Tag Archives: Canadian authors

Women in Horror: Sara C. Walker

 

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

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

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

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

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

Walker cancer horror

Real life SF horror–cancer ad from the 1800s

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

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

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

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

walker ht

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

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

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

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

 

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Women in Horror: Halli Lilburn

WiHMX-horizontal-WhiteHalli Lilburn, author and editor, speaks about what makes horror addictive.

Halli on Horror

Horror has its perks. A rush of hormones and adrenaline is addictive. The fight or flight mechanism in our brain is activated without ever being in danger. A good jump-scare is equal to extreme sports. But if you analyze the underlying conflicts behind monster versus man, the message can continue to disturb you for months and even years.

lilburnMy parents wouldn’t allow me to go to a friend’s and watch Poltergeist, so I snuck out. I was thirteen. Curiosity and rebellion were my motivators. Mostly curiosity. I wanted to know what happened to human beings when their souls became corrupted and what kind of damage could they do to the living. I learned that it didn’t take much for a soul to cross the line from human to monster. It was the first time a show gave me nightmares. The morbidity rate on and off screen proved the truth of the rumors that demons had cursed the set. One actress was strangled to death by an ex-boyfriend, and the main character also died of mysterious health complications. I will never watch those movies again. The idea of retribution from beyond the grave will never not be scary. Thirteen is a very vulnerable time for a developing brain.

I am a vivid dreamer. Could be inherited from my dad or could be the anti-depressants Lilburn weshallbemonstersI’m taking. Probably both. When people ask me where I get my bizarre ideas the answer is usually a nightmare. And the more outlandish the better. In horror, a writer can get away with anything. In my story Hidden Twin I found a way to make one body rip apart to find another body inside it like Donna in Poltergeist III (spoilers).

Still, there are areas in the genre that I avoid: (living) serial killers and body mashing are not my cup of tea. The thrill of witnessing a murder is petrifying but once you are dead, it’s over. The stories that get to me are the hauntings; images that churn in your mind over and over for years, being trapped inside your mind, not knowing what is real, losing control of your sanity. Ghosts are especially convincing when they reach out to their families for help, but their method of communication so cryptic it fails. When the dead stick around the living are bound to get hurt. Some examples include The Others, Sixth Sense, Delirium, and Haunting of Hill House. Like I said, if it gives me nightmares, it is well written.

SKULL SPEAK

A skull is what I see through

Through my hollow eyes

A skull is what I speak through

With chattering teeth

Always smiling

With no lips it’s impossible not to

A ribcage is what I love through

It is cold here in your heart

Can you find a way to love me?

The skeleton sits on my shelf

A corpse of me

Sporting a felt hat and smiling

Always smiling

Showing teeth in a carefree, neurotic way

“You are obsessed with me” it laughs

I tap its tiny noggin

I let you take up precious space on my shelf

Precious space meant for books.

It replied, “Ah, but the stories I could tell.”

Lilburn steampunkHalli Lilburn writes speculative, sci-fi and poetry, but she always tries to spice it up with something horrific. Her most recent releases include stories in anthologies: We Shall be Monsters by Renaissance Press, Tesseracts 22: Alchemy and Artifacts by Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy. She is a freelance editor with essentialedits.ca and you can read more at her blog.

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Women in Horror: Nancy Kilpatrick

WiHMX-horizontal-WhiteIt’s bloody Valentine’s Day and who to know more about the horror of vampire’s than Canada’s own Nancy Kilpatrick. Nancy talks about collecting, vampires and all that crazy killer love of them.

Vampires. Now you see ‘em, now you don’t. They’ve been around at least since the first written records of humanity’s history, and likely since the first mortals ventured out of caves and decided they enjoyed being bipeds. As we’ve evolved, so have the Undead. After all, we imagined them, so we have creators’ rights to bring them up to our speed.

Being one of those insane types who becomes obsessed about certain things, I’ve ended up with a library of vampire novels totaling over 2,500 volumes, which will be hard to move if I ever need to. I also own a hundred or so movie posters, games, dolls, toys, pamphlets, PhD dissertations, small press non-fiction offerings, movies, vinyl and CD music, poetry, jewelry, clothing, toys and much other memorabilia related to Bloodsuckers (and their less physical cousins who don’t want to sip our blood but do want to imbibe our energy, our dreams, our souls, or whatever else they desire which we possess).

kilpatrickI’ve also written quite a bit on vampires. Currently, my 22nd novel has just been released in a vampire series for adults called “Thrones of Blood.” Vol 4: Savagery of the Rebel King follows the bite trail of Vol 1: Revenge of the Vampir King; Vol 2:  Sacrifice of the Hybrid Princess; Vol 3: Abduction of Two Rulers.

Being awash in this crimson milieu has resulted in a bit of knowledge about these supernatural creatures, especially in terms of what’s been written, and what hasn’t. Which is why the great hoopla about the Twilight books and movies and others of that ilk has astounded me. Both the pro and anti positions are strong still and within those are factions like: Camp Edward (vampire) or Camp Joseph (werewolf)—pick your own fantasy guy.

Twilight has been viewed as teen fodder, but it was not only young adults and not only females that adored the material. Rumor has it that moms also jumped on the coffin wagon. This sanitized vampire world spoke to budding hormones, since the human protagonist didn’t have sex until marriage, which came at the end of the series. Edward Cullen (approximate age 117 years), aka The Good Boyfriend, was always there for his still-in-high school human sweetheart Bella Swan. Attentive. Kind. Not pushy. Self-effacing to a fault; he would rather harm himself than harm her, abandon her instead of inflicting his questionable true self on his true love. Much tease, little payoff.

But vampires have always had problems being accepted. Derived from legends and mythology with a few “true” accounts, in the past this creature was portrayed as horrific, violent, a fearsome, murderous, blood-drinking resuscitated corpse.

dracula-jpg-20170208

Bela Lugosi as Dracula

The review in the Manchester Guardian on the 1897 release of Bram Stoker’s book is so scathing. Bela Lugosi played Dracula on stage and in 1931 on screen. While the movie was well received by the public, some of the female persuasion reputedly fainted en masse in the theater, The New Yorker’s negative review included, “there is no real illusion in the picture” and, “This whole vampire business falls pretty flat.” The Chicago Tribune did not think the film as scary as its stage version, calling it “too obvious” and “its attempts to frighten too evident.” Despite that, The Tribune deigned to conclude it was “quite a satisfactory thriller.”

All this to say that the vampire has floated side by side over millennia with us and that each incarnation has met with acceptance and rejection. Ultimately, the vampire, IMHO, is composed of many facets, which is why its popularity ebbs and then flows again at a re-envisioning, and why it likely will always remain the most popular supernatural. This monster is recognizable as us. Vampires were human and can still take human form.

We’ve cleaned up the vampire to meet our exacting germ-obsessed 21st century kilpatrick2standards. And that’s fine because it’s what the public demands. Each generation finds a new facet to engage with. Generation X had the most recent crack at redefining the vampire as a being that sparkles. A backlash resulted to return to the more terrifying Undead. We will have to wait to see what Gens Y or Z concoct. But if history means anything, it tells us that the vampire will not be staked into oblivion. If that was going to happen it would have already occurred. This dark archetype resonates in its myriad forms. Twilight is already part of the comprehensive history of the most intriguing of supernaturals.

Nancy Kilpatrick, who has been called Queen of the Undead, Canada’s Anne Rice, and That Hot Vampire Chic, says these monikers leave her delirious because “Somebody’s got to own it!”  Kilpatrick writes vampires, not only, but mostly. Her website lists her novels and collections. In addition, she has published over 220 short stories, 1 non-fiction book—The Goth Bible: A Compendium for the Darkly Inclined—as well as graphic novels and stories and lots of non-fiction articles. She whiles away her limited free kilpatrick3time visiting crypts, catacombs, cemeteries, mummies, jeweled skeletons and Danse Macabre artwork. Her latest creations are the sinister and seductive vampires in Thrones of Blood, with the first 4 books of this 6 book series out now. Check out the ebook of #4, Savagery of the Rebel King here  as well as at Amazon.ca and Amazon.co.uk.

Nancy Kilpatrick’s website is here and if there’s something not there that you want to know about her, ask at the bottom of the page. Nancy can also be found on Facebook,
Twitter, Instagram and on her Blog.

Links to the Thrones of Blood series:

 

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Women in Horror: L.V. Gaudet

WiHMX-horizontal-WhiteToday, we have L.V. Gaudet, crime, horror and children’s writer for Women in Horror Month. She talks about research, gory stuff and being a woman.

Research is Key, So Don’t Hold Out On Me

I am honored to be invited as a guest for Women in Horror Month.

Gaudet Garden Grove Cover - Amazon ebook - front coverResearch is key to making or breaking any story. As I write and edit I am constantly asking questions. I will research any little thing. I constantly flag lines with a note to come back and double check it. Should that little door open from the left or the right? Find a picture. What does it look like? What does it sound like? Is there a smell? Sound? What cereals were available then? The purpose is to make sure my descriptions fit and feel real.

I flag things I think I know because the odds are pretty good that someone out there is smarter about it than I am. And I am human, I’m fallible. I make mistakes just like we all do, and I don’t know everything. Nobody does. I even go back and verify what I wrote in a previous story in a series to make sure I get it right.

When a writer fails to research and gets something obviously wrong, or is simply lazy about the details, the story can quickly die the death of lost interest.

Research comes in many forms, each adding to what you know.

Writing What You Know

You’ve heard it said. Who hasn’t? The proclamation that, as a writer, you must, “Write Gaudet Gypsy Queen full cover Proof 5 - smaller file sizewhat you know!” Please do not ever take that literally, but I welcome you to take it seriously.

I have encountered a few writers who take this concept very seriously, decrying any writer who would not run out and experience a thing first hand before writing about it as frauds, failing to properly research.

How many authors actually faced off against vampires and werewolves, octopuses larger than a city block, zombies, or many of the endless other scenarios in stories? Did Wes Craven, creator of Freddy Krueger, personally experience a twisted demented man with razor-sharp blades on his glove slashing at him in his dreams, waking to discover the injuries are real?

Gaudet Hunting Michael Underwood vers 2-2-Ebook Cover-reduced file sizeIf we only wrote what we literally personally experienced, we would be writing about our day jobs, relationships, and the frustration of that Starbuck’s associate getting our coffee order wrong instead of why it could be read as a sign of an alien invasion in progress. There would be many more books on personal relationships and not enough feeding our imaginations with the fantastical and probably impossible made to seem possibly plausible.

What you “know” encompasses every experience you have, from books and film to verbal stories from people you know, to news and researching, to real life experiences. It is also as much about using your imagination to apply what you know to new and imagined ideas and experiences as it is to what you actually know.

The best research is personal experience. Yes, this is true in my humble opinion, but it Gaudet THe McAllister Farm vers 2-2-new-Ebook Crop-smaller filedoes not necessarily have to be your own experience. I have not seen the naked bloated desiccating corpse of a man in real life; nor the small things that will stand out to the human experience in the twisted wreckage of a car crash up close and in person.

Did you know that in real life or death moments stress can play incredible tricks on the brain? Make sounds into something they are not? That in an active shooter situation some people may not even hear the loud gun shots everyone around them hears?

Photos are limited to what the camera is pointed at and what the lighting allows to be captured and do not show many things the human experience picks up on. Articles tend to leave the nastiest stuff out for readability sake and to not alienate readers who would find it too much. That leaves a lot up to the imagination.

Where the Bodies AreBetter than imagination and researching through articles and pictures, I’ve talked to people who have experienced some of these things and the trickle out of the aftermath first hand. Getting those touches of stark reality adds a special kind of life to the story. But this is where research can take a back seat to others’ perceptions. Sometimes even to your own involuntary perceptions.

Getting people to dish the dirt on morbid details can be tough when you are not a “dude.”

Meet “the hold back.” It tends to be the first reaction to me, a woman, asking for nasty details. I found people tend hold back even after I explain that it’s okay to give me the details. By all means, ask if you are unsure or hesitant to disturb me. Not everyone can take it. Just don’t make gender-based assumptions about how delicate my mind is.

When someone narrates a dark experience in a group conversation, you can see that Gaudet The Latchkey Kids-flattened-B&N Ebook cropimmediate moment of misgiving, awkward regret as they glance quickly at you, remembering that, oh yeah, you are there too. The hold back.The thought that you, the only female in the group, can’t handle it.

While I want to dig and prod for details, I have to remind myself they might not be comfortable talking about it because it is traumatic details for anyone who experienced it. They might also not be comfortable simply because of who, or what, I am (being female). But when regaling the tale to the guys, and after checking that I, or anyone else in the group, won’t be irrevocably traumatized; don’t hold back just because I have a vagina.

Research often and anything; you never know what tidbit you will need. Vary your sources, methods, and types of research; and don’t think any detail is too small. We each have our research strengths and weaknesses, but together they complement each other. Never discount a potentially good source or others’ life experiences. I have gotten some of my best research details from living through others’ experiences.

Gaudet Author photoL.V. Gaudet is a Canadian author of dark fiction and a member of the Manitoba Writers’ Guild since 1993, the Horror Writers Association, and Authors of Manitoba.

L.V. grew up with a love of the darker side; sneaking down to the basement at night to watch the old horror B movies, Vincent Price being a favourite; devouring books by Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and other horror authors; and has had a passion for books and the idea of creating stories and worlds a person can get lost in since reading that first novel.

This love of storytelling has her working, writing and editing into a busy life that includes a full time job, family, and doing the little things to help the writing community, including offering encouragement to others in the online writing community and volunteering time helping with the Manitoba Writers’ Guild Facebook presence, proofreading for the HWA newsletter, and visiting schools for I Love to Read month.

L.V. Gaudet lives in Manitoba with her two rescue dogs, spouse, and kids.

Books currently available on Amazon and Kindle. Watch for them coming on Kobo and other sources. Links to all available sources will be updated on her blog as they come available. Her titles include:

The McAllister Series:

For writers and lovers of writing visit The Intangible World of the Literary Mind.  L.V. Gaudet can also be reached through FacebookTwitter, http://twitter.com/lvgaudet, and Instagram.

For stories suitable for younger readers, look for stories published under the pen name Vivian Munnoch. Vivian Munnoch can be found through Facebook, Twitter, and her blog.

The Latchkey Kids

(also available on Kobo and Smashwords) COMING: The Latckey Kids 2

 

 

 

 

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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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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?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Tesseracts 17 Interview: Dave Beynon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CA: What projects are you working on now?

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

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

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Tesseracts 17 Interview: David Jón Fuller

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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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