Tag Archives: EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy

Bad Behavior in the Publishing World

booksI’ve been gone for awhile from my blog, and was going to come back with a tale of what’s been happening in my life. However, with recent upsets in the publishing world, and specifically Canadian speculative publishing, I feel I must speak up as well, for several reasons that will become clear.

In some ways, the world of the small press, even the big mega publishers, is often fraught with financial mismanagement and suspect deals or questionable contracts. The recent events in Canada were about long time Calgary speculative publisher EDGE Publishing and long time Toronto dark fiction publisher CZP or ChiZine Publications.

Bilodeau nigh 5-final

Marie Bilodeau’s Nigh series Book 5

Canada is rather small when it comes to population and even smaller with writing population. Most speculative authors know of each other and of any press that can publish speculative fiction. There aren’t many. Recent complaints by Marie Bilodeau not receiving more than one sales/royalty report and being blocked in other ways with the sale of her book started a discussion about EDGE. It spurred a minor rise up in the SF community and discussion on the SF Canada list, our own pro writers group. I believe the SFC executive managed to help in communicating with EDGE and Marie’s long outstanding case was resolved. EDGE has a reputation of not communicating, paying late or not paying and not getting contracts out on time. I’ve co-edited a Tesseracts anthology and been in various anthologies with EDGE. I was always paid, sometimes a bit late. I have received one contract after the book was published and a signed contract after another book was published. EDGE ran a risk that someone would pull their story without a signed contract and that would have meant the print run being pulled or face litigation. I was however, aware of the issues with EDGE.

When the EDGE accusations came out on SFC, people started mentioning issues they had had. I reported as I did above. This was not ever to say I didn’t believe other people’s reports. In fact, I very much believe them. It was only to report; I wasn’t going to lie. In this way people can determine that 75% of authors working with X publisher reported issues, or 100% did or 2% did. This is an important statistic and in any lawsuit that data would be used to show a pattern. It also indicates if a publisher is going through a tough phase, or if they have a regular habit of bad behavior. EDGE’s reputation is known but not everyone knows of it.

Kurtz

Angel of the Abyss by Ed Kurtz

Then out came ChiZine Publication’s debacle. It’s been all over the web, on people’s blogs, on Facebook and I cannot report it all here. (This will be long enough as it is.) However File 770 will give anyone reading here a place to start. It started with Ed Kurtz’s complaints about rights and payment. It spread like wildfire with many authors reporting no or late payments and statements. Then it spread to allegations of misconduct, of gaslighting, of ostracizing and even trying to break up relationships.

This was extremely shocking stuff, especially because I considered co-owner Brett Savory and Sandra Kasturi friends. I attended their wedding many years ago. I read slush for CZP, did a bit of editing, hosted the Chiseries readings in Vancouver for 2 years, and was co-editor of the online poetry section of Chizine with Carolyn Clink. I live on the West Coast. CZP is in Ontario. I didn’t even see Brett and Sandra once a year and maybe talked via phone once a year. I knew of one fight between them and another friend but that can always be chalked up to differences of opinion or personalities. Other than that, I had no clue. One blog poster has said, “we told you but you wouldn’t listen.” However, whoever the “we” were didn’t tell the “you” that included me or most of SF Canada. It’s hard to “hear” when you’re not part of whatever group is considered the “you,” so in many cases geographic areas of writers might be very well unaware of what is happening elsewhere. Perhaps Ontario authors knew but most of us did not.

Yes, I was shocked. I was disturbed and I lost sleep over it. I read many of the posts by Michael Matheson, Sam Beiko, Helen Marshall, Beverly Bambury and others. I know most of these people professionally; many of them worked for CZP, and I have talked with them in the past. I was so surprised, but I believed their statements. Unless there is a mass conspiracy, I would have had to stick my head in the sand to disbelieve the sheer number of complaints. There may be nuances to tales that haven’t been revealed. That, I don’t know.

What ensued next was just as disturbing to me. I posted on SFC, probably within the first 24-48 hours of the wildfire, stating I hadn’t seen this behavior, only what I had worked on for them, but that I was also on the West Coast and was not physically in the vicinity. Again, as with EDGE, I only posted my experiences; I didn’t lie. I also said, let’s see what they post about these allegations.

Immediately I was attacked and accused of ignorance, of negating the other reports and god knows what else. I stated again, that even in a court of law the accused gets a chance to speak. I reiterated that this did not mean I didn’t believe the statements. What ensued after was not pretty. Messages came out indicating that if you didn’t say anything then you were against the maligned authors, pretty much the black and white “if you’re not with me, you’re against me” belief. People were attacked, just because they were men or because of some statement about publishing or rights or this or that. If this were a street brawl there would have been bodies. There were members with their own agenda or trauma who will always see every statement through that particular lens. There were others who deliberately tried to misconstrue every comment, who intentionally dug into every word so that they could rise up in righteous anger. There was no asking to elaborate, just harsh judgment and accusations. Other people raised the torches and pitchforks. Some handed out blanket judgments of everyone on SFC or of this group or that group. Some people left the list. I’m sure some people unfriended me on Facebook. I don’t know so I can’t be offended but if deliberately misinterpreting my words is the way to go, then I don’t need them reading my posts.

What I did do was stop posting. After all, I was attacked once. I would now be seen as the enemy and attacked again. With the trauma and grief I’ve dealt with in the last year, this was triggering me and that’s partly why this post has come out several weeks after the initial event. I might never post again on SFC. I might let my membership lapse. I don’t know but I certainly don’t feel safe posting anymore. That’s a lot of fallout over one publisher and a lot of evidence of things that need to be fixed.

Burning-book-mrtwismBut are EDGE and CZP the only two publishers who have indulged in bad behavior? And is it only Canadian publishers? Absolutely not. I’ve experienced it myself more than once, from big companies to small.

I wrote articles for magazines called Best Whistler and Opulence. The first never paid me. The second was so far behind or just not paying writers that the writers rose up in force, contacted advertisers and formed a class action lawsuit. I helped get everyone in contact. I had played my cards close, having been burned by Best Whistler, and never let the amount they owed me get too high, also leaving enough time in between articles that they would often pay. Though before the mass uprising I had to threaten a lawyer to get my money and then leave. For that reason I didn’t join the lawsuit as I had no outstanding payments owed.

Even before that I used to copyedit for NY book packager Byron Preiss. They sometimes did work for other publishers and I was copyediting four related books in a faeries series. It was cancelled I think after book II but I’d copyedited book III. I spent a year fighting with them since they were arguing over who should pay: Penguin or Byron Preiss. In the end, I had to threaten lawyer to get less than $500 measly bucks. One of the biggest houses in SF exhibited disorganization when they lost not one but two copyediting tests I did for them.

Then there was Zharmae Publishing. Never heard of them? I’m not surprised. They were new. They gave me a massive contract that asked for all rights in perpetuity throughout the universe. Yes that was the exact wording. I sent them a sample of the SFWA contract. I figured they were earnest but misguided; we haggled the contract. “Tower of Strength” came out in the Irony of Survival. The true irony was surviving as a writer. I’m sure maybe eight people bought this anthology. For over a year after publication they never sent me my copies and they literally said the cheque was in the mail. The payment was $100, not very much and they knew it would be more expensive for me to get a lawyer.

What they didn’t know was I had a friend who was an entertainment lawyer and for free he had his assistant draft a letter. In 24 hours I had my pay but they still tried to wiggle out of the books. I had those in a week. These are just my stories of dealing with publishers. Publishing houses can still mismanage their operations, either intentionally or out of inexperience and bad business practices. I had other publishers disappear into the dark of night without ever responding on submissions or acceptances. That’s almost par for the course these days.

More recently I was invited to write for an anthology that was royalty based. I’ve not done this before and I will never do it again. There was no editing done on the stories and the publisher never gave any royalty reports. I never received a penny, or a hard copy of the book, only a PDF. I’m sure any sales that were done with the minimal marketing went to the publisher, and the editor who did nothing to deserve payment. But…I am unable to complain about this publisher. This is a case of me being a small pea in a pod, with little clout, not known well, and the publisher being a very well known member of a large organization. I don’t feel I would ever be heard or believed in such a situation. How does one complain to either SFWA’s or HWA’s grievance committees knowing that this person will probably have wind of it and that it could end up getting me ostracized in the writing community.

I need to mention that lawsuits and grievances have probably happened to many bookof the big publishing house’s. you don’t always hear of them because of NDAs. After all, entertainment lawyers make their money interpreting and looking for loopholes in contracts. Sometimes the publisher is to blame but sometimes an author can be to blame as well. There are notoriously difficult writers. If they’re famous enough, publishers will grin and bear it, but if they’re newer, then authors might be booted to the curb. It’s good to remember that not every complaint on any side may be founded and that it’s always best to hear both sides of the story. I believe this fundamentally, even in the workplace.

This is the power publishers and editors hold over writers. We want to be published. There’s more of us than there are spots to fill. People will often be paid peanuts for massive rights grabs by the publisher. The publisher can blacklist you. Big and well-known publishers and editors can spread enough word that you are a difficult author so that no one will touch you. It could be game over for whatever sales we can get. So yes, I’m still the victim of some publishing bad behavior that I cannot report on. And my rule is to always try to treat everyone kindly because you don’t how it can come back to bite you on the ass.

I’ve become more and more cautious and don’t get caught as much, and I’m a barracuda in going after my rights. I don’t care if I have to nag. I will keep on. But we don’t always know when a publisher might change or a new publisher might just forget to get contracts out or runs out of money. Even vigilance can’t save us all from getting caught.

There are various writers organizations such as the Writers Union, HWA, SFWA, etc. that can go to bat for authors but if one is not a member it’s not as easy. And as I’ve shown, membership won’t necessarily save you. There is no easy solution to all of this. Sometimes an author thinks they’re the only one that has the issue. I guess all we can do is communicate better, to grievance committees, to each other and listen calmly. We should be trying to hear all sides and not leaping to conclusions and condemnations without weighing everything. The era of social media means that judgment can come without knowing the facts. I just know I do not have the energy to be attacked by someone’s perceived assumption about my words. Try asking for clarification first. And publishers need to have better business practices. We’re probably going to end up with a gap in Canadian speculative publishing, which is already very slim. I guess we’ll see what the future holds.

 

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Tesseracts 17 Interview: Lisa Poh

anthology, speculative fiction, SF, fantasy, Canadian authors

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

Lisa Poh hails from her home in Montreal, but is also from Singapore and uses a bit of both cultures in her story in Tesseracts 17.

CA: “Graffiti Borealis” deals with the urban landscape, but touches on a very Canadian aspect of landscape, the aurora borealis. Was this your intention?

I didn’t really set out to write a Canadian story. It just struck me that living in Montreal, I should write a story set here, so that was what I deliberately set out to do. When I started thinking about the landscape of Montreal and Quebec, Graffiti and the aurora borealis, two things that fascinate me, suddenly connected. Graffiti surrounds you in this city everywhere you go, and with the bright colors, it can be the most vibrant thing standing out amidst the aging concrete and brick. When I thought about it, it struck me that it was a like an aurora borealis in the city—neon, alive, always shifting, disappearing and reappearing.

 CA: Landscape plays quite an important role in this story, especially in feeling a part of or alienated from one’s surroundings. Daniel feels this in several ways. What cultural/societal motifs did you want to highlight?

I think that the immigrant experience always involves feelings of alienation, and simultaneously, of confrontation. There is a lot of push-pull attraction happening on different fronts. You want to integrate, and yet you want to remain yourself. Diversity is a huge part of the Canadian identity in my view. But as an element of society, it is not always something natural or easy. After all, what is assimilation, and what is it we are supposed to assimilate into? I thought it was interesting to have Daniel, who comes from the straight-laced, law-abiding Anglophone Asian track, thrown into partnership with La Guéparde, his opposite in so many ways. But yet, they are the same on some levels and have the ability to relate.

CA: Graffiti is a unique form of rebellion, art, political commentary and cultural nomenclature. Can you speak to those aspects in context to this story?

poh, graffiti, art, rebellion, cultural alienation, fantasy, speculative fiction, Tesseracts 17

Lisa Poh uses cultural and urban landscape in her tale “Graffiti Borealis.”

Oh yes. I come from Singapore, a country where painting graffiti on public property is punishable by caning and avenues for political commentary are restrictive. So the proliferation of graffiti here, along with the freedom of political protest, are some of the things I notice the most. My reaction is complex—sometimes repulsed, sometimes admiring. When I guide visitors through the city, I point it out with a mixture of disapproval and pride. Yes, this is Montreal. I tried to express these feelings through Daniel.

CA: Will we be seeing this world or the characters in other tales?

I haven’t any plans but if the inspiration strikes, why not?

CA: What else are you working on right now?

Right now I’m taking a writing break as my typing hands are full with a very vocal four-month-old baby. Once he learns to sleep on his own though, I hope to work on some new stories and a novel!

Lisa Poh is a writer, teacher and communicator who grew up in the tiny tropical metropolis of Singapore, but now lives in Montreal, Canada, with her game designer husband. Together, they consume too much caffeine and own too many books, video games and manga for a small apartment. A graduate of the 2009 Odyssey Writing Workshop, Lisa’s fiction can also be found in Expanded Horizons and Masked Mosaic: Canadian Super Stories. She is also the author of two high school English textbooks used by schools in Singapore. She blogs at http://lishwrite.wordpress.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.

anthology, speculative fiction, SF, fantasy, Canadian authors

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: Megan Fennell

SF, tragedy, speculative fiction, Tesseracts 17, anthology

Megan Fennell’s story “Bird Bones” talks about the monsters that live among us.

Tesseracts 17 is now available. In continuing with the Tesseracts interviews, I have Megan Fennell, whose story “Bird Bones” is in the anthology.

CA: Family is at the core of this piece. Have you explored what family means in other aspects of your writing?

 Absolutely. In most of what I write there will be at least some screen time given to the concept of families, either family by blood or family by choice. People do truly incredible things and make enormous sacrifices for family that they wouldn’t dream of doing for anyone else. Upon reflection, my stories tend to include a lot of sibling characters, albeit with varying degrees of oddity and functionality. This is probably a side effect of having possibly the best kid sister in the world and thus being intrigued by the nature in which the sibling dynamic can turn bizarre.

 CA: Do you think humans run the risk of the god complex by too much scientific tinkering or do you think there are restraints that keep us in check?

There are absolutely restraints that keep us in check, which is why the first trick of writing a mad scientist character (at least in my experience) tends to be isolating them. You mentioned Dr. Frankenstein… Add to that list a few more of my favourite brilliant madmen: Dr. Moreau, Dr. Jekyll, Griffin from the Invisible Man, and you’ll notice that secrecy, isolation and working within limited means play a big part in what they were doing. None of these folks were exactly in line for a government grant. In ‘Bird Bones’, Feyton’s controversial experimentations in his day-job are plagued by protestors and review boards. It’s his secret side project where he can really go wild. I believe that the all-seeing public eye and our tendency to ask this very question will ensure that cutting-edge science never galavants too far ahead of morality.

CA: What else are you working on these days and will we see other tales of transformation or escape?

You’d better believe it! Along with shopping around my short stories and trying to find the illusive market interested in love stories about squid-like aliens, I’m presently in the honeymoon stage with a new YA novel. This typically consists of me wandering around in a smile-y daze like a lovestruck teenager, murmuring happily about these wonderful new people who’ve turned up in my head. I’ll get to the hard work soon enough and start grumbling about it as is good and proper, of course! But yes, the crux of that one will be the nature of being human and the relative weight of what you are versus who you are, so more variations on some of my favourite themes for sure.

anthology, speculative fiction, SF, fantasy, Canadian authors

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

Megan Fennell was born in Victoria, BC, but has spent the majority of her life in a variety of Albertan cities and considers herself a creature of the prairies. Having disqualified herself from the great Calgary versus Edmonton debate by obtaining degrees at both the University of Calgary and the University of Alberta, she now lives with her two cats in Lethbridge, Alberta, drawing inspiration from the more rugged beauty of the Badlands. She has previously been published in OnSpec Magazine and the charity anthology Help: Twelve Tales of Healing

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/megan.fennell

Twitter: @FennellFiction

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/MeganFennell

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Tesseracts 17 Interview: Tim Reynolds

anthology, speculative fiction, SF, fantasy, Canadian authors

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?

speculative writing, SF, Canadian writers, Tesseracts 17

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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