Tag Archives: Lisa Smedman

Tesseracts 17 Interview: Lisa Smedman

Tesseracts 17 has authors from across Canada. Today’s interview is with BC writer Lisa Smedman, a long time writer and game designer. Her story “2020 Vision” examines the logical side of religion.

anthology, speculative fiction, SF, fantasy, Canadian authors

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

CA: Lisa, your story “2020 Vision” looks at cultlike behavior, politics, and the use of social media. It’s a very strong and disturbing, even ironic, social commentary. Religious topics can always be a very sensitive hotbed of opinion, or even rabid denunciations. What fascinated you enough to write such a story?

The story started from an anecdote a friend told, about being asked whether she believed in God. She said, “No, but I believe in Santa Claus.” That got me thinking about the nature of belief, and blind “faith” being the basis of so many religions. One could just as easily assert that Santa Claus really does exist, utilizing the same “prove he doesn’t” arguments used to assert that God exists.

The story also sprang from the idea that any religion that doesn’t allow one to question its practices and teachings, that doesn’t allow (or even punishes) its followers to laugh at the religion’s foibles, is setting a dangerous precedent, since it sets up the possibility of religious leaders twisting the religion to their own ends — ends that go unquestioned and are blindly obeyed.

To paraphrase the Emma Goldman quote about dancing and revolution: “A religion without laughter is not a religion worth having.”

Another big influence was the movie Life of Brian. In it, an ordinary, bumbling man is mistaken for Christ, and people begin to blindly follow him, hanging upon his every word and finding deep religious significance in his every action. My favorite scene is when a mob of religious fanatics is following him, and he discards a drinking gourd and loses one sandal. Half of the mob cries “We must follow the gourd!” and the other half cries, “No, we must follow the shoe!” and a fight breaks out over these two “sacred” objects as each half of the mob turns on the other. Religions are constantly dividing into smaller and smaller factions, every single one of them convinced that they are the “true” faith.

Canadian writers, speculative fiction, religious satire, SF

Lisa Smedman is the author of 17 novels, and a game designer.

I’ve often reflected upon why so many religions start out with the message “be nice to each other” and wind up teaching their followers to hurt, with words or deeds, or even to kill.

Life of Brian was boycotted by some Christians when it first hit movie theaters. Ironically, it portrays Christ and his message quite faithfully. When Christ says in his Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are the meek,” a listener too far away to hear clearly interprets it as, “Blessed are the cheesemakers.” That so eloquently sums up how the original message of a religion can be mangled, by accident, due to translation errors (or be willfully skewed) and yet still regarded as gospel.

Another influence was a talk by the Dalai Lama I attended back in 1981. When asked about religions other than Buddhism, he compared the world’s religions to a smorgasbord, and encouraged people to “eat” whatever dishes most nourished them. Instead of saying “my religion is the only true one” he embraced all faiths that led one to become a better person. That, in my opinion, is what a religion should be: a practice one follows, “eating” only those portions of it that ring true, and rejecting (or perhaps politely declining) the rest.

CA: Do you think fanaticism is ever likely to have logic?

There is a “logic” to fanaticism, but it is a twisted logic. If you ask no questions, pull no threads, the fabric of belief hangs together. But pull one thread and it all unravels. Of course, the fanatics are wearing the “emperor’s clothes,” and never notice the holes.

CA: Have you explored this theme in other work?

I’ve explored many themes in my science fiction and fantasy writing. One I keep coming back to is the nature of identity. As an anthropology major, cultures fascinate me, especially the question of who “belongs” to a social construct and who doesn’t. How groups overlap, how boundaries mutate. Points of commonality that allow us to see other people as “one of us” and the myriad of ways we can divide “us” and “them.” We tend to see things in polarities: A or Z, ignoring all of the letters of the alphabet in between. This theme can be found in 2020 Vision, in the notion of who belongs to a religious group… and who does not, who is “in” and who is “out.”

A native Vancouverite, Lisa Smedman is the author of 17 science fiction and fantasy novels, numerous short stories, two best-selling books on Vancouver’s history, and dozens of roleplaying adventures, primarily for Dungeons & Dragons. She also writes plays and screenplays. Her fiction explores both Canada’s past (the steampunk Apparition Trail, set in the 1800s) and its possible futures. A journalist for many years, she currently teaches game design at the Art Institute of Vancouver. She hosts a biweekly writers group that grew out of the B.C. Science Fiction Association 30 years ago. She is also a mom to two humans, three cats and a pug.

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Writing: Tesseracts 17 Unveiled

File:Tesseract.gif, tesseract, speculative fiction, SF,

This is a tesseract that’s hard to wrap your mind around. From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Tesseract.gif

We are pleased to announce the official Table of Contents for Tesseracts 17: Speculating Canada from Coast to Coast to Coast.

This anthology of speculative Canadian writing will be out this fall from Edge Publications. It was no easy task choosing from the over 450 submissions and we had to turn away many a good tale. In the end, we have a representation of Canada that spans all provinces and territories (with the exception, alas, of Nunavut). The tales themselves reach far into the past and much farther into the future.

Creative Commons: thisfragiletent.wordpress.com

Creative Commons: thisfragiletent.wordpress.com

Including Steve Vernon and myself, we had 16 men and 15 women in this anthology. The gender balance worked out without much issue. Of the 29 pieces we have 4 poems (can you spot them by the titles). There are two Daves, two Catherines and a wide range of other names, with people who were born in Canada and those who moved here. I will be giving a full demographic breakdown of all the submissions over the next few weeks. And while this anthology has more fantasy than SF, a good third fall comfortably into the science fiction model with only a few being horror or weird, as in bizarro fiction.

TESSERACTS 17: SPECULATING CANADA FROM COAST TO COAST TO COAST

  • Introduction: What is a Tesseract? Colleen Anderson
  • Vermilion Wine: Claude Lalumière
  • Night Journey: West Coast: Eileen Kernaghan
  • The Wall: Rhea Rose
  • 2020 Vision: Lisa Smedman
  • Why Pete?: Timothy Reynolds
  • Bird Bones: Megan Fennell
  • Bedtime Story: Rhonda Parrish
  • Graveyard Shift: Holly Schofield
  • Path of Souls: Edward Willett
  • Sin A Squay: David Jón Fuller
  • Hereinafter Referred to as the Ghost: Mark Leslie
  • Anywhere: Alyxandra Harvey
  • Secret Recipes: Costi Gurgu
  • Star Severer: Ben Godby
  • The Lighthouse Keeper’s Wife: Dave Beynon
  • Graffiti Borealis: Lisa Poh
  • My Child Has Winter in His Bones: Dominik Parisien
  • Team Leader 2040: Catherine Austen
  • Sand Hill: Elise Moser
  • The Ripping: Vincent Grant Perkins
  • Unwilling to Turn Around: J.J. Steinfeld
  • Pique Assiette: Catherine MacLeod
  • Leaving Cape Roseway: John Bell
  • Everybody Wins: Rachel Cooper
  • In the Bubble: William Meikle
  • Hermione and Me: Dwain Campbell
  • Blizzard Warning: Jason Barrett
  • M.E.L.: Dianne Homan
  • The Calligrapher’s Daughter: Patricia Robertson
  • Afterword: Editing Anthologies Made Easy: Steve Vernon

    Steve Vernon, Tesseracts 17, Canadian fiction, speculative fiction, fantasy, horror, SF

    Nova Scotian Steve Vernon co-edited Tesseracts 17, a collection of Canadian speculative fiction.

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