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Tesseracts 17 Interview: Rhonda Parrish

anthology, speculative fiction, SF, fantasy, Canadian authors

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

Rhonda is another of the Alberta authors, with her tale “Bedtime Story.” Tesseracts 17 is now availble in stores and through Amazon.

CA: “Bedtime Story” captured the imagination of a child well, like Peter Pan did, but in a way it goes farther underground and into darkness. Do you think this is a story that could be told to children?

I suppose it would depend on the child but for the most part I would say no. Parts of the story are pretty subtle and other parts rather dark. That being said my daughter would have loved this story when she was young, but I suspect she would be more the exception than the rule.

CA: What element was the most important for you to explore in this tale and are you still exploring it?

You know, I’m not even sure. As cliche as it sounds, this story, or at least a large part of it, came to me as a dream. I took notes as soon as I woke up and I let my subconscious chew on it for a good long time before I put pen to paper but even so I’m not completely sure just yet what my dreaming mind was working through when it brewed up “Bedtime Story.” Give me another year or two and then ask me again, I may know the answer by then. ūüėČ

Tesseracts 17, Bedtime Story, fantasy, speculative fiction

Rhonda Parrish’s “Bedtime Story” delicately balances darkness and the otherworld.

CA: Fairy tales that go back centuries have heroes, or the little man who triumphs over greater odds. Whether it is a simple hobbit and a powerful ring, Jack and the Beanstalk or Harry Potter and Voldemort, it is the will or intelligence that perseveres. Your character is connected to just such a tale, yet she does not directly face those greater odds. Why did you choose to approach it from this angle?

I feel bad because I’d love to have a deep philosophical or some sort of incredibly clever reason for choosing to approach this story from the angle I did, but the truth is, I felt that if I took a more direct route to tell the story, if I picked a different point of view, for example, then it would end up as a novel. At that point in time I didn’t want to write a novel, I wanted to write a short story, so I decided to tell it from Clara’s point of view.

CA: What themes are you exploring right now and will we see Clara again?

I’m working on a large variety of projects these days, with diverse themes. One idea which seems to come up again and again however is that things are not always what they seem. And, when I think about it, I suppose that might be one of the things I was touching on with “Bedtime Story.” Maybe. ūüôā

As for Clara… I’m not sure. I would love for you to see her again, I’m pretty fond of her, and the world she inhabits so I wouldn’t mind revisiting it. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see if the sandman decides to bring me any more nocturnal inspiration.

Rhonda Parrish is a master procrastinator and nap connoisseur but despite that she somehow manages a full professional life. She has been the publisher and editor-in-chief of Niteblade Magazine for over five years now (which is like 25 years in internet time) and is the editor of the forthcoming benefit anthology, Metastasis. In addition, Rhonda is a writer whose work has been included or is forthcoming in dozens of publications including Tesseracts 17: Speculating Canada from Coast to Coast and Imaginarium: The Best Canadian Speculative Writing. Her website, updated weekly, is at http://www.rhondaparrish.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/RhondaParrish
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/rhonda.parrish.31

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Writing: A Few Free Reads

writing, Canadian anthology, Steve Vernon, Colleen Anderson, Tesseracts 17, Edge Publications

Get writing and send us your best.

I’m still compiling the third part of the demographics on Tesseracts 17 but it’s very time consuming and I’ve been far too busy. So, in the meantime, I have several pieces up on different websites this month and they’re free for you to read. I was paid for all of these so it’s a bonus both ways.

Heroic Fantasy Quarterly has my poem “Don Quixote’s Quandary.” Yes, it is about tilting at windmills.

At Polu Texni, I’m the feature poet for August so you will find three poems; “Heart of Glass,” “Father’s Child” and “Illuminating Thoughts.” The last two are Greek revisioning poems and the other is about that age-old dichotomy between stepmothers and the fairy tale princess. There is also an interview where you find out a bit more about what drives me.

Newest is my story “The Driver” featured at ReadShortFiction. Go and read it, and leave a comment.

Don’t forget, you can still pick up a copy of Deep Cuts, Bibliothecha Fantastica or Demonologia Biblica on Amazon. If you do read any of these,

CZP, Chizine, dark fiction, women in horror, Canadian writer, female authors

Colleen hosts the ChiReading Series Vancouver, full of dark and disturbed things.

leave a review. Let us know what you think and what you like.

Reviews from Deep Cuts:

  • Another story that really spoke to the artist in me is “Red is the Color of My True Love’s Blood” by Colleen Anderson. I love that this story is so raw feeling, and so very drenched (pardon the pun) in colors, particularly red (hence, the title).
  • Other stories I really enjoyed included “Hollow Moments” by R.S. Belcher- a chilling tale bent on striking fear in those of us who spend much of our lives thoughtlessly plodding through the routine and not really living, “Red Is the Colour of my True Love’s Blood” by Colleen Anderson – a vividly frightening story that blends colours and associated emotions and states of mind with unpleasant events,…
  • Colleen Anderson’s “Red is the Color of My True Love’s Blood” stands out by showing us that women can be as cold, calculated, and methodical a killer as men without dipping into stereotypes, but overall it’s a collection of brutality against women, dominant/ violent males, motherhood clich√©, and weak females. Very disappointing.

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Book Review: The Steel Seraglio

seraglio, Arabian Nights, Mike Carey, Louise Carey, Linda Carey, historical fantasy

Available through ChiZine Publications and Amazon.

The Steel Seraglio is published by ChiZine Publications and written by¬† Louise Carey, Linda Carey and Mike Carey. The Careys ( mother, father and daughter) wrote the book together. Some people may be wondering what a seraglio is as it’s not a common word anymore. It is a harem or the palace of a sultan and well defines both the context and the characters of this book.

I cannot say how wonderful this book is. It is a world of wonderful. It is the djinni uncapped. It truly is the stuff of which dreams are made. If you combined the Arabian Nights and the Canterbury Tales, shook them with a pinch of magic in a djinni bottle, you would come close to the depth and breadth and breathlessness of this novel.¬† The Steel Seraglio tells the tale of a sultan’s harem, jeopardized when the sultan is overthrown and they are sent into exile, but amongst them is a surviving son of the sultan and the fanatical new sultan’s wrath descends upon them.

Like the Arabian Nights, there are tales within tales here, where a character in the book tells a story of their past or a fantastical mirage to save their necks. These concubines (a year’s worth), though in an ancient and mystical time of Middle Eastern romanticism and attitude, are not just victims and chattels to be owned by men, though many try. They survive by wiles and wits, compassion and passion, and by ruthlessness when needed. Like a seraglio that holds the concubines for one man, this book is a harem of stories woven together to create a society and a history.

REM_small

The Steel Seraglio has some interior art by Nimit Malavia.

It is lush and loving, horrific and petty, political and fanatical, mysterious and methodical. Each character, from the wise Gursoon and opinionated Imtisar, from the assassin Zuleika and the scribe-librarian with prescient vision Rem, from the flawed Jamal and rogue Anwar Das, all of these and more become real people, their personalities distinct and human. There are a pastiche of characters and even Stephen King would marvel at the mastery, and Dickens would weep. Some of the people have short roles within the tale but the journey of the City of Women moves through time and place, showing what a community (and a seraglio of once chattels) can become.

These women are strong, brilliant fighters. The moral undercurrent¬† is¬† not just a fairy tale of old. For at the very core of The Steel Seraglio is the rights of women to be treated as equals and not be used only as baby machines and whores. Lest someone think this is preaching against certain right-wing movements only in the Mid-East, it rings as true for people anywhere, where men try to lessen women and blame the world’s evils upon them. And if you think that’s farfetched, don’t forget we had a presidential candidate just saythat if a woman is “legitimately raped” her body has a way of shutting out such things and that children are never born of rape. Ignorance and fear still rule and are shown here in different ways by a fanatic psychopath who gains a following, and a disenfranchised dilettante.

The Careys are masterful in their telling, coming up with some brilliant solutions to the problems of survival that the seraglio faces. That each of them (writers in their own right) write different parts that still fit seamlessly together, speaks of a true piece of art. The tales in the book blend recipes with comments, council notes, mythic tales, journal entries, narratives and introspections. In some ways it reminded me of Ursula LeGuin’s Always Coming Home, which is¬† a blend of songs and tales and myths, a gathering of a culture’s ways so that you could read the book in any order. You could read certain chapters in this book and have a complete short story, but there is the tapestry that is formed from the sum of these tales.

I loved this book so much that I took my time reading it so that I could savor it, not wanting it to end, yet it has a perfect ending. The tone changes in the second part, the Book the Second. In the first, it is the struggle and the solidification of Bessan society, where they reach their pinnacle of art and politics, respect and peace. The second book deals with the unmaking of the city and the forces that cause it to change, for like any great civilization, it too has a lifespan. The great Roman Empire crumbled as did ancient Sumer, and the Celtic nations. So too must Bessa move along this path, bringing a poignancy and yet a well-earned place in the great history of the world.

These tales were accessible, enjoyable and made me both think and wonder at what they encompassed. The Careys should be well-please with this magnificent pastiche. Add this one to someone’s stocking for the holidays. I would have to uncork ten bottles and say this is worthy of ten djinnis out of ten.

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A Fairy Tale About Umberto

Here is a fairy tale about a man, let’s say an Italian man from Tuscany because Italians are known for cooking. Let’s say this man,¬†we’ll call him Umberto because that’s a good, meaty Italian name, had learned to cook at his mama’s side (or at least eaten the savory tidbits) and had pulled himself up by his bootstraps. He had once been a busboy. Busboys are little better than slaves; they get paid but no one really respects them and so, like the grime of morsels left on the plates, Umberto held a piece of shame and anger in his heart.¬†

Umberto worked hard in his native country, moving on to better jobs and bigger cities. He may even have learned how to cook professionally. Eventually, because he was a young man and therefore had the good looks of youth, and an Italian man and therefore his accent was attractive in foreign countries, he managed to woo a woman. It’s possible that he did love her in the first heat of romance. But that woman had more than looks to tie that nuptial knot. She had money and she believed in Umberto and his dream.

She married him and so he embarked on a new path, a culmination of years of work and being in the restaurant business. He became a restaurateur, not just a cook or a chef and opened his first restaurant. Umberto was now king, reigning over the ingredients of Italian cooking, making an atmosphere fit for kings and queens. Well, if not kings and queens, at least celebrities and many were known to come to the West Coast where the clime suits their complexion and temperament better.

Umberto’s success was great and he opened several more restaurants, all Italian but each with a slightly different flavor. But Umberto forgot his roots and his mother would have rolled in her grave had she heard what he became. It wasn’t that being a bigwig¬†restaurant owner was a bad thing but it was the way he treated people. In public Umberto wined and dined and smiled charmingly at his guests. He helped buy his popularity. In private his darker side came out.

Umberto thought himself very attractive and expected women to swoon and all lowly workers to bow low and be cowed by his mighty business savvy (fueled by his wife’s purse strings). But Umberto forgot that lowly workers observed his overly friendly and touchy way with the restaurant hostess. It wasn’t long before everyone knew that he was having an affair with the woman. But lowly workers who want to keep their jobs keep their noses out of their bosses’ affairs.

Umberto set unrealistic demands on his staff. First was the unwritten rule that all be awed in his aura. In one restaurant there was a small lounge where food was also served, as well as drinks. The two young ladies that worked there were expected to take the orders for the full lounge, make and serve all the drinks, as well as take the food orders and make the salads and serve those. If someone from the restaurant wanted a special drink, then the two waitresses were expected to make those too. Needless to say they were very busy.

Umberto also had a plan. It required exact proportions and measurements for meals. The waitresses were told to put two slices of tomato on each salad. No more. No less. One waitress, as young as the other, felt that a person needed to achieve respect, not pay for it nor have it because of more money. She worked hard and diligently but did not feel cowed by the mighty Umberto. Well one day, she was called by the maitre d and told she was let go because she put too many (or too few) slices of tomato on a salad and some rich thing complained. Umberto set his minion to do the dirty work.

The waitress felt this was very unfair as she was only following instructions and had been polite to the customers, so she went down to talk to the mighty Umberto. All the while that she was in his office talking to him, he would barely look at her or answer her concerns. Finally she blurted in frustration, I think you don’t like me and you can just f**k off.

She left and many waiters who also worked at the restaurant were thrilled that she told him off because they felt the same way but didn’t want to lose their jobs. She also worked at another Umberto restaurant where she was hostess and which claimed to have self-autonomy from Umberto’s rules. However the next day she received a call telling her not to come in. So she went to the restaurant and recorded all the hours she had worked, including all the overtime that they had not paid her. They asked why she was doing this and she replied, Because of Umberto. She took them to labor relations and was paid a year in backpay for overtime.

Another worker, also fired unfairly, had a friend who was a lawyer and took Umberto to small claims court. The young waitress went as a witness but the other worker won because Umberto sent his minion. She felt great joy at this and though for many years entertained thoughts of keying Umberto’s red sports car (you know the type that says you’re over the hill but trying to be sexy to the babes) decided he was too much a bug to warrant her attention.

Well years passed and the young waitress, like many previous Umberto workers, went on to better jobs. Umberto got richer but his temper was like a pot left on to boil. It continued, his pomposity rose higher than a souffle and he divorced his first wife. He married his second, opened more restaurants and a cooking school. He also took some of his roots back to his home country and opened a hotel there.

But one thing never changed, his bad as fish left out for two weeks temper, nor his attitude to staff who he saw as servants in his various castles. Much went unnoticed by the rich or adoring public but once in a while Umberto would blow his top, as he did in his new ski resort restaurant. And once in a while a worker would sue and win to the tune of nearly $100,000 but what’s that to a king? The moral of this fairy tale. The good often go unheard or noticed if they’re menial laborers and the bad are often rich. However, the rich would get way more if they were nice. Oh and watch out for characters with cool Italian names like Umberto.

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Writing: Cone Zero Authors & Reviews

Finally, the authors of the anthology/magazine Cone Zero can be revealed and I can say that I wrote “The Fathomless World.” I had hoped for more reviewing of the story but clearly it wasn’t anyone’s favorite. Still, it didn’t receive any scathing review either though all the reviewers seem to have been careful in not pointing out the ones they didn’t like. It’s one anthology that I did read through and found the quality quite high. I didn’t agree with some of the reviews and found a few stories too long, boring¬†or clunky but that was very few.

It was a fun idea and if I get anything that rings a bell for the next one, Cern Zoo, then I’ll enter submit to the anthology for that one too. Below are the names of all the authors tagged to their stories as well as a bunch of review links. And if anyone is interested in submitting a story to Cern Zoo, here’s a link to the guidelines: http://weirdmonger.blog-city.com/cerne_zoo__guidelines.htm

“The Fathomless World” by Colleen Anderson
“The Point of Oswald Masters” by Neil James Hudson
“Cone Zero” (page 23) by Sean Parker
“Cone Zero” (page 33) by Kek-W
“Cone Zero, Sphere Zero” by David M. Fitzpatrick
“An Oddly Quiet Street” by Scott Tullis
“Always More Than You Know” by John Grant
“Cone Zero” (page 129) by Grant Wamack
“Going Back For What Got Left Behind” by Eric Schaller
“Cone Zero” (page 147) by Stephen Bacon
“The Cone Zero Ultimatum” by Bob Lock
“Angel Zero” by Dominy Clements
“How To Kill An Hour” by A.J. Kirby
“To Let” by Jeff Holland

 

http://filthycreations.proboards.com/index.cgi?board=smallpress&action=display&thread=77&page=1#812 
http://tinyurl.com/b3woac
http://tinyurl.com/5ovc8v
http://ahaunteddollshouse.blogspot.com/2009/02/cone-zero-nemonymous-8-edited-by-d-f.html
http://distanceswimmer.livejournal.com/1082.html

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Writing: A Fable–The Demon

Once upon a time there was a person much like you and me who came upon puberty and began to write feelings and thoughts upon paper. This person loved words and reading and loved to imagine and create things.

Eventually the person decided that maybe it would be good to share these words and ideas¬†with others, to show them the ways of this person’s expression. After all art is part for viewing and part for showing.¬†The first creations¬†were poems but the person found that the words lacked and although thoughts and feelings had been expressed, they didn’t connect with other people.

The person decided to get advice and seek courses so that a common language could be found, while still keeping a unique mixture of words, thoughts and images. There was a need to show others the visions. It was a scary time, for the person did not know what others would think of these fledgling designs. Would the person be pulled down or ridiculed for such pretensions? This new writer had seen one person changed into a demon when other writers and readers had read about the terrible character in his story. Those writers and readers took the skin of that story character and pulled it over the writer of the story. It was very hard for him to shed it and say, I am not that person.

The writer had not yet built up the thickened skin that comes from critiquing and dissection. But the writer¬†went on to write a couple more stories, perhaps four in all. They were all raw constructs, crawling out upon the land with their¬†newborn descriptions. Sometimes they had more limbs than were needed or lacked eyes, such was the new writer’s unformed talent. Two stories were tried in one class and then the writer felt emboldened to move into an acolyte’s workshop, sending off two stories, for no one entered the hallowed halls of the workshop without first being judged on merit.

Some merit must have been discovered, for the writer joined others in the apprenticeship of their craft. After completing the rigorous conditioning the writer learned how much there was still to learn and that it would take a  lifetime to be perfect or become a god of writing. The writer was invited into a small enclave, where mages of imagination met and discussed the secret ways of writing, delving into the mysteries of words and how to make their words more powerful.

Here, the writer in innocence brought a story from that time before the workshop, when only a few stories had been painstakingly born. A  few stories were still wriggling infants, not yet shaped into gods or monsters. The other word magicians looked upon the work and saw where the incantations would not evoke the right responses.

However, there was one who looked upon the work and said, You have taken my words.¬†The writer was confused because their stories were very different, and professed to having written the piece before even knowing the other wordsmith existed. Yet the other wordsmith proclaimed that the writer should be careful where one took their ideas from for¬†people weaving had become sacred in the wordsmith’s story and the writer had used creatures weaving. The writer had written the story before meeting the enclave or reading the other’s story but suspicions were laid, of black arts used to gleaned the weaving idea.

The venerated wordsmith left the secret enclave since the other word magicians would not oust the new writer.  However the wordsmith was part of another group that gave displays of their skills in hopes that rich people would notice their wordfame and remember their names. From that group, the wordsmith pulled out the demon skin and waved it about, then threw it toward the new writer.

Although the new writer ducked, seeing some dark cloud descending, the demon¬†skin stuck to the¬†writer’s flesh. Not everyone believed the wordsmith’s words but the stigma remained on the new writer. Like a scarlet letter, others would wonder what it meant and really, could that new writer be trusted? Surely there must be some truth to the wordsmith’s allegations. And the writer, whether innocent or not, would always now stand out as “that one.”

The writer, who was just a person, did not understand. The brand did indeed burn though the demon¬†skin was invisible and the new writer felt like everyone else. The other group never allowed the new writer in, stating that the wordsmith’s words and opinion were powerful. All other writers in the region could join but not the one new writer. The group was not rich nor powerful except in exclusion but that exclusion had done the job.

The writer, now a partial demon, had been wounded by these actions. Having always been a champion of copyright and protecting the artist’s right, and having enough ego as any artist, the writer believed in creating unique worlds, not copying someone else’s. But it was as if the one scouring agent, rare and expensive, that could clean the partial demon from the writer’s flesh and soul, was kept hidden away.

Though some wordsmiths supported the writer-demon in private, no one stood up to the wordsmith who had thrown the demon skin. The person who was a writer, who wasn’t a demon but had some of the skin of a demon would never be free of that taint. Ostracized for a crime not committed,¬†that ¬†person’s soul was marked with the knowledge that people saw the person as false.

The demon-writer could always feel the skin, no matter how small the patch and spent the rest of¬†the long years of writing, trying to do what was¬†right, trying to champion the arts or at least not go against any enclave. In one short burst the demon-writer tried to retaliate in long festering hurt, and barred the writer from one reading. But it was not the demon-writer’s true way. No matter what happened this writer who was really just a person felt different and felt that the other wordsmiths always saw it that way, and that the rift in the writers’ enclaves would never be healed. Just like those early days of trying to share words and thoughts, the demon-writer found that people didn’t see things the same way.

But it would not be the end of the demon-writer’s travails for others held skins and waited.

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