Just in time for the holiday season is the release of Playground of Lost Toys, co-edited by Ursula Pflug and me. It is published by Canadian publisher Exile Editions, and available in trade paperback or as an ebook. This is a collection of stories by various authors that center around toys or games, a sense of something lost or found and that connects in some way to childhood.
With that premise we put out a call this year and gathered a wide range of stories from authors. At first we were getting worried. In any genre or style of story there are familiar and popular tropes. For stories about toys, we’ve seen some of these used over and over again in TV and movies, whether they’re creepy or nostalgic. Look at the Chucky horror movies and others that use creepy dolls come to life with a demonic intent. Teddy bears and stuffed animals also are imbued with a strange form of life in a thing that mimics like a living creature. Whether it’s scurrilous teddy bears like the movie Ted, or savior dolls like Buzz Lightyear in Toy Story (much rarer than devil dolls, by far), these childhood toys are very common in stories.
And so it seemed that we were going to end up with tales that did not vary greatly. Many were predictable. I refined the guidelines and we put out notice that we would take very few doll or stuffy stories. After all, the anthology was about all sorts of toys, even alien toys, but it wasn’t a collection of doll stories only. In the end we received a good range of stories, from science fiction to fantasy to horror. I won’t go on longer or I’ll run out of time but I asked the authors to answer a few interview questions. I’ll post these as I can but I’ll start today with Kevin Cockle.
1. What was your main reason for submitting a story to Playground of Lost Toys.
Basically, if I’ve got an idea that fits the antho parameters, and a beginning/middle/end – I’ll submit a story. I never leave any story I’ve written unsent.
2. Does your story relate at all to anything from your own childhood.
God, no. At least, nothing about the dramatic situation relates. I HAVE had a balero since childhood, and it is difficult to play, and I am pretty good at it, but that’s about it for similarity.
3. What theme or idea were you exploring in your story.
In broad terms, I was exploring the role “place” plays in identity. Since there’s a natural tension between markets and identity, I contextualized the exploration within a world where citizenship has been privatized. You get to stay in a place if you can afford to: you’re not entitled to stay there simply because you were born there. Cue anxiety.
4. Is there anything else to do with your story or the theme of the anthology you wish to mention?
I had already been thinking about the background concepts – and I had some pre-existing story fragments written – but the “toy” aspect initially made me think I couldn’t participate in this project. Then I remembered the balero, and was able to make the game mechanics the frame for the story. You could say that this story in its final form was more a case of “splicing” than writing per-se. Worked out well – prior to PoLT – I wasn’t getting anywhere with the dramatization of these ideas.
5. What other projects do you have in the works, pieces people can buy, or places to find you in the coming year.
My debut novel Spawning Ground will be coming out in 2016, from Tyche Books. The background world is similar to the one I sketched in “Balero,” and once again the implications of market-norms for identity will be explored. I also have a story coming up in Tesseracts 19, and a couple of film projects in various stages of pre-production. The Whale – a short film I co-wrote with Mike Peterson made it into Cannes this year, so keep an eye out for that on the film-festival circuit.
Thanks to Kevin for answering the interview. The holidays are hitting but where I can I’ll post more interviews so stay tuned.