Category Archives: science fiction

Women in Horror: Sara C. Walker

 

WiHMX-horizontal-WhiteToday, for Women in Horror Month, we’re back to Canada with Sara C. Walker who gives a list of some inspiring female authors and Canadian writers who do science fiction horror.

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Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is an early example of SF horror.

When asked to name a woman writer with stories at the intersection of horror and  science fiction, Mary Shelley is first to come to mind. Author of Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, originally published in 1818, Shelley is credited for writing the first science fiction story, though it’s often forgotten the story was intended to be horror. With that story, the sub-genre science fiction horror was born.

Science fiction horror ponders the current state of science and projects all the worst ways things could go wrong. As in Frankenstein, the true monsters of science fiction horror are human. From horrible dystopian societies to nightmare post-apocalyptic landscapes to brutal experimentation in the name of science, the stories are varied but also seek to answer the same question of every horror movie: who will survive?

Two hundred years since Mary Shelley’s creation, the genre crossing is a fertile playground for Canadian women writers, and while there are plenty of short stories that fit the science fiction horror genre, here are several suggestions for novel-length works to keep you up at night. This list is by no means exhaustive but is meant as a beginner’s guide.

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Real life SF horror–cancer ad from the 1800s

When looking for Canadian women who write science fiction horror, the first to come to mind is Margaret Atwood, specifically The Handmaid’s Tale, published in 1985, which has been adapted into a film, an opera, and now an HBO series, airing since 2017. This dystopian story imagines a pretty horrific future for women.

Ten years ago, the Canadian documentary Pretty Bloody: The Women of Horror interviewed actors and producers in the genre, along with Tanya Huff and Nancy Kilpatrick, two of Canada’s top horror writers. Huff’s contemporary vampire series was turned into Blood Ties, a television show that aired in 2007, but Huff also writes military science fiction series with a female protagonist—start with Valor’s Choice (DAW, 2000). Kilpatrick is also known for her vampire series, Thrones of Blood, but she also writes science fiction horror, as in Eternal City (Five Star, 2003).

Well known for her Otherworld series, especially her first novel, Bitten (Vintage Canada, 2009), which became a television show for three seasons in 2014 to 2016, Kelley Armstrong also dabbles in science fiction horror. The Darkness Rising series, beginning with The Gathering (Doubleday Canada, 2012), is a trilogy in which the main character, who lives in a medical-research town, finds strange things happening, beginning with the drowning of the swim team captain. Armstrong is also brilliant at writing psychological thrillers that will scare your pants off. Just try reading the beginning of Omens (Random House, 2013) or Exit Strategy (Seal Books, 2010).

Author Ada Hoffman’s novel The Outside, a science fiction horror, is due to be published June 2019 by Angry Robot. Hailed as “fast-paced, mind-bending Big Idea science fiction, with a touch of Lovecraftian horror”, The Outside features cyborg servants, a heretic scientist, and an autistic protagonist.

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The Handmaid’s Tale, base off of Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel.

I do love Frankenstein, The Handmaid’s Tale, and stories that seek to show us what future might come of our choices, but my true love is for urban fantasy, a genre that’s a sibling to horror as both have roots in urban myths. So, with that in mind, I have one more reading suggestion for urban fantasy that fringes on horror, although this one leans more toward fantasy than science fiction.

These days she lives in Los Angeles and is more known for being the ex-wife of Elon Musk, however, Justine Musk is from Peterborough, Ontario and wrote horror back in 2005 with her first book, BloodAngel. The sequel was released in 2008, Lord of Bones (both published by ROC, in imprint of Penguin Books). We’re still waiting for more books from Musk.

walkerSara C. Walker writes fiction, usually urban fantasy, from short stories to novels. “True Nature” can be found in Alice Unbound: Beyond Wonderland (Exile Editions, ed. Colleen Anderson) and “If Wishes Were Pennies” in Canadian Creatures (Schreyer Ink Publishing, ed. Casia Schreyer). Forthcoming stories include “Stag and Storm” in Canadian Dreadful (Dark Dragon Press, ed. David Tocher) and “Call of the Ash” in Not Just A Pretty Face (Dead Light Publishing). She’s edited two anthologies of stories set in the Kawartha Lakes. When not writing, she works at a library and is always ready to give reading suggestions. You can find out more at www.sarawalker.ca.

 

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Women in Horror: Colleen Anderson

WiHMX-horizontal-WhiteIt’s the ides of February. Well technically, that would be true possibly every four years, but it is halfway through the month and there are still many other women in horror to showcase. I would be remiss if I left myself out of the Women in Horror Month. So I too will talk about how I stumbled upon horror.

story collection, fantasy, horror, SF

Available on Amazon

Like many of the people who have already posted, The Haunting of Hill House and The Lottery were stories that stayed with me but I really don’t think I read them when I was a child. (And I have to mention the very good TV series of The Haunting of Hill House.) Most likely I watched these as a teenager. My first brush with horror was earlier with movies though. Not so much Dracula for me, though I do remember Frankenstein. When I was about six or seven my parents fought so badly that my mother would bundle us in jammies into the car and off to the drive-in we would go. The House of Seven Gables and The Fall of the House of Usher with Vincent Price, another king of horror, are forever conflated into one movie for me. I was that young and my mother certainly didn’t seemed worried about our young minds being warped.

Those two movies where Vincent’s character pickaxes his sister and buries her in the walls (or under the floors) stuck with me, along with the first nightmare I remember at age six. After that, the endless recycling of The Twilight Zone and the Outer Limits coupled with reading Edgar Allan Poe and Ray Bradbury made me who I am today.

horror, dark fantasy, death, speculative fiction, Season's End.

The Beauty of Death contains “Season’s End”

While I always liked the weird I was not a fan of horror. I detested most horror and gore movies. Slasher and murderer thrillers were not and still aren’t really my cup of tea. But the strange is and always has been, and that may be reflected more in the shows I watched and books I read.

When it came to writing, I was writing fantasy and SF. I wasn’t writing horror. I was a member of SFWA for a long time before I even knew of the Horror Writers Association (HWA). But I found stories I sent to magazines of SF or fantasy would be rejected with a note that they didn’t do horror. I was confused; maybe I still am, but my stories didn’t seem scary to me. Of course, they came from my mind so I knew where they were going.

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Colleen’s launch for A Body of Work takes place Feb. 23 at The Heatley.

Somewhere along the way I started to submit to some of the darker markets and like the sun setting on the longest day, I finally figured out that I sold more stories if I went darker. I have written a few truly terrifying depictions of horror in the gore sense, such as my flash piece “Amuse Bouche,” but while it was an exercise for me, it wasn’t where my heart lay. A writer friend once asked, “What theme are you exploring? We all explore a theme.” Hers were animals. Another writer’s was children…

 

I never thought I explored one theme until I put together my first collection of fiction Embers Amongst the Fallen. At that point, it became clear that I do morality tales. Not all of them but there is often a disturbing moral dilemma that a character must face (“The Healer’s Touch,” “An Ember Amongst the Fallen,” “Season’s End,” “Hold Back the Night”). In that sense, as opposed to the “other” outside of you invading your sanctity of life or home, it is the “other” inside. What deals with the devil will a character make to save something dear? I find that extremely interesting and personal, something to which we can all relate.

SF, fantasy, horror, jabberwock, mad hatter, bandersnatch, Alice, March hare, dormouse, mock turtle

Alice Unbound contains 22 speculative stories and poems inspired by the world and character of Lewis Carroll.

As with many of the writers here, we have a fascination with vampires, or werewolves, or creepy crawlies, or disturbing dolls, or clowns, or the dark, or subterranean depths or things hidden in fog or water or space. Just a readers do. It is as old as humankind–that fear and need to conquer it, and an intense curiosity about the unknown and the strange.

I have written several stories that also explore the psychopath/sociopath (modern studies don’t really distinguish between the two) intellect. The mind encased in a human body where that the person doesn’t think like a regular human. It is alien. I’ve look at aspects of this mind in such stories as “Exegesis of the Insecta Apocrypha,” “Sins of the Father,” “The Book With No End,” and “Gingerbread People.” The first was one story that very much disturbed me in the writing, and the last was an examination of the nature of evil based off of the two Canadian serial killers Paul Bernardo and Carla Homolka, where she was given a lighter sentence because she said he made her do the terrible crimes. Can you be made to commit horrors that go against your fundamental core, and who is more evil–the person committing the crime or the one making that person do it?

And this gets down to what is the scariest thing: to many it is man/woman as monster, the feral side, the side the loses control; like Dracula, like werewolves, like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. You could say my fascination with the weird is my fascination with people and that no matter how normal all of us look there is something that makes us individual, and sometimes it is disturbing. Thankfully though, most of us are just  harmless eccentrics.

hoodieColleen Anderson is a Canadian author with over two hundreds works published including fiction and poetry. She has two fiction collections, Embers Amongst the Fallen, and A Body of Work which was published by Black Shuck Books, UK in 2018. She has been longlisted for a Stoker Award and shortlisted for the Aurora and Gaylactic Spectrum Awards, as well as having placed in several poetry contests. A recipient of a Canada Council Grant, Colleen has served on Stoker and British Fantasy Award juries, copyedited for publishers, and edited three anthologies (Alice Unbound: Beyond Wonderland, Exile Publishing 2018).

Look for some of her work in Canadian Dreadful, Tesseracts 22, Heroic Fantasy Quarterly, The Pulp Horror Book of Phobias and By the Light of Camelot. A book launch for A Body of Work will take place in Vancouver of Feb. 23, at 3pm at The Heatley. Come by and say hi and hear Colleen read. Read a review of the collection here.

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Eye to the Telescope Submission Call

anthology, writing, submissions

Creative commons: photosteve101, flickr

Lisa Trimpf, editor of the Eye to the Telescope submission call on sports and games gives some insight into what she’s looking fr.

Wanted: “Sports and Games”-Themed Speculative Poetry

Star Trek’s three-dimensional chess. Quidditch, in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter novels. The race to solve a gaming challenge in Ready Player One. Those are only a few examples of sports and games popping up in speculative literature, movies, and television—sometimes in a feature role, and sometimes as a side interest.

When the call went out for volunteer editor for Eye to the Telescope, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association’s quarterly online magazine, I put up my hand. Tasked with suggesting a topic, I thought, why not sports and games? Having played a variety of sports throughout my lifetime, it’s an area of long-standing interest for me. Plus, the field is wide open for more speculation, more thought, more invention.

From where we’re standing in early 2019, it’s hard to predict with any certainty what the

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Lisa Trimpf writes and plays sports.

future of sports and games might look like. We might guess wrong, and we might guess right. The reality might surprise us, because it’s something we didn’t foresee at all. I can attest to that from my experiences as a female athlete.

When I was growing up, there were no girls’ hockey teams in my home town, and as for playing on a boys’ team—at the time, it just wasn’t done. So my friends and I played pick-up ball hockey instead, or rented the local arena occasionally for a game of shinny. We wore the jerseys of our favorite NHL hockey stars, because those were our only role models.

balero(1)In the space of just under 40 years, so much has changed. Girls’ house league and rep teams abound in many areas of Canada. Women’s hockey is now in the Olympic Games—something that I would have found difficult to imagine in the late 1970s.

There have been, and continue to be, female role models young players can aspire to emulate, people like Hayley Wickenheiser, Marie-Philip Poulin, Cassie Campbell—and the list goes on. Women are now sports announcers and commentators. A handful of female hockey players have even been inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, something I can assure you my friends and I never saw coming back when we were shooting a tennis ball at a goal my friend’s father cobbled together from two-by-fours and plastic netting.

There are other trends, too, that many of us wouldn’t have imagined a few decades ago. marblesFan participation in certain aspects of sport has broadened—all-star voting, for example, or fantasy leagues, in which fans get to pick their “dream team” and see how they perform. The Olympic Games now include events like aerial skiing or half-pipe snowboarding, sports that weren’t even a thing back when the modern Olympics were re-vitalized in 1896. And, of course, there are increasingly sophisticated sports-themed video games, a notion that seemed light years distant back in the 1970s when we thought Atari’s Pong was a big deal.

So, here we sit in 2019, almost 2020. What will sports and games look like four decades from now (or later) here on Earth? What new twists might we see on existing traditions? Will we eventually see gender parity in sports? Will parents of the future opt for genetic tweaking to produce the ultimate athlete? What sports and games will colonists bring with them to Mars, or the moon, or asteroid mining operations, or even further afield? What pastimes might aliens enjoy? Those are examples of ideas that might be explored or entertained in a speculative sports poem.

But the great thing about speculative poetry is that thinking about the future is only one avenue you might pursue. Speculative poetry opens so many other doors: magic and magical creatures, alternate histories, parallel universes, and so on.

Just one caveat: every editor has their own biases, and while I’m looking for good poems, I’m also looking for poems in which the link to the theme of sports and games is direct rather than oblique.

Some people like to participate in “theme-related” submission calls, while some do not. While everyone is entitled to their preference, I can say from my personal experience that themed submission calls such as the ones provided in Eye to the Telescope have spurred me to create works I might not have created otherwise.

In some cases, I’ve had success with submissions. In other cases, I’ve had submissions declined by the publication they were initially inspired by, but have later placed them elsewhere, making it worth the effort. Over the course of time I’ve learned not to look an inspirational gift horse in the mouth.

I’d encourage anyone with the inclination to do so to send in a poem or three Eye to the Telescope: Issue 32, Sports and Games. The complete guidelines can be found at the Eye to the Telescope web site.

So, why not give it a shot? Deadline is March 15, 2019, and all submitters should expect to receive an acceptance or decline by April 1, 2019.

Simcoe, Ontario resident Lisa Timpf first started writing speculative fiction and poetry in 2014 after retiring from a 26-year career in human resources and communications. She has had more than 30 speculative short stories and 70-plus speculative poems published. Timpf’s work has appeared in several magazines and anthologies, including Star*Line, New Myths, Neo-Opsis, Enter the Rebirth, and Tesseracts Twenty-One (Nevertheless). You can find out more about Timpf’s writing projects at http://lisatimpf.blogspot.com/.

 

 

 

 

 

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Guest Writer: Lorina Stephens

writer, Lydia Langstaff, young writers, heart defects

Today, I asked Lorina Stephens, writer, editor, and publisher of Fiver Rivers Publishing to talk about the writing business. Before your read her article, note that Feb. 1 begins Women in Horror Month and I’ll be featuring different women who write horror. Take it away, Lorina.

The Hat Tree I Tango With

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Copyright Lorina Stephens

In 1980 I took a fall. A rather spectacular fall which is far too embarrassing to discuss in polite company. That fall had me laid up, with two small children careening through my days, and a gentle man of a husband slogging it out trying to keep us all afloat. I thought I would go insane during those months with nothing to do but recover and play with my bairns—that’s bairns, not brains. While I loved them—the bairns, not the brains—greatly, there’s only so far you can take Sesame Street and the quality of Pampers in conversation. I found myself creating doggerel out of Shakespeare: the quality of Pampers is not strained…. Trust me, you don’t want to know the rest.

So, I thought I would write a novel, which turned into three, which was in reality a trilogy with a great concept and all the wrong words. But that first foray into the rigors of being a full-time writer taught me a great deal about discipline not just of working hours, but of the economy and efficacy of words. So, I wrote another novel. And then another.

We moved to the country. Great! While parents, in-laws and friends fretted I was too isolated, spent too much time alone, I kept bashing away at the keyboard while the children were at school. I discovered one of the local newspapers was receptive to a column, which morphed into a half page feature called Lorina’s People. In between writing about worlds in my head, and characters who whispered over my shoulder while ferrying the kids thither and yon, I interviewed the diverse and rich society of artists and entrepreneurs in my region, and wrote about them. I wrote about them so much I found myself a celebrity in a small, regional pond.

That gig led to another with a regional lifestyle magazine, a gig I talked my way into stephens caliban_coverwhen I lied to the editor and said sure I had images of hummingbirds. How hard could it be to capture the little buggers on film, I figured. Several rolls of blank film later, and then a new 35mm SLR Canon with a zoom lens, I had the article, and the images. The economy of that enterprise put me at almost break even on the gig.

Undaunted, I took that camera, my tape recorder, and my wit and carved myself a wee niche as a journalist, all the while bashing out fiction, mostly novels. I even ended up as the assistant editor for the lifestyle magazine, and just before they were bought out, and subsequently folded, I was asked if I would consider taking over as editor. The answer to that was no, simply because I was not prepared to assist in the crucifixion of the man who had given me a remarkable break.

Somewhere in between all that I wrote a book with my husband, Gary—who had taken over as photographer, thank the gods—on the Niagara Escarpment, which was published by Boston Mills Press. That took up two years of our lives. I wrote and researched, and wrote some more, then researched some more, digging through dusty archives and white-glove-only stacks. We traveled the length of the escarpment several times, often hauling our two unwilling urchins with us, thinking it would be a great experience for them. I sorted through 3600 35mm transparencies, and around 150 4x5s, all Gary’s work. It was a memorable two years, and some of those moments I will carry with me as nuggets of wonder until the day I die. And it’s important to understand that while I was cutting my teeth on the importance of accurate research, I wrote that book for Gary, so there would be a showcase for the remarkable photographs he captured.

stephens ssI spent the next nine years perfecting a historical fantasy, Shadow Song, and tried to find a publisher for it. Had several near misses. It was cultural appropriation. It was genre-crossing. It was a square peg looking for a home in a world of round holes. Two agents tried to market the novel. And still no joy.

Then the publishing industry started a remarkable evolution, and print on demand with distribution became a viable entity.

Never one to back away from taking a risk, or flying in the face of common practice, I launched myself and that novel into self-publishing, defying anyone to tell me the work and the printed product weren’t up to standard. While some lauded my venture and work, others sniffed. But never mind. I’d achieved something remarkable. And fearlessly, I carried on.

But life is a fascinating journey, and while you’re busy making other plans, things happen. Or rather, you allow things to happen.

A colleague had a dictionary of historical colour names and definitions she wanted to publish, called Elephant’s Breath and London Smoke: Historical Colour Names, Definitions, and Uses in Fashion, Fabric and Art, and would I consider, so I did, and voila, I edited and created a book. It sold very well. And then another colleague came along and said I should print his book on how to write a book in 60 days. So I did. And it sold really well. And so and so and so.

Like most everything in my life, the journey from writer to publisher just sort of happened. One day I fell off a desk and was injured. The next I was hammering out stories. And the next I was publishing other people’s work, watching that work go on to be shortlisted for awards, tucking a catalogue of nearly 70 books under my wing after a decade, along with some 30 or so writers whose work I’ve given voice.

And somewhere along the way my own voice sort of faded. There wasn’t time to write. There wasn’t time or resources to promote my own work when I was deeply committed to giving voice to, and promoting the work of the writers I’d pledged to publish. How could I appropriate a portion of the budget for my work when there was this very profound obligation I’d undertaken?

So it took me some five years to write, polish and publish From Mountains of Ice, a stephens cookscultural fantasy, about two to dust off and polish my speculative fiction, Caliban, and then another five to complete a modern novel of magic realism called The Rose Guardian. That novel releases September 1, 2019. It’s probably the best thing I’ve ever written, and also the hardest. And after this I probably will seldom speak of it and instead turn people to the next novel by Michael Skeet, or the two posthumously published novels by Dave Duncan, or any of the audiobooks being released next year. Or even Tesseracts 22: Alchemy and Artifacts, which I’ve edited with Susan MacGregor, and also releases next year.

That doesn’t mean I don’t still believe in my own work. It just means I have an overriding commitment to others.

Has being a publisher honed my own skills as a writer? Without question. Ask anyone who has been on the receiving end of one of my edits, and they will tell you I am a bear about the nuances of the English language, of historical accuracy and material culture, of the necessity of good grammar and spelling. And in all of that I find myself craving a well-crafted plot, with a tight story arc. In seeking these requirements in the work I read, and in the work I edit and publish, I find myself continually questioning every word, every phrase, every aspect of the way my own story unfolds. Whose voice is this? What is their raison d’être? How do they interact with their environment, with the people and creatures around them? To borrow a phrase from Den Valdron: how do they live? And moreover, what are their justifications?

Would I change this journey if I had it to do again? Not sure. Don’t think so. Because every occurrence had a lesson, taught me something, either directly about writing, or about life which is sort of the same thing because all of life is reflected in art.

What’s next? More of the same. It works. Or rather I make it work.

Lorina Stephens has worked as editor, freelance journalist for national and regional print media, is author of eight books both fiction and non-fiction, been a festival organizer, publicist, lectures on many topics from historical textiles and domestic technologies, to publishing and writing, teaches, and continues to work as a writer, artist, and publisher at Five Rivers Publishing.

She has had several short fiction pieces published in Canada’s acclaimed magazine Postscripts to Darkness, Neo-Opsis, Deluge, Strangers Among Us, and Marion Zimmer Bradley’s fantasy anthology Sword & Sorceress X.

Her book credits include:

  • The Rose Guardian, Five Rivers Publishing, 2019
  • Caliban, Five Rivers Publishing, 2018
  • Stonehouse Cooks, Five Rivers Publishing, 2011
  • From Mountains of Ice, Five Rivers Publishing, 2009
  • And the Angels Sang, Five Rivers Publishing, 2008
  • Shadow Song, Five Rivers Publishing, 2008
  • Recipes of a Dumb Housewife, Lulu Publishing 2007
  • Credit River Valley, Boston Mills Press 1994
  • Touring the Giant’s Rib: A Guide to the Niagara Escarpment; Boston Mills Press 1993

Lorina Stephens is presently working on a new novel, Hekja’s Lament. She lives with her husband of four decades in a historic stone house in Neustadt, Ontario. You can find her at lorinastephens.com, Facebook, and Twitter @LorinaStephens.

 

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Writing Guest Post: DD Barant

Happy New Year to everyone the world around. I realize that in other cultural calendars the year begins at different times and that in some ways a new year is an arbitrary thing. If I look at all the things that happened in 2018 it definitely began with a bang last January (a car accident) and ended with settling into a new place.

Because of a very tumultuous year ,many things were sidelined including my writing and my blog. In an effort to have posts appear more regularly I have asked some writers to do a guest post. The first one is by DD Barant. Take it away, Don.

Thanks, Colleen, for letting me guest. Your earlier post about life sucking you into a vortex got me thinking−you see, I know a little about the Life-Sucking Vortex and how much its suckage can suck. I also know something about Alice−which is the subject of the short-story collection Alice Unbound: Beyond Wonderland, edited by you−and now I’m going to stop addressing Colleen directly because it sounds like I’m mansplaining.

When I first heard about this collection, I was in the midst of my own Alice-related project. I wanted to submit something, but didn’t. Partly because my project is a webcomic, not prose−but mostly because of the Life-Sucking Vortex.

When you get to a certain age, you’re abruptly at risk for the Big Trifecta: parents dying, divorce, and health problems. Guess who nailed all three? (Hint: it me.)

And suddenly, like Alice, I was falling.

The main difference between the Rabbit Hole and the Vortex is that the Vortex tends to be rather aggressive. It grabs you and sucks you down, and while you’re in there you tend to smash rather a lot into other things. What those things are doesn’t really matter; the point is, you usually wind up breaking them or they break you.

But eventually−like Alice−you find yourself somewhere else. Confused, shaken up, hopelessly lost. And you can either sit and drown in your own tears, or get up, fortify yourself with whatever’s at hand, and go have adventures.

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Barant created strange creatures from second-hand toys as he escaped the vortex. Copyright DD Barant

Like Alice, I did both. Like Alice, the experience was transformative: I made myself into an artist. I’ve been a prose writer my whole life, but I love comics and have always wanted to make them. I can’t draw worth a damn, so I taught myself how to manipulate digital images instead. I downloaded hundreds of public domain images from online museums and art galleries, scoured the internet for Creative Commons photos, took stills from old black-and-white films, made bizarre creations out of second-hand toys and stuffed animals and took pictures of them.

Alice had no control over which unusual creatures she encountered, but I did.

My Alice goes by the name Liss. She comes from an alternate fictional world known as an

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Liss searches for other Alternities. Copyright DD Barant

Alternity, one where Alice Liddell refused to believe that her childhood adventures were a dream, and devoted her time to the study of the occult. She grew up to be a powerful eyemage under the tutelage of Londinium’s most powerful magician, until she was forced to flee her own reality. These days, she works as an interdimensional thief, pilfering alternities for private collectors who’ll pay through the nose for a genuine artifict−a prized item from a fictional universe.

She does most of her business in a multiversal bar known as The Crossover, neutral ground for all manner of smugglers, thieves, and assassins. She uses a flamingo as a weapon.

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Help from strange beings in the Alternity. Copyright DD Barant

Everybody has their own Vortex, sooner later.  It sucks you in and whirls you around, you smash into things and things smash into you.  We all live in worlds of both chaos and order, and this is the chaotic bit.  But as dire and deadly as chaos can be, don’t forget that it’s also what makes freedom possible.  That can be hard to see in the middle of all that whirling debris . . . but it’s there.  When I look at my webcomic, at the mishmash of styles and images and ideas and characters, I see that chaos; but I also see how I’ve used it, nudged it here and there, made this piece bounce off that piece to wind up in a new orbit, got it to twist and swoop and lunge in a particular way.

You can’t control the Vortex.  But you can teach it to dance.

THE CROSSOVER is now up at : http://thecrossover.thecomicseries.com/. You can find more information about it at my blog, on Facebook at The Officialicious DD Barant page.

DD Barant is best known for the Bloodhound Files series: Dying Bites, Death Blows, Killing Rocks, Better Off Undead, Back from the Undead and Undead to the World. He also writes science fiction under the pseudonym Don DeBrandt: The Quicksilver Screen, Steeldriver, Timberjak, and V.I., as well as numerous pop-culture essays for Smartpop Books, and the Buffyverse media tie-in Shakedown (an ANGEL novel).

As Donn Cortez, he’s written five CSI: Miami novels, two CSI: Vegas novels, a murder mystery set at Burning Man (The Man Burns Tonight) and a thriller (The Closer) which became a bestseller in Germany. (The sequel, Remote, is available as an e-book in English).

As Dixie Lyle, she writes the paranormal animal cozy series The Whiskey, Tango and Foxtrot Mysteries: A Taste Fur Murder, To Die Fur, A Deadly Tail, and Marked Fur Murder.

Books: Steeldriver: https://www.amazon.ca/Steeldriver
Timberjak: https://www.amazon.com/Timberjak
V.I.: https://www.amazon.com/V-I-Intelligence
Bloodhound Files: https://www.amazon.com/Dying-Bites-Bloodhound-Files
WTF Mysteries: https://www.amazon.com/Taste-Fur-Murder-Whiskey-Foxtrot/
Remote: https://www.amazon.com/Remote-Suspense

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Release of Alice Unbound: Beyond Wonderland

SF, fantasy, horror, jabberwock, mad hatter, bandersnatch, Alice, March hare, dormouse, mock turtle

Alice Unbound contains 22 speculative stories and poems inspired by the world and character of Lewis Carroll.

I can finally announce the table of contents for Alice Unbound: Beyond Wonderland. The anthology will be published by Exile Editions and is due out May 1 though the publisher is trying to move up the date so that we can launch in Toronto, and in Ottawa when I’m there in March.

The table of contents:
• The Slithy Toves by Bruce Meyer
• We Are All Mad Here by Lisa Smedman
• Operation: Looking Glass by Patrick Bollivar
• Mathilda by Nicole Iversen
• A Night at the Rabbit Hole by Cait Gordon
• Reflections of Alice by Christine Daigle
• Twin by Danica Lorer
• True Nature by Sara C. Walker
• Full House by Geoff Gander and Fiona Plunkett
• The Smoke by Costi Gurgu
• The River Street Witch by Dominik Parisien
• The Rise of the Crimson Queen by Linda Demeulemeester
• Her Royal Counsel by Andrew Robertson
• Dressed in White Paper by Kate Heartfield
• The King in Red by J.T. Kennedy
• No Reality But What We Make by Elizabeth Hosang
• Firewabby by Mark Charke
• Soup of the Evening by Robert Dawson
• Cyphoid Mary by Pat Flewwelling
• Yellow Boy by James Wood
• Jaune by Catherine MacLeod
• Wonderband by Alexandra Renwick

The authors came from five provinces (AB, BC, SK, ON and NS) with nine authors being male and fourteen female (one story is co-written). I went for the best story first. While the writers may or may not list this I know that there are several LGQBLT and those with disabilities.

There are jabberwocks, toves, March hares, white rabbits, mock turtles, red queens, cards, chess pieces, potions, walrus and carpenter, lobsters and snails, wasps, cats of various types, Alice, eaglets and gryphons, caterpillars, mad hatters, and looking glasses and far far more. The thread of madness works its way through all of these tales. Some of the tales are lighter and humorous, while others open a vein of darkness.

I had around 145 submissions last year, and in the end had to reject many good stories. It was tough and if I had my druthers, I would have done a second anthology. The world in this anthology, from steampunk adventures to spacefaring renegades, is diverse and quite mad. Look for it in the next couple of months. It will be available through Amazon and certain stores.

I’m also looking for review sites and should you know of one, please contact me. Now doff your hat, pour some tea and get ready to dive down the rabbit hole.

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Poet Interview: John Reinhart

SFPA, poetry, SF, fantasy, humor, writers

Poet John Reinhart lives in Denver, Colorado and has several collections out.

In an attempt to write more frequently in my blog, I’ve decided to do some interviews with poets who write speculative verse. That’s fantasy, SF, horror and the subgenres. My first interviewee is with John Reinhart, who recently edited an issue of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association’s (SFPA) Eye to the Telescope #25, the “garbage” issue. Following, italics are me, with John’s responses.

Let’s start with you telling me when you first found a love for poetry and what were you reading?

My first pen was dipped in the pain of puberty, followed closely by a 50-pound IBM Selectric that wrote in smoke. Writing in flailing and fits, I continued to drivel through high school, even submitting for publication. Then, mercifully, I put my words to other use. My next foray into verse came 15 years later, coinciding with the birth of my daughter. I quickly realized that the development of the internet and online submissions had changed the face of publishing since my typewriter days. My earliest favorite poet was Robert Service, which says little about my subsequent writing except my love of quirky humor. 

poetry, humor, writing

John Reinhart’s collection screaming, available at Amazon.

So you’re saying you dipped your pen into the pain of puberty? That does sound painful. Did Robert Service inspire you to write or were you already writing and he inspired you to greater heights? On that point, which authors in your formative years caused you stretch your poetic wings? And what was your first published poem?

Actually, I was inspired to do my earliest writing (short stories) after reading Jay Williams’s “Danny Dunn” books. My sci-fi interest continued to develop with Robert Heinlein, Andre Norton, Ursula K. LeGuin, Arthur C. Clarke. Mostly I wrote rhymed garbage those early years, including a poem about pipe smokers that was published in the Pipe Smokers Ephemeris. Twenty years later, I learned of the SFPA (then, the Science Fiction Poetry Association).

reinhart 2As I re-entered the poetry writing and submitting scene, I read Campbell McGrath, Paul Goodman, D.H. Lawrence, Kenneth Rexroth, Russell Edson, and eventually anything else I could get my hands on at the library in an attempt to expand my poetic experience and teach myself about modern poetry. After I was awarded the 2016 Dark Poetry Scholarship from the Horror Writers Association, I actually took a poetry course, but the last poetry course I had previous to that was in high school. To date, I have published a collection about people around me, an experimental collection, a prose poetry collection, and two speculative collections. I like to think that I absorb everything I read and earthworm it into new substance to fuel new views of our technicolor world.

We grew up on the same authors. Congratulations on receiving the scholarship. You’ve reinhart 3named a lot of published collections. Have you published individual poems in magazines or anthologies where people can search them out? Oh, and where do you hail from?

I have spent most of my life in Denver, Colorado. I did achieve escape velocity once, but drifted back into orbit and found the Rocky Mountain gravitational pull too strong. I’m rebooting the engines as we speak.

My work has been featured in recent issues of Crannog, Pedestal Magazine, Liquid Imagination, Holy Shit, Grievous Angel, Quatrain.Fish, and many issues of Star*Line and Scifaikuest. I was particularly touched to land a couple poems in A Poet’s Siddur, alongside a poem by Leonard Cohen.

What would you say is the most important thing about poetry as compared to fiction?

The most important thing about poetry, as compared to fiction, is that I can compose a poem in less time and space than I can compose a short story. Black holes condense matter into meaninglessness, sucking in enough light to exhale in humorous high tones like people do at birthday parties with helium balloons. What we wheeze out of the ordinary vegetable universe ought to be blood out of turnips: poetry.

Would you say you have a particular style of poetry that you write, or topics that you explore?

I hope for my poetry to open new perceptions into our technicolor vegetable universe. Frequently, I utilize sci-fi/fantasy/horror as a means to highlight social issues, of which I think that observing and knowing our world is primary.

In terms of style, I often lean on humor in my observations and reflections on the daily mundane elevated to poetry. Though I have a fine selection of scifaiku in print, I tend to write free verse, with a special love for villanelles.

reinhart 4

Reinhart has written SF, fantasy and horror poetry.

What would be the one piece of wisdom you would pass on to any aspiring poet? And last, is there anything else about poetry that you’d like to say that I haven’t asked, or upcoming works you’d like to chirp about?

For aspiring poets – write, read, write more, read more. Submitting—and submitting frequently—is a good way to engage in the contemporary poetry scene, which should encourage you to read what appears in journals and online as well as the books you find at the local library. Find authors you love and read everything they have. Find authors you dislike or don’t understand, and read everything they have. Honestly, I love to write poetry. I like what it does to me, how it shapes my perceptions and changes my interactions with the world. That part is awesome. But it’s balanced with my thorough appreciation of walking this weird path with so many other talented and gracious artists. I leap at chances to meet up with other poets, regularly exchange emails with poets across the world, and revel in the beautiful work that shows up everywhere, if you dig below the surface.

reinhart 5
John likes to use humor as a lens through which he writes some of his poems.

I have two collections coming out shortly: dig it (Lion Tamer Press), and arson (NightBallet Press). dig it fulfills a goal at Patreon, where my patrons helped me reach a funding goal at which point I promised to self-publish a full-length collection. To date, this is my longest collection. As with my previous collection, screaming, this one veers away from much of my earlier form, though eccentricities and humor still make regular appearances. arson is a chapbook-length take on my multifaceted understanding of arson. It starts with a poem/syllabus on Arson 101.

Thanks, John. Check out John’s works through the links above and through Amazon. If you are a published speculative poet, feel free to contact me for an interview.

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My Year in Recap: Writing and More

2017 was an amazingly busy year. I flew three times and read for three different things, so in fact there was less writing on my part, though a number of sales.

DSC01982

Dennis Anderson, honorary doctor of law from the University of Edmonton

I first flew to Edmonton where my brother, Dennis Anderson, was honored with an honorary doctorate for his work and advocacy in mental health. This was a big deal as much of the work he does, he does for free, serving on boards, chairing committees, and being the person who created the Chimo Project (named after a dog he once had), which advocates  for pet-assisted therapy for people with mental health issues. My brother actually never finished high school, and while he did attend Rochdale College, I have a feeling that was more an adventure through the 60s & 70s than a book-based education. His stories rival those of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and one day I hope he writes these memoirs. Still, he has done a lot of work for mental health and I was proud to see him recognized for his work.

Lynmouth, UK, seaside towns, Devonshire, high tide

Lynmouth, UK, one of the highest tides in England.

I then did a trip to Lynton, UK in July for my friend’s daughter’s wedding. The weather was a bit rainy while we were in Brighton and Lynton but did get nicer. You can see the south coast of Wales from Lynmouth, a steep, hilly seaside town, deep in bucolic Devonshire where clotted cream and numerous ciders are the specialty. I may devote one blog to this trip alone. I t was a lovely, but fast-moving week. I think I’ll have to go back one day to explore more of Devonshire and the ciders, where one pub alone had more than 80 types.

funicular, Lynton, Devonshire coast

Lynmouth’s water-powered funicular. You can also walk on a long switchback path

In between all of this, I was reading for Alice Unbound: Beyond Wonderland, an anthology based on the characters and magic of Lewis Carroll. The anthology is due to be released in April and I hope to have a cover and list to show soon. I was also on the collections jury for the British Fantasy Awards, where Adam Neville won with Some Will Not Sleep. I was also on a jury for the Stoker Awards.

Klatovy, apothecary, Czech Republic, historic, medicine

The Baroque apothecary of Klatovy, in use from the 1600s up until about 1950.

My last big trip was to the Czech Republic in late September, where I stayed in Prague for a week. Fellow writer and friend Nancy Kilpatrick joined me for the second week, where we rented a car and drove around to various towns viewing ossuaries, bone chapels, mummies and some cathedrals. There was also one very amazing Baroque apothecary, complete with a unicorn’s horn (Narwhal tusk), and was called the White Unicorn. This trip will definitely be a separate blog post or two but I’m so very behind on blogging about my trips.

ossuary, bone chapel, Brno, Czech Republic, bones
Brno’s crypt of skulls. Many of the cemeteries were filled to overflowing by the Hussite wars as well as other wars and illnesses.

While on my trip I found out I had received a Canada Council Grant. These grants are given out for all of the arts but you must apply for them. It takes a fair amount of work and I’ve never been successful until now. I was ecstatic. I’m not a writer who’s satisfied where I’m at but always trying to improve my writing. Until I can sell every story and poem I write it means there is room for improvement. I request to receive a grant for being mentored in writing. I would love to do a masters program in writing but I cannot afford the outlay in costs. Maybe some day. In the meantime, the Canada Council has given me the opportunity to move my writing to the next stage.

I first had a short SF story “Changes” come out in Deep Waters #2, from Golden Fleece Press. Then “Love in the Vapors” came out in Futuristica Vol. 2 through Metasagas Press, and it’s one of my few happy ending stories. “Sins of the Father,” a tale of fungal horror, came out in OnSpec #105. You can order the magazine, if there are any left, through their website, but here is a review of my story on Speculating Canada.

I also had numerous poems published, and links are provided as most are  online and free to read. “This Song” came out in DeadLights Magazine, “Voodoo Doll” in Grievous Angel, and “Bone People” and “Evidence” in Transition Magazine, put out by the Saskatchewan branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association. “Spirit Bottle” and “Geomystica” came out in Eternal Haunted Summer, and “Blood Thirst” and “Last Evening” came out in Polar Borealis #4.

SF, science fiction, writing, short fiction, speculative fiction

OnSpec is a multiple award-winning Canadian magazine

poetry, SF, fantasy, horror,dark

HWA Poetry Showcase available at Amazon

I was pleased to finally end up in Eye to the Telescope #25, to which I had rarely submitted. “Tooth Fairy’s Pouch” was included in the “garbage” issue.  “Wings” ended up in the HWA Poetry Showcase Vol. IV (Horror Writers Association), and “Rapunzel and Medusa” was published in Polu Texni where quite a few of my poems have shown up. The Future Fire #42 published “Witch Moon” and The Quilliad in Ontario published “you cannot close as cat’s eyes,” though I’ve yet to see a copy and I hope they come out of hiding to send me mine. My poem “Ode to Andrew Brechin” placed third in the Angela poetry contest put on by Wax Poetry and it should be published this year. This poem had a special place in my heart as it was indeed an ode to a friend who died suddenly several years ago.

There were other sales but as those pieces haven’t come out yet, I’m saving them for another post. As an attempt to be more active with my blog, I’ll be doing poetry interviews over the next few months. I hope to post the first next week. And if you happen to be a member of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Association, these poems are eligible for the Rhyslings and for the Aurora Awards as well.

 

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Alice Unbound Guidelines Update

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

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

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

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

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

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

Remember these rules of writing:

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

Sir John Tenniel illustration.

What is Alice Unbound about?

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

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

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

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

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

These are story examples only but not requirements:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deadline: Extended to July 15, 2017

Publication Date: April 2018 (tentative)

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

 

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Writing Update

SF, fantasy, Canadian fiction, anthology

The Sum of Us, by Law Media

Hi Everyone,

I hope to receive more stories for Alice Unbound. These can be SF, horror, fantasy, or a subgenre. They should be present time or future, and involve a character or sense of Lewis Carroll’s world. They should not be in his style, but your own and I do not want retellings of stories that already exist. Put the Jabberwock in the zoo, or the Caterpillar in space. Perhaps the Mad Hatter is an ineffectual detective and the Walrus and Carpenter are facing a rebellion from the oysters who are campaigning on animal cruelty. Maybe the Duchess now has her own estate but is plagued by pigs. Go wild. Think beyond the borders and if you’re not sure, send me a query. The guidelines and submission portal are here: https://exilepublishing.submittable.com/submit/77982/alice-unbound Remember, you must be living in Canada to submit to this anthology.

In other news, Joshua Pantellersco interviewed me last month. You can listen to the podcast, where I talk about Alice and writing and other things. Check out Just Joshing here, and listen to his interviews with some other writers as well. And the Canadian Aurora nominations are nearly closed. I have numerous poems and several stories that are eligible for nomination. The poems are all almost found online, and one story. The Aurora lists have problems with listing works by authors so it makes it more difficult and you’ll have to do a search, but links are provided.

SF, women protagonists, near future, Venus

Futuristica Vol. II, by Metasagas Press

In publishing news, I received my copy of The Sum of Us, edited by Susan Forest and Lucas Law, with my story “The Healer’s Touch.” Stories are about healers and caregivers and some of the proceeds go to chairty. Release date is Sept. but you can pre-order. And I also received Futuristica Vol. II edited by Chester Hoster, with my story “Love in the Vapors.” These both came last week, during my birthday. And my poem “Voodoo Doll” is now up at Grievous Angel and free to read. “Changes” came out in Deep Waters 2 earlier this year. And a poem “This Song” is in DeadLights magazine.

I’ve been on a bit of my own hiatus, possibly reading fiction for Alice Unbound. But I’m about to start working on some new pieces. You should too. Pick up a pen, a pencil, a tablet a computer and be inspired. 🙂

 

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