Tag Archives: Canadian authors

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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Writing, Readings and Cons, Oh My!

ChiSeriesVancouverPoster-web-2014This weekend is VCon, Vancouver’s SF and fantasy convention. I haven’t gone in a few years but I will be attending this year and will be on a panel about Finding Your Muse, tomorrow at 1:00 pm. I have a reading at 7:00 pm where I will read from a story that was long listed for the Stoker Award. And on Saturday I will be on a panel about the role of religion in speculative fiction. If you’re not doing anything come on down and experience the breadth and depth of convention fun.

I should also mention that my poem “Family Tree” has come out in the collection They Have to Take You In, edited by Ursula Pflug. “The Collector” came out earlier this year in Cemetery Dance. My story “Pearls and Swine” will be coming out in the New Exile Book of Canadian Noir, and Our Lady of Redemption, plus an article “Universal Monsters” will be out in Nameless Magazine sometime in the near future. And check out this interview with me at the Reality Skimming blog, by Christel Bodenbender.

On Tuesday, Oct. 7, I host the Vancouver ChiSeries. The Chiaroscuro Reading Series started in Toronto and is held quarterly in Winnepeg, Ottawa and Vancouver. I have a great lineup of authors. You can attend for free, listen to the readings, peruses the books for sale and ask questions of the authors. The Cottage Bistro is a nice little venue at Main, near 28th St. and offers drinks and food as well Easily accessible by bus and lots of street parking. Now read below to see who is coming.

SF, free readings, Vancouver, ChiSeries, CZP

Paula Johanson is a writer, teacher and editor.

For over twenty-five years, Paula Johanson has worked as a writer, teacher and editor. Among her twenty-nine books on science, health and literature for young adult readers the most recent are Love Poetry: How Do I Love Thee? (Enslow Publishers), Fish: The Truth About The Food Supply (Rosen Publishing), and the science fiction anthology Opus 6 (Reality Skimming Press). Twice she has been shortlisted for the Prix Aurora Award. An accredited teacher, she has written and edited curriculum educational materials. Recently she completed an MA in Canadian Literature at the University of Victoria.Twitter: @ PaulaJohanson

publsihing, ediucation, SF, writing, Canadian authors

Lynda Williams teaches, writes and is starting a publishing company.

Lynda Williams is the author of the ten-novel Okal Rel Saga and publisher of Reality Skimming Press. Lynda holds two post graduate degrees, manages an e-learning team at SFU and teaches part-time for BCIT in introductory web development. She is also editor for the Collidor project to create an SF web app magazine. http://okalrel.org/reality-skimming/

Alma Alexander’s life so far has prepared her very well for her chosen career. She was born in a country which no longer exists on the maps, has lived and worked in seven countries on four continents (and in cyberspace!), has climbed mountains, dived in coral reefs, flown small planes, swum with dolphins, touched two-thousand-year-old tiles in a gate out of Babylon. She is a novelist, anthologist and short story writer who currently shares her life between the Pacific Northwest of the USA (where she lives with her husband and two cats) and the wonderful fantasy worlds of her own imagination. http://anghara.livejournal.com https://www.facebook.com/pages/Alma-Alexander/67938071280

Secrets of Jin Shei, fantasy, ChiSeries, CZP

Alma Alexander is the duchess of fantasy, or maybe a lost nation.

Come out and meet some of the writers, and chat with us. We’d like to see more of a community that appreciates SF, fantasy and dark fiction. The next ChiSeries after this one will be in January so this is the last one of 2014. Starting at 7:30 pm.

And one more thing, Nancy Kilpatrick and Caro Soles are editing an anthology called nEvermore! It’s an homage to the glorious, Gothic style of the master, Edgar Allan Poe, bringing Poe-inspired fiction into the 21st century. nEvermore! brings together mystery writers (who already include a slash of the supernatural in their writing) and dark fantasy/horror writers (who currently slip across the shadows and touch on the mystery genre).

It’s crowdfunded to support the authors and has some great perks. Some rare Poe stamps, four one-of-a-kind mini Poe coffins, steampunk Poe necklace, glass tile magnets, the book and more perks to come. And for writers who want to join this anthology, there is a contest. Only three stories will be selected to join the other authors in this anthology. Check out Descent into the Maelstrom for contest and writing rules.  Personally I would love any of the perks. It’s an awesome concept and worthy of supporting on several fronts.

About the editors: Caro Soles is best known for founding the Bloody Words Mystery Conference to highlight Canadian mystery writing. She received the Derrick Murdoch Award from the Crime Writers of Canada, was short-listed for the Lambda Literary Award, and inaugurated the Bloody Words Mystery Award several years ago.  She has published 11 novels and many short stories and has edited several mystery anthologies. 

Nancy Kilpatrick is an award-winning author and editor known for her dark fantasy/horror and mystery stories.  She has published 18 novels, over 200 short stories, 6 collections, 1 non-fiction book, and has edited 14 anthologies.  She has worked for major publishing houses and small presses and some of her fiction has been translated in several foreign languages.  Poe’s works have been a lifelong passion and she is thrilled to have this opportunity to create an anthology that honors this exceptional author of style and genius.

So check out the crowdfunding perks and sign up to get yourself some special Poe stories and items. And come out to VCon and to the ChiSeries readings. You can’t get too much of a good thing. October is the official month of bats and pumpkins and things that go bump in the night and slither quietly by day.

 

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Tesseracts 17 Interview: John Bell

anthology, speculative fiction, SF, fantasy, Canadian authors

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

CA: Leaving Cape Roseway speaks to a primal feeling. Do you think that feeling takes on a supernatural quality when we are confronted with the unfamiliar?

A few years ago a veteran lobster fisherman, who grew up on McNutt’s Island in Shelburne Harbour, took me out to the island and showed me the remnants of a once thriving community. As we toured the abandoned buildings and the ruins of fortifications, I wondered how Poe or Lovecraft might respond to this place and its emptiness, transforming a Nova Scotia landscape into mindscape and dreamscape. However, I didn’t want the sense of dread to be too overt. Instead, I aimed for a more subtle evocation of fear and its contours.

CA: Eileen Kernaghan’s poem is of another forest, yet you both have drawn on the power of nature. Once humans created gods and beings to comprehend this power. Do you think we have lost that in our modern age?

Yes, I think we have to some degree; however, our response to nature remains primal (that word again). I think my poem and Eileen’s both speak to a yearning to reconnect with nature, to be enveloped in the natural world. It’s a feeling that combines wonder and fear – maybe even panic. (I’m sure the Germans have a word for it.)

CA: Would you ever wish to truly meet a supernatural or magical being or be in such a place?

 I once published a poem, “Loup-Garou,” in the Canadian magazine Dark Fantasy , in which the narrator runs in terror from such

poetry, fear, primal feelings, power of nature, nautre, mystical, speculative writing

John Bell embraces the mythic in nature and lives in Nova Scotia.

an encounter only to discover, in an EC-Comics-style ending, that he has become the supernatural being. I, too, would probably run in terror.

CA: Do you think the animals of the fields and forest live their lives in a world that is magical or in one devoid of anything but the search for comfort, sustenance and shelter?

I believe there is magic in the natural world for all creatures to experience in their own way. For instance, no one can convince me that crows are not living in a magical world. Just watch them.

CA: What themes do you like to explore in your writing and what other projects do you have on the go?

I am currently editing a book that collects the wartime diary and letters of my wife’s great-uncle, a working-class guy from the north end of Halifax who served as a gunner in the Canadian Army during the First World War. Although he worked all his life as a mechanic, he was also an aspiring writer (his middle name was “Byron”). In fact, his papers include several story manuscripts and rejection letters from pulp magazines such as Adventure. I hope to honour his service and fulfill his literary ambitions.

John Bell was born in Montreal and grew up in Halifax. After a long career at the National Archives in Ottawa, he returned to Nova Scotia and now lives in Lunenburg. He is the author or editor of nearly twenty books, including Invaders from the North, a ground-breaking history of Canadian comics. A former editor of the poetry magazine Arc, Bell has contributed to numerous anthologies, among them Ark of Ice and Nova Scotia: Visions of the Future, both edited by Lesley Choyce. In 1981, Bell and Choyce co-edited Visions from the Edge, one of the earliest Canadian SF anthologies.

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Tesseracts 17 Interview: Catherine Austen

Tesseracts 17, SF, futur worlds, marginalization, zombies

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

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

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

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

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

anthology, speculative fiction, SF, fantasy, Canadian authors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Tesseracts 17 Interview: Dave Beynon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

anthology, speculative fiction, SF, fantasy, Canadian authors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CA: What projects are you working on now?

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

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

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Tesseracts 17 Interview: David Jón Fuller

anthology, speculative fiction, SF, fantasy, Canadian authors

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

David Jón Fuller joins me from Manitoba, for another Tesseracts 17 interview.

CA: “Sin A Squay” is a tale of overcoming monsters. We have heard the horror of residential schools and new nightmares seem to be unearthed every day. What drew you to putting this element into your story?

 It’s a national horror that was made worse by decades of denial despite more and more residential school survivors coming forward. Despite some indications that people allowed or even wanted their children to attend the schools in the early part of their existence, they just became an institution of systemic abuse and earned their appellation of an instrument of genocide. I wanted to explore this in a context of what that does to people over time – how even escaping them can have a cost, and that the oppression that was perpetrated against the children in the schools – treating them as less than human, and the endemic abuse that comes to light more and more – can leave a lasting mark.  But I also wanted to explore how those horrors could be confronted and overcome.
I had doubts whether this was a subject I should even write about, no matter how much research I did – I worried that it wasn’t something that, as a white person, I had a right to write about.  But I felt without trying to address it in some way through my fiction, I would just be ignoring it, and adding to the silence, in a sense.  Whereas I think anyone who learns about what the residential schools system did to so many First Nations people for so long would be within their rights to condemn it as horrific.

CA: Have you seen or experienced aspects of residential schools or your own childhood traumas that you used to draw on for this story?

 No – nothing on the scale of something like this. Tough times for me as a kid meant dealing with the occasional bully or being the “new kid” at school. Definitely not a systemic oppression, or even life-scarring single event. And like the majority of white people in Canada, I grew up privileged to live with many doors open to me as a default. I relied a lot on research to create the characters and the background for this story.

speculative fiction, horror, fantasy, mythic fiction , residential schools

David Jón Fuller explores the horrors of residential schools in Sin A Squay.

CA: You have two different monsters in your tale; the beasts that prowl the mythic landscape and residential schools. Why did you feel this story worked better with the mythic or horrific element?

 Partly because I think the fear of certain monsters says something about the culture in which they are feared. Some monsters have embodied fears of our animalistic natures, and of the “wilderness” – and I think that speaks to a Western European (particularly continental) fear of predators. Hand-in-hand with that went the European colonialist attitude that white people were “civilized” and everyone else was to some degree “savage” (read: wild). I wanted to turn that around a bit, and look at how that attitude itself – of seeing certain people as “less than human,” which is certainly what the residential schools embodied: the view that “Indians” were lesser people, savage, or inferior – was monstrous.

I do tend to think that in mainstream pop culture these days, certain monsters are “othered.” Vampires are currently glorified – embodying, I think, our fear of old age, since the “eternal youth” trope seems played up nowadays as opposed to the “foreign devil will seduce our women” theme that ran through Dracula.  Werewolves, on the other hand, are frequently the lackeys and/or cannon fodder if they appear alongside other creatures in a given show, or they are stuck in an endless retread of savage/animalistic/bestial archetypes. This isn’t as true in a lot of urban fantasy fiction, but it seems to be the gear they’re stuck in in movies and TV. And I hate that!

Also, considering the way the characters’ relationships change in the story, I wanted to explore whether what one culture sees as “monstrous” or less than human, might actually be a source of empowerment, and how an oppressor’s sense of invulnerability might actually become a weakness.

Those things being said — no matter how terrifying I might make the mythic monsters, for me, the more I learned about the residential schools the more stunned I was that this had gone on for so long.  Much of what I put in the story pales in comparison to what actually went on in many of the schools.

CA: Often survival comes at great cost. Do you feel your main character has only survived through her years of escape, or is it just that life can bring ghosts back to haunt you even if you have triumphed in the past?

 I think Marion gained a lot in her initial escape from the residential school, but while her body got free, a part of her was still trapped there, and in the abuse she experienced there.  She was not able to bring who she became as an adult to bear on those old fears, and fully put them to rest, without confronting someone or something from her days there. The opportunity to face down one’s oppressor, and have that oppression acknowledged as such, is something that has been denied to generations of residential school survivors. Canadians are still denying a lot of what went on, despite mounting evidence, and that kind of brushing it under the carpet just perpetuates the injustice of it, in my opinion.  I thought that perhaps by putting Marion in a situation where she was forced to face those old horrors, she might be able to hold them back, or even triumph over them.

CA: What other pieces are you working on right now and what are you exploring within those tales?

Mostly working outside my comfort zone and doing a ton of research. I’m trying to work on not just including non-white, non-male perspectives in my fiction, but on making them central.

After submitting “Sin A Squay” to Tesseracts, I started working on other stories in the same world.  One of them,  “No More Good Indian,” is about Marion’s escape from the residential school, and it placed second in the Robyn Herrington Memorial Speculative Fiction Short Story Contest.  I worked backwards from there to write a story about Marion’s grandfather, and how his experience of shell-shock as a First World War veteran had disturbing parallels with the post-traumatic stress his children experienced after residential school – and on how this could be if not healed, at least helped, through familial bonds, tradition and shared experience. That story, “A Deeper Echo,” was accepted into the anthology Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History, due out next year.

I’ve also been delving into human evolution, megafauna mass extinctions and prehistoric Canada – it’s fascinating to see how much our knowledge has grown over recent decades, and how this is changing the way we look at the past.

When I’m finished writing a few other short stories before the end of the year, I’m going to take a hard look at a novel manuscript I was letting lie “fallow” and then apply what I’ve learned this year to tune it up and start submitting it.

David Jón Fuller was born and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba, where he now lives, and has also lived in Edmonton, Alberta. He earned an honors degree in theater at the University of Winnipeg and studied Icelandic language and literature for two years at the University of Iceland in Reykjavík.

His short fiction has been published in Tesseracts 17, In Places Between, The Harrow and in the upcoming Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction From the Margins of History. His short story “No More Good Indian” took second place in the 2013 Robyn Herrington Memorial Speculative Fiction Short Story Contest. He currently works as a copy editor for the Winnipeg Free Press, and as time allows he blogs at www.davidjonfuller.com.

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Tesseracts 17 Interview: Ed Willett

Ed Willett, SF, speculative fiction, Tesseracts 17, Canadian authors, faith, spirituality

Ed Willett is author of more than 40 books of fiction and nonfiction. Read his story in Tesseracts 17.

Ed Willett is our only Saskatchewan author in Tesseracts 17: Speculating Canada from Coast to Coast to Coast. I would say this puts us nearly halfway through Canada but once I hit the Atlantic provinces for interviews I’ll come back across the northern parts of Canada.

CA: “Path of Souls” is a beautifully rendered world, told by an outsider who makes it home. But that home is in some ways a gilded cage. What was the most important aspect of this tale for you?

For me the heart of the story is the decision by one individual to take responsibility: to do what must be done, what is the right thing to do, despite the personal consequences. That is, I think, the only definition of heroism that makes sense to me. Whether that decision makes sense to someone outside that individual’s personal mindset is another matter, of course. The actions of the main character might be seen as foolish in the extreme: she essentially throws away her previous life for many long years of service to an alien religion. But she is convinced that what she is doing is what is right, and that doing what is right is more important than her own personal wants and desires.

Over and over in my fiction I find myself returning to the theme of individual responsibility. In so much of the world, especially in the realm of politics, we pretend as if people are defined by a few simple characteristics: gender, skin color, income, place of residence. “Can such-and-such a party’s policies resonate with voters-of-a-particular-ethnic group?”, etc. But none of us are defined by the various groups into which we fall—not entirely. Each of us is an individual. We build our lives from a series of individual decisions, and while the easiest path to follow is always that most often taken by those with whom we associate, we have the power, the free will, to break from that path, to take “the road less travelled,” as Robert Frost memorably put it. And that moment, when an individual truly acts as an individual and separates him or herself from the herd, especially if that moment arises out of a powerful moral sense, is a moment that greatly interests me as a writer.

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

The title of the piece is “Path of Souls,” but it’s really about the path taken by a single soul: an individual who makes a difficult decision to do what she has become absolutely convinced is the right thing to do, despite the cost to herself.

CA: In one sense it’s religious, or spiritual, but there is a dark side that the outsider discovers. Do you think people see the inherent pitfalls in their own faiths?

Religious belief is a powerful thing, as we know from our own world, where every day religious fanatics blow themselves and others up in suicide attacks, murder sleeping students in their beds for the sin of getting a western education, terrorize shopping malls, and on and on. They are, to carry on my answer to the previous question, individuals who have made a decision to abandon all further individuality in the service of what they see as a greater cause. It’s a decision that seems almost incomprehensible to those of us who do not share their convictions. But within their own minds, they are doing what is right and holy, what must be done to make the world a better place—although their version of a better place would be a nightmare to those of us who do not share their belief. By my previous definition, they are heroes: not to us, not at all, but certainly to themselves.

Religious belief seems to be hard wired into humans (and, in my story, into aliens as well). It can be a powerful force for good and beauty, and a powerful force for evil and destruction. Those at the extremes of religious belief do not, I think, see any inherent pitfalls. When you have given over your individual responsibility to orders that you believe are coming directly from God, there’s very little room for doubt. There are, of course, millions of believers who do have room in their beliefs for doubt and questioning. Some religious belief systems are more open to internal questioning than others, and those, I think, are at less risk of turning to the dark side (okay, that reference is from Star Wars, which is perhaps a step down from Robert Frost, but still, it fits!).

So, do “people see the inherent pitfalls in their own faiths?” Some do, some don’t. Once again, everything comes down to the individual.

CA: This is also a story of reflection, a journey in and of itself. Many spiritual paths are just that, journeys of discovery. Is this a theme you have explored before?

I think all characters in my stories are on journeys of discovery, because characters who remain unchanged by the events of the story are boring. So it’s really a theme I explore over and over, in pretty much everything I write.

CA: Will we be seeing other tales on this particular world, or are you moving on to new worlds?

This is the only tale I’ve ever set or anticipate setting in this particular world. But I’m very fond of it, partly because it’s one of those stories whose genesis I can pinpoint with some accuracy. A few years ago, Globe Theatre here in Regina held, perhaps three years in a row, a fundraising event called Lanterns on the Lake. People bought and made paper lanterns and came down to the shores of Wascana Lake to light them and parade them. The image of that endless string of lights stretching down to the moonlit water struck a chord with me that eventually resulted in “The Paths of Souls.”

It’s also a story I’m fond of because it’s a bit of a tribute to a book I absolutely loved as a young science fiction reader: Andre Norton’s Moon of Three Rings. That idea of humans coming to a world they think they understand and falling into trouble because they don’t really understand it at all was something I wanted to use, and I also wanted to capture the deep sense of strangeness and wonder Norton’s book woke in me when I was 12 or so. I think maybe I manage it, at least a little.

I hope readers think so, too.

Edward Willett is the author of more than forty books of fiction and non-fiction for children, young adults and adults. Born in Silver City, New Mexico, he moved to Canada with his parents from Texas when he was eight and grew up in Weyburn, Saskatchewan, where he began his career as a newspaper reporter, becoming news editor before moving to Regina as communications officer for the then-fledgling Saskatchewan Science Centre. For the past 20 years he’s been a fulltime freelance writer. Ed won the Aurora Award for Best Long-Form Work in English in 2009 for his science fiction novel Marseguro (DAW Books). His newest book is Right to Know (Bundoran Press). November will see the release of Masks, the first book the Masks of Aygrima fantasy trilogy for DAW Books, written under the pseudonym E.C. Blake, and in the spring, Coteau Books in Regina will release Song of the Sword, first book in a five-book YA modern-day fantasy series collectively called The Shards of Excalibur, with subsequent books to appear at six-month intervals. Shadows, the second book in the Masks of Aygrima, will be out next summer, along with an as-yet untitled sequel to Right to Know. In addition to writing, Ed is a professional actor and singer. He continues to live in Regina with his wife, Margaret Anne, their daughter, Alice, and their cat, Shadowpaw.

 Ed is online at www.edwardwillett.com, on Twitter @ewillett, and can also be found on Facebook.

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Tesseracts 17 Interview: Holly Schofield

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

Holly Schofield writes a thoughtful piece about one possible future of our digital world in “Graveyard Shift.”

CA: “Graveyard Shift” is about a moral dilemma. Why did you choose to explore it through the aspects Asian tradition?

I knew I wanted to write about the soul-crushing debt that post-secondary students are incurring now and how that may worsen in the future. By adding in a cultural challenge, I was able to increase the struggle of the main character, Ryan, and deepen the story.

Like many young Canadians, 23-year-old Ryan precariously straddles two worlds. He’s a child of mainstream urban Canada, with all its peer pressure, capitalism, and emphasis on a unique sense of self. And he was raised in a traditional Asian multigenerational household, with its sometimes conflicting components: an unyielding respect for elders, a severe work ethic, and a unified sense of family.

Ryan’s ability to choose which of the two culture’s many elements to apply to his growing set of problems is essential to the story.

CA: You story deals with a near and very possible future where the effects of automation and a global village are wiping out the need for certain jobs. In some ways, it’s what happened when the Industrial Revolution happened. Do you think we’re going to go through more of these industrial bumps? Is there a chance for people to be assimilated into new jobs or will we end up with a leisure society?

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Holly Schofield’s story is about straddling cultures and changes in the world.

History is full of speed bumps. I don’t see that changing. Our current challenges include technology’s effect on jobs, the uneven division of wealth, and the increasing need for life-long learning. In this story, Ryan has chosen an educational path that is perhaps no longer appropriate and needs to adjust his expectations accordingly—a familiar feeling to anyone applying for jobs in our post-2008 world.

The line between work and leisure may well blur as technology advances. Even ten years ago, it was almost impossible to imagine a job in the social media field, yet now that’s a burgeoning employment sector.

The key, in both real life and in the story, is flexibility. Does Ryan have enough transferable job skills to cope? Readers will have to learn for themselves.

CA: You mentioned that you hope to save the world through science fiction. Whether serious or not about that statement, do you believe that writing SF can make a difference?

I’m certainly hoping it can. I know that reading SF has made a difference in how I perceive the world and where our civilization is headed.
It’s proven that reading fiction, any fiction, measurably enhances our abilities to empathize with other people. Levels of emotional engagement rise in the long-term, compared to non-fiction readers.

Something not yet proven, but I tend to believe, is that SF readers have even more of that engagement and, even better, an understanding of the real potential of humankind. In my own case, watching the original Star Trek on TV as a child–seeing that imaginary future world without poverty, where humans can satisfy their need to simply explore–gave me a “big picture” view of how wonderful our civilization can be. Thousands of SF stories later, I’m sure I do see the world in a different way than a reader who has never ventured outside of mainstream fiction.

I would like to impart some of that optimism in my own fiction.

CA: What’s your next project?

I tend to work on several stories at once. Soon-to-be-published stories involve Alberta petroglyphs, a wimpy superhero, and a garbage-collecting cyborg. Stories in progress feature a brain-augmented cat, a woman who mind-melds with eagles, and a castle built by a time traveller. Keep checking hollyschofield.wordpress.com (http://hollyschofield.wordpress.com/) for upcoming publications.

Holly Schofield has several publications in the online magazines, AE: The Canadian Science Fiction Review and Perihelion. Her work will soon appear in three anthologies: Tesseracts 17, Oomph: A Little Super Goes A Long Way, and The Future Embodied.

She travels through time at the rate of one second per second, oscillating between the alternate realities of a prairie farmhouse and her writing cabin on the west coast.
She plans to save the world with science fiction stories and home-grown heritage tomatoes.

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Tesseracts 17 Interview: Tim Reynolds

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Tesseracts 17  has tales from Canadian writers that span all times and places.

Tim Reynolds is one of the four Alberta authors to grace the pages of Tesseracts 17 (already available on Amazon).

CA: Tim, your story “Why Pete?” struck us right away as being true science fiction. It wasn’t a veneer and it had a ray of hope. A lot of space SF seems to be laden with gloom or madness, and yours could have been but you resisted. Was it pure coincidence or did you plan it?

Both, actually. I already write a lot of gloom and madness with my horror (and a new fantasy novel I’m planning) so my science fiction tends to be a bit brighter and upbeat. Of course there will always be death and danger and heartbreak in my stories, but that’s the nature of life. With “Why Pete?”, the upbeat nature sort of came out of the situation. It may sound corny, but once I decided that the hero was female and the computer voice was male, the banter between the characters dictated the tone. It was supposed to be a bit dark and claustrophobic, but when I asked how a well-trained, professional commander would truly react, humour and hope shone through. The last thing I wanted was a screaming, crying cliche.  The ending was not planned in detail prior to the writing. I wrote the story and when I got to the part where it all needed to be tied up, gloom and despair just didn’t seem to fit as well as hope. To be honest, my stories ALL end with hope. It may not be the hope the reader or characters expect at the beginning of the story, but there is hope. I’m also known for killing all my characters, some with dignity and some without any grace or style whatsoever. Que sera sera.

CA: Too many SF movies deal with technology doing the characters in? Why do you suppose that is?

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Alberta author Tim Reynolds’ story “Why Pete” is in Tesseracts 17.

I believe that when technology is “doing the characters in” in a film, it’s not SF (or at least not sci fi), it’s horror, or maybe a thriller. If the technology can be replaced with a werewolf, a shark, a dream dude with razor-sharp gloves, or a former camper in a goalie mask, then it’s a horror story written in a science fiction/science environment. The technology can then be symbolic of whatever aspect of mankind (racism, corporations, dictators, religion, etc.) the filmmaker wants to take a shot at.  Now, in Alien (the perfect horror film set in space), the technology “doing man in” is actually the android, who sees the pursuit of knowledge as the purest of endeavours, and greater than the needs and wants of the individuals. I think we also use technology as the antagonist in order to avoid offending any particular group (ie., people not of the race, creed, colour, religion, political stance, height, weight, or dietary alignment of the author/filmmaker). Technology is simply a common threat outside mankind, like alien beings. Even slasher films portray their killers as something much less than human. It’s how we can tell such horrific stories and still have the readers come back for more. The sad thing is that worse horrors are perpetrated in reality by “the nice person next door” than any imagined monster or tech in film or literature.

CA: Do you think SF is getting a bad rep these days?

I think Science Fiction has always had a bad rep, because when it’s badly done it’s horrible; but when it’s well-executed, it asks questions and makes proposals and puts forth ideas that scare the hell out of the people whose jobs it is to maintain the order they’ve designed and must maintain. In my mind, good science fiction should shake up the status quo, at least a little bit. If you haven’t pissed off at least one or two people with your story’s ideas/concepts, then you haven’t done your job as a SF writer. I do this in my fantasy as well. I think that a story lacking a belief system (politics, religious, scientific) and something attacking it, is missing an entire layer that takes the story from an enjoyable read to  topic of discussion and argument. In my recently submitted novel, I have a character compare Jesus Christ to Adolf Hitler. That sounds incredibly daring out of context, but in fact it fits with the over-all conversation. Of course it’s also meant to infuriate people and have them screaming at me. Even if they’re discussing it negatively, they’re discussing it. “Why Pete?” is not particularly controversial, though, unless you count Lilly and Pete’s different points of view on marital fidelity.

CA: You mentioned that you were looking at a phobia. Do you have other stories where you explore phobias and ones process into or through them?

No, not really. I should clarify that the phobia of being buried alive which inspired “Why Pete?” is not meant to be the character’s phobia, but the reader’s. There’s no way Commander Rayn would have been sent into space if she were claustrophobic, at least in my story. Instead, I want the reader to be terrified and sweating and not coping well in the situation, while the character keeps a level head and solves the problem at hand. In part, the story is meant to say that logic, patience, and a few deep breaths are more effective than freaking out, so calm down and solve the problem.  I do enjoy using fear as a motivator, though. None of us know what is beyond death, so that’s always the first one I play with. I have an entire novel, though, where every one of the “team” of heroes is reincarnated whenever they die, so the fear they are working with is that their failure means the deaths of of tens of thousands of others who do NOT get reincarnated. Although I don’t treat it as a paralyzing phobia, I do cripple some of the characters with an overwhelming fear of failure, over and over again. And then I gave the hero MS, just to up the stakes a bit.

CA: In your ideal future of space travel, what would you hope to see and do (presuming that it could be there tomorrow)?

If I won the lottery tomorrow, I would reserve a seat on a shuttle into space, even for 30 seconds of weightlessness. On a bigger scale than my own self-satisfaction, though, I would love to see mankind find efficient and safe ways to colonize space before it’s too late and we’ve beaten ourselves down so far that there’s no money for space exploration any more. I would love to see us also take more risks and push the envelope like the early astronauts did for both Russia and the USA. We will not go as far as we need to by playing it too safe. My story, “Why Pete?”, actually describes where I want us to be going. Mankind should explore and populate the stars. That’s the ideal, what I hope for.

The reality I foresee is much darker and far less positive. I live like an optimist, but I have a great deal of faith in the self-righteous dregs of humanity finding a way to ruin our future. I don’t see a way to fix it and it’s a problem I’m currently wresting with in the sibling-novel (is that a term? I mean a novel set in the same universe with the same backstory, but in a different location and a different set of characters) of “Why Pete?”.

Tim Reynolds is a Canadian twistorian, bending and twisting history into fictional shapes for sheer entertainment. His published stories range from lighthearted urban fantasy to turn-on-the-damned-lights-now horror, and include the story of a bus driver who kills all his passengers, a tale of a dying folk singer’s moments teaching Death a love song, and a dark, depressing view of the near future of reality TV and child-rearing. His first love, though, is science fiction and is working diligently at his first science fiction novel, while marketing an urban fantasy and editing the first draft of a paranormal romance.

His 100-word story “Temper Temper” was a winner of Kobo Writing Life’s Jeffrey Archer Short Story Challenge. He can be found online at www.tgmreynolds.com & www.TheTaoOfTim.com (blog).

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Chi Reading Series Vancouver

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The ChiSeries features published authors every quarter. Also in Toronto, Winnipeg and Ottawa.

Coming next week  is the third event in the ChiSeries Vancouver, which Sandra Kasturi and Helen Marshall first started in Toronto. I chair the Vancouver branch and we started in April with Claude Lalumière, Camille Alexa and Steve Erikson, with a second in July with Eileen Kernaghan, Linda DeMuelemeester and Hiromi Goto. This third reading has Peter Darbyshire (also writing as Peter Roman) author of Mona Lisa Sacrifice, Melia McClure with her first novel The Delphi Room, and Silvia Moreno-Garcia, editor of Innsmouth Free Press and author of the collection This Strange Way of Dying.

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Melia McClure’s The Delphi Room debuts this month.

Melia McClure’s The Delphi Room is a quirky, darkly surreal novel currently out from ChiZine Publications. She has adapted The Delphi Room into a screenplay. Her fiction has been shortlisted in the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) National Literary Awards, and she is the editor of Meditation & Health magazine, which is distributed in multiple locations in the United States and Canada as well as in Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Indonesia. Melia grew up dancing and acting, and now, when not penning strange tales populated by quirky characters, or creating other varieties of writing, she can be found collecting vintage coats, dabbling with paint and perfecting her Charleston.

Click on Melia’s name above and you’ll get a taste of her very evocative writing. If you can’t make Oct. 9, she is having the official launch of her book on Oct. 18 at the Cottage Bistro at 4470 Main St.

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Peter Darbyshire’s novels have received rave reviews.

Peter Darbyshire is the author of the books The Warhol Gang and Please, which won the ReLit Prize for Best Alternative Novel. He’s also the author of the supernatural thriller The Mona Lisa Sacrifice, under the pen name Peter Roman. When he has time, he writes strange short stories, but they’re never as strange as real life.

Mexican by birth, Canadian by inclination. Silvia Moreno-Garcia lives in Vancouver with her family and two cats. Her short stories have appeared in places such as The Book of Cthulhu, Imaginarium 2013: The Best Canadian Speculative Writing and Shine: An Anthology of Optimistic Science Fiction. She has edited several anthologies, including Dead North and Fungi. Her first collection, This Strange Way of Dying, is out this year. Her first novel, Sound Fidelity, will be out in 2014.

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Silvia Moreno-Garcia is editor of Innsmouth Free Press and author of This Strange Way of Dying.

These authors have impressive writing styles and they’ll be reading from their works next week. The event is free, as are all the Chiaroscuro Readings Series (sponsored in part by ChiZine Publications) across Canada. Other reading events are in Winnipeg, Ottawa and Toronto (which receive some sponsorship from the Ontario Arts Council), where national chair and co-founder Sandra Kasturi has been running monthly readings for about four years.

It’s a great way to spend a rainy or cool October evening. Come out and meet the authors and listen to them read. If you’re in other parts of Canada, check out the ChiSeries there and keep an eye out for more events in other cities in the future. The next one for Vancovuer will be in January. https://www.facebook.com/ChiSeries

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