Tag Archives: literary fiction

Writing: A Few Free Reads

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

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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 cliché, and weak females. Very disappointing.

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Writing: Of Poetry Slams and Deathmatches

vitriol, writing, writing contest, flame wars, bad attitude, literary snobs

Dodge quickly. Creative Commons: queereka.com

Back in the good ole days, I used to attend poetry slams. A slam then was two people being pitted against each other, where they would read the poem, the audience would cheer and the one with the most cheers would advance to the next round. I eventually stopped going to them for the following reasons:

  • the slam had little to do with the merit of the poem
  • people brought their friends who would just cheer for their friends: my friends refused to come to poetry events
  • a bad poem read with upward inflections at the end of every line would wow the crowd
  • writing is hard; everyone should be applauded just for going to the effort to do it well

While slams did give every Tomasina, Dick or writer to read their works, the slams weren’t always great. I hear they’re better now but I haven’t visited one in a long time. The part I always disliked about a slam and which drove me away, was that a very good poet, who might not be experienced at reading well, would be raked and scraped over the coals by the nasty, mad dog crowd.

Years later, I presume those slams go on but we now have a dearth of social media so there are websites and webzines and all sorts of places to showcase your work. One such magazine, Broken Pencil, has fiction, poetry and nonfiction. It’s trendy, it’s Canadian and it’s trying to generate more page views. One way of doing this is to make sure part of your site isn’t static, that it’s ever changing, and the best way to do this is to get viewers with new content. Broken Pencil is sponsoring a Deathmatch on their site where two stories and their authors are pitted against each other. The audience weighs in with comments and can vote once per hour. The winner goes on to be pitted against another writer. There is a $20 fee to enter this contest, thus generating money for the magazine. The editors choose the top eight stories to be torn apart in the Deathmatch.

A noble enough endeavor and magazines have tried various ways to fundraise for a while. I was familiar with Broken Pencil but not the Deathmatch. A friend has a friend in the contest so I popped in to read both stories, make a comment and vote. It turns out you can vote once an hour. What stunned me was the level of some of the commenters. Presumably a lot of these people are the literati but the language  and juvenile attitude left me wondering. After all, we’re talking literary, right?  Broken Pencil touts themselves as indie and audacious. One newspaper reported that “This is definitely not a contest for sensitive writer types. If you can’t handle the thought of your short story being smacked down by online voters, then you’ll want to stay well clear of this one. Think Literary Survivor. On an island. Surrounded by a sea of sharks.”
– Jennifer Moss, The Vancouver Sun

Hmm, a Literary Survivor show; it almost seems an oxymoron. In Broken Pencil’s own words:

Since 2008, Broken Pencil: the magazine of zine culture and the independent arts, has been running one of the world’s most audacious short story contests. In the Deathmatch short story contest, the top eight entrants as selected by Broken Pencil are pitted against each other two by two. The winning story is decided by Broken Pencil readers themselves, through a vote on the official magazine website. Each week, two stories will be pitted against each other in the online arena, where anyone and everyone can read them and vote on which one deserves to reign supreme. The authors will be in constant communication with their audience through a blog which they can use to hype up their own story, or trash-talk their opponent’s writing.

Trash -talk? Really? That’s what we come to, obnoxious reality TV shows and pumped up melodrama for the sake of feeding the hyenas in the coliseum? Is the lowest common denominator really the way to go? I once did a poetry slam in a fake boxing ring, but there were judges and we didn’t verbally bludgeon the other entrants. Here are some samples of Canada’s great(?) writing minds voicing their comments, or at their friends’ and enemies’ comments.

  • Samantha, you absolutely suck at writing.
  • She means her bowels. His words move her bowels.
  • Claire didn’t complain when your piece of shit story was winning.
  • didn’t sammie have slanty enough eyes to get into U of T
  • Turd smear.

There is more and there is more that is intelligent and thoughtful, talking about what works or doesn’t in each story. There are a couple of literary trolls, full of themselves and big on seeing their words constantly on the page. They can of course ruin it for everyone. Sure it’s a contest, even slam style, and not everyone wins, but mud flinging and puerile attitudes doesn’t make me think literary. It’s not cutting edge; it’s overdone. Reading some of the Deathmatch comments has convinced me that like those poetry slams of old, I won’t be entering any time soon. It’s a neat idea but it’s too bad some people think it has to be like reality TV. Broken Pencil deserves some kudos for trying something new and as this creature evolves, it will either crawl from the chrysalis beautiful and dynamic, or roll in in the filth, a distorted and deformed thing. If you plan to enter this contest in the future then there are only two types of spines to have: either change yours for one of steel or rip it out.


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Defining Science Fiction

There has long been a battle, an attitude, a snobbery in the writing world where literary or mainstream fiction is real writing, and all that “genre” fiction is done by hacks and of little merit in the tales of the world. Anyone who writes in a genre knows this and has felt it. But what is a genre? It is the categorizing of a novel or story by some of its strongest elements.

No longer in favor but once very popular were westerns. They obviously took place in a time of the Wild West where cowboys and indians ran amok and pioneers struggled to survive while men maddened by gold-rush fever lived little better than animals. Romances are tales about love and obstacles to happiness, and almost always have the predictable ending of the man and woman (or man and man, woman and woman) finding each other. But the tales of how they get there are varied. Harlequin books has one of the most steady sell-throughs of any publisher. Publishing romances is a good business.

Erotica is obviously taking content into a more sensual or erotic tone. Science fiction, fantasy, horror, have elements integral to the story and were those elements removed the story wouldn’t hold up. Horror also fell into disfavor and is better known as dark fantasy these days. Still, there are blends of tales that aren’t all one thing. There are stories that are erotic and science fiction, western romances, literary fantasy, magic realism and politics (actually that one is a typical mix), and then there are literary, erotic, science fiction tales.

I wrote one story, “Hold Back the Night,” which I called my literary, lesbian, erotic vampire story. Vampire was never mentioned in the tale and it dealt with the wife burnings that happen in India. But labeling fiction is what we do; we the readers, we the writers and we the publishers. Publishers choose genres so that they can market to a specific demographic mindset. We’ll sell more of these books if we make it look like a cookbook or a romance and market to those people specifically interested in this. Publishers hate books that don’t fit in the neat categories.

Most of all they want to market books in mainstream, literary fiction because it is the largest readership and therefore the biggest sales. Writers of course would love the same. Readers can be a bit like sheept and think that if they only like a mystery book, they’ll never look in the romance section, but then there are thousands of books to look through so it can be difficult to find them. So, in mainstream, the more sales the more money, and the more awards available than in a specified category. A book that can’t fit into a category, or a story, may not be bought for a long time. I have a story that is not quite fantasy, and not quite mainstream and will circulate for a long time because it falls into the cracks.

But genres cause their own problems and as we see, narrow the readership. Many stories are not all of one shade. So Margaret Atwood, multi-award winner, always says she doesn’t write science fiction, yet some of her books extrapolate into a near future and ask what if. Seems pretty science fiction to me, many other writers, and readers. Yet she denies. Ursula Le Guin, multi-award winner writer of SF disagrees with Atwood’s view.

Le Guin gives an intriguing review of The Year of the Flood, which takes place after the events in Oryx and Crake. Both of these books are nearish future, with a crumbling of society, dystopian novels, because that’s what Atwood does best. But yet, she, like many of the literati, those who hold themselves above mere genre writers, says it’s not science fiction. And I must ask, what’s she afraid of, or is her viewpoint so narrow that in fact she only sees science fiction as squids in space?

Le Guin and Atwood are giants in their own rights, both award-winning authors whose stories span boundaries in some ways. Speculative fiction (an all-encompassing term for horror, fantasy, science fiction and really, literary fiction as well) doesn’t have to be shallow and it often looks at worlds and attitudes and how people change in regards to the pressures of life, species, invasion, change and technology–very valid commentary into our humanity, or inhumanity. So perhaps Atwood needs to accept that she has a narrow viewpoint of SF, get down from the pedestal and just accept that she writes it, sometimes. It’s not like it will hurt her rep, but the adamant head in the sand denial still doesn’t change that she writes science fiction, no matter what she calls it. Maybe she just hates the labels and codifying of writing.

I have not read The Year of the Flood, though I did read Oryx and Crake and where I felt it was a long setup for the story that wasn’t in the book, maybe Year is that story. And maybe not. For a very thought-provoking review by Ursula Le Guin of Atwood’s book, click on the link and be your own judge. And read the book, or read Le Guin’s books and see if the literary writer outweighs the SF writer. In the end, do you think Atwood writes science fiction, no matter what she calls it?


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