Tag Archives: Jetse De Vries

Traveling in Europe: Den Bosch Part I–Canals & Countryside

Den Bosch, moat, Holland, Dutch history, travel, culture, fortress

Den Bosch's ramparts and river served as a nearly impregnable fortress.

My last stop of four cities in Holland was Den Bosch. The full name is ‘s-Hertogenbosch and I think you have to be Dutch to pronounce it. Most people call it Den Bosch now and pronunciation seemed to differ between “den bos” and “den bosh”. Den Bosch is south of Utrecht and north of Eindhoven. It’s not large but considered a place to get away “to”. I probably would have missed it completely if it wasn’t that speculative writer and editor Jetse de Vries lives there and I emailed him to meet up.

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Boschenballen; worthy of making a stop in Den Bosch

Once I started reading about Den Bosch it sounded interesting enough that I stayed for two nights, couch surfing with Will. Jetse and I played a bit of tag at the train station, trying to find each other. Once we met I put my luggage in a locker and off we went to a cafe where Jetse introduced me to Den Bosch’s own claim to fame, the Boschenballen. If you’ve ever seen a profiterole (cream puff), imagine one bigger than your fist, covered in yummy dark chocolate and inflated with creamy goodness.  I wasn’t sure I could eat the whole thing (and shhh, but I’m allergic to dairy) but I took a bite and another and somehow managed to polish it off. I certainly didn’t need lunch till much later.

North Brabant, Den Bosch, fortress, Holland, history, canals

A very larg cannon is housed in the structure atop the walls built in the 15th century.

By the 1500s it turns out Den Bosch was once the true mercantile center of Holland, with three rivers (Dommel, Aa and Maas) converging nearby. The Dutch are also masters of the water ways and trade came and went by land and water. It was second in population only to Utrecht. ‘S-Hertogenbosch means Duke’s Forest and the original Duke was Henry I, Duke of Brabant. Over the centuries, with fortifications increasing, Den Bosch was considered impregnable and nicknamed the Marsh Dragon. They had built a moat from the rivers and water ways; if invading forces came near, they flooded the lands around. Too deep to walk through and too shallow to put a ship on, the city’s defense’s held strong.

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To get over one of the many bodies of water, there is a hand crank raft to take people across.

That is, until 1629 when Frederik Hendrik of Orange, using Dutch ingenuity and a goodly portion of purloined coins from a Spanish armada, built a dyke around the city with windmills and then pumped out all of the water. He managed to break through the one weak spot in the wall’s defenses and then rebuilt that section making it stronger. The ramparts still stand and are integral to holding back the waters. Den Bosch is considered one of the better fortress cities in Holland. A nature reserve now borders one side of the town, giving great pastoral views and nature walks.

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The underground canal tours are lovely and a great way to see the city.

Jetse had booked a canal tour and Den Bosch’s canals are unique in Holland because they’re mostly covered, unlike the open canals elsewhere. While the tour was in Dutch, Jetse was able to tell me much about the rich history of this small town. It seems people were not allowed to build outside the wall and as the city became more crowded they actually built over the canals. At one point the city was going to pave over the canals but instead the government made it a protected townscape, preserving the historical ramparts and the canals.

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Boschian fun on the canal.

The weather was perfect in late September, around 25-27 degrees Celsius. The tour went under the city and then outside around the ramparts. It ended with ducking into a darkened alcove where they showed a short film on Hieronymus Bosch, the city’s most famous painted. The water level was relatively high so we really did have to duck. And along the canals were large sculptures of some of Bosch’s strange creations.

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Den Bosch's canals were very beautiful.

Even without understanding Dutch the tour was worth it for the sheer beauty and scenery. The following day I took a walk outside the city walls and got to see Den Bosch from afar. Of the cities I visited Den Bosch definitely felt the most pastoral, because of the flat fields and the winding river around it. In my next post I’ll talk more about the cathedral and other aspects but it was definitely worth the visit. I’ll also have the full album posted once Picassa stops being persnickety.

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Writing: To Shine or Not to Shine

It’s been a while since I posted anything on my own writing. Partly because I’m in a slow stage and partly because well, I guess because I’ve been plugging at one story for a bit and revisiting an old novel. Earlier this year I polished up the long running story (long running in that it took me 15 years to write) and sent it off to the Shine anthology being edited by Jetse de Vries in the Netherlands.

It’s an intriguing anthology because the point is that the future is bright, not the dystopian worlds so often shown in SF and fantasy, and especially in short stories. The subgenre (or maybe getting back to the grassroots genre) of “mundane SF” looks at the world within the next 50 years, on our planet (mostly) and with a possible, believable extrapolation of future science and technologies. No bug-eyed aliens, no extra worlds or space-faring races.

For Jetse’s anthology, he also wanted a future world that was better than this one. My world starts out worse but with a hopefully uplifting future, so it didn’t fit. But there have been discussions of late, on the SF Canada writers’ list, as well as at Worldcon about all the dystopian SF that’s being written. How, some editors were asked, do you get people to write something uplifting that takes place in the near future?

A good question and I think one reason we are writing so much dystopian fiction is because of the inundation our culture receives of news stories about the terror and horror and pollution and the fall of civilization. In some ways, today is no worse than it was fifty years ago. In other ways, it is worse. There are more pollutants, more severe forms of crime (even if there is less crime), more illnesses and allergies. Or is there? Some yes, but we have 24-hour news channels, and as they say, no news is good news.

With the constant fear-mongering, the visuals of graphic crimes, the devastating natural disasters, the “wars on terror” we find our mindset dwelling on THE END, or the present and how to survive it. We have no faith of a good future. We have no pretense that there will be endless resources. We’ll run out of water, oil, food and space. So how indeed do we write utopian fiction?

This discussion and Jetse’s comment to me has got me thinking. My own fiction is often dark but not always. Yet I’ve never sold the two humorous pieces I’ve written, but then they’re fantasy more than SF. Still, part of bringing our future, our tangible world to a brighter place is to not succumb to the gloom and despair but to hope and work towards a dream, not a nightmare. I’ll consider this as I write some of my future fiction.

So with that in mind, Jetse de Vries is planning some contests for the pre-release of his anthology, Shine. Here is what he said:

 

Shine is slated for an early 2010 release, and until that time I will keep several features (‘Optimistic SG around the World’, ‘Music that Makes You Feel Optimistic’, etc.) running on the Shine blog, while adding new ones. 

First, I will be running a number of stories that came very close, but didn’t make the final cut for a variety of reasons (I’ve tried to walk the tightrope of getting maximum quality while also obtaining great variety in tone, content, characters and setting). This to promote Shine and optimistic SF in general. I’ll probably be setting up a new site for that.

Second, I will be holding a competition where people need to guess the correct ending of a certain paragraph—choosing from four alternatives: three bogus, one real—and this for 16 paragraphs, each from one of the 16 accepted Shine stories. Extra points for guessing who the author is. I’m working on interesting prizes. Depending on the actual launch date of Shine, I intend to hold this competition in November or December 2009.

Jetse de Vries
Editor, SHINE anthology & OUTSHINE Twitterzine

 OUTSHINE guidelines: http://shineanthology.wordpress.com/outshine-submission-guidelines/  Shine: http://shineanthology.wordpress.com/ Personal blog: http://eclipticplane.blogspot.com/

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Writing Antithesis: Shine and Catastrophia

There are always anthologies coming and going. Unlike a magazine that comes out regularly, an anthology is a collection of stories by different authors often with a theme. They’re usually in book format as opposed to a paper magazine or an e-zine format, and they are one ofs.

This is much easier to do than deal with a magazine, continuous sales and subscriptions. Both types have their place of course. It’s something I want to do, some day edit an anthology. But until I can convince a publisher of the idea or get a bigger name, I think it’s going to have to wait. The problem with anthologies published in Canada is, that unless they’re distributed in the US, we just don’t have the population basis to sell enough. For that reason, most publishers shy from anthologies.
Two interesting anthologies coming up in Europe (though anyone can submit to them) actually are the antithesis of each other.

Dutch writer and editor Jetse de Vries will be editing Shine, an anthology due out in 2010 by Solaris Books. He’s not accepting submissions until May but that gives plenty of time to write a story specific to the theme. Shine is about shiny futures, the realm of optimistic SF. Often stories dealing with new technologies in the future end up with dire consequences. Shine is to be convincing and optimistic and of the near future (within the next 50 years).

There has of late been a movement in SF to write realistic near-future works, something that could or will possibly happen. No alien invasions, no faster than light travel, no transporters, but more of perhaps setting up a colony on the moon and the research required, or missions to Mars. These are aspects of space travel that NASA is seriously working on (as well as other space agencies) and they hope to have a manned Mars mission by 2030.

The name for this type of science fiction (which my brain can never seem to remember) is mundane SF. I guess it’s because I have connotations of mundane as being boring but there are two definitions:

1. everyday, ordinary, and therefore not very interesting
2. relating to the world or worldly matters

Obviously it is the second meaning that refers to the anthology and to the subgenre of mundane SF. I tried writing one story and I did find it hard, partly because I tend to write dark fantasy more often than SF. But then I realized I just finished a novelette that is in fact mundane SF. I don’t know if it will be shiny enough for Jetse but I’ll have to work on it and polish it and see how bright it looks. For full information on Shine, go to: http://shineanthology.wordpress.com/category/guidelines/

PS Publishing, out of England will be publishing Catastrophia. Edited by Allen Ashley, this anthology centers around post-apocalyptic fiction, disasters and catastrophes. Although hope and light can also come of such tropes in horror and SF, it’s not always as likely. If anything though, these tales start in a darker place.

Whereas Jetse isn’t accepting submissions until May, Allen is accepting now with a closing date of May or when full, whichever comes first. The theme of mundane SF could also be applied to this anthology since the aspects of disasters pertain to life on Earth, and that Allen Ashley wants them to be treated in a “modern manner.” No historical pieces here though modern or slightly futuristic will work. Of course, it’s possible he’d look at a futuristic post-apocalyptic world and the societies and cultures that would develop then. Full guidelines can be found here: http://news.pspublishing.co.uk/2008/09/09/catastrophia-anthology-call-for-submissions/

Between Shine and Catastrophia, there is something for everyone: the optimistic and the fatalistic, or perhaps fatalism with an uplifting end. Many anthologies don’t pay much. Pay could be a cent a word, fifty bucks, a share of royalties should the anthology actually sell. Catastrophia and Shine will both be paying professional rates.

I’ll probably give both of these a try. A themed anthology is always a good way to push the envelope and write something new. Like that one mundane SF I wrote about a mission to Mars; it was a challenge. I had to do a fair amount of research and extrapolating. But it was fun too and though I think that I hit both meanings of mundane, I did finish the story. But I need to do something else to it first to give it a bit more vim. And I’ll start thinking of something for Shine and Catastrophia.

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World Fantasy 2008: Part II

A big part of these conventions are the parties. Because World Fantasy is a professional con there are few but advertised parties and launches. SF Canada put on a party on Friday night, which I oversaw and I’m pleased to say that we never ran out of alcohol and that I had to actually return some. I could have ordered more of some things and less of others. We’ll know for the next one but it was definitely a success with over two hundred people passing through the suite.

Other parties included book launches for authors by RedJack press, Tor books, Borderlands, and others that I can’t recall. Because we weren’t leaving until Monday we attended the dead dog Sunday party which had a fair number of people and drinks. The parties were good, noisy and lasted until the room closed around 2 am.

The other place to meet people was in the bar, as always. I met Jetse De Vries, former editor with Interzone, a noticeable man for his long wavy hair, tallness and great rolling, Dutch accent. He was talking about the Netherlands for World Fantasy in 2016 as it would be the 500th birthday of Hieronymus Bosch. It’s a ways off so who knows. I also met Jenny Blackford from Australia, one of the awards judges for next year, and we discussed Greek mythos.

I met Mark Kelly of Locus, recognizing his name before I linked it with his reviews, Bob Brown, an antiquarian bookseller in Seattle, writers Mark Rich and Liz Bourke, and artist Mike Dringenberg. I met many SF Canada members in person including Leslie Carmichael, Claire Earmer, Lorna Toolis, Richard Bartrop, Dom Benoit, Den Valdron, Carolyn Clink, Celu Amberstone, Candas Jane Dorsey, Marcelle Dube, Dave Duncan, Matt Hughes, Alison Sinclair, Cath Jackal, Marie Jakober, Ed Willett.

Publishers that I met in the flesh included Virginia O’Dine and Dominic Macquire of Bundoran Press (Prince George), Gwen Gades of Dragon Moon, Karl and Stephanie Johanson of Neo-Opsis, Jacob Wiseman of Tachyon Press, Diane Walton of OnSpec, Champagne Books, Flash Me Online. I said hello again to Patrick Swenson of Talebones, Brian Hades of Edge, Peter Halasz sponsoring the Sunburst Awards auction, Brit Graham Joyce, Karen Abrahamson, Chris Lotts, Janine Cross, Rhea Rose, Linda DeMeulemeester, Eileen and Pat Kernaghan, Derryl Murphy, Nina Munteanu, Rob Sawyer, Darrell Schweitzer, John Douglas, David Hartwell, Bruce Taylor, Nancy Kilpatrick, Leslie Howle (of Clarion administration) and a few others. There were so many people and conversations that I don’t remember everyone but it’s a good place to meet people and talk about art and writing.

World Fantasy special guests included David Morrell, dark fiction and thriller writer and creator of Rambo, Patricia McKillip, who sold her first novel at the age of 23, Todd Lockwood with a lovely body of artwork, Barbara Hambly with an impressive number of books, Tom Doherty, publisher of Tor and other ventures and Tad Williams as emcee. During the presentation of the World Fantasy awards he gave a very funny speech about the beginning of fantasy writing, with such things as it all starting in the US and William Shakingspear made an indent. He claimed that Canadian writers were really just geographically confused Canadians and that no one knows if Charles de Lint is real but that his footprints have been found deep in the forests.

Tad’s history of fantasy began in the times of cave men and came forward to present day. I do hope this speech will be printed somewhere as it was extremely well done and had people laughing. The awards presentation happened on Sunday. My friend Kij Johnson was up again for a short story but she did not win. Ellen Datlow, who did win, has nine World Fantasy awards. A bunch of us joked about her forming her own Easter Island. Following is the list of winners at the convention:

Life Achievement: Leo and Diane Dillon; Patricia McKillip

Novel: “Ysabel” by Guy Gavriel Kay (Viking Canada/Penguin Roc).
Novella: “Illyria” by Elizabeth Hand (PS Publishing).
Short Story: “Singing of Mount Abora” by Theodora Goss (Logorrhea, Bantam Spectra).
Anthology: “Inferno: New Tales of Terror and the Supernatural” edited by Ellen Datlow, Editor (Tor).
Collection: “Tiny Deaths” by Robert Shearman (Comma Press).

Artist: Edward Miller
Special Award—Professional: Peter Crowther for PS Publishing
Special Award—Non-professional: Midori Snyder and Terri Windling for Endicott Studios Website

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World Fantasy Convention 2008: Calgary

World Fantasy took place in Calgary’s downtown at the Hyatt Regency this last weekend. Although the hotel had an exceptional collection of paintings and heavily focused ungulate statuary everywhere, it was still a very expensive hotel. I haven’t been in a hotel in the US in the past five years that charged for internet and $1 for local calls. Internet cost $14 a day, an exorbitant fee, and the hotel price was high even at convention rates. We found Calgary pricey for food but cheap for alcohol, if you were buying it in stores but comparably priced to Vancouver in the hotel.

The con hospitality suites were smaller than I have seen at other cons and the air conditioning (hardly needed in Oct. in Calgary) was on high for most of the convention. The dealers room and art show were also small. From one discussion with a Seattle antiquarian dealer, the hoops and paperwork besides shipping costs are prohibitive and discourage international exchanges. The dealers room did have an interesting array of publishers. Some of them were Redjack, Fitzhenry/Red Deer Press, Tachyon, Edge, Talebones/Fairwood Press, OnSpec, Electric Velocipede, SFC table of members’ work, Sunburst awards, used and new booksellers, and other dealers that I don’t remember off hand.

 The dealers room used to feature books and some jewellery. This is a professional convention of editors, publishers and authors (and some fans as well) and fan paraphernalia is not allowed. The books are still there but the jewellery is not. It seems the WFC board has put a stop to it after so many years because it is a “serious” convention. I let them know that quite a few of us “pros” enjoyed buying our piece of con jewellery over the years and that we missed it. Does serious mean no fun? After all, the jewellery could be juried to fit certain criteria as well.

As often is the case with these cons, I get to few or no panels. I went to one on Friday and then left halfway through to see another. Unfortunately both were clunky, with no real flow and very short to no answers by the pros on the panel.

Saturday, I missed half of one, which had George R.R. Martin, Tad Williams and Steve Erickson talking about killing significant characters in a novel. They may have been more focused in the first half but it wasn’t bad for flow and was funny. Tad Williams, one of the special guests and emcee for the World Fantasy awards is a very funny guy.

The other panel I attended was “Why do we write dark fiction?” with Graham Joyce, Nancy Kilpatrick and David Morrell. It was moderated well by Nancy and thought provoking. Very interesting panel that had many of us thinking of their childhoods and surreal experiences.

Because this is long, I’ll continue tomorrow with more on WFC.

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