Category Archives: Publishing

Tesseracts 17 Interview: J.J. Steinfeld

poetry, satire, horror, dread, fantasy, Canadian writers

J.J. Steinfeld harkens from PEI, where he chases his muse. Photo by Brenda Whiteway

Happy New Year’s, everyone. The year, as is every day, full of promise and possibility. I fell behind in finishing all the Tesseracts 17 interviews before the old year ended. But the good thing about books and stories is that they don’t go bad. Without further ado, I bring you J.J. Steinfeld.

CA: “Unwilling to Turn Around” speaks to that dread that horror movies build on. It’s a very human feeling. Why do you think it is we sometimes don’t want to see what’s following us?

Whether it is in the dark of night or in the darkness of an wavering mind, when we are going through unfamiliar or unchartered terrain, physical or psychological, vulnerability of one’s body and senses became amplified, more apparent,  and perhaps we are frightened to confront something following us that might  be strange and out-of-place, and potentially dangerous. In a frightened state, seeing something we may not be able to thwart or cope with, makes confronting our fears all the more potent.

CA: Your piece speaks to a very human part of us, yet is also as a sly, light note, make it more satirical than horrific. Why did you choose this angle?

There is a fascinating world just outside our everyday reality and comprehensible definitions, and that world is often mired in the absurd and the incomprehensible. Attempting to confront or chart that absurd reality pulls me strongly to the satirical as to the horrific.  In the attempt to either deal with or break free from the absurd and the incomprehensible, the satirical somehow becomes a little more muscular than the horrific.

CA: Would you rather know what lies ahead, no matter how wonderful or terrible, or you would prefer the surprise, no matter the outcome?

I would prefer to be wandering in the cinematic land of surprise and infinite possibilities,

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

rather than see the film’s ending beforehand, especially if the special effects tamper with my sense of the absurd and wonder and baffling existence.

CA: What do you think is your most effective tool, or technique, when it comes to writing poetry?

 I don’t know if I have any effective tools or techniques for writing poetry, unless you want to count lively synapses and a curious psyche as creative tools.  Actually, it’s more a strategy of speed, that is, going outside and walking quickly after my sometimes elusive and too often mischievous and cantankerous Muse. The attempt to grab hold of that fleeing Muse, whether the attempt is successful or not, often leads to new ideas and the start of a poem, which will be developed and written when I get back to my hidden-away writing room.

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

I’m always working on something creative, whether it’s poetry or fiction or plays… My imagination tends to bounce from one creative “project” to another and after a period of time, I start to gather together creative pieces that adhere to my synapses and psyche and put them together into a collection or then attempt to find someone who might want to put on one of my plays. Currently I have two short story collections and a poetry collection, products of my bouncing imagination, that are looking for publishers, and several scripts in search of a theatrical home. As I wait to hear from publishers or theater companies, I polish up and tinker with the contents of these hoping-to-see-the light-of-literary-day manuscripts and stage plays.

 Fiction writer, poet, and playwright J. J. Steinfeld lives on Prince Edward Island, where he is patiently waiting for Godot’s arrival and a phone call from Kafka. While waiting, he has published fourteen books, along with five chapbooks, including Forms of Captivity and Escape (Stories, Thistledown Press), Disturbing Identities (Stories, Ekstasis Editions), Anton Chekhov Was Never in Charlottetown (Stories, Gaspereau Press), Should the Word Hell Be Capitalized? (Stories, Gaspereau Press), Curiosity to Satisfy and Fear to Placate (Short-Fiction Chapbook, Mercutio Press),  Would You Hide Me? (Stories, Gaspereau Press), An Affection for Precipices (Poetry, Serengeti Press), Where War Finds You (Poetry Chapbook, HMS Press), Misshapenness (Poetry, Ekstasis Editions), A Fanciful Geography (Poetry Chapbook, erbacce-press), and A Glass Shard and Memory (Stories, Recliner Books). His short stories and poems have appeared in numerous periodicals and anthologies, in every Canadian province and internationally in fifteen countries, including in Tesseracts Fifteen, Sixteen, and Seventeen, and over forty of his one-act plays and a handful of full-length plays have been performed in Canada and the United States.

 

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Tesseracts 17 Interview: Dominik Parisien

fantasy poetry, speculative fiction, myth, death

Dominik Parisien tells a tale of magic, madness and mystery.

CA: “My Child Has Winter in His Bones” has the three Ms: magic, mystery and madness. Do you think there is a fine line between true madness and magic?

For me, the poem has a great deal to do with grief, which is a powerful form of madness in many cases. That being said, in this day and age, “madness” and “magic” almost feel like two gradients on the same spectrum, in that they’re both used to qualify things we can’t properly understand, albeit one is viewed as negative and one as positive. If something feels irrational, irregular, we call it mad. If it feels joyful, overwhelmingly special, we call it magical. And what’s magical to one person can be utterly mad for another, and vice-versa.

CA: The climate has been said to play an integral part to the Canadian mindscape, though that could be said of other places as well. Here, you use a different way of personifying winter. Would you say that people often see the elements in a personal or human way?

Personalization of the elements is, of course, nothing new. The Green Man, The Winter Queen, elementals, etc. I think personifying the elements was and is an effective way to facilitate an understanding of them, to explore their significance and our relationship to/with them in various ways. The fact that such personifications occur throughout time and cultures illustrates their importance to us as human beings, both as storytelling modes and as symbolic signifiers. Applied more specifically to CanLit, I think the richness of our landscape and the radical variations in our climate do lead to effective uses of personification and pathetic fallacy, and that’s it’s more or less a natural tendency given where and how we live.

CA: While you wrote this as a poem, could the tale be told as a story or do you think you would lose the

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

feel that only poetry can give to an image?

I find there’s an immediacy to poetry, a jarring emotionality that resonates more strongly with me than with prose when I’m writing. It isn’t always the case when I’m reading someone else’s work, but when I’m writing my emotional engagement with the subject matter tends to dictate the form. So, in this case it probably couldn’t have been a story. I’d been tinkering with the idea of conveying it as a story, but I kept being drawn back to poetry.

CA: Do you use mystery and the elements in your other works? And are you surviving winter?

I think I focus more on the numinous than mystery in my work, although mystery informs that. I think it’s a mistake to believe that we can understand the world in purely empirical terms. There are things that are unexplainable. Our understanding of the world is always informed by our personal biases, our beliefs, etc., and when we’re introduced to a view that is different from ours, there’s a bit of mystery to that. A bit of magic. And there’s always mystery around us, in one form or another. I like to explore that.

And yes, the elements do play a fairly large part in my work. Another one of my poems, “Since Breaking Through the Ice.” which was reprinted in Imaginarium 2013, explored a similar subject to “My Child…” and might be called a companion piece. One of my favorite pastimes in winter is walking on frozen bodies of water. While I lived near the Ottawa River I would regularly go for walks on the frozen river. I knew the dangers–there are drownings almost every year in the area–but I was careful, and the river and the sound of the ice hold a particular sway over me. A fascination.  As for surviving winter, I’m definitely missing snowshoeing opportunities on the river now that I live in Montreal!

CA: As a poet and a fiction author, do you favor one form over the other, or do they hold equal weight for you?
I tend to favor poetry in my own writing. Recently, anyway. I do write the occasional short story, but the poetic form comes to me more naturally. I tend to think in vignettes and snippets, and I enjoy the challenge of conveying story/narrative and character in a compact way, all the while toying with language and form. I also have a background in English Literature and have a particular fondness for poetry. I value and enjoy reading fiction and poetry equally, though.
CA: What other pieces do you have in the works right now?

I’m currently working on a poetry chapbook, comprising original poems and reprints. Otherwise, I edit poetry for Postscripts to Darkness, an Ottawa-based journal of dark and uncanny fiction and poetry. I also recently edited Mike Allen’s  poetry omnibus, Hungry Constellations, which will appear in 2014 from Mythic Delirium Books.  Finally, I work on various editing projects with Ann & Jeff VanderMeer, such as the recently released Time Traveller’s Almanac from Head of Zeus in the UK and Tor Books in North America.

Dominik Parisien is a Franco-Ontarian living in Montreal, Quebec. His poetry has appeared in print and online, most recently in Strange Horizons, Shock Totem, and Ideomancer, amongst others, and has been reprinted in Imaginarium 2013: The Best Canadian Speculative Writing.  He is the poetry editor for Postscripts to Darkness, provides editorial support to Cheeky Frawg Books, and is a former editorial assistant for Weird Tales.

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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?

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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: Catherine Austen

Tesseracts 17, SF, futur worlds, marginalization, zombies

Catherine Austen writes of a future with people as commodity in “Team Leader 2040″

I was hoping to get all the interviews done for Tesseracts 17 before the ned of the year but I’m also trying to finish the first draft of my novel and do some jury reading. So, my apologies for all the lags. I’m also going out of order a bit from the table of contents because some people are on holidays. Today, I talk with Catherine Austen who lives in Gatineau, Quebec.

CA: “Team Leader 2040″ riffs off of the popularity of zombie movies, TV and fiction that is pervasive right now. Yet you made your story a much more realistic and possible future. Do you foresee the zombie craze getting to this level?

I don’t foresee it, but if someone were to offer such a park, I think it would have customers. As virtual reality gaming becomes more sophisticated, some players might want a different experience, something retro and grounded, and entrepreneurs might provide a zombie hunting amusement park if it could make money and were legal. Its success–in terms of it being awesome fun–would hinge on the idea that it is harmless and victimless. But people have no problem buying and selling that idea about all sorts of destructive and dehumanizing things.

CA: This tale has a streak of the darkest aspects of our society. Do you believe we could get to such a world as you show, or do you think we are already there?

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

I think we could get there. I’m not able to judge how close we are because I have led a privileged life in an insular world characterized by its utter lack of desperation. Everyone I encounter day to day is basically kind and generous, so it feels like we’re ages away from such a world as the one in my story. But someone from a slum or a macho backwater or a collapsed country where people are bought and sold right now and entire ethnicities or genders are considered worthless might think we’re pretty close.

CA: In some ways, “Team Leader 2040″ is apocryphal. And while every writer is always showing a scenario, do you consider it a warning at all?

I suppose it’s a warning about how normalized the idea of people as commodities can become if market values are our highest values. But I didn’t write it as a warning. I just wanted to explore the character, the Team Leader, who is in this vulnerable position of having to do a job that’s morally reprehensible. And though it’s a speculative story, I think that basic conflict is timeless.

CA: Would you say human rights are better these days than a century ago, or just that the values have shifted?

I have such mixed feelings about this question. “Human rights” didn’t extend to all that many humans in times past and I think things are better these days, if only in that the circle of concern covers more people–including me, as a woman. There’s no other time or place I would rather be than Canada right now (or maybe back in the ‘80s).

It feels as if some people are more precious than ever while others are more disposable than ever, and maybe that’s just the growing gap between rich and poor. There was a sense in the 20th century that, in between the wars and genocides, we were moving toward more democracy and freedom and shared wealth, which are all good for human rights. But it’s less common to encounter that optimism now. Around the globe there is so much destitution and dislocation combined with the possibility of huge profits for selling your neighbor–and that’s a bad mix for human rights. So, while I don’t think there was an Eden of respect that we’ve fallen from, the future does not look rosy.

CA: What other fiction pieces are you working on right now?

I am working on more short stories about the buying and selling of humans and their parts, all set in the same future world as “Team Leader” (which is also the setting of a sequel to my award-winning teen novel, All Good Children). But I usually write for young people. I have a middle-grade comedy coming out this spring with Lorimer (28 Tricks for a Fearless Grade 6) and a picture book scheduled for 2015 release with Fitzhenry and Whiteside (When Squirrels Stole My Sister). Right now I am revising a teen novel (Can I Keep Him?) that will hopefully be done and out over the next couple of years.

Catherine Austen writes fiction for all ages. Her most recent novel, All Good Children (Orca), won the Canadian Library Association’s 2012 Young Adult Book Award and the 2012 Sunburst Award (YA category). Catherine was born in Newcastle, New Brunswick, raised in Kingston, Ontario, and now lives in Gatineau, Quebec. She is proud to be a Canadian and she hopes our future will not be as grim as the one she imagines.

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Tesseracts 17 Interview: Lisa Poh

anthology, speculative fiction, SF, fantasy, Canadian authors

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

Lisa Poh hails from her home in Montreal, but is also from Singapore and uses a bit of both cultures in her story in Tesseracts 17.

CA: “Graffiti Borealis” deals with the urban landscape, but touches on a very Canadian aspect of landscape, the aurora borealis. Was this your intention?

I didn’t really set out to write a Canadian story. It just struck me that living in Montreal, I should write a story set here, so that was what I deliberately set out to do. When I started thinking about the landscape of Montreal and Quebec, Graffiti and the aurora borealis, two things that fascinate me, suddenly connected. Graffiti surrounds you in this city everywhere you go, and with the bright colors, it can be the most vibrant thing standing out amidst the aging concrete and brick. When I thought about it, it struck me that it was a like an aurora borealis in the city—neon, alive, always shifting, disappearing and reappearing.

 CA: Landscape plays quite an important role in this story, especially in feeling a part of or alienated from one’s surroundings. Daniel feels this in several ways. What cultural/societal motifs did you want to highlight?

I think that the immigrant experience always involves feelings of alienation, and simultaneously, of confrontation. There is a lot of push-pull attraction happening on different fronts. You want to integrate, and yet you want to remain yourself. Diversity is a huge part of the Canadian identity in my view. But as an element of society, it is not always something natural or easy. After all, what is assimilation, and what is it we are supposed to assimilate into? I thought it was interesting to have Daniel, who comes from the straight-laced, law-abiding Anglophone Asian track, thrown into partnership with La Guéparde, his opposite in so many ways. But yet, they are the same on some levels and have the ability to relate.

CA: Graffiti is a unique form of rebellion, art, political commentary and cultural nomenclature. Can you speak to those aspects in context to this story?

poh, graffiti, art, rebellion, cultural alienation, fantasy, speculative fiction, Tesseracts 17

Lisa Poh uses cultural and urban landscape in her tale “Graffiti Borealis.”

Oh yes. I come from Singapore, a country where painting graffiti on public property is punishable by caning and avenues for political commentary are restrictive. So the proliferation of graffiti here, along with the freedom of political protest, are some of the things I notice the most. My reaction is complex—sometimes repulsed, sometimes admiring. When I guide visitors through the city, I point it out with a mixture of disapproval and pride. Yes, this is Montreal. I tried to express these feelings through Daniel.

CA: Will we be seeing this world or the characters in other tales?

I haven’t any plans but if the inspiration strikes, why not?

CA: What else are you working on right now?

Right now I’m taking a writing break as my typing hands are full with a very vocal four-month-old baby. Once he learns to sleep on his own though, I hope to work on some new stories and a novel!

Lisa Poh is a writer, teacher and communicator who grew up in the tiny tropical metropolis of Singapore, but now lives in Montreal, Canada, with her game designer husband. Together, they consume too much caffeine and own too many books, video games and manga for a small apartment. A graduate of the 2009 Odyssey Writing Workshop, Lisa’s fiction can also be found in Expanded Horizons and Masked Mosaic: Canadian Super Stories. She is also the author of two high school English textbooks used by schools in Singapore. She blogs at http://lishwrite.wordpress.com/.

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Tesseracts 17 Interview: Dave Beynon

ghost stories, horror, lighthouses, cultural mixes, speculative fiction, fantasy, Canadian authors

Dave Beynon’s tale tells of a great love, and horror born of desperation.

“The Lighthouse Keeper’s Wife” is a classic tale in many ways. Yet you have made it very intimate and human. Do you have a strong connection to lighthouses?

 I love lighthouses and I think they come with a romance all their own.  They are by nature lonely, isolated places but they are also a symbol of connection.  The function of a lighthouse is communication.  The light reaches across dark waters to the seeking eyes of mariners.  It’s a connection that reminds sailors that they are not alone in the night but the lighthouse’s light is more than that.  It’s also a warning.  “You are not alone, but don’t come too close.  There is danger here.”

Lighthouses are rugged places, exposed to the elements, isolated – just begging to be haunted.  They stand at the edges of things.  Light and Dark.  Land and Water.  Civilization and the Unknown.  Why shouldn’t a lighthouse stand at the edge of Life and Death as the one does in “The Lighthouse Keeper’s Wife?”

CA: In regards to the human, and inhuman aspects, you deal very gently with cultural attitudes and a great love. Do you think that if we did have means to supernatural “fixes” that more people would be driven to take desperate measures?

Absolutely, yes.  I think we only need to look to science and medicine.  People without brain function and with little or no chance of recovery can now be kept alive almost indefinitely.  It’s easy to say that in a situation like that the plug ought to be pulled so that families might get on with the grieving process.  That’s a cold and rational, if realistic, way of looking at it.  I think part of being human kindles the hope that, despite evidence to the contrary, there’s still a spark of the person that we love somewhere inside that body hooked up to all those machines.  We’ll use those machines to keep that spark alive.

I think if there was a supernatural (or a scientific) way to bring a loved one back from death, it would be doomed to end badly.  If

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

personality, consciousness and a sense of self could somehow endure beyond death, I imagine death—the whole act of life ending, either traumatically or peacefully—is the sort of journey that might change a person.  I don’t think the person you’d get back would be the same one you said goodbye to.   You might not recognize them—or worse yet, they might not recognize you.

CA: This tale is about fighting death but on a visceral level, with terrible consequences when a foreign curio comes into play. Do you think that in earlier centuries various foreign objects were seen a mystical or supernatural, only because they were unknown?

When I was a kid, I was fascinated by mythology, legends, and fairy tales.  That fascination led me down the road to Egyptology, complete with Howard Carter and King Tut’s tomb.  I was fortunate enough to see the Treasures of Tutankhamen exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario back in 1979.  I remember pressing my hands and face against the glass cabinet that held Tut’s burial mask.  There’s no doubt about it.  It was magical.

I think we tend to have two reactions to things we encounter beyond our cultural experience—awe and fear.  Usually a combination of the two.  Can you imagine the first European to encounter Chinese fireworks?  The first native North American to see a gun fired?  Curious objects abound and if we can’t figure out their uses it’s easy to imagine supernatural uses.  Why are there standing stones scattered all over Britain?  Why did the people of Easter Island commit such time, effort and resources into carving and placing their iconic moai statues around their island?  How would we really view an alien piece of technology if one fell into our hands?  Would we consider it technology or would the workings be so far beyond us that it would be indistinguishable from magic?

Nowadays (look at me using old-timer talk) we have instant access to cultural databases.  If we encounter anything mysterious or intriguing from a different culture, we can dissect it immediately, if we choose.  In the past researching a mystery would be a length process that might raise more questions than answers which would add to the idea of mystery or the supernatural.  I guess what might border on mystical or supernatural now would be googling a person or an object and finding absolutely no information.   In our information rich world, that would indeed be odd…almost magical.

CA: While this is not quite a ghost story, have you dabbled in other tales that deal with the dead in one form or another?

I have a number of real life ghost stories that I love to share on stormy nights and around campfires in the woods.  While I haven’t written a traditional ghost story (yet…you’ve got me thinking about one, Colleen), I tend to write stories that deal with people who have suffered the profound loss of loved ones and their different ways of coping.  I don’t think there’s anything more impactful than the loss of someone close and by exposing a character in a story to that type of loss you get to see what he or she is made of.  In that way, I guess, there are ghosts in my stories because my characters are visited by the memories of those they’ve lost and what is a ghost if not the vivid, enduring imprint of someone who has died?

CA: What projects are you working on now?

I have a number of short stories that I’m working on and there are always more short stories waiting to be written.  I have a wonderful skeletal novella about the last hours of a Paraguayan dictator awaiting execution that I’ll be fleshing out to novel length some time next year.  In the background, I’m always working on a novel.  The current novel is called Doc Merl’s Rolling Apothecary.  It’s the King Arthur myth transposed to an old west full of rival land barons, displaced Indians, mysterious railway surveyors, sabre-toothed cats who avoided extinction and the weirdly motivated, pan-dimensional Hoodoo men.

Dave Beynon is a writer of speculative fiction of varying lengths and genres.  In 2011, his time travel novel, The Platinum Ticket was shortlisted for the inaugural Terry Pratchett First Novel Prize.  Dave lives in Fergus, Ontario with his wife, two kids and Willow, a golden retriever who manages every aspect of his life.  Find out more about Dave at his website www.davebeynon.com or if Twitter is more your thing, he’s @BeynonWrites.  Fair warning, though – he mostly tweets about crappy weather and stupid things that piss him off.

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Tesseracts 17 Interview: Ben Godby

anthology, speculative fiction, SF, fantasy, Canadian authors

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

Ben Godby’s tale takes us to the farthest reaches of the universe and a man with a dark mission.

CA: “Star Severer” was one of the bleaker stories in Tesseracts 17. In one sense it signals the end of everything. Stories like this can be depressing, yet you presented more depth. What were the important elements you were exploring in this piece?

I think I’ve benefited from living in a peaceful time in a peaceful place. I can’t remember who wrote it, but a sentence which recently struck me with its veracity and import was, “Make no mistake, we are living in a golden age.” Not surprisingly, it’s always been hard for me to understand war—or, more generally, the very idea of having “enemies.” On the other hand, I’ve grown up with video games, board games, role-playing games, books, movies, and all other sorts of media that make me—on a visceral level—love war, and love killing, and love having some brute-obvious object of ethically appropriate hatred.

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Ben Godby loves games and fantasy, but Star Severer is science fiction with a dark vein.

This tension has caused me to write a lot of stories that explore violence and its necessary ambiguity. In “Star-Severer,” I needed that footchase scene, and I needed Odashi and his soldiers to violently board Mueller’s vessel, because in a lot of ways, violence is what makes stories worth telling and hearing for my narrative consciousness. But intellectually, I abhor violence and don’t understand it—which is why my protagonists are usually unwilling, unwitting, or unhappy soldiers.

CA: This story literally takes us to the far reaches of the universe. Do you write in this universe or these worlds often?

It’s hard for me to write anything that’s anything but fantastic. I have three distinct universes I like to write in, although two of them—one which is decidedly fantasy, and another which is a sort of fantasy-cyberpunk fusion—have begun a sort of mental meld over the last six months. I like reading contemporary, modern, and realistic fiction, but I get bored writing about the mundane world.

This universe, by the way, is the “Children of the Earth” universe, which is marked by conflict between the Children of the Earth, who believe in Terran orthodoxy (Earth’s universal primacy), and “Terretics,” usually colonists of far-flung worlds who have ceased to care for Earth and its imperial ways. “Children of the Earth,” published online in Kaleidotrope, also takes place in this universe. http://www.kaleidotrope.net/archives/summer-2012/children-of-the-earth-by-ben-godby/

CA: The story  harkens some to our human condition; that of being a violent species sometimes determined to commit genocide. Do you think we will every move beyond this flaw?

I think humanity is slowly become “gooder,” if I may be permitted such a silly word. At least, the developed nations of the world are becoming less and less willing to kill each other. But, there are still horrible wars committed across the globe every day, and whenever the nuclear stalemate is resolved, large, powerful countries will almost inevitably go to war once again. I hope we move beyond the need to fight each other, but I think this will require the elimination of acquisitive ideologies like capitalism, competitive ideologies like free market economics, and a lot of great science to solve the environmental problems that are creeping up on us and creating more cause for conflict.

CA: Science fiction isn’t as popular as fantasy fiction these days. Do you think it’s too realistic and we wish to escape any sense of reality?

I’ve heard this before, but I actually find that SF is really popular. What’s interesting to me is that SF has evolved a lot more than fantasy. There’s a lot of people who are upset that SF has become really dark and pessimistic, but at least it reflects evolving trends in the psychology of writers and readers. I can’t believe how many fantasy books are, for all intents and purposes, identical to each other minus a few special details: magic works this unique way in such-and-such a world, but it is still a romantic 13th century medieval world with kings and emperors, subjected women, racism, some kind of orc or goblin analogue (e.g. sranc [R. Scott Bakker's fantasy series] or the shanka [Joe Abercrombie]), and a hero quest. I like fantasy, but I want to see it do more, and outside of China Miéville, Jeff VanderMeer, Steph Swainston, and a clutch of other New Weird writers, I don’t see much “evolved” fantasy getting very popular.

CA: What else are you working on now?

An MBA and a rather successful Dwarf Fortress. http://www.bay12games.com/dwarves/ I hate to say it, but with my studies, work, and volunteerism as they’ve been the last year and a half, I’ve barely written anything. I’m hoping to start a new AD&D campaign (which I consider to be a sort of creative writing) in the new year, and once I graduate in August 2014, hopefully I’ll get back on the writing horse. The plan, though, is to write novels rather than short stories. Writing short fiction was always meant to be “practice” for writing novels, although I kind of fell into loving it.

Ben Godby writes mysteriously thrilling pseudo-scientific weird western adventure fantasy tales. He lives in Ottawa, Ontario with a girl, two dogs and a cat. Ben is part of the Codex Writers’ Group and his book reviews have been published in Strange Horizons. He is a business communications specialist, a videogame addict, and a heavy metal enthusiast. He holds a B.A. in Philosophy from McGill University and is a part-time student in the University of Ottawa’s French MBA program.

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Tesseracts 17 Interview: Costi Gurgu

alien worlds, world building, speculative fiction, science fiction, Tesseracts 17

Costi Gurgu’s “Secret Recipes” is both alien and sensual.

Today, I interview the last Ontario author in Tesseracts 17, but not the last author by far.

CA: Of all the tales in Tesseracts 17, “Secret Recipes” was perhaps the most alien. You use the senses in such a unique way that makes the story poetic. How did this idea come about?

A few years back I had a conversation with my Romanian agent about an article he just read, concerning the North American Science Fiction rules—One cannot write a story that happens in an alien world, having only a cast of alien characters. So, not having at least one human character to give the readers the human perspective on the alien world.

I told my agent I can break that rule and make it work. And so it started.

I wrote that year a short story that did just that. I sold it immediately to Anticipatia Magazine (major SF magazine at the time).  It has been awarded and reprinted four times.

After its success, I wrote my first novel, Recipearium, breaking the same rule. I sold it several years later; critics and reviewers wrote about it in numerous genre and literary magazines, and it brought me three awards.

The story in Tesseracts17, “Secret Recipes,” takes place in the same universe as the novel, breaking the same rule. In fact it is a prequel to the novel, introducing the main character and his quest.

CA: The story is quite complex, dealing with betrayal, familial honor, and individual accomplishment. Was there one strong ingredient in this recipe or was it a gradual blending that was a natural evolution?

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

I thought that no matter how “alien” the world and the characters, there have to be some things that are common to our civilization. That’s what should make the story work in the end—the fact that we can identify some of our values with some of their values and eventually understand and empathize with their struggles.

Family is one of those values. And yes, in their world the notion is quite different from here, but in the end that sense of belonging to a certain group of people and a certain place, to a certain system of values that one is exposed to within that group, the mutual feelings that grow inside the relationships of a family, all these are and have been for most of our history intrinsic to our way of living and shaping the reality around us.

So, it all starts with where my main character comes from. Who is he and why does he make the choices he makes?

CA: Do you think that if we ever met an alien species, even as diverse as the ones in David Brin’s Uplift universe, that we would be able to emotionally relate to them?

 To be honest, no. At least not in the beginning. And when I say in the beginning, I don’t mean the first year or so, I mean probably the first century or so.

Although when one says “emotionally” we think of this non-rational, spontaneous instinctive reaction, it is not completely so. That “instinctive” reaction is given to us by our system of beliefs, by the way we are educated to react to different stimulus.

“Alienness” is one of the toughest tests we always had in order to pass as civilized people. There are still humans who cannot emotionally relate to other humans of a different religion or ethnicity, which in a way goes back to a certain definition of alienness.

So imagine relating to beings anatomically different from us. Who have completely “alien” and questionable physiological needs. And that means only scratching the surface. Because then we’d have to cope with their spiritual and intellectual needs. And as we struggle to accomplish that, we’d encounter their philosophical and legal system. Their moral code and cultural code.

So, I think the answer is no. We’d need centuries of contact before some of us could really emotionally relate to them.

CA: What would you consider  as being your most difficult story to write in terms of worldbuilding and/or alien perspectives and perceptions.

You know when “they” say that one of the biggest problems of Science Fiction stories is that their characters don’t seem to have common human needs? They do not need to eat, use the washroom, make love, drink a coffee or do the laundry?

Noticed that I said make love and not have sex? It sounds nicer somehow. But truth to be told, sex is one essential component of human life and why not presume of any intelligent organic life out there in the universe. And most SF writers have really avoided the subject either by completely ignoring it, or by starting with a kiss and ending with “and after that they made sweet, sweet love.” But that’s a subject for another day.

Well, you could do all that in terms of worldbuilding and it would be fun, especially if there are aliens involved. But now imagine writing an alien love scene and I’m not talking about one of those poetic scenes that have nothing to do with sex. Like oh, the aliens were these giant butterflies and they loved each other flying majestically through a night sky full of spectacular moons.

No, love making that involves real sex organs and secretions and orgasm and the eventual transfer of fluids. All in the name of love… and procreation, hopefully.

It is hard enough to write a human love scene that avoids all that detail and gives the sense of emotional connection as well as physical pleasure. Then, what do you do when your aliens are not humanoids and not even cute little animals or plants, or birds for that matter. When they are really alien and seriously constructed creatures.

An alien love scene could be really difficult to write from any perspective or perception, without alienating your readers. So I could say…Recipearium, my alien only novel.

CA: What other stories are you cooking up?

New beginnings for me this year.

I’m in the middle of a Science Fiction comedy.

Now, this is also difficult to write as humor is so different depending on so many factors, that sometime one would think this should be the true test of emotionally relating to alienness.

I’ve been also trying my hand at screenwriting. Right now I’m working on a short Sci-Fi drama and a long Sci-Fi thriller.

So all things new to me and therefore so exciting that I feel this year was one of the best I had in a long time.

Costi Gurgu is an art director, illustrator and writer living in Toronto with his wife. He worked as the art director of Playboy Magazine, the French fashion magazine—Madame Figaro, and the women’s life-style magazine—Tabu. Costi was also the art director and illustrator of ProLogos Imprint, where he designed their visual identity and illustrated some of the book covers.

As a writer, Costi has published three books and over fifty short stories in Romania, Poland, Hungary, Denmark, England, United States and Canada. He has won twenty-four awards for his fiction. His latest sales include the Danish anthology Creatures of Glass and Light, the DAW Books anthology Ages of Wonder, the Wildside Press anthology The Third Science Fiction Megapack, The Millennium Books anthology Steampunk—The Second Revolution, and Tesseracts 17.

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Tesseracts 17 Interview: Alyx Harvey

anthology, speculative fiction, SF, fantasy, Canadian authors

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

Need a little something for the holidays, or a stocking stuffer? Tesseracts 17: Speculating Canada from Coast to Coast to Coast is available online and through EDGE Science Fiction & Fantasy.

Today, I interview Alyx Harvey http://alyxandraharvey.com/.

CA: One of the elements that really struck me about “Anywhere” was its Mongolian feel, and yet it wasn’t really just that culture. We don’t see many Mongolian flavoured tales. Did you intentionally choose to emulate aspects of the steppes and the nomadic races of eastern Asia?

 I’ve always been interested in Tibetan and Mongolian culture  and though the world of “Anywhere” is not either of those, it certainly has that flavour. I researched the terrain of the mountains in Tibet to ground the story and then it unfolded from there. Lots of research on yak herding which I never thought I’d do!

 CA: While geography plays an important part in your tale, it is mostly a story about destiny. There are many speculative stories about someone who is special or great due to their destiny (Frodo, Luke Skywalker, Harry Potter), yet Tashi is a blend of both being special but no more so than any other individual. Give us some insight to Tashi’s destiny and what you wanted to explore.

I wanted to drop Tashi into a world she thought she knew about (the catacombs) and have her discover that she doesn’t actually

Canadian authors, Ontario writers, Aly Harvey, Tesseracts 17, fantasy, Asian speculative fiction

Alyx Harvey is also the successful author of numerous YA novels.

know anything about it and what’s more, that means she doesn’t know about where she came from either. Tashi doesn’t fit into her family and she thinks it’s her fault, but really she’s just a piece of another puzzle. And part of her  destiny is figuring what that puzzle is.

CA: Do you think that each of us has a destiny? Do many of us ignore our destinies?

I like to think that we might have a destiny, or at least a path. I do love Joseph Campbell, so I think your “destiny” is just “following your bliss.”

CA: The magics in your world are a detriment. Explain how it is that people with such powers could be corralled.

The Sultana is afraid of people with power, both ordinary power and magical “luck,” and so she works hard to control everyone in her world. She sends riders out to grab lucksingers just as they are coming into their powers…before they understand them and can control them. She waits for their most vulnerable moment. If they can control their magic and she can control them in turn, they are taken out of the catacombs and made to join her court. Some are so desperate to leave the catacombs they will happily swear  fealty to her, even though she put them there in the first place.

CA: I can very much see this world expanding into a novel. Do you have any plans to use this world or Tashi again?

I would love to follow Tashi and explore the other corners of the world in ‘Anywhere’. It’s definitely on my to-do list!

CA: What other themes or stories are you working on?

I am currently working on a post-apocalyptic YA novel… at least I think that’s what it is. It’s rather slippery and hanging out between genres right now.

 Alyxandra Harvey lives in a stone Victorian house in Ontario, Canada with a few resident ghosts who are allowed to stay as long as they keep company manners. She loves medieval dresses, used to be able to recite all of “The Lady of Shalott” by Tennyson, and has been accused, more than once, of being born in the wrong century. She believes this to be mostly true except for the fact that she really likes running water, women’s rights, and ice cream.

Among her favourite books are I by Terri Windling, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, and of course, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Elizabeth Bennet is her hero because she’s smart and sassy, and Mr. Darcy is, well, yum.

Aside from the ghosts, she also lives with husband and their dogs. She likes cinnamon lattes, tattoos and books.

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Tesseracts 17 Interview: Mark Leslie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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