Category Archives: news

Bad Behavior in the Publishing World

booksI’ve been gone for awhile from my blog, and was going to come back with a tale of what’s been happening in my life. However, with recent upsets in the publishing world, and specifically Canadian speculative publishing, I feel I must speak up as well, for several reasons that will become clear.

In some ways, the world of the small press, even the big mega publishers, is often fraught with financial mismanagement and suspect deals or questionable contracts. The recent events in Canada were about long time Calgary speculative publisher EDGE Publishing and long time Toronto dark fiction publisher CZP or ChiZine Publications.

Bilodeau nigh 5-final

Marie Bilodeau’s Nigh series Book 5

Canada is rather small when it comes to population and even smaller with writing population. Most speculative authors know of each other and of any press that can publish speculative fiction. There aren’t many. Recent complaints by Marie Bilodeau not receiving more than one sales/royalty report and being blocked in other ways with the sale of her book started a discussion about EDGE. It spurred a minor rise up in the SF community and discussion on the SF Canada list, our own pro writers group. I believe the SFC executive managed to help in communicating with EDGE and Marie’s long outstanding case was resolved. EDGE has a reputation of not communicating, paying late or not paying and not getting contracts out on time. I’ve co-edited a Tesseracts anthology and been in various anthologies with EDGE. I was always paid, sometimes a bit late. I have received one contract after the book was published and a signed contract after another book was published. EDGE ran a risk that someone would pull their story without a signed contract and that would have meant the print run being pulled or face litigation. I was however, aware of the issues with EDGE.

When the EDGE accusations came out on SFC, people started mentioning issues they had had. I reported as I did above. This was not ever to say I didn’t believe other people’s reports. In fact, I very much believe them. It was only to report; I wasn’t going to lie. In this way people can determine that 75% of authors working with X publisher reported issues, or 100% did or 2% did. This is an important statistic and in any lawsuit that data would be used to show a pattern. It also indicates if a publisher is going through a tough phase, or if they have a regular habit of bad behavior. EDGE’s reputation is known but not everyone knows of it.

Kurtz

Angel of the Abyss by Ed Kurtz

Then out came ChiZine Publication’s debacle. It’s been all over the web, on people’s blogs, on Facebook and I cannot report it all here. (This will be long enough as it is.) However File 770 will give anyone reading here a place to start. It started with Ed Kurtz’s complaints about rights and payment. It spread like wildfire with many authors reporting no or late payments and statements. Then it spread to allegations of misconduct, of gaslighting, of ostracizing and even trying to break up relationships.

This was extremely shocking stuff, especially because I considered co-owner Brett Savory and Sandra Kasturi friends. I attended their wedding many years ago. I read slush for CZP, did a bit of editing, hosted the Chiseries readings in Vancouver for 2 years, and was co-editor of the online poetry section of Chizine with Carolyn Clink. I live on the West Coast. CZP is in Ontario. I didn’t even see Brett and Sandra once a year and maybe talked via phone once a year. I knew of one fight between them and another friend but that can always be chalked up to differences of opinion or personalities. Other than that, I had no clue. One blog poster has said, “we told you but you wouldn’t listen.” However, whoever the “we” were didn’t tell the “you” that included me or most of SF Canada. It’s hard to “hear” when you’re not part of whatever group is considered the “you,” so in many cases geographic areas of writers might be very well unaware of what is happening elsewhere. Perhaps Ontario authors knew but most of us did not.

Yes, I was shocked. I was disturbed and I lost sleep over it. I read many of the posts by Michael Matheson, Sam Beiko, Helen Marshall, Beverly Bambury and others. I know most of these people professionally; many of them worked for CZP, and I have talked with them in the past. I was so surprised, but I believed their statements. Unless there is a mass conspiracy, I would have had to stick my head in the sand to disbelieve the sheer number of complaints. There may be nuances to tales that haven’t been revealed. That, I don’t know.

What ensued next was just as disturbing to me. I posted on SFC, probably within the first 24-48 hours of the wildfire, stating I hadn’t seen this behavior, only what I had worked on for them, but that I was also on the West Coast and was not physically in the vicinity. Again, as with EDGE, I only posted my experiences; I didn’t lie. I also said, let’s see what they post about these allegations.

Immediately I was attacked and accused of ignorance, of negating the other reports and god knows what else. I stated again, that even in a court of law the accused gets a chance to speak. I reiterated that this did not mean I didn’t believe the statements. What ensued after was not pretty. Messages came out indicating that if you didn’t say anything then you were against the maligned authors, pretty much the black and white “if you’re not with me, you’re against me” belief. People were attacked, just because they were men or because of some statement about publishing or rights or this or that. If this were a street brawl there would have been bodies. There were members with their own agenda or trauma who will always see every statement through that particular lens. There were others who deliberately tried to misconstrue every comment, who intentionally dug into every word so that they could rise up in righteous anger. There was no asking to elaborate, just harsh judgment and accusations. Other people raised the torches and pitchforks. Some handed out blanket judgments of everyone on SFC or of this group or that group. Some people left the list. I’m sure some people unfriended me on Facebook. I don’t know so I can’t be offended but if deliberately misinterpreting my words is the way to go, then I don’t need them reading my posts.

What I did do was stop posting. After all, I was attacked once. I would now be seen as the enemy and attacked again. With the trauma and grief I’ve dealt with in the last year, this was triggering me and that’s partly why this post has come out several weeks after the initial event. I might never post again on SFC. I might let my membership lapse. I don’t know but I certainly don’t feel safe posting anymore. That’s a lot of fallout over one publisher and a lot of evidence of things that need to be fixed.

Burning-book-mrtwismBut are EDGE and CZP the only two publishers who have indulged in bad behavior? And is it only Canadian publishers? Absolutely not. I’ve experienced it myself more than once, from big companies to small.

I wrote articles for magazines called Best Whistler and Opulence. The first never paid me. The second was so far behind or just not paying writers that the writers rose up in force, contacted advertisers and formed a class action lawsuit. I helped get everyone in contact. I had played my cards close, having been burned by Best Whistler, and never let the amount they owed me get too high, also leaving enough time in between articles that they would often pay. Though before the mass uprising I had to threaten a lawyer to get my money and then leave. For that reason I didn’t join the lawsuit as I had no outstanding payments owed.

Even before that I used to copyedit for NY book packager Byron Preiss. They sometimes did work for other publishers and I was copyediting four related books in a faeries series. It was cancelled I think after book II but I’d copyedited book III. I spent a year fighting with them since they were arguing over who should pay: Penguin or Byron Preiss. In the end, I had to threaten lawyer to get less than $500 measly bucks. One of the biggest houses in SF exhibited disorganization when they lost not one but two copyediting tests I did for them.

Then there was Zharmae Publishing. Never heard of them? I’m not surprised. They were new. They gave me a massive contract that asked for all rights in perpetuity throughout the universe. Yes that was the exact wording. I sent them a sample of the SFWA contract. I figured they were earnest but misguided; we haggled the contract. “Tower of Strength” came out in the Irony of Survival. The true irony was surviving as a writer. I’m sure maybe eight people bought this anthology. For over a year after publication they never sent me my copies and they literally said the cheque was in the mail. The payment was $100, not very much and they knew it would be more expensive for me to get a lawyer.

What they didn’t know was I had a friend who was an entertainment lawyer and for free he had his assistant draft a letter. In 24 hours I had my pay but they still tried to wiggle out of the books. I had those in a week. These are just my stories of dealing with publishers. Publishing houses can still mismanage their operations, either intentionally or out of inexperience and bad business practices. I had other publishers disappear into the dark of night without ever responding on submissions or acceptances. That’s almost par for the course these days.

More recently I was invited to write for an anthology that was royalty based. I’ve not done this before and I will never do it again. There was no editing done on the stories and the publisher never gave any royalty reports. I never received a penny, or a hard copy of the book, only a PDF. I’m sure any sales that were done with the minimal marketing went to the publisher, and the editor who did nothing to deserve payment. But…I am unable to complain about this publisher. This is a case of me being a small pea in a pod, with little clout, not known well, and the publisher being a very well known member of a large organization. I don’t feel I would ever be heard or believed in such a situation. How does one complain to either SFWA’s or HWA’s grievance committees knowing that this person will probably have wind of it and that it could end up getting me ostracized in the writing community.

I need to mention that lawsuits and grievances have probably happened to many bookof the big publishing house’s. you don’t always hear of them because of NDAs. After all, entertainment lawyers make their money interpreting and looking for loopholes in contracts. Sometimes the publisher is to blame but sometimes an author can be to blame as well. There are notoriously difficult writers. If they’re famous enough, publishers will grin and bear it, but if they’re newer, then authors might be booted to the curb. It’s good to remember that not every complaint on any side may be founded and that it’s always best to hear both sides of the story. I believe this fundamentally, even in the workplace.

This is the power publishers and editors hold over writers. We want to be published. There’s more of us than there are spots to fill. People will often be paid peanuts for massive rights grabs by the publisher. The publisher can blacklist you. Big and well-known publishers and editors can spread enough word that you are a difficult author so that no one will touch you. It could be game over for whatever sales we can get. So yes, I’m still the victim of some publishing bad behavior that I cannot report on. And my rule is to always try to treat everyone kindly because you don’t how it can come back to bite you on the ass.

I’ve become more and more cautious and don’t get caught as much, and I’m a barracuda in going after my rights. I don’t care if I have to nag. I will keep on. But we don’t always know when a publisher might change or a new publisher might just forget to get contracts out or runs out of money. Even vigilance can’t save us all from getting caught.

There are various writers organizations such as the Writers Union, HWA, SFWA, etc. that can go to bat for authors but if one is not a member it’s not as easy. And as I’ve shown, membership won’t necessarily save you. There is no easy solution to all of this. Sometimes an author thinks they’re the only one that has the issue. I guess all we can do is communicate better, to grievance committees, to each other and listen calmly. We should be trying to hear all sides and not leaping to conclusions and condemnations without weighing everything. The era of social media means that judgment can come without knowing the facts. I just know I do not have the energy to be attacked by someone’s perceived assumption about my words. Try asking for clarification first. And publishers need to have better business practices. We’re probably going to end up with a gap in Canadian speculative publishing, which is already very slim. I guess we’ll see what the future holds.

 

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Women in Horror: Pat Flewwelling

WiHMX-horizontal-WhiteFrom Canada, writer and editor Pat Flewwelling talks about horror, scary reality and maybe, just maybe why women write horror.

Writing Horror All Along

For some folk, horror is synonymous with supernatural evil and/or gore. I think that’s unfair. There are plenty of horror stories that are all creep and no gore, like the Haunting of Hill House, Turn of the Screw, and Beloved. And there are stories that have no supernatural evil and yet are still shiver-worthy, like the original Stepford Wives, We have Always Lived in the Castle, The Yellow Wallpaper, Rebecca, and Flowers in the Attic.

Pat asks, what is scary? Image: MoviePilot.com

So, for the purposes of this argument, let’s take the supernatural and the gore out of the equation, because to be fair, there are a select few well-paid authors who have diluted all fright out of things that go bump in the night.

Without eldritch beings, evisceration, and eyeballs dangling from their sockets, what horror have we got left? Scary evil human beings. Let’s pretend then, that we want to write an in-your-face-scary horror story, leaving out the supernatural—and the swearing!—while sanitizing the gore and the violence, shall we?

Perhaps we should tell a story about an anonymous serial killer. Those are always big box office sellers, right? Maybe we can make the killer that creepy lurker on your street corner, standing there with his mental checklist, hunting for That One hidden amongst The Many. We don’t know he’s there until it’s too late, and by then, he’s become a pernicious and inexorable threat.

Oh wait…that story has already been told. A lot. Like, a lot.

Or perhaps he’s not that snaggle-toothed rando lurking in the shadows. Maybe he’s known and trusted, maybe even has a “special bond” with your children. There’s no safety at home, because that’s where he lives; there’s no safety with your parents; there’s not even a safe refuge for you with your friends. He always seems to know where to find you.

But perhaps it’s all in your mind. You’re just being hysterical. You’re overreacting.

Ah, but you perceive a threat— everyone knows there’s a threat—but since he hasn’t actually done anything to you, the police can’t help you. You show them the emails, the text messages, but that doesn’t prove anything, does it? All the makings of a great psychological horror, if overdone. In non-fiction.

Scary, sure, but what about evil? Like, deep-down, weapons-grade evil? This is a horror story after all. Why not some psychotic doctors, or baby-stealers, or people who slash genitalia? That kind of evil doesn’t really exist in the world, right? I mean, if true evil existed in the world, we’d see things like rape of incapacitated patients, forced sterilization without consent, systemic child abduction, husband stitches, and FGM (female genital mutilation). Besides, it can’t be evil if it’s legal, right?

Yikes. I sound a little biased. Let’s redirect this conversation, shall we? Maybe we should flip the script and have a scary, evil woman.

Well, the old serial killer trope still comes to mind. Black widows are standard fare, too, but in some cases, that horror plotline can quickly become a comedy. Well, we could always pull in a standard stalker, or a not-so-standard stalker. It’s strange that all the “evil” female villains seem to engage in—and the really, really evil ones attack children, especially their own. The worst? When they attack children sexually. Not always, of course. Don’t get me started on articles about the psychological or financial abuse they commit on all genders and ages. Women are a nasty bunch of creatures all on their own. After all, who do you think supports FGM? Who do you think performs it?

I won’t even consider writing a story about violence done against or by transgendered women, so don’t ask me to go checking how often a story like that has been done before. Thanks anyhow.

Flewwelling BlightOfExiles

Find Pat’s Blight of Exiles through Tyche Books

Maybe women horror writers add that supernatural element in order to create a monster they can actually see, define, and conquer. A monster we’re allowed to attack, encouraged to destroy. In a story like that, we can become the Mama Bear you just don’t want to mess with. We don’t just beat up the demons and send them home again; we undermine them. We can get inside their heads, understand what makes them tick, and use that to our advantage. And oh, how we will destroy them. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, sure; but hell hath no single-minded, red-raged resolve like a mother whose children you’ve threatened.

And maybe we write the gory details because we know what it’s like to suffer the indignities of our bodies uncontrollably mutating throughout our lifetimes—puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, menopause. Maybe it’s our reaction to having our bodies and our lives constantly, publicly, dissected and deconstructed, not just by the male gaze, but by our own sisters and mothers and friends.

Maybe some of us are so sick of being never-good-enough that we just want to chuck deuces and become the whole-hearted villain they make us out to be. No holds barred, no flinching, all biting, all punching back, taking (for a change) instead of offering it up. Shackle-breaking. Free. Light. Instead of placating our attackers, standing up and fighting back. Striking first, instead of enduring a lifetime of hypervigilance, waiting, watching, wondering. Stabbing at ideals. Slashing at double-standards and artificial boundaries and self-imposed limitations. Bloody-toothed violence, but with a purpose and an end goal: Leave me and mine alone.

Or maybe women have been writing horror all this time, but calling it something else, like “autobiographies,” “statistical analysis,” and “autopsies.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMaybe we’ve been calling it “journalism” all along.

Pat Flewwelling writes dark fiction of all kinds, from short stories like “The Great Inevitable” in Expiration Date (Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing, ed. Nancy Kilpatrick) and “Cyphoid Mary” in Alice Unbound (Exile Editions, ed. Colleen Anderson), to full-length novels like Blight of Exiles, Plague of Ghouls, and Scourge of Bones (Tyche Books, 2015, 2016, 2017 respectively). Forthcoming works include “Nowhere Time” in Canadian Dreadful (Dark Dragon Press, ed. David Tocher), and the fourth novel in her Helix series: Sedition (Tyche Books, 2019). On the side, she also runs a travelling bookstore, is a co-editor at ID Press, and works full-time as a senior business analyst.

You can find some of Pat’s work, Expiration Date, Alice Unbound and the Helix trilogy on Amazon.

 

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Convention Update

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Fetishes, Flaming and Facts

A few weeks ago an extremely popular, Canadian interview host, Jian Ghomeshi, was fired from CBC radio. When this first happened, CBC said it was because of information they had received about Ghomeshi. Well, that was rather mysterious. I point out that I also heard this on CBC Radio, not on another station. (I don’t have TV so I get my news by listening to radio.) Then Ghomeshi put out a  statement that he has a kinky lifestyle and indulges in bondage and domination, and that CBC found this “sexual behavior was unbecoming of a prominent host.”

Jian Ghomeshi, rape culture, sexual abuse, kinky lifestyle

Ghomeshi in the Q studio. From: http://www.blogto.com

Jian Ghomeshi hosted the popular radio show called Q. He interviewed many famous personages from writers and politicians to actors and singers. The interviews were good, with depth and Ghomeshi asked good questions. He received at least one award for his interviews. For those who watched the filmed versions, Ghomeshi had charm and women found him cute, handsome or some other mysterious mix of enticing.

Now, it’s a known fact that our current, super, ultra right-wing, Conservative government thinks the arts only consist of artists standing around in evening gowns and tuxes sipping champagne (to paraphrase a comment from our prime minster), which shows the lack of reality in how tough it is for artists to make a living and the disconnect  when even political speeches and political party branding come from artists. It’s also known that Prime Minster Harper is trying to muzzle scientists and get rid of the CBC by drastic funding cuts. These days I’ve heard the same program as many as three times in one week, due to these cuts. Q and The Current are two radio shows that through their popularity have survived so far.

Now, because Prime Minster Harper’s strict and religious roots tend to show from time to time (and unlike the US, Canada has not mixed religion and politics) and from what looked like the unveiling of Ghomeshi’s sexual practices and CBC’s vagueness, it seemed pretty clear what had happened.

I posted the following on my public facebook page:

So CBC fires Jian Ghomeshi because he leads an alternative lifestyle. So what! Let’s get this right. He is not a criminal and hasn’t been charged with anything. This is the same as CBC firing someone because they’re gay, or single, or married, or like to do it in the missionary position. It’s no one’s business.

Let’s not mention how the Harper government has stripped CBC of programming so badly that the nakedness of this national broadcasting station is far more shameful. And as Pierre Trudeau once said, and CBC exec, you should pay attention: “There’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation.”

And what can I say…the vitriol started to fly. Remember, this was within 24-48 hours of the initial news and it sounded like he didn’t meet their ideal of upright citizen.

One response was this (language alert):

God, I am so sick and fucking tired of seeing this unexamined argument. The CBC fired Ghomeshi because he’s under journalistic (and not far off from a criminal) investigation into multiple instances of rape and a host of things too foul to mention. Ghomeshi is not the injured party.

At this point what I had heard on CBC Radio was that there was no criminal investigation, no mention of rape and no mention of things too foul to mention (Iif they weren’t mentioned, how do we know they are foul?). I have to say I wasn’t doggedly digging up every article coming out and I don’t live in Toronto, so perhaps the super irate people were glued to their media devices (I was at work). I thought it unfair to fire someone on hearsay of a possible kinky and consensual lifestyle as it was presented. I said, what happened to innocent until proven guilty and got even more anger.

…you’ve got the wrong end of the stick, and … actually, fuck it. I’m done. You go do whatever you want.

So, okay…the conversation had only just begun but obviously, according to some people, I’d thrown in with Jian Ghomeshi. More people made it sound like I hadn’t a clue about the world, that abuse doesn’t always go reported, that I thought rape was good, that I didn’t care about women’s rights. No one said this but they sure implied it. I responded with the following (if you want the full thread you can find me on facebook and read it):

Let’s put it this way. Let’s say you jam olives up your nose. While most people don’t (do this) and more don’t like it, it’s not illegal. However someone tells your employer that you’re an olive jammer and you’re fired on the spot, because they don’t like it and it’s shameful. Now let’s say you stomp olives and that’s illegal. Well then you’ll be charged and the courts will rule accordingly. Should you be fired while it’s going on, even if you only sell hot dogs or collect garbage? And yeah, Rob Ford wasn’t fired. They couldn’t wedge him out.

If Ghomeshi is guilty or if there is enough evidence then he’ll be charged for a crime. However, the CBC firing someone because of an alternative lifestyle is no different to when the gov’t used to check up on women on welfare in the 40s to make sure they didn’t have boyfriends. It’s about rights (and yes if women didn’t consent and were abused, that’s an abuse of rights) but the right to free speech and the right to having sex however you like it is there for everyone, unless it harms someone, unless it’s consensual. And sorry, but no matter what the courts say there are many many people who have relationships that are “kinky” however you define it and that’s consensual whether you or I like it or not.

Someone then said well yes, you can fire people before they’re charged and posted about the guy who was fired as a CEO because there was a video of him kicking his dog in an elevator. However, that’s tangible evidence…a video. At this point it was CBC and Ghomeshi saying he’d been fired because of the sexual practices. It was not yet clear on how much CBC knew or believed.

If anyone has a doubt about how I feel about women’s rights and sexual abuse and if anyone even presumes to think that I think this okay, then they’re guilty of jumping to conclusions. I was defending human rights based on what I heard, reported by the radio broadcaster that fired Ghomeshi. Perhaps people should think before they grab pitchforks and torches. I’ve been sexually abused by my father and I can say I never shed a tear when that monster died. I’ve spoken about rape culture and sexual abuse in such posts as “She Dressed that Way; She Must Have Wanted It,” and “Rape; It’s Just a Social Media Trend.” So if someone thinks I support sexual abuse, then they don’t know a thing about me.

Since I posted, something like eight women have come forward with allegations that Ghomeshi’s sexual practices were not consensual. I have only heard one interview and while it seems no one was raped, they were assaulted in other ways. I could be wrong about this. I haven’t seen the reports. That’s a lot of people,  even without hard evidence. Witnesses are used in trial and there could very well be a body of information to convict him.  I never said he was innocent except for saying he wasn’t a criminal when CBC was extremely vague about why they fired him. I was defending a person’s rights to be innocent until proven guilty. I saw an infringement on the rights of someone to an alternative lifestyle, not an infringement due to sexual abuse which was as yet not made clear. And now, CBC execs have given more information.

I wonder about Ghomeshi. Someone of his fame indulging in a fetish lifestyle that left marks would have needed to be extra careful. And I know people of many walks of life and of different lifestyles. Some sexual practices aren’t for the faint of heart but there are people who pursue and like variations that might be “too foul to mention” for others. As I’ve always said, if it’s consensual, then it’s no one else’s business. But I”ll stress. IT MUST BE CONSENSUAL (and of legal age).

If Ghomeshi is guilty of abuse, then he must have been arrogant and narcissistic to think something like this wouldn’t surface. Either that, or he wanted to be caught. Either way, the courts will decide. However, it is true that many women never voice the threats and abuse that have happened to them. My father got away with it. And it’s complicated why he wasn’t brought to trial. There were others who were too damaged to go through that. I’ve seen what a trial can do to a woman who was raped, how it’s made to seem that she enticed, that she flaunted, that she taunted, that she was the guilty party. I will never condone sexual abuse, and I’m pretty insulted that people presumed that about me and conflated my comments about human rights with supposedly supporting sexual abuse.

If I’ve made enemies, that’s fine. I’m glad that we have people running trials and gathering evidence. Otherwise, I might already have been lynched by misconceptions. Ghomeshi is on trial on many levels already. This has shed a light on the fact that rape culture still runs rampant, that women are still blamed when they are raped. Let’s not even get into other cultures and how a woman can be stoned if she’s raped or called a slut. It makes my blood boil.

I will however say again, that if someone was fired because they were into spanking, or bondage, or master-slave relationships that were consensual that they have that right to do in their own home as they wish with adult and consenting partners. You and I don’t need to like it. We might find it too foul to mention but that’s not a reason for a person to lose their job. Our private lives are our rights and gay and lesbian culture and relationships were once treated as being too foul to mention.

 

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Art: To Offend or Not

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The devil is in the details.

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

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

red devil statue, East Van, Christian symbolism

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

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

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

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Writing: Tesseracts 17 Unveiled

File:Tesseract.gif, tesseract, speculative fiction, SF,

This is a tesseract that’s hard to wrap your mind around. From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Tesseract.gif

We are pleased to announce the official Table of Contents for Tesseracts 17: Speculating Canada from Coast to Coast to Coast.

This anthology of speculative Canadian writing will be out this fall from Edge Publications. It was no easy task choosing from the over 450 submissions and we had to turn away many a good tale. In the end, we have a representation of Canada that spans all provinces and territories (with the exception, alas, of Nunavut). The tales themselves reach far into the past and much farther into the future.

Creative Commons: thisfragiletent.wordpress.com

Creative Commons: thisfragiletent.wordpress.com

Including Steve Vernon and myself, we had 16 men and 15 women in this anthology. The gender balance worked out without much issue. Of the 29 pieces we have 4 poems (can you spot them by the titles). There are two Daves, two Catherines and a wide range of other names, with people who were born in Canada and those who moved here. I will be giving a full demographic breakdown of all the submissions over the next few weeks. And while this anthology has more fantasy than SF, a good third fall comfortably into the science fiction model with only a few being horror or weird, as in bizarro fiction.

TESSERACTS 17: SPECULATING CANADA FROM COAST TO COAST TO COAST

  • Introduction: What is a Tesseract? Colleen Anderson
  • Vermilion Wine: Claude Lalumière
  • Night Journey: West Coast: Eileen Kernaghan
  • The Wall: Rhea Rose
  • 2020 Vision: Lisa Smedman
  • Why Pete?: Timothy Reynolds
  • Bird Bones: Megan Fennell
  • Bedtime Story: Rhonda Parrish
  • Graveyard Shift: Holly Schofield
  • Path of Souls: Edward Willett
  • Sin A Squay: David Jón Fuller
  • Hereinafter Referred to as the Ghost: Mark Leslie
  • Anywhere: Alyxandra Harvey
  • Secret Recipes: Costi Gurgu
  • Star Severer: Ben Godby
  • The Lighthouse Keeper’s Wife: Dave Beynon
  • Graffiti Borealis: Lisa Poh
  • My Child Has Winter in His Bones: Dominik Parisien
  • Team Leader 2040: Catherine Austen
  • Sand Hill: Elise Moser
  • The Ripping: Vincent Grant Perkins
  • Unwilling to Turn Around: J.J. Steinfeld
  • Pique Assiette: Catherine MacLeod
  • Leaving Cape Roseway: John Bell
  • Everybody Wins: Rachel Cooper
  • In the Bubble: William Meikle
  • Hermione and Me: Dwain Campbell
  • Blizzard Warning: Jason Barrett
  • M.E.L.: Dianne Homan
  • The Calligrapher’s Daughter: Patricia Robertson
  • Afterword: Editing Anthologies Made Easy: Steve Vernon

    Steve Vernon, Tesseracts 17, Canadian fiction, speculative fiction, fantasy, horror, SF

    Nova Scotian Steve Vernon co-edited Tesseracts 17, a collection of Canadian speculative fiction.

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Writing Update

It’s been a while since I posted about writing. The last few months I was caught up in co-editing, with Steve Vernon, the Tesseracts 17 anthology. I hope to be able to announce the table of contents soon. As well, I’ll be giving a demographic breakdown of the submissions once the details are revealed. Suffice to say, we had around 450 submissions. This was an open theme, which means there were more submissions.

I was so busy in fact, that I didn’t even mention the stories that have come out recently so here we go. Deep Cuts came out in February and my story “Red is the Color of My True Love’s Blood” has received one favorable review. There aren’t many reviews yet so if you are a review try contacting the editors (or me and I’ll let them know) and they might send you a copy to review.

“P is for Phartouche: The Blade” came out in  Demonologia Biblica in March from Western Legends Publishing. It’s edited by Dean Drinkel of the UK, and is available at http://www.amazon.com/Demonologia-Biblica. Again, reviewers can contact the publisher.

And I’ve been told that imminently Bibliotheca Fantastica is about to be released from Dagan Books. My story “The Book With No End” deals with books as does every story, edited by editors Claude LaLumiere & Don Pizarro. Book covers have often been made of different types of leather and let’s say this is a book of leather of a different type.

dark fantasy, dark fiction, horror, speculative fiction, women writers

Demonologia Biblica out through Western Legends Publishing, with “P is for Phartouche: The Blade”

Likewise, as imminent, and in this week, Irony of Survival  is also about to be released from Zharmae Publishing. This is a very massive volume of stories and my alternate history “Tower of Strength” is one of the many tales.

Rumors were abounding that BullSpec had folded but they told me they were just behind and issues are coming out so I hope my poem (with them for two years) will be out this year. I’ve also just received the contract for “Gingerbread People” to be released in Chilling Tales 2 this fall by Edge Publishing: Michael Kelly is editor. And perhaps I’ve had the kiss of death with Fantastic Frontiers who paid me but seem to have folded before publishing my short piece and don’t answer emails.

While stories are coming out this year I haven’t yet sold a lot with this first part of the year being about editing. I’m now getting back into the writer’s seat and hoping to hit some deadlines before the end of May. So hopefully you’ll see a few more posts from me.

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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.

 

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Writing Update: Co-Editing Tesseracts Anthology

 

 

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

Get writing and send us your best.

I can now announce that East coast author Steve Vernon, and I (West coast author) will be co-editing the Canadian Tesseracts anthology. Subtitled “Speculation Canadian Fiction from Coast to Coast to Coast” Steve and I will be looking for stories from all territories and provinces. You have to have been born in Canada or currently live in Canada to submit to this publication so when you send in your stories, please tell us where you were born and where you live now.

Tesseracts has always been a bout Canadian fiction and many of the past Tesseracts have been themed. This one has no theme so we’re looking for anything that’s speculative: steampunk, alternate history, horror, gothic, SF, fantasy, magic realism, anything. I’m hoping that we’ll have a diversity of stories. Perhaps they’ll have that sense of Canadian where the elements and geography can play a great role, or maybe they’ll deal with cultural influences from First Nations, or early setters, or futuristic Acadians or even tales of the Basque who had a whaling station in the middle ages. Maybe the tales will deal with Wendigo or Sasquatch or Ogopogo and maybe they’ll take place in space or an underground warren.

Really, we want to see it all and we want variety. While we hope to have stories or poetry from all of

Steve Vernon, Tesseracts 17, Canadian fiction, speculative fiction, fantasy, horror, SF

Nova Scotian Steve Vernon will be co-editing Tesseract 17, a collection of Canadian speculative fiction.

Canada’s provinces and territories, it will be originality and quality that will be the final tellers. Yet another ghost story or descent into madness story won’t necessarily make it, unless (and that’s a big work) it is uniquely and well told, with deft language and a good twist.

In some senses, competition will be fierce because there are many authors in Ontario, for example, but we might only be able to accept one story from that province. While authors of smaller provinces and territories have a better chance, there is still no guarantee if the story isn’t great. You have until Feb. 28, 2013 to submit. Read on for the guidelines.

ABOUT THE EDITORS:

Colleen Anderson has been nominated for the Aurora Award, Gaylactic Spectrum Award, finalist in the Rannu competition and received several honorable mentions in the Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror, the Year’s Best SF, and Imaginarium. Her poetry and fiction have been published in Britain, Canada and the United States. She has attended both the Clarion West and the Centre for the Study of Science Fiction (CSSF) writing workshops and has a degree in creative writing. Colleen is a member of the Horror Writers of America and SF Canada.

Steve Vernon has read on CBC radio, Breakfast Television, Global Noon and at schools and libraries across Nova Scotia. His high voltage storytelling production, Word of Mouth, was written under the auspices of the now dissolved Nova Scotia Arts Council and presented two years running at the Halifax Fringe Festival.

Steve has written several ghost story collections for regional publisher Nimbus – including the bestselling Halifax Haunts: Exploring the City’s Spookiest Spaces – as well as a very popular novel for young readers Sinking Deeper and a children’s picture book Maritime Monsters. Steve’s latest ghost story collection is The Lunenburg Werewolf And Other Stories of the Supernatural. Blog: www3.ns.sympatico.ca/stevevernon

SUBMISSION DETAILS:
  • The Tesseracts Seventeen anthology will reflect as broad a spectrum of stories as possible; highlighting unique styles and manners.
  • Submissions must be speculative fiction: science fiction, fantasy, dark fantasy, magic realism, slipstream, supernatural horror, weird tales, alternate history, space opera, planetary adventure, surrealism, superheroes, mythic fantasy, etc.
  • Submissions may be either short fiction or poetry.
  • The maximum length for stories is 5,000 words, with shorter works preferred.
  • The Tesseracts anthology series is only open to submissions from Canadians, landed immigrants living in Canada, long time residents of Canada, and Canadian expatriates living abroad.
  • Canadian authors who write in languages other than English are welcome to submit an English translation of their work, provided it otherwise falls within the parameters of this anthology. Translation into English is the sole responsibility of the author. Please supply details of original publication for any submission that originally appeared in a language other than English.
  • Deadline: February 28, 2013 (midnight).
  • Do not query before submitting.
  • Email submissions to: tesseracts17@edgewebsite.com
  • Emails MUST contain the word “submission” in the subject line, or they will be deleted automatically by the server. Please also include the story title in the subject line.
  • Submissions MUST come in an attachment: only .RTF and/or .DOC formats are acceptable.
  • Emails MUST contain a cover letter in the body of the email; for security reasons, email attachments with no cover letter will be deleted unread and unanswered.
  • Cover letter: include your name, the title of your story, your full contact information (address, phone, email), and a brief bio. Do not describe or summarize the story.
  • If your address is not within Canada, please indicate in the cover letter your status vis-à-vis Canada.
  • Reprints (stories having previously appeared in English in any format, print or electronic, including but not limited to any form of web publication) can be considered but will be a hard sell; reprints must come from a source not easily available in Canada. If your submission is a reprint, please supply full publication history of the story. If your story appeared previously, including but not limited to anywhere on the web, and you do not disclose this information to the editor upon submission, you will be disqualified from consideration.
  • Submission format: no strange formatting, colour fonts, changing fonts, borders, backgrounds, etc. Leave italics in italics, NOT underlined. Put your full contact information on the first page (name, address, email address, phone). No headers, no footers, no page numbering. DO NOT leave a blank line between paragraphs. Indent paragraphs. ALWAYS put a # to indicate scene breaks (a blank line is NOT enough).
  • ALWAYS include your full contact information (name/address/email/phone number) on the first page of the attached submission.
  • Payment for short poetry is $20.00. Payment for short stories is prorated as follows: $50 for stories up to 1,500 words, rising to a maximum of $150 for stories up to 5,000 words (longer stories are paid a slightly higher fee, but in order to exceed the word length limit of 5,000 words, the editor must judge a story to be of surpassing excellence.)
  • Rights: for original fiction, first World English publication, with a two-month exclusive from publication date; for all, non-exclusive anthology rights; all other rights remain with the author.
  • Spelling: please use Canadian spelling, as per the Canadian Oxford Dictionary.
  • Response time: initial responses (no / rewrite request / hold for further consideration) will be prompt, usually within fifteen days. Please query if you’ve not heard back within 30 days. Final responses no later than 15 April 2013.
  • We do not advise that you submit more than one story.
  • Simultaneous submissions are not encouraged but are acceptable. Should you receive a “rewrite request” or “hold for further consideration” response, please indicate immediately whether your story is under consideration anywhere else.
  • Publication: Fall 2013 (trade paperback & e-Book).
  • Email submissions to: tesseracts17@edgewebsite.com

    Canadian fiction, speculative ficiton, horror, fantasy, dark fiction, SF

    My reprint collection is available through Smashwords and soon through Amazon and in print.


 

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Alberta Politics: Does the Wild Rose Have Bigger Thorns

I grew up in Alberta in a dyed true blue Conservative family. We voted Conservative, we thought Conservative. Like religion, we followed our parents. My brother, the eldest, was a young Conservative and became a member of parliament and minister under Peter Lougheed. He was considered a red Tory, a more liberal thinking Conservative. Alberta was so Conservative that Albertans could barely even recognize that other parties existed. I like to refer to Alberta politics and the way people vote as the lemmings of Alberta; they’ll follow their leader unthinkingly into water or the abyss.

politics, Wid Rose party, Progressive Conservative party, Alberta, Alison Redford

Alison Redford, leader of the Progressive Conservatives. Image from vollman.blogspot.com

After high school I went to art college and I guess you can say that artists are rarely conservative thinkers. Art is often about challenging boundaries, whether one’s own or society’s. Nice and pretty art has its place but it doesn’t say much. Art is often political. Just ask those who have been incarcerated over time for their writing or paintings or performances. But that’s another post.

Alberta’s politics run to the Conservative party both provincially and federally. They’re predictable. BC is not. We’re known as a swing province. If we’re not happy, we’ll vote the other way but for a long time we’ve been a more liberal or left wing province. That’s why the Liberals under Gordon Campbell came into power, because they pretended to be Liberals when they were as conservative as Alberta’s Klein government or more. In fact, I always suspected that Klein and Campbell were political bed buddies. Campbell certainly looked at what Klein did, then streamlined it and ignored the people. Christy Clark, who has not yet been voted in by the populace, is more of a Liberal but who knows by how much. BC might be a Liberal province but it’s been a combination on the federal level. And there is no guarantee we will stay that way and hardly likely. We’ve been NDP, Social Credit and Liberal. We’re more link monkeys on the vine, swinging this way and that.

Wild Rose party, politics, Alberta. right wing parties, Conservatives, Danielle Smith

But back to the lemmings next door. In my family, as disillusionment grew and politics shifted my family all moved away from being Conservative. Like the province I live in I have voted Conservative, Liberal and NDP. My other family members vote different ways and even my once fully entrenched Tory brother had to finally declare he was becoming Liberal. Why? Because Prime Minister Harper’s Conservative party has become dictatorial and so far right wing that homophobia and religious ideals are coloring the politics, and unlike the US, Canadians don’t like to mix church and state. Harper barely hides it but as I’ve said, if you’re not white and not Christian and something happens to you in another country, you’re going to be SOL for government intervention. Harper hails from Alberta, rare in itself for a prime minister.

We call Alberta Little Texas, known for oil, cattle ranching and rednecks. The KKK has a stronghold there. It’s part of the Bible Belt, a strip that runs into the US and known for ultra-conservatism, right wing, religious views. But Alberta does have pockets of other…somewhat. In a way it was surprising to see the rise of the Wildrose Alliance to challenge the Conservative party’s 40-year rule. I didn’t pay a lot of attention but when the media said the Wildrose was right of the Conservatives a friend asked, “What, is it Attila the Hun?” There is something right of this? Wow. But then Alberta was the birthplace of the federal Reform party (or Canadian Conservative Reform Alliance party as they were known until it was pointed out it spelled CCRAP) which was a right wing answer to the federal Conservatives. The Reform party was absorbed back into the Conservative party and that’s when Harper and his ilk gained power. There have been accusations that the Wildrose party emulates attitudes that were found in the Reform party, such as homophobia, racism and narrow views about the rights of a woman to her own body.

Is it the truth? I suppose at least partially. It’s definitely what the media picked up on in the campaign that saw Alison Redford’s Conservatives back in power. But the Wildrose party did get seats and the polls predicted they’d win. Maybe the lemmings were frightened by change or maybe they feared Attila over Caesar but the Wildrose was definitely a thorn in Redford’s side. I guess from my perspective, (obviously biased and no longer immersed in that province’s politics) the biggest surprise is that such a conservative province actually has two female leaders.

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