taylor, which is about a transformation of a different kind, was published, and I have been busy launching and publicizing that. I have written the first draft of a play adapted from “Sand Hill.” And I am developing another project which isn’t ripe enough to pick yet.

Elise Moser has published short stories in journals and anthologies, and coedited two anthologies. Her novel Because I Have Loved and Hidden It came out from Cormorant Books in 2009. She was founding literary editor of Montreal online arts and culture magazine The Rover, and was president of the Quebec Writers’ Federation for three years. Her YA novel Lily and Taylor appeared in 2013 from Groundwood Books, just before her story “Sand Hill” hatched in Tesseracts 17.

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Tesseracts 17 Interview: David Jón Fuller

anthology, speculative fiction, SF, fantasy, Canadian authors

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

David Jón Fuller joins me from Manitoba, for another Tesseracts 17 interview.

CA: “Sin A Squay” is a tale of overcoming monsters. We have heard the horror of residential schools and new nightmares seem to be unearthed every day. What drew you to putting this element into your story?

 It’s a national horror that was made worse by decades of denial despite more and more residential school survivors coming forward. Despite some indications that people allowed or even wanted their children to attend the schools in the early part of their existence, they just became an institution of systemic abuse and earned their appellation of an instrument of genocide. I wanted to explore this in a context of what that does to people over time – how even escaping them can have a cost, and that the oppression that was perpetrated against the children in the schools – treating them as less than human, and the endemic abuse that comes to light more and more – can leave a lasting mark.  But I also wanted to explore how those horrors could be confronted and overcome.
I had doubts whether this was a subject I should even write about, no matter how much research I did – I worried that it wasn’t something that, as a white person, I had a right to write about.  But I felt without trying to address it in some way through my fiction, I would just be ignoring it, and adding to the silence, in a sense.  Whereas I think anyone who learns about what the residential schools system did to so many First Nations people for so long would be within their rights to condemn it as horrific.

CA: Have you seen or experienced aspects of residential schools or your own childhood traumas that you used to draw on for this story?

 No – nothing on the scale of something like this. Tough times for me as a kid meant dealing with the occasional bully or being the “new kid” at school. Definitely not a systemic oppression, or even life-scarring single event. And like the majority of white people in Canada, I grew up privileged to live with many doors open to me as a default. I relied a lot on research to create the characters and the background for this story.

speculative fiction, horror, fantasy, mythic fiction , residential schools

David Jón Fuller explores the horrors of residential schools in Sin A Squay.

CA: You have two different monsters in your tale; the beasts that prowl the mythic landscape and residential schools. Why did you feel this story worked better with the mythic or horrific element?

 Partly because I think the fear of certain monsters says something about the culture in which they are feared. Some monsters have embodied fears of our animalistic natures, and of the “wilderness” – and I think that speaks to a Western European (particularly continental) fear of predators. Hand-in-hand with that went the European colonialist attitude that white people were “civilized” and everyone else was to some degree “savage” (read: wild). I wanted to turn that around a bit, and look at how that attitude itself – of seeing certain people as “less than human,” which is certainly what the residential schools embodied: the view that “Indians” were lesser people, savage, or inferior – was monstrous.

I do tend to think that in mainstream pop culture these days, certain monsters are “othered.” Vampires are currently glorified – embodying, I think, our fear of old age, since the “eternal youth” trope seems played up nowadays as opposed to the “foreign devil will seduce our women” theme that ran through Dracula.  Werewolves, on the other hand, are frequently the lackeys and/or cannon fodder if they appear alongside other creatures in a given show, or they are stuck in an endless retread of savage/animalistic/bestial archetypes. This isn’t as true in a lot of urban fantasy fiction, but it seems to be the gear they’re stuck in in movies and TV. And I hate that!

Also, considering the way the characters’ relationships change in the story, I wanted to explore whether what one culture sees as “monstrous” or less than human, might actually be a source of empowerment, and how an oppressor’s sense of invulnerability might actually become a weakness.

Those things being said — no matter how terrifying I might make the mythic monsters, for me, the more I learned about the residential schools the more stunned I was that this had gone on for so long.  Much of what I put in the story pales in comparison to what actually went on in many of the schools.

CA: Often survival comes at great cost. Do you feel your main character has only survived through her years of escape, or is it just that life can bring ghosts back to haunt you even if you have triumphed in the past?

 I think Marion gained a lot in her initial escape from the residential school, but while her body got free, a part of her was still trapped there, and in the abuse she experienced there.  She was not able to bring who she became as an adult to bear on those old fears, and fully put them to rest, without confronting someone or something from her days there. The opportunity to face down one’s oppressor, and have that oppression acknowledged as such, is something that has been denied to generations of residential school survivors. Canadians are still denying a lot of what went on, despite mounting evidence, and that kind of brushing it under the carpet just perpetuates the injustice of it, in my opinion.  I thought that perhaps by putting Marion in a situation where she was forced to face those old horrors, she might be able to hold them back, or even triumph over them.

CA: What other pieces are you working on right now and what are you exploring within those tales?

Mostly working outside my comfort zone and doing a ton of research. I’m trying to work on not just including non-white, non-male perspectives in my fiction, but on making them central.

After submitting “Sin A Squay” to Tesseracts, I started working on other stories in the same world.  One of them,  “No More Good Indian,” is about Marion’s escape from the residential school, and it placed second in the Robyn Herrington Memorial Speculative Fiction Short Story Contest.  I worked backwards from there to write a story about Marion’s grandfather, and how his experience of shell-shock as a First World War veteran had disturbing parallels with the post-traumatic stress his children experienced after residential school – and on how this could be if not healed, at least helped, through familial bonds, tradition and shared experience. That story, “A Deeper Echo,” was accepted into the anthology Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History, due out next year.

I’ve also been delving into human evolution, megafauna mass extinctions and prehistoric Canada – it’s fascinating to see how much our knowledge has grown over recent decades, and how this is changing the way we look at the past.

When I’m finished writing a few other short stories before the end of the year, I’m going to take a hard look at a novel manuscript I was letting lie “fallow” and then apply what I’ve learned this year to tune it up and start submitting it.

David Jón Fuller was born and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba, where he now lives, and has also lived in Edmonton, Alberta. He earned an honors degree in theater at the University of Winnipeg and studied Icelandic language and literature for two years at the University of Iceland in Reykjavík.

His short fiction has been published in Tesseracts 17, In Places Between, The Harrow and in the upcoming Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction From the Margins of History. His short story “No More Good Indian” took second place in the 2013 Robyn Herrington Memorial Speculative Fiction Short Story Contest. He currently works as a copy editor for the Winnipeg Free Press, and as time allows he blogs at www.davidjonfuller.com.

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Tesseracts 17 Interview: Rhonda Parrish

anthology, speculative fiction, SF, fantasy, Canadian authors

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

Rhonda is another of the Alberta authors, with her tale “Bedtime Story.” Tesseracts 17 is now availble in stores and through Amazon.

CA: “Bedtime Story” captured the imagination of a child well, like Peter Pan did, but in a way it goes farther underground and into darkness. Do you think this is a story that could be told to children?

I suppose it would depend on the child but for the most part I would say no. Parts of the story are pretty subtle and other parts rather dark. That being said my daughter would have loved this story when she was young, but I suspect she would be more the exception than the rule.

CA: What element was the most important for you to explore in this tale and are you still exploring it?

You know, I’m not even sure. As cliche as it sounds, this story, or at least a large part of it, came to me as a dream. I took notes as soon as I woke up and I let my subconscious chew on it for a good long time before I put pen to paper but even so I’m not completely sure just yet what my dreaming mind was working through when it brewed up “Bedtime Story.” Give me another year or two and then ask me again, I may know the answer by then. 😉

Tesseracts 17, Bedtime Story, fantasy, speculative fiction

Rhonda Parrish’s “Bedtime Story” delicately balances darkness and the otherworld.

CA: Fairy tales that go back centuries have heroes, or the little man who triumphs over greater odds. Whether it is a simple hobbit and a powerful ring, Jack and the Beanstalk or Harry Potter and Voldemort, it is the will or intelligence that perseveres. Your character is connected to just such a tale, yet she does not directly face those greater odds. Why did you choose to approach it from this angle?

I feel bad because I’d love to have a deep philosophical or some sort of incredibly clever reason for choosing to approach this story from the angle I did, but the truth is, I felt that if I took a more direct route to tell the story, if I picked a different point of view, for example, then it would end up as a novel. At that point in time I didn’t want to write a novel, I wanted to write a short story, so I decided to tell it from Clara’s point of view.

CA: What themes are you exploring right now and will we see Clara again?

I’m working on a large variety of projects these days, with diverse themes. One idea which seems to come up again and again however is that things are not always what they seem. And, when I think about it, I suppose that might be one of the things I was touching on with “Bedtime Story.” Maybe. 🙂

As for Clara… I’m not sure. I would love for you to see her again, I’m pretty fond of her, and the world she inhabits so I wouldn’t mind revisiting it. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see if the sandman decides to bring me any more nocturnal inspiration.

Rhonda Parrish is a master procrastinator and nap connoisseur but despite that she somehow manages a full professional life. She has been the publisher and editor-in-chief of Niteblade Magazine for over five years now (which is like 25 years in internet time) and is the editor of the forthcoming benefit anthology, Metastasis. In addition, Rhonda is a writer whose work has been included or is forthcoming in dozens of publications including Tesseracts 17: Speculating Canada from Coast to Coast and Imaginarium: The Best Canadian Speculative Writing. Her website, updated weekly, is at http://www.rhondaparrish.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/RhondaParrish
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/rhonda.parrish.31

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Come to Bitten By Books for Chilling Tales

horror, dark fiction, specualtvie authors, Canadian writers, EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy

Chilling Tales 2, edited by Michael Kelly, is out this month from EDGE.

Hi everyone, I was traveling in Europe and didn’t have time to do more blog posts. I’ll be posting more Tesseracts interviews in the next few weeks and the book is now available. Coming up next week on Wednesday, November 13, however, is an interview with the authors of  Chilling Tales 2 at Bitten By Books. My story “Gingerbread People” is one of the selections and I would love to hear what people think of this, as I worked very long and hard at it.

The interview session is a 24-hour real time interview so you can check it out at any time. The event runs from noon central standard time November 13, 2013 through to noon November 14, 2013. If you go to http://bittenbybooks.com/?p=66049 and RSVP before the event you will get an additional 25 entries into the contest for a $50 Amazon gift card, which you can then use to get a copy of Tesseracts 17 and Chlling Tales 2, both from EDGE. 🙂

You can ask questions of the authors and as they come online they will answer. This is a chance to get a little more depth into the stories, the authors or the writing process and philosophies. It’s free to do, so stop by. Here are the list of authors and stories, and for once I know every author:

  • In Libitina’s House by Camille Alexa
  • Gingerbread People by Colleen Anderson
  • Meteor Lake by Kevin Cockle
  • Homebody by Gemma Files
  • Snowglobes by Lisa L Hannett
  • The Hairdress by Sandra Kasturi
  • The Dog’s Paw by Derek Künsken
  • The Flowers of Katrina by Claude Lalumière
  • Goldmine by Daniel LeMoal
  • The Salamander’s Waltz by Catherine MacLeod
  • The Slipway Grey by Helen Marshall
  • Weary, Bone Deep by Michael Matheson
  • Black Hen A La Ford by David Nickle
  • Day Pass by Ian Rogers
  • Fiddleheads by Douglas Smith
  • Dwelling on the Past by Simon Strantzas
  • Heart of Darkness by Edo van Belkom
  • Fishfly Season by Halli Villegas
  • Road Rage by Bev Vincent
  • Crossroads Blues by Robert J. Wiersema
  • Honesty by Rio Youers

    demons, anthologies, horror, fantasy, Demonologia Biblica

    Available through Amazon. This is my favorite cover of all three.

Other books in which I have stories, that you can find online are Demonologia Biblica, Bibliotheca Fantastica, Artifacts and Relics, Deep Cuts and ReadShortFiction.com, which is free online. The holiday season is coming up so what better way to expand the mind than with reading.

writing, fantasy, horror, speculative fiction, anthologies

The Book With No End, is in this anthology just out from Dagan Books.

Deep Cuts, horror, editing, dark fantasy

Deep Cuts is published by Evil Jester Press

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