Category Archives: science fiction

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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Alice Unbound: Call for Submissions

Hello, world, and happy new year.

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

Creative Commons: Ninha Morandini

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

    Lion and unicorn, Alice, Through the Looking Glass

    Sir John Tenniel illustration.

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

These are story examples only but not requirements:

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

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

Payment: .05/word

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Fall Update & the Environment

steampunk, cogs, clockwork, Buffalo Gals, fantasy

Clockwork Canada is available on Amazon and through Exile Editions. Steampunk stories about Canada’s revisioned history.

Fall is definitely falling here in Vancouver, with days on end of rain, rain and more rain. Twenty-eight out of thirty-one days, so what’s a drenched soul to do? Many things have happened, including trips and busy busyness. I’ve been lax with this blog so I’ll do an update on fiction and poetry. I’ll mention briefly that I went to the UK in Sept./Oct. and to British Fantasycon by the Sea in Scarborough. Adventures with writers and others, but that will be a post that I hope will happen soon. In the meantime…

The World Wildlife Fun just mentioned this last week that many species are in rapid decline. This is happening to birds, fish, mammals, amphibians and reptiles and by 2020 they estimate we’ll have lost two-thirds of all species. This is catastrophic and heartbreaking. The only species that won’t be in decline are humans and insects. Many of these other species control the insect populations and with even  just a few being out of balance we’ll be overrun in a short time. When I wrote “Exegesis of the Insecta Apocrypha” I researched this buggy phenomenon and it was frightening in its own right. That story was reprinted last year in the Best of Horror Library Vol. 1-5. In relation to this topic is m story “Freedom’s Just Another Word” about the last elephant on Earth. It can be read for free at Agnes and True and came out earlier this year. I hope that we’ll wake up before it’s too late and realize that by saving these species we will save ourselves.

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

The Beauty of Death, edited by Alessandro Manzetti.

“Buffalo Gals” came out in Clockwork Canada in the spring and is an alternate history steampunk tale about BC’s early history. I touch on the murdered and missing women which has been part of BC’s and really, the whole country’s news for quite a few years. I have a feeling that if other countries started looking at their stats we would see a lot of the same; more women murdered or missing, as seems to always be the case. As well, “Seasons End” came out in the massive Beauty of Death. This story too touches on the decline of the environment but from a more mythical aspect, with hope woven in. On a lighter note, there were two drabbles (100 words exactly) up at SpeckLit but they are no longer drabbling so these are in the archives.

Stories sold and yet to come out include “Love in the Vapors” in Futuristica Vol. 2, “Awaking Pandora” in the Goethe Glass anthology about climate change (yep, another environmental tale), “Shoes” to be reprinted in Polar Borealis 4, “Changes” in Deep Waters #2, and “Sins of the Father” (a fungal horror story) in OnSpec. These will probably all be out next year. There are a few others in the works but I can’t announce those yet. I should also mention that Playground of Lost Toys, edited by Ursula Pflug and I, was nominated for an Aurora Award but didn’t win. Several of the authors were nominated for various awards and Catherine MacLeod won the Sunburst Award for short fiction with her tale, “Hide and Seek.”

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

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

There have been many poems this year so I’ll just list these: “The Hedge Witch” in OnSpec #101 (plus and interview), “Book of Shadows” in Devolution Z #8, “Patchwork Girl” in Future Fire #37, “Pilot Flight” and “Short Sighted” in Polar Borealis #2, “Triptych (Amsterdam)” in Wax Poetry #11 (4th place), “Come and Go,” “Oh You!”, “Cuntipotent,” “Cremating Love” in Maple Tree Literary Supplement #21, and “The Persuaders” in Heroic Fantasy Quarterly #29. About to be published are: “A Good Catch” in Tailfins and Sealskins (UK), “Garuda’s Gamble” in Heroic Fantasy Quarterly #30, “Mermaid” in Spirits Tincture #2, “Wolf Skin” in Myths and Fables, “This Song” in Deadlights, “Spirit Bottle” and “Geomystica” in the summer solstice 2017 edition of Eternal Haunted Summer. Many of these are free to read online so Google away.

I hope to post again next week with the first part of m UK trip, which involves writers and editors, and saving someone’s life. I’m also hoping to revamp this blog in the next few months and there will be some book give-aways. So stay tuned to my sporadic posts.

 

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Convention Update

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Writing Update

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

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

My busy year has been full of many things, writing or other. Playground of Lost Toys, co-edited by Ursula Pflug and me, is up for an Aurora Award. The winners will be announced in August at When Words Collide in Calgary. I’ll be there, on several panels, a reading I think, and a blue pencil session where you can sign up and have a few pages edited by me. And kudos to authors in the anthology who have been nominated for other awards. Karen Abrahamson’s story “With One Shoe” was shortlisted for an Arthur Ellis Award, and has been longlisted for a Sunburst Award in short fiction. Catherine A. MacLeod’s “Hide and Seek” and Dominik Parisien’s “Goodbye is a Mouthful of Water” are also longlisted for the Sunburst.

And mentioning Dominik Parisien, editor of Clockwork Canada also published by Exile Editions, my story “Buffalo Gals” is in the anthology. Airship Ambassador has done a four-part interview with me about the story (and with other authors as well). The first part is here and you can click in the right column of the site to get the other parts as well.

steampunk, cogs, clockwork, Buffalo Gals, fantasy

Clockwork Canada is available on Amazon and through Exile Editions. Steampunk stories about Canada’s revisioned history.

Other fiction that has been published this year includes “Freedom’s Just Another Word” free to read at Agnes and True, “Mermaid’s Curse” and “Paul Bunyan’s Toils” at SpeckLit. These two are drabbles, which means they’re 100 words exactly. They were fun to write and good practice for having the purest essence of a story. And just hitting the shelves for pre-order now is Alessandro Manzetti’s anthology Beauty of Death, which includes my story “Season’s End.” It’s chock full of stories and I quite like the cover.

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

The Beauty of Death, edited by Alessandro Manzetti.

Earlier this year saw my poem “The Hedge Witch” come out in OnSpec along with an interview (that’s two interviews in a year), and “Book of Shadows” in Devolution Z #8. More recent, “Beltane Fires” came out in Eternal Haunted Summer’s Spring issue, and “Patchwork Girl” has just been released at The Future Fire. And two more poems “Short Sighted” and “Pilot Flight” have been released in Polar Borealis #2. Most of these poems and stories are free to read on the net so go and read great fiction and poetry and discover some new authors.

I have many more irons in fires, with more poetry and stories coming out this year but I’ll leave that for another post. I can say I’ve received approval to edit another anthology but it will be another year until you see info on that. In the meantime, I’m working on a poetry collection, and a fiction novel, and was honored to be one of the judges for Exile’s Carter V. Cooper short fiction prize. The longlist can be seen here. Gloria Vanderbilt will now choose from that list.

I’m diving back in to more fiction as well, so away I go. And if you’re a writer, don’t stop, never give up. Every skill takes practice and practice. I’m still practicing my craft and getting better all the time.

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Writing: 2015’s Year in Review

I’m a bit late with this, so imagine where I’m going to be with my taxes this year. I’m recapping last year’s writing accomplishments. I managed to complete a novel that’s taken far too many years and it’s off making the rounds.

speculative fiction, fantasy, horror, SF, Years Best

From left to right: Burning Maiden, nEvermore! Tales of Murder, Mystery and the Macabre, Playground of Lost Toys, Second Contacts, New Canadian Noir, (front) On Spec Summer, Best of Horror Library, Imaginarium: Best of Canadian Speculative Fiction, and Blood in the Rain

Last year was very busy. How busy? What do all the books in the picture above have in common? Why, I’m in them all. The biggest project was Playground of Lost Toys,  and I’m pleased to say that Ursula Pflug and I (co-editors) are nominated for an Aurora Award in Best Related Works for the anthology, published by Exile Editions.The books to the left and right are nEvermore! Tales of Murder, Mystery and the Macabre, and Second Contacts are also nominated. My story “Asylum” is in the first and “Scar Tissue,” written with Rhea Rose in the second.

Burning Maiden Vol. 2 published three of my poems, “As I Sleep,” “Medusa” and “Tea Party,” and On Spec published my poem “The Hedge Witch” along with an interview of me, which actually came out in January though it says summer 2015. Those weren’t the only poems: “Visitation: Leda’s Lament” was in the HWA Poetry Showcase, “the moon: Fever Dream” was in Pantheon magazines Nyx issue, “Morrigan’s Song” was in Heroic Fantasy Quarterly #24, “Persephone Dreams: Awakening” was in Eternal Haunted Summer’s summer issue, and “I Dreamed A World” was published at Polu Texni. This last poem is also nominated for a Rhysling Award (SF Poetry Association) in the long form category. (Clicking on any story or poem title will take you to the actual piece.)

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

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

 

Other stories included three reprints: “The Book With No End” (which made it to the Stoker award longlist in 2014) was reprinted in CZP’s Imaginarium 2014: The Best Canadian Speculative Writing. And “Exegesis of the Insecta Apocrypha” (honorable mention in the Year’s Best Horror) was republished in Best of Horror Library I-V. In Blood in the Rain, a collection of erotic vampire fiction, my story “Hold Back the Night” was reprinted. This story had also been shortlisted for several awards and received two honorable mentions in the Year’s Best anthologies.

A couple of online stories appeared in Black Treacle with “Shaping Destiny,” and “Symbiosis” in the Scottish Shoreline of Infinity #1. “Pears and Swine” an erotic noir story appeared in The Exile Book of New Canadian Noir.

So, yes, it was a very busy year. On top of that I wrote 33 new poems for a collection contest, only to find the publisher had been sucked into a vortex and disappeared. Now I’m shopping that around as well.

This year has started out busy and successful and I have several more projects brewing but I’ll save these for another post.

 

 

 

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Playground of Lost Toys Interviews: Whan & MacLeod

Meagan Whan and Catharine MacLeod are the authors featured today. Their tales both start out innocently enough, involving a found die and a game of hide and seek. However, these stories have a darker heart as you read them.

Meagan’s “The Die” looks at alternate realities. It’s another one that touches on time travel, but worked well without getting twisted in its own logic (one reason I hate many time travel stories). But it might also be the same time and just an alternate universe.

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

 I was reading calls for submissions and the concept of a supernatural toy intrigued me. It seemed like a good challenge to come up with a unique toy. As a sometimes doll maker (I made the one in the photo), I thought of dolls first, but they seemed too common, so, I continued to think of options. Once I thought of the die, Elizabeth’s story snapped into place.

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

toys, games, chance, dice, alternate realities

Meagan Whan makes dolls but “The Die” looks at the game of chance when it involves your future.

When I was a child, my father and I were in the vegetable garden digging and unearthed a porcelain figurine of a hound dog. A curious find as our property had been a field before we lived there and the figurine did not belong to us. The owner of that figurine, like the origin of the die in my story, remains a mystery. 

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

I’ve always been interested in stories involving multiple universes, alternate takes on a single character. I wanted to play with the variations of a character, exploring how different decisions would alter her circumstances and those of the people in her life.

The human mind is constantly prophesying/ planning for innumerable futures; in those moments, we are all living “alternate” lives.

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

There’s such a great variety of stories in the collection. I look forward to sharing the book with the people in my life, and I hope readers enjoy the collection.

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

I’m working on two projects, one an episodic story about brothers in the 1930’s & 1940’s, the other a low fantasy about loss. Sometime in the new year I’m hoping to set up a presence on social media.

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

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

Catharine story looks at what it means to become an expert at the game of hide and seek. But in fact, there are two different ways to hide, and the seeking travels the very dark edge of terror. Like the game of hide and seek, you eventually want to be found, but that’s only if you know you’re in the game.
 1. What was your main reason for submitting a story to Playground of Lost Toys?
I had a strange little story that didn’t seem to fit anywhere. I submitted it to PLT with my fingers crossed.
 2. Does your story relate at all to anything from your own childhood?
I used to be pretty good at Hide-and-Seek. But thank Heaven that’s all I have in

macleod

Catharine MacLeod’s “Hide and Seek” explores what it means to be truly invisible.

common with my main character.

 3. What theme or idea were you exploring in your story?
It fascinates me how some people can go completely unnoticed–and scares me how many people actually want to.
 4. Is there anything else you wish to mention about your story or the theme of the anthology?
The only toy I can ever remember losing was my Slinky. I found it a week later in my mom’s garden. She’d wound it around the tomato plants to keep the rabbits off them.
 5. What other projects do you have in the works, pieces people can buy, or places to find you in the coming year?
The only story I have out that’s really current is “Sorrow’s Spy” in CZP’s The Unauthorized James Bond. My story “Sideshow” will be in Imaginarium 4. Beyond that, I don’t know. The writer’s life, it’s all about the hustle…

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Playground of Lost Toys Interviews: Simmons & Dorsey

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

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

Today’s authors are Shane Simmons and Candas Jane Dorsey. Playground of Lost Toys, by its nature and the guidelines Ursula Pflug and I set up, has many stories that deal with nostalgia and loss. Not all but many look at family as well.

Shane Simmons wrote “When the Trains Run on Time.” It’s a very clever play on time travel, and I have to say that I don’t overall much like time travel stories. Shane’s tale was so poignant and sad that it grabbed me and tugged on my heart. It is one of the darker stories in the anthology and definitely worth a read.

toys, trains, Shane Simmons, tragedy, SF, time travel

Shane Simmons draws and writes. Picture borrowed from Shane’s site Eyestrain Productions.

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

The only good reason for submitting a story to an anthology: I had an idea that was on-topic and a story worth telling. Playground of Lost Toys was a compelling concept for a collection, and I knew I had to come up with something that would fit.

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

It was very much inspired by a model train set I got for Christmas one year. Mine didn’t come with a tunnel that warped time, however.

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

Every kid can’t wait to grow up. Childhood seems to take so long, but before you know it you’re an adult and the years fly by.

4. Is there anything else to do with your story or the theme of the anthology that you’d like to mention?

A lot of my work has to do with twisted, distorted memories of my youth. I’ve made a living for years writing cartoons for kids, so when I’m writing material for my own amusement, it often explores the dark side of childhood.

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

I’ve had seven short stories published last year, with three more scheduled for 2016 so far, plus a novella. All the news about my career that’s fit to print can be found on my website, eyestrainproductions.com.

Candas Jane Dorsey’s tale “The Food of My People” has a very homey type of magic. It’s tied up as much in the person as it is in the rich visions of food. This story explores not so much the loss of a toy as the loss of something or someone special in a child’s life. (brackets are added by me)

fiction, fantasy, puzzles, Playground of Lost Toys

Candas Jane Dorsey brings us The Food of My People. Picture from Gigcity.ca

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

I loved the idea of the anthology, and the editors are great, and I had a story in progress that I could finish in time! As people probably know, I am a slow writer, so I don’t usually write anthology stories to order for calls for submission. But I tried with this one–but it wasn’t this anthology–and of course, I missed the deadline. But the outcome was great. I was really impressed with the editors and with the publisher, so meticulous about catching the errors and typos and little bits of illogic that crept in unbeknownst. So first off, thanks to everyone involved!

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

About half of Cubbie is based on my godmother. But my godmother was also really different: she was plump, yes, but rather more elegant, wore corsets and those black lace-up oxfords with Cuban heels, and her son was a diplomat so she was always going off to live in Japan or somewhere, and sending me presents from there (her daughter-in-law was in a famous diplomatic incident in South Africa actually, where she marched in an anti-apartheid march, but that’s another story). The half that is Cubbie is the comfort and love half. I meant to put in her candy jars but the story was already too long.

What is really based on my life is the food. It’s Alberta prairie family reunion food (non-Ukrainian variety–so alas, no pyroghy!) My relatives in central Alberta all had gardens, went berry picking, cooked well, and food was central to the experience. Jellied salads at family reunions–a staple food. My mother made an awesome flapper pie–though it’s a pain to make and you have to be in the mood–and used to whip up a bread pudding every couple of weeks to use up the stale bread. Saskatoon pie. Kraft dinner spun out with some “real” macaroni and some real cheese, but still that electric yellow-orange colour. Makes me hungry–even now it says comfort-food to my backbrain.

There was a lot of food I didn’t have a chance to include. Beets and beet greens–yum. The Galloping Gourmet’s curry sauce, so mild and therefore beloved by all the prairie food conservatives even in the 1960s. I just found out that one of my best friend’s mom made the very same sauce, from the same source. My mother is in the story as “the lady in the next bed” who was 99 and still telling stories, because she was both those things. That was one of the last things I put in. My mother died this spring (2015) at the age of 99 years 5 months. Even though she worked at home for years during our childhood, she wasn’t temperamentally suited to it. She always said “cook” and “bake” were four-letter words, and was a reader and historian and toponymist–but whatever she took on she did well, and I still remember her flapper pie and bread pudding. And a candy called “seafoam” that was really little meringues, and too hard to make more than about once a year. That was the first recipe I asked for when I left home. (Bread pudding was the second one I wrote in my recipe book in my own house, but I knew it from watching–it was never written down.)

And we had a jigsaw puzzle that was a big red dot. We did it. Once. (Once.)

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

My original idea was for an anthology Nalo Hopkinson edited called Mojo Conjure. I have always been annoyed at how fantasy writers who come from what’s now being called “settler” roots have taken over the voudoun and First Nations mythologies because they are “cool.” Don’t we have enough imagination to think about where our own cultures’ magic comes from? But at the same time, I am divorced from my own heritage by immigrant circumstances, so I have no idea what the Celtic or Anglo-Saxon stories from my family’s origins were either, even though my heritage is English and Scots. I am third and fourth generation on this land–but what is the magic of my people? So I decided to think up some “mojo conjure” of my own personal heritage, and this is what came out.

A lot later, long after I’d missed Nalo’s deadline, the image of the last red piece dissolving on Cubbie’s tongue came to me, and I realized then where the story had to go. When I saw the call for this anthology, I was delighted, and I pushed myself to finish the story on time. I sent it to Ursula (and Colleen) thinking that it was too long but it was too new to be objective about it so I told her she had to help me cut it! When she accepted it, then I was motivated, and I did manage to cut it back, a bit.

4. Is there anything else to do with your story or the theme of the anthology that you’d like to mention?

Reading the anthology when my author copy arrived was really a wonderful experience. Such a variety of works! I’m always surprised at how a story looks in print, so formal, after having ideas for it in the bathtub, or while half alseep. The readers can’t see the state my hair was in when I was writing it! I was really impressed with the range of ideas. Also how spooky some people think childhood is. That comes of all those years being the weird kids in the class, I guess. Or at least, I was. (Baby writers probably mostly were That Kid at the Back–or the Picked-On Kid…)

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

My novel Black Wine was recently re-released by Five Rivers Publishing, and is available as an eBook or paper book. Originally my novels were from Tor, and I also have two short fiction collections that are out of print at the moment. Five Rivers and I are talking about bringing some of those out again too, in the fullness of time.

In progress, I have finished two mystery novels about a nameless bisexual downsized social worker and her cat Fuc…er, Bunny-wit. She lives in the inner city and knows a lot of diverse people, and has gotten into two very different adventures, one with drag queens and religious fundamentalists, and one with software millionaires. I also have a YA novel about an intersex teen. All these are off in the slowly-grinding mills of the gods, being Pronounced Upon. I’m working on a Great Looming Serious Novel which may or may not be fantasy, and which I am completing with the help of a project grant from the Edmonton Arts Council which is finished soon, so I am off in a fog at the moment, thinking about scene order…

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Playground of Lost Toys Interviews: Eikamp and RuntĂ©

Today, authors Rhonda Eikamp and Robert Runté. Their tales are both science fiction and involve games of strategy: chess. And while one deals with issues of ego and doing the right thing, the other examines more the consequences of doing the wrong thing, though you could say that in both cases ego blinds the characters.

Rhonda is an American living in Germany and her story was the only one we could accept from out of the country. That meant competition for the spot was very tough and we hung on to a few stories right until the end. Rhonda’s story “The Garden of Our Deceit” is one of the few we received that takes place off planet. It’s far future, as is Lisa Carreiro’s “Makour.”

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

I was inspired by the call for submissions and Jonathan Carroll’s wonderful quote. Stories of childhood and toys just strike me as the perfect juxtaposition of innocence and creepiness that you can do a lot with in genre (proven by the stories the editors have put together here!). I started out with something slightly steampunky-Victorian, with the idea of giant powered chess pieces, but the focus ended up on the alien corothai and issues of tyranny and freedom.

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

    chess, strategy, aliens, SF, short fiction

    Rhonda Eikamp’s story deals with games, betrayal, control and rebellion in Playground of Lost Toys.

I wasn’t exposed to chess until my 8th-grade math teacher taught us all and set up tournaments. I’d only played sporadically since, and so I played some online games to get the feel again while writing, which made me realize the corothai would want to hang from the ceiling to get a better view of their tournaments.

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

I love exploring how alien intelligence and psyches might differ from our own, what the good and bad in being human is and why we will probably never overcome that (and shouldn’t). Would an alien race understand us, our love, relations, humor, the need to play? And I love a good rebellion. I’m interested in how we’re manipulated by those in power, the media, etc. Schools should be teaching kids how to assess what they’re told and how it’s being presented, and to get to the truth. The way news is channeled and selected now, at some point we’ll all be obliviots, knowing only what we want to know.

  1. Is there anything else to do with your story or the theme of the anthology you’d like to mention?

The takes on the theme here are amazing. Each story puts its own twist on playing or on that long-forgotten item from your childhood. Chris Kuriata’s “Fun Things For Ages 8 To 10” even captivated my refuses-to-read 14-year-old.

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

I have a story coming up in Pantheon (for which I had to dip into my childhood as well and my memories of tornadoes trying to pick up our Texas house) and a story in Midnight Circus: Age of Legends, which should be out January.

There’s a list of my stories that can be read online, at my (very neglected) blog https://writinginthestrangeloop.wordpress.com/.

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

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

Robert RuntĂ©’s tale “Hacker Chess” has a lighter tone but examines well the obsessive nature of games, without always taking in a the bigger picture. It’s an amusing look at our current to near future, when all of our devices are automated, linked and “smart.” Robert chose to answer the questions in a block. Robert’s story is like Geoffery Cole’s where the characters get a little too caught up in their games.

  1. What was your main reason for submitting a story to Playground of Lost Toys?
  2.  Does your story relate at all to anything from your own childhood?
  3. What theme or idea were you exploring in your story?
  4. Is there anything else to do with your story or the theme of the anthology you’d like to mention?
  5. What other projects do you have in the works, pieces people can buy, or places to find you in the coming year.
chess, hackers, computers, smart technology, SF

Robert Runte’s “Hacker Chess” is a fun romp in Playground of Lost Toys.

When the call for submissions went out, I had no story, nor any idea for a story that would fit the theme. But I really respected both the editors, and the idea of writing to a specific target appealed to me, so I ended up submitting three stories: the first was too far off the theme; so I wrote the second directly on target, but the editors didn’t go for it; so I wrote the third at the 11th hour, and the editors took that one. That whole process was a lot of fun, actually. And I’ve already sold the first one elsewhere, and the second is off to a CanLit market, so we’ll see.

I would therefore recommend accepting the challenge implicit in writing to a specific theme, however unfamiliar, since that enables one to write several stories more quickly than starting from a blank page. But you have to trust the editors involved: it’s their job to tell you if you missed the target or if the story isn’t up to standard. I knew these two had high standards so that allowed me to play fast and loose, secure in the knowledge they wouldn’t let me embarrass myself.

The second story was right out of my childhood; the first was out of my friend’s childhood; and the third was based on an anecdote told me by another friend. The moral is, anything you tell a writer is likely to be taken down and saved against the day when they can turn it into a story.

“Hacker Chess” is about getting carried away when playing a game, rather than about a specific toy; though we often refer to computers as “toys” when guys get too fixated on having the latest and greatest tech. The main theme of “Hacker Chess,” to the extent that there is one, is recognizing childish behavior, and maybe, you know, to stop doing that. The characters and the world they inhabit are part of several other stories I have on the go, so hopefully I’ll be able to gather them together at some point to create.

The next story I have coming out is “Age of Miracles” in Strangers Among Us, but I am most excited about two books I’ve edited for Five Rivers: Den Valdron’s The Mermaid’s Tale and Dave Duncan’s Eocene Station. Den’s book is the best thing I’ve read in a decade and I consider my discovery of that manuscript the high point of my career so far: it’s going to win every award on the planet. Duncan’s book is SF, something we never see enough of, and the character of Tempest is just brilliant. So, pretty happy about how things are going!

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Playground of Lost Toys Interviews: Cole & Duncan

toys, childhood, nostalgia, fantasy, SF, fiction, short storiesGeoffery Cole and dvs duncan are the featured authors today in the Playground of Lost Toys. Cole’s story “Wheatiesfield in Fall” is humorous but a warning of what happens when you lose touch with the world around you and immerse yourself in games. In this case the game is woven with one’s life and when you defeat the boss, he is in fact your boss in the work world.

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

The premise worked well with one of the story ideas sitting on my “To Do” pile. The list is very long at this point, as I’ve been working on a novel for the last few years, but I will sometimes take a break from the novel if a theme anthology comes along and it meshes nicely with one of the story buds on the list.

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

 Old video games evoke a different kind of nostalgia than watching a childhood movie or reading a favourite childhood book. I had pneumonia as a kid, and as a result, I had to stay home from school for several weeks. I’m sure I watched lots of TV and read many books during my illness, but all I really remember is playing A Link to the Past on my friend Jamie’s Super Nintendo that he lent to me (we had a Sega Genesis). We’re still best friends, close to twenty-five years later. Every few years I find a SNES emulator and take ALTTP for a spin, and I’m instantly transported back to those days of banana-flavoured antibiotics and the quest for the Triforce. The music alone is enough to make me start looking for a boomerang.

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

I wanted to explore the gamification of mundane life in “Wheatiesfields in Fall.” In the future depicted in the story, every transaction or interaction is gamified: you gain gold and experience points for performing well at work, at school, playing games. Having marital relations with your spouse also rewards you with experience and gold. Gold lets you buy things in this world, and experience points determines your level, which has far-reaching impacts on your daily life. The main character, the low-level Loufis, lusts after a higher-level woman, Nurse T. By virtue of their level disparity, she is forever out of his reach.

Level determines the jobs you can get, the transportation you can take, the houses you can buys. Level also affects what happens after you die. Loufis works at an Upload Palace, a place where people have their personality uploaded to a computer. Low-level people send their copied personalities to Upland, a digital afterlife, but for higher-level people, they have the option of downloading into a new body. Extra lives, the most coveted resource in video games, become a reality for high-level people in this gamified world. Those who win extra lives also tend to own all the gold, creating a society of rampant inequality.

The antagonist of the story, Mr. Yao, has won several extra lives and has amassed a huge fortune in his centuries on Earth. As he prepares for yet another download, he sends Loufis on a quest to find a video game he played way back in his first life. For Mr. Yao, that video game symbolizes everything he’s lost in his too-many years. For Loufis, it is the key to levelling up and maybe winning Nurse T’s heart.

4. Is there anything else to do with your story or the theme of the anthology, you’d like to mention?

I recently learned that China has created a system that could end functioning much like the level system I described in my story. It is terrifying stuff, and I hope the Chinese people see it for what it is and shut it down.   5. What other projects do you have in the works, or pieces people can buy, or places to find you in the coming year.

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

I have a story coming out from Nameless Digest next year, and I’ve been asked to contribute a story to Grimm Futures, which has been very fun to put together. I’ll be shopping around my novel Frozen Jellyfish Blues next year as well. Most of my published work is available through my website, www.geoffreywcole.com. Drop by and say hello.

dvs duncan, Treasure, short fiction, transformers

dvs duncan journeys into the Playground of Lost Toys

Next is dvs duncan, who wrote “Treasure,”very much a tale of loss and regret and that wish to capture something of the innocence of childhood and simpler times.

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

It liked the premise of the anthology. Perhaps I have never entirely left childhood behind. I still have a fascination with toys and jealously guard a few treasures from my youth. It seemed only natural to write about such things.

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

“Treasure” does not relate explicitly to anything in my childhood but every toy I had was imbued with magic. They were my companions and guides on incredible journeys. I have recently been reminded of this while watching my grandchildren play.

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

I think that real toys are mysterious and I love a good mystery. A real toy is not just a piece of plastic and metal and cloth. A real toy is something created out of imagination. Its bones might have been fabricated by Mattel or Hasbo, but its flesh and blood are the vision and inspiration of the child that plays with it. It was these latter aspects I wanted to explore and how they reflect our relationship with the work as a whole.

4. Is there anything else to do with your story or the theme of the anthology, you’d like to mention?

I hope that the anthology will inspire people to examine the meaning of toys a little more closely and, by doing so, come to know themselves better. Our toys, and the ways we play with them, tell us something fundamental about who we are.

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

I am finishing edits on a novel, a story of how the Victorian village of Chandling on Wode is transported to an alien work where the stalwart Brits are forced to deal with overly inquisitive robot spiders, marauding aliens and a super intelligent computer on a mission to save the universe. Dame Hesta Electra Rutherford is utterly horrified by this unseemly translocation and will have things put to rights. She has a plan and it just might work if they can find a fresh supply of tea.

 

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