Tag Archives: science fiction

Writing: Playground of Lost Toys Interview: Cockle

Lost Toys.jpg

Playground of Lost Toys, published by Exile Editions

Just in time for the holiday season is the release of Playground of Lost Toys, co-edited by Ursula Pflug and me. It is published by Canadian publisher Exile Editions, and available in trade paperback or as an ebook. This is a collection of stories by various authors that center around toys or games, a sense of something lost or found and that connects in some way to childhood.

With that premise we put out a call this year and gathered a wide range of stories from authors. At first we were getting worried. In any genre or style of story there are familiar and popular tropes. For stories about toys, we’ve seen some of these used over and over again in TV and movies, whether they’re creepy or nostalgic. Look at the Chucky horror movies and others that use creepy dolls come to life with a demonic intent. Teddy bears and stuffed animals also are imbued with a strange form of life in a thing that mimics like a living creature. Whether it’s scurrilous teddy bears like the movie Ted, or savior dolls like Buzz Lightyear in Toy Story (much rarer than devil dolls, by far), these childhood toys are very common in stories.

And so it seemed that we were going to end up with tales that did not vary greatly. Many were predictable. I refined the guidelines and we put out notice that we would take very few doll or stuffy stories. After all, the anthology was about all sorts of toys, even alien toys, but it wasn’t a collection of doll stories only. In the end we received a good range of stories, from science fiction to fantasy to horror. I won’t go on longer or I’ll run out of time but I asked the authors to answer a few interview questions. I’ll post these as I can but I’ll start today with Kevin Cockle.

1. What was your main reason for submitting a story to Playground of Lost Toys.

 Basically, if I’ve got an idea that fits the antho parameters, and a beginning/middle/end – I’ll submit a story.  I never leave any story I’ve written unsent.

2. Does your story relate at all to anything from your own childhood.

God, no.  At least, nothing about the dramatic situation relates.  I HAVE had a  balero since childhood, and it is difficult to play, and I am pretty good at it, but that’s about it for similarity.

balero(1)

Kevin Cockle’s balero. Photo by Kevin

 3. What theme or idea were you exploring in your story. 

In broad terms, I was exploring the role “place” plays in identity.  Since there’s a natural tension between markets and identity, I contextualized the exploration within a world where citizenship has been privatized.  You get to stay in a place if you can afford to: you’re not entitled to stay there simply because you were born there.  Cue anxiety.

4. Is there anything else to do with your story or the theme of the anthology you wish to mention?

I had already been thinking about the background concepts – and I had some pre-existing story fragments written – but the “toy” aspect initially made me think I couldn’t participate in this project.  Then I remembered the balero, and was able to make the game mechanics the frame for the story.  You could say that this story in its final form was more a case of “splicing” than writing per-se.  Worked out well – prior to PoLT – I wasn’t getting anywhere with the dramatization of these ideas.

5. What other projects do you have in the works, pieces people can buy, or places to find you in the coming year. 

My debut novel Spawning Ground will be coming out in 2016, from Tyche Books.  The background world is similar to the one I sketched in “Balero,” and once again the implications of market-norms for identity will be explored.  I also have a story coming up in Tesseracts 19, and a couple of film projects in various stages of pre-production.  The Whale – a short film I co-wrote with Mike Peterson made it into Cannes this year, so keep an eye out for that on the film-festival circuit.

Thanks to Kevin for answering the interview. The holidays are hitting but where I can I’ll post more interviews so stay tuned.

 

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Movie Review: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

apes, chimps, planet of the apes, war, racism, simian virus

Copyright: 20th Century Fox

There will be massive spoilers and I realize this movie came out last year but others, like me might still be deciding if they want to watch it.

Many of us are familiar with the Planet of the Apes movie franchise. We have a secret love for the overall monkeyness of Roddy McDowall’s Cornelius in the original Planet of the Apes, and his subsequent role as Cornelius’s son, Caeser, as savior of ape and humankind. And for anyone who wonders, Caeser seems to be a chimpanzee (or possibly bonobo) in the ape family. There have been several versions of Planet of the Apes since those early years, in cinema and on TV. I haven’t seen them all.

With the great range of special effects and digital motion capture available now, any film is possible. Creating more realistic apes as well as developing great new plots should make for a lot of great cinema. And if you look at Rotten Tomatoes or other review sites Dawn of the Planet of the Apes rated high, to which I must say I’m truly stunned. Rise of the Planet of the Apes was good; it wasn’t great. And having Andy Serkis add his skills into realistic  primate movements of the ape definitely enhanced the visual richness of the film.

But…I just am not sure about the rest. Plot. We open with an idyllic scene of apes in the woods, then they move into the great hunt (even though apes are herbivores!). From this we understand their complex society and that they use mostly sign language. Pan to the lovely ape village and Caeser becoming a proud papa to a second son while the first, injured from a stupid move, looks on with doe eyes. The mother is thrown in as a later heart-string to pull, and isn’t even named; pretty much a token female if I ever saw one. But that’s not important. Caeser sits with a buddy overlooking his land and they speculate: Do you think they’re all gone? Haven’t seen one in ten years. We know what’s coming next. Enter the humans. This is called foreshadowing and is an acceptable plot device but gee, was it really needed?

Here’s where the blatant plot devices jumped up and shot me in the face. Dumb guy walking through the woods encounters two apes, Caeser’s son, Blue Eyes and friend Ash. Outnumbered, even though they’re standing there stunned, the guy shoots one which brings all apedom down on his ass, so that he and his compatriots are evicted by Caeser from the garden of Eden. The apes follow them back to their home (San Francisco).

Gary Oldman looks like he’s not the bad guy (for once), but the nominal leader of the little band of humans that have survived the simian virus that wiped out most of earth. But while everyone assures the humans that they are immune to the virus or they would already be dead, Gary, as Dreyfus, lives up to morally ambiguous bad buy status by believing the apes will come to kill humans because they are “animals.” Those of us with primate brains realize we’re all animals. Thankfully we’re not hit over the head with this comparison.

Malcolm (Jason Clarke) is the feeling guy who believes the apes are okay but they need to get to the dam and see if they can start the generators because San Fran is almost out of power. Really? It takes people 10 years to get off their butts to check this out? They’ve been getting by on what, frozen vegetables in all this time and nobody thought to look to the future until they have less than a month of power remaining? And neither the apes (in swinging distance) or the humans (in proximal driving distance) were aware of each other in all this time? Good lord. The humans deserve to die off if they’re this stupid. And somehow the apes didn’t know there is a dam nearby.

apes, chimpanzees, Dawn of Planet of the Apes

The noble ape rides up to the palisade of the humans. Copyright 20th Century Fox

So let’s back up a minute to the apes, who like to wear white warpaint across their ribs and faces. The female apes like to wear some sort of flower fringe over their mouths (why?) or on their brows as Caeser’s spouse does, because you know, apes have to follow human characteristics of gender differentiation. They also ride horses, though earlier they swung with ease and swiftness into the San Fran precincts. Did no one else notice the blatant comparison to the American Indians in the days of white settlers and the army? They ride their horses the same. They have spears whereas the humans have greater fire power, and eventually lay siege to the palisades of San Francisco. They fit the trope of the noble savage. But one caveat here: no matter how science fictional or fantastical our tales are, if there is war or aggressors they will always, always look like one cultural group or another; because we are human and only have our cultures for perspective.

Apes are noble…except for the bad guys. Dumb guy who shot the apes may as well be called Doubting Thomas and naysays everything, as a suspicious dude and isn’t moved by Caeser’s baby crawling all over them in cuteness. (By the way, what ape mother would allow her baby away from her side at such a young age, as in just born?) Of course Doubting Thomas is the only guy who can turn on the generators (really?) so he must come along and they know he’s skittish so no one searches him even though he’s a liability for violence. You know it’s going to go bad, right? Well it does but he’s not the initiator after the first shot.

baby ape, apes, Caeser, Planet of the Apes

Who doesn’t like an icebreaker moment with a little baby…that discovers a hidden gun? Copyright 20th Century Fox

Enter Koba, the ugly ape, scarred by human testing, hateful and distrustful and Caeser’s right-hand chimp. Koba wants to kill all the humans while back in the human camp Dreyfus wants to kill all the apes because, by god, they’re animals! We already know that ugly people/creatures are never the good guys. Blue Eyes loses faith with his human loving dad and joins Koba who goes to the human stockade and searches, to turn up their arsenal and folks doing target practice. Koba is so hateful, he mimics a happy chimp to cause homicide, and then arrives back in the ape lands to shoot Caeser, which of course no one sees. None of this was a surprise to me. I knew how almost all of it would play out from the first shot fired in the first 10 minutes. Koba or Doubting Thomas were going to start the inevitable war.

Caeser and Malcolm represent the calmer, peace lovers when everyone else is an over-the-top, two-dimensional hate monger. Things go bad, because you know they must, as Koba goes on a killing rampage, after locking up the good apes. But oh no, the leader is dead and only he can stop this madness. But guess what, he’s not dead. When the killing rampage began I tuned partly out and started playing solitaire. (Queue predictable killing sequence.)

Koba, apes, Dawn of Planet of the Apes, simian virus

Koba plays coy before becoming murderous. Copyright 20th Century Fox

Koba ends us killing Ash, Blue Eyes’ friend while Blue Eyes stands and watches with those big sad doe eyes. And Ash doesn’t really fight back at all. It’s the same thing that Frodo did in LOTR and it drove me nuts. Too much standing around and emoting with big, liquidy eyes. Do something!

Dreyfus has his last rally and is willing to kill all the humans (like Koba killing the apes) because of some weirdness that’s never clear. The apes can’t have the tower. So what? So he blows it sky high, along with himself. But while the good guys rally, the end is near and war will ensue, and away we go. Next, more Planet of the Apes remakes. Please please please, try to get a plot that’s half way original and not so predictable.

Overall, besides the awesome special effects, the plot was snoresville. I give this only two slippery banana peels.

 

 

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Tesseracts 17 Interview: Ben Godby

anthology, speculative fiction, SF, fantasy, Canadian authors

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

Ben Godby’s tale takes us to the farthest reaches of the universe and a man with a dark mission.

CA: “Star Severer” was one of the bleaker stories in Tesseracts 17. In one sense it signals the end of everything. Stories like this can be depressing, yet you presented more depth. What were the important elements you were exploring in this piece?

I think I’ve benefited from living in a peaceful time in a peaceful place. I can’t remember who wrote it, but a sentence which recently struck me with its veracity and import was, “Make no mistake, we are living in a golden age.” Not surprisingly, it’s always been hard for me to understand war—or, more generally, the very idea of having “enemies.” On the other hand, I’ve grown up with video games, board games, role-playing games, books, movies, and all other sorts of media that make me—on a visceral level—love war, and love killing, and love having some brute-obvious object of ethically appropriate hatred.

SF, speculative fiction, Tesseracts 17, science, deadly machines

Ben Godby loves games and fantasy, but Star Severer is science fiction with a dark vein.

This tension has caused me to write a lot of stories that explore violence and its necessary ambiguity. In “Star-Severer,” I needed that footchase scene, and I needed Odashi and his soldiers to violently board Mueller’s vessel, because in a lot of ways, violence is what makes stories worth telling and hearing for my narrative consciousness. But intellectually, I abhor violence and don’t understand it—which is why my protagonists are usually unwilling, unwitting, or unhappy soldiers.

CA: This story literally takes us to the far reaches of the universe. Do you write in this universe or these worlds often?

It’s hard for me to write anything that’s anything but fantastic. I have three distinct universes I like to write in, although two of them—one which is decidedly fantasy, and another which is a sort of fantasy-cyberpunk fusion—have begun a sort of mental meld over the last six months. I like reading contemporary, modern, and realistic fiction, but I get bored writing about the mundane world.

This universe, by the way, is the “Children of the Earth” universe, which is marked by conflict between the Children of the Earth, who believe in Terran orthodoxy (Earth’s universal primacy), and “Terretics,” usually colonists of far-flung worlds who have ceased to care for Earth and its imperial ways. “Children of the Earth,” published online in Kaleidotrope, also takes place in this universe. http://www.kaleidotrope.net/archives/summer-2012/children-of-the-earth-by-ben-godby/

CA: The story  harkens some to our human condition; that of being a violent species sometimes determined to commit genocide. Do you think we will every move beyond this flaw?

I think humanity is slowly become “gooder,” if I may be permitted such a silly word. At least, the developed nations of the world are becoming less and less willing to kill each other. But, there are still horrible wars committed across the globe every day, and whenever the nuclear stalemate is resolved, large, powerful countries will almost inevitably go to war once again. I hope we move beyond the need to fight each other, but I think this will require the elimination of acquisitive ideologies like capitalism, competitive ideologies like free market economics, and a lot of great science to solve the environmental problems that are creeping up on us and creating more cause for conflict.

CA: Science fiction isn’t as popular as fantasy fiction these days. Do you think it’s too realistic and we wish to escape any sense of reality?

I’ve heard this before, but I actually find that SF is really popular. What’s interesting to me is that SF has evolved a lot more than fantasy. There’s a lot of people who are upset that SF has become really dark and pessimistic, but at least it reflects evolving trends in the psychology of writers and readers. I can’t believe how many fantasy books are, for all intents and purposes, identical to each other minus a few special details: magic works this unique way in such-and-such a world, but it is still a romantic 13th century medieval world with kings and emperors, subjected women, racism, some kind of orc or goblin analogue (e.g. sranc [R. Scott Bakker’s fantasy series] or the shanka [Joe Abercrombie]), and a hero quest. I like fantasy, but I want to see it do more, and outside of China Miéville, Jeff VanderMeer, Steph Swainston, and a clutch of other New Weird writers, I don’t see much “evolved” fantasy getting very popular.

CA: What else are you working on now?

An MBA and a rather successful Dwarf Fortress. http://www.bay12games.com/dwarves/ I hate to say it, but with my studies, work, and volunteerism as they’ve been the last year and a half, I’ve barely written anything. I’m hoping to start a new AD&D campaign (which I consider to be a sort of creative writing) in the new year, and once I graduate in August 2014, hopefully I’ll get back on the writing horse. The plan, though, is to write novels rather than short stories. Writing short fiction was always meant to be “practice” for writing novels, although I kind of fell into loving it.

Ben Godby writes mysteriously thrilling pseudo-scientific weird western adventure fantasy tales. He lives in Ottawa, Ontario with a girl, two dogs and a cat. Ben is part of the Codex Writers’ Group and his book reviews have been published in Strange Horizons. He is a business communications specialist, a videogame addict, and a heavy metal enthusiast. He holds a B.A. in Philosophy from McGill University and is a part-time student in the University of Ottawa’s French MBA program.

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Tesseracts 17 Interview: Costi Gurgu

alien worlds, world building, speculative fiction, science fiction, Tesseracts 17

Costi Gurgu’s “Secret Recipes” is both alien and sensual.

Today, I interview the last Ontario author in Tesseracts 17, but not the last author by far.

CA: Of all the tales in Tesseracts 17, “Secret Recipes” was perhaps the most alien. You use the senses in such a unique way that makes the story poetic. How did this idea come about?

A few years back I had a conversation with my Romanian agent about an article he just read, concerning the North American Science Fiction rules—One cannot write a story that happens in an alien world, having only a cast of alien characters. So, not having at least one human character to give the readers the human perspective on the alien world.

I told my agent I can break that rule and make it work. And so it started.

I wrote that year a short story that did just that. I sold it immediately to Anticipatia Magazine (major SF magazine at the time).  It has been awarded and reprinted four times.

After its success, I wrote my first novel, Recipearium, breaking the same rule. I sold it several years later; critics and reviewers wrote about it in numerous genre and literary magazines, and it brought me three awards.

The story in Tesseracts17, “Secret Recipes,” takes place in the same universe as the novel, breaking the same rule. In fact it is a prequel to the novel, introducing the main character and his quest.

CA: The story is quite complex, dealing with betrayal, familial honor, and individual accomplishment. Was there one strong ingredient in this recipe or was it a gradual blending that was a natural evolution?

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

I thought that no matter how “alien” the world and the characters, there have to be some things that are common to our civilization. That’s what should make the story work in the end—the fact that we can identify some of our values with some of their values and eventually understand and empathize with their struggles.

Family is one of those values. And yes, in their world the notion is quite different from here, but in the end that sense of belonging to a certain group of people and a certain place, to a certain system of values that one is exposed to within that group, the mutual feelings that grow inside the relationships of a family, all these are and have been for most of our history intrinsic to our way of living and shaping the reality around us.

So, it all starts with where my main character comes from. Who is he and why does he make the choices he makes?

CA: Do you think that if we ever met an alien species, even as diverse as the ones in David Brin’s Uplift universe, that we would be able to emotionally relate to them?

 To be honest, no. At least not in the beginning. And when I say in the beginning, I don’t mean the first year or so, I mean probably the first century or so.

Although when one says “emotionally” we think of this non-rational, spontaneous instinctive reaction, it is not completely so. That “instinctive” reaction is given to us by our system of beliefs, by the way we are educated to react to different stimulus.

“Alienness” is one of the toughest tests we always had in order to pass as civilized people. There are still humans who cannot emotionally relate to other humans of a different religion or ethnicity, which in a way goes back to a certain definition of alienness.

So imagine relating to beings anatomically different from us. Who have completely “alien” and questionable physiological needs. And that means only scratching the surface. Because then we’d have to cope with their spiritual and intellectual needs. And as we struggle to accomplish that, we’d encounter their philosophical and legal system. Their moral code and cultural code.

So, I think the answer is no. We’d need centuries of contact before some of us could really emotionally relate to them.

CA: What would you consider  as being your most difficult story to write in terms of worldbuilding and/or alien perspectives and perceptions.

You know when “they” say that one of the biggest problems of Science Fiction stories is that their characters don’t seem to have common human needs? They do not need to eat, use the washroom, make love, drink a coffee or do the laundry?

Noticed that I said make love and not have sex? It sounds nicer somehow. But truth to be told, sex is one essential component of human life and why not presume of any intelligent organic life out there in the universe. And most SF writers have really avoided the subject either by completely ignoring it, or by starting with a kiss and ending with “and after that they made sweet, sweet love.” But that’s a subject for another day.

Well, you could do all that in terms of worldbuilding and it would be fun, especially if there are aliens involved. But now imagine writing an alien love scene and I’m not talking about one of those poetic scenes that have nothing to do with sex. Like oh, the aliens were these giant butterflies and they loved each other flying majestically through a night sky full of spectacular moons.

No, love making that involves real sex organs and secretions and orgasm and the eventual transfer of fluids. All in the name of love… and procreation, hopefully.

It is hard enough to write a human love scene that avoids all that detail and gives the sense of emotional connection as well as physical pleasure. Then, what do you do when your aliens are not humanoids and not even cute little animals or plants, or birds for that matter. When they are really alien and seriously constructed creatures.

An alien love scene could be really difficult to write from any perspective or perception, without alienating your readers. So I could say…Recipearium, my alien only novel.

CA: What other stories are you cooking up?

New beginnings for me this year.

I’m in the middle of a Science Fiction comedy.

Now, this is also difficult to write as humor is so different depending on so many factors, that sometime one would think this should be the true test of emotionally relating to alienness.

I’ve been also trying my hand at screenwriting. Right now I’m working on a short Sci-Fi drama and a long Sci-Fi thriller.

So all things new to me and therefore so exciting that I feel this year was one of the best I had in a long time.

Costi Gurgu is an art director, illustrator and writer living in Toronto with his wife. He worked as the art director of Playboy Magazine, the French fashion magazine—Madame Figaro, and the women’s life-style magazine—Tabu. Costi was also the art director and illustrator of ProLogos Imprint, where he designed their visual identity and illustrated some of the book covers.

As a writer, Costi has published three books and over fifty short stories in Romania, Poland, Hungary, Denmark, England, United States and Canada. He has won twenty-four awards for his fiction. His latest sales include the Danish anthology Creatures of Glass and Light, the DAW Books anthology Ages of Wonder, the Wildside Press anthology The Third Science Fiction Megapack, The Millennium Books anthology Steampunk—The Second Revolution, and Tesseracts 17.

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Tesseracts 17 Interview: Holly Schofield

anthology, speculative fiction, SF, fantasy, Canadian authors

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

Holly Schofield writes a thoughtful piece about one possible future of our digital world in “Graveyard Shift.”

CA: “Graveyard Shift” is about a moral dilemma. Why did you choose to explore it through the aspects Asian tradition?

I knew I wanted to write about the soul-crushing debt that post-secondary students are incurring now and how that may worsen in the future. By adding in a cultural challenge, I was able to increase the struggle of the main character, Ryan, and deepen the story.

Like many young Canadians, 23-year-old Ryan precariously straddles two worlds. He’s a child of mainstream urban Canada, with all its peer pressure, capitalism, and emphasis on a unique sense of self. And he was raised in a traditional Asian multigenerational household, with its sometimes conflicting components: an unyielding respect for elders, a severe work ethic, and a unified sense of family.

Ryan’s ability to choose which of the two culture’s many elements to apply to his growing set of problems is essential to the story.

CA: You story deals with a near and very possible future where the effects of automation and a global village are wiping out the need for certain jobs. In some ways, it’s what happened when the Industrial Revolution happened. Do you think we’re going to go through more of these industrial bumps? Is there a chance for people to be assimilated into new jobs or will we end up with a leisure society?

Asian culture, techology, SF, speculative fiction, Canadian authors, Alberta writers

Holly Schofield’s story is about straddling cultures and changes in the world.

History is full of speed bumps. I don’t see that changing. Our current challenges include technology’s effect on jobs, the uneven division of wealth, and the increasing need for life-long learning. In this story, Ryan has chosen an educational path that is perhaps no longer appropriate and needs to adjust his expectations accordingly—a familiar feeling to anyone applying for jobs in our post-2008 world.

The line between work and leisure may well blur as technology advances. Even ten years ago, it was almost impossible to imagine a job in the social media field, yet now that’s a burgeoning employment sector.

The key, in both real life and in the story, is flexibility. Does Ryan have enough transferable job skills to cope? Readers will have to learn for themselves.

CA: You mentioned that you hope to save the world through science fiction. Whether serious or not about that statement, do you believe that writing SF can make a difference?

I’m certainly hoping it can. I know that reading SF has made a difference in how I perceive the world and where our civilization is headed.
It’s proven that reading fiction, any fiction, measurably enhances our abilities to empathize with other people. Levels of emotional engagement rise in the long-term, compared to non-fiction readers.

Something not yet proven, but I tend to believe, is that SF readers have even more of that engagement and, even better, an understanding of the real potential of humankind. In my own case, watching the original Star Trek on TV as a child–seeing that imaginary future world without poverty, where humans can satisfy their need to simply explore–gave me a “big picture” view of how wonderful our civilization can be. Thousands of SF stories later, I’m sure I do see the world in a different way than a reader who has never ventured outside of mainstream fiction.

I would like to impart some of that optimism in my own fiction.

CA: What’s your next project?

I tend to work on several stories at once. Soon-to-be-published stories involve Alberta petroglyphs, a wimpy superhero, and a garbage-collecting cyborg. Stories in progress feature a brain-augmented cat, a woman who mind-melds with eagles, and a castle built by a time traveller. Keep checking hollyschofield.wordpress.com (http://hollyschofield.wordpress.com/) for upcoming publications.

Holly Schofield has several publications in the online magazines, AE: The Canadian Science Fiction Review and Perihelion. Her work will soon appear in three anthologies: Tesseracts 17, Oomph: A Little Super Goes A Long Way, and The Future Embodied.

She travels through time at the rate of one second per second, oscillating between the alternate realities of a prairie farmhouse and her writing cabin on the west coast.
She plans to save the world with science fiction stories and home-grown heritage tomatoes.

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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?

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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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Writing: Demographics of Tesseracts 17 Part III

anthology, speculative fiction, SF, fantasy, Canadian authors

Tesseracts 17 will be out in October, with tales from Canadian writers that spans all times and places.

I’m sorry that I’ve been so busy that I’ve had little time to write. In about a month I’ll be on my way to Europe and before that, Tesseracts 17 will be released. We’ll be doing a promo interview session on Bitten by Books so stay tuned for more information there. Plus, a reading is scheduled at Bakka Books in Toronto on Oct. 19 and David Jon Fuller, one of our authors will be reading at the Chi Reading Series in Winnipeg on Oct. 9.

Now, I’ve spent a great deal of time working out the demographics of Tesseracts 17, mostly because I was curious. Should I edit another anthology I would track from the beginning. Here I’ve tried to map the genres of the submissions. This is the most subjective list of all. One, I didn’t track all of the stories  so I may not remember what the story is about from the title and the notes. On top of that, every reader and writer will see a story differently. Is a zombie story a horror story, a science fiction story or fantasy? In fact, it can be any of those and sometimes more than one. And I don’t remember all of the stories that well, so the table has an added inaccuracy.

I found as I was starting to list the stories that I couldn’t just say “fantasy.” That’s far too broad a genre umbrella, so I started to list what type of fantasy.  Some of these are tropes more than genres. Was it fairies or mind control or shape shifting?  What about the steampunk wendigo story? Fantasy and SF or just fantasy? And yes there were a few themes that showed up more than once. While the wendigo stories could fit under the subgenre of mythic creatures, they are a specific type of beast, like zombies and vampires, and because there was more than one, they deserved their own heading. Interesting to note, of the three specifically Canadian mythic beasties (wendigo, sasquatch, ogopogo–and there may be more I don’t know about. Maybe Steve can fill in others from the opposite coast) only wendigo appeared in the submissions. ,You, dear reader, can add up the numbers yourself, because yes, I’ve probably spent over a dozen hours on all of the demographics.

This table could have been bigger or smaller. For instance, tales involving gods got shoved under mythic beings/other creatures. I didn’t single out the three tales that involved wine though you’ll read Claude Lalumiere’s tale of wine in the anthology. There were Western flavored tales and hillbilly talk, several brutish husbands with chickenshit wives (these were too cliche), cartoons, historical/alternative histories, Jewish and Asian fantasies, dragons, winged cats, chickens and cows. Yes, even vengeful cows. We do have a historical fantasy with Patricia Robertson’s beautiful tale, and a couple end of the world stories. If anyone is interested I will break down the stories in the anthology into the genres I think they are. It would be interesting to see how Steve would classify them.

The table is read from the left column first. So if I thought a story was predominantly bizarre or metaphorical with a dollop of descent into madness, it went in the left-hand spot for bizarre. If I thought it was descent into madness with a dollop of bizarre it would go into the left-hand spot for madness. Rhea Rose’s story fits in that second category. I’ve colored the table to differentiate the categories: yellow=SF, green=fantasy, blue=horror. So Rhea’s story is colored horror.

WordPress is not easy for inserting tables and spredsheets,  so I’ve attached it. Click on  Genre chart and you’ll be able to see the list. Remember, the numbers won’t match the original demographics because I didn’t include the poems, nor about 35 stories where I couldn’t remember if they were SF, horror or fantasy.

I’m done with the demographics and will be starting to put in short interviews with the authors that will probably span the next few months. I’d like to say I’ll get two in a week but it all depends on time. So in the meantime, enjoy the demographics and look for Tesseracts 17 in October.

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Writing: Demographics of Tesseracts 17

anthology, speculative fiction, SF, fantasy, Canadian authors

Tesseracts 17 from Edge Publications, will be out this fall with tales from Canadian writers that spans all times and places.

Okay, I said I would give a breakdown of the types of stories and the areas that people submitted from for Tesseracts 17. Since this was a open theme, stories could be any subgenre of speculative fiction or poetry. From what I could tell we received more stories than most Tesseracts anthologies of the past. The submission window was six months long, which was  a bit too long in my view.

Steve Vernon and I live on opposites coasts and have never met, though we’ve co-judged before and I asked him to do an introduction to my reprint collection Embers Against the Fallen, so we communicated through Facebook as well as using Dropbox to record entries and leave our comments. And let me tell you, some of them will be kept in lockdown in a tight metal box until the very Earth explodes. You see, when we’re leaving comments and have read the fiftieth submission of the day and are tired and have seen yet another timid wife and brutish husband tale or yet another zombie munching its way through humanity, we tend to leave snide and very cutting remarks that we would never forward to the author. (I did once do so by accident while editing for Chizine and I was mortified. The author took it with good grace and luckily I wasn’t that horrible–I apologized though.) But some are very funny, and that Steve, he’s downright hilarious and sardonic.

Anyways, (cough) I would like to think that Steve is still speaking to me though I believe I drove him crazy with my highly organized, extremely color-coded (colors!), tab-enhanced Excel spreadsheet. I’m very visual and I like being able to find the Alberta entries at a glance or the Quebec ones. Steve was probably left spinning in a psychedelic haze more than once. But in the end, we worked fairly well together and were probably about 80% unanimous on our decisions. The closer we got to the final choices the more we varied in some ways. If I was editing alone, not all of these tales and poems would have been my final selection, nor Steve’s, but we compromised.

On top of that, we had to balance between provinces and territories (for those not from Canada, we have ten provinces and three territories). Other aspects to watch for were making sure there weren’t all male or all female authors, that we had some new authors as well as experienced. In that regard, it was relatively easy to get a balance of genders as the final pieces we chose were already pretty evenly divided. And while we would have needed to re-balance if all the stories were fantasy and only one or two SF, it turned out we could live with what we had though it wasn’t half and half, but then, more fantasy is published in general these days than SF. Last, but not least, we also had to consider how the stories and poems fit together. We had some very good ghost stories but then it’s a popular trope and this wasn’t a ghost anthology. We also had some very good (and not so good) werewolf stories, as well as vampires, zombies and other reanimated creatures, but again, it wasn’t an undead anthology.

There were stories that were brilliant but we just couldn’t take too many fairy, or alien, or wendigo, etc. tales. Some of the pieces we rejected made me weep at having to let them go and I would have loved to do a subsidiary anthology of all the ones that got away (that would be a great title). Brian allowed us 100,000 words for the anthology. We scrimped and squeezed and hardcore edited some submissions down to their extra tasty, crunchy essence. I held two poems past the bitter end but Brian said, no room at the inn. In fact, we probably went over the word limit since we never included the author bios in our final count. That final number, including my introduction and Steve’s afterword, came to 99,441 words, more or less.

All of these factors made it trickier to edit than, say a theme-anchored anthology on dumptrucks or space dumptrucks. But in a way, it was interesting to see what Canadian (meaning born here, living here now, or born here and living abroad) writers would send if they could send anything at all. Tesseracts 17 paid close to (even a little more than) what other anthologies pay so it was on par there. The nice long submission window meant that some people sent us their trunk stories right off the bat. The early birds got a chance to send in rewrites, if we were holding the stories, or could try again if we rejected.  Those that came later in the final flood month didn’t get that luxury unless we were holding into the third round of reading.

I’ll start with the easy demographics. These may not be completely accurate. I became too busy to do this earlier and a couple of months have passed. But here we have the totals. I will try to give a breakdown of types of stories on another day. We received:

  • 449 individual submissions
  • 104 individual poems (The poetry number might be slightly off because I can’t quite tell if some were poems or not.)
  • 340 stories of varying lengths

Further breakdowns:

  • 4 poems were accepted
  • 25 stories were accepted
  • 14 accepted pieces were by women
  • 15 accepted pieces were by men
  • 305 individuals submitted
  • 139 women submitted (approx. as some names began with initials or could be male or female, additionally one translation was writer and translator were female)
  • 166 men submitted (approx. as some names began with initials or could be male or female, additionally two translations were male writer, female translator, which I included here but could be part of the women [141])
  • 5 was the highest number of stories submitted by one person
  • 15 was the highest number of poems submitted by one person
  • 16 was the highest number of individual submissions by one person
  • 3 translations were sent (female translator; 2 male, 1 female writer)
  • 4 collaborations were sent (including the 3 translations)
  • 1 story was rejected unread because it came in near to 10,000 words, far past the specifications on the guidelines
  • 2 stories came in that were not speculative: 1 was a history of Wounded Knee. The other was excellent and we would have taken it if we could have found one speculative element. It was very Canadian too. (You know who you are.)
  • 1 submission was neither read nor rejected because the person did not read the guidelines, sent us a story chapter,  wanted our address to send us buckets of other chapters and when we said to reread the guidelines, he said “reread my submission.” Sorry, buckaroo, in this case you pissed off the editors.
  • 2 people submitted far more than the allotted number of stories/poems allowed at one time. While the guidelines stipulated no more than 5 poems or 1 story, and although we were pretty grumpy about this, we actually read them all. The authors who did this should have known better because they were pros but hey, I’ve made mistakes as well.
  • 1 author got to submit just past the window closing because she had sent an email querying and saying she thought something had gone wrong.
  • 1 author did not get to submit past the submission window because it was over two weeks past the deadline and we just couldn’t .
  • 1 author sent a submission without the story attached. Since it was past the closing deadline, we rejected the non-submission (included in the above numbers)
  • 3 authors sent in stories with track changes and their editing included. This certainly did not put them onto the winning track. Writers, yes, edit and proofread your stories but get rid of track changes when you’re submitting.

We also had a few first time authors. In some cases these stories take more editing to polish them but we had a mandate to have some new or first time writers. We had chosen one story and sent an acceptance, conditional upon working with us and rewriting. We never heard from that young author. If this was me, even at the stage of having published stories and poems,I would have seriously worked with and responded to the editor.

We asked for several rewrites early on, when we were still holding stories and poems but the deadline hadn’t been reached. Of the rewrites, we did take a few pieces. Other writers, once we had accepted the pieces, had to do rewrites or edits. We did at least three edits on some pieces as Steve and I would each go over them, thus catching things that were missed or didn’t quite flow. One poet chose not to go with a second rewrite, which was unfortunate. Authors should remember that they do not have to take every edit an editor suggests but they then have to argue why they don’t think the edit makes the piece stronger. There is leeway for discussion and when that far along the track, an editor isn’t asking for two rewrites if they plan on rejecting the piece.

Still, we all have our own ways of dealing with writing and editing. I will try to come back with a second post that will delve into the breakdown of writers by province and territory, and the types of stories we received. Again, it’s been a while since I read these so this will be the least accurate and most subjective breakdown of all.

Tesseracts 17 is due for release on October 1.

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Women in Horror: Nina Munteanu

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Women in Horror Month, sponsored by the Viscera Organization

Today’s Canadian woman in horror is Nina Munteanu, who likes to splice a bit of darkness into the cells of her science fiction. Women in Horror Month is sponsored by the Viscera Organization.

My writing comprises a wide range of genre and type. For instance, I write humorous children’s books, hard SF, time travel fantasy, space adventure and erotica, in addition to dark SF. Examples of my works of dark SF include:

  • “Virtually Yours” (published in Hadrosaur Tales, 2002; Neo-Opsis Science Fiction Magazine, 2004; Nowa Fantastyka (Poland), 2006; Bli-Panika (Israel), 2006—short story nominated for Speculative Literature Foundation Fountain Award
  • “A Butterfly in Peking” (published in Chiaroscuro, 2003; Nowa Fantastyka, 2005; Dramaturges of Yann (Greece), 2004
  • “The Cypol” (eXtasy Books, 2006)—novella nominated for ECATA Reviewers Choice Award
  • “Five Minutes” (published in Justus Roux’s Erotic Tales, 2004)
  • “Neither Here Nor There” (published in Another Realm, 2005)
  • “Framed and Julia’s Gift will be published in Natural Selection, my collection of short stories by Starfire World Syndicate in spring of 2013.
  • The Splintered Universe Trilogy (novel published by Starfire World Syndicate, 2011, 2012, 2013).
women in horror, dark SF, science fiction, women's equality

Ecologist and writer Nina Munteanu

NINA MUNTEANU

1.  Why do you write dark fiction/horror? Some people consider it only a sensationalistic tableau. Why this genre over others or do you span the literary landscape?

While my work spans a vast literary landscape from comedy & adventure to thrilling suspense, most of my adult fiction contains elements of brooding darkness. I feel that the darkness adds a compelling element of tension, reality and thrilling victory in the story arc. Without such chiaroscuro to add depth to a story, art is “flat”; it lacks contour, meaning and direction.

2What dark themes do you explore in your fiction?

I write primarily science fiction; themes like achieving forgiveness, love & compassion, overcoming fear, taking control of one’s fate & fulfilling one’s destiny, etc. are often played out through the encounter of—and often clash with—“the other.” The “other” may be aliens, some new technology, a fantastical unknown entity, or a place with strange powers. In the end, the POV characters must overcome their own darkness, reflected in “the other” to ultimately prevail.

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The Splintered Universe by Nina Munteanu

3.  Do you feel horror/dark fiction is an important genre and why; what does it bring to the table or allow you to explore? Who inspired you?

Definitely. Oscar Wilde once said: “Art is individualism, and individualism is a disturbing and disintegrating force. There lies its immense value. For what it seeks is to disturb monotony of type, slavery of custom, tyranny of habit, and the reduction of man to the level of a machine.” Susan Sontag said, “Real art makes us nervous.” Art can be beautiful; great art will have a layer to it that disturbs, knocks you off balance and takes you out of equilibrium; this is usually through darkness. This can be achieved through beauty too; in fact it may be most impactful through beauty. For me, that is what good art does: it examines our world and presents us with new perspectives to ponder, and evolve from. Without darkness to contrast it, light cannot be recognized for its virtues, nor can it even be properly seen; darkness is the platform from which light emerges in all its glory. I’m not just talking about good and evil. Metaphorically, darkness represents anything within us that is repressed, that we’re ashamed of or uncomfortable with. It is the unknown (the stuff of science fiction… 🙂 ). My main sources of inspiration came from the classics (Thomas Hardy, Shakespeare, Dostoevsky) and the metaphoric writings of Ray Bradbury.

The Splintered Universe, SF, horror, women in horror

The Splintered Universe combines elements of SF with darkness.

4.  Do you feel women are under represented in any way in the speculative arena or do you think there is more focus on them than on men? (or examples of how there is a balance)

If you asked me this question five years ago, I might have contended that we were under-represented, particularly in some aspects of SF. I think that is changing and quite rapidly now. This is most prevalent in Canada. So many excellent women authors are emerging who are contributing fine writing in speculative fiction. I think in the hard SF area, we are still terribly outnumbered. But that is also changing. And that’s a very good thing. Women writers, particularly in the speculative genre, offer a very different perspective on story and idea and vision of our world and our future. It is an important perspective that we really need right now.

5.  Abuse against women is worldwide: the gang rape of the Indian woman, women assaulted in various terrorist attacks or protests against regimes (Egypt, Syria, etc. throughout time), domestic violence and murder at the hands of boyfriends, fathers, families and husbands, sexist representation, being treated as second class citizens or possessions and made to dress in a particular way, etc. With all that’s going on, what do you want to say about where women are what we can do to stem the tide?

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The Last Summoner is a new novel by Nina, published by Starfire World Syndicate. Watch the trailer here:      http://youtu.be/jvbe91qbWG0

All this hubbub and mayhem is actually a good sign; it means that women are finally waking up—all over the world—and reporting these atrocities (all this violence and abuse has been going on for a very long time—in silence). Women are saying to the world, “that’s enough; no more. We aren’t dumb, frail, hysterical, lesser beings.” Women are pushing out from the domination of an androcentric society and patriarchal rule. We are reaching out to our sisters around the world; we are teaching the world with our compassionate intelligence, our Gaia-wisdom, and our universal altruism. The Dalai Lama said, “the western woman will save the world”; I strongly believe that one of the ways we will achieve this is through “story” and “storytelling.” It is up to women to tell a new story. One that openly examines the horrors enacted in the world—often by righteous patriarchs—and points to a new zeitgeist of equality, respect, compassion and cooperation. A story of victory. Victory for all of humanity and the planet.

6.  Lastly, this is your space to add anything else you would want to say.

Being a Romanian and an ecologist, I celebrate my position as writer on the fringe of SF and horror: dark SF. There is a term for this in ecology, for riding the edge between two worlds or genres in this case. It’s called an ecotone, that zone or region where through the interaction of two ecosystems (or the collision of two worlds) generates vibrant life. Ecotones are recognized as the richest and most diverse places for life (e.g., estuaries between rivers and the ocean; marshes and forest edges are other examples). Benefiting from what the two single ecosystems offer, ecotones team with a thriving community that takes from the rich interaction of both ecosystems. This is what dark SF does in my opinion. It infuses elements of darkness into an otherwise idea-rich, often mechanized and somewhat unemotional platform of science fiction. Just as in the chiaroscuro of light on an object, darkness in fiction adds surprising and compelling depth and perspective to an otherwise dispassionate technological and scientific “what if” scenario in SF.  Thanks so much for this opportunity, Colleen.

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Women in Horror: Arinn Dembo

It’s Women in Horror Month and I’m continuing to highlight Canadian women who write dark fiction of one sort or another. Today’s author is Arinn Dembo who has contributed background fiction and narrative design for 12 computer games for the PC, including a horror RPG, Fort Zombie. Her fiction has been published in F & SF, H.P. Lovecraft’s Magazine of Horror and various anthologies. The short story “Monsoon” won the Best Fantastic Erotica contest sponsored by Circlet Press in 2006.

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Women in Horror Month, sponsored by the Viscera Organization

Arinn’s military science fiction novel, The Deacon’s Tale, and a collection, Monsoon and Other Stories are currently in print with Kthonia Press. She has an upcoming RPG called Sword of the Stars: The Pit, and she is working as editor on three illustrated editions of classic horror tales, two by H.P. Lovecraft and one by Clark Ashton Smith. You can check out her day job here: http://www.kerberos-productions.com/

ARINN DEMBO

1.  Why do you write dark fiction/horror? Some people consider it only a sensationalistic tableau. Why this genre over others or do you span the literary landscape?

writing, RPG, fantasy, horror, dark fiction

Sword of the Stars RPG forthcoming from Arinn Dembo

I am officially described as a “multi-genre” author, but almost everything I write has a touch of horror. I cannot say why, except that people tend to write what they know. I am not an unhappy person, but I have seen a lot of pain, blood and bones in my lifetime.

2.  What dark themes do you explore in your fiction?

horror, vampires, dark fiction

Arinn Dembo explores cannabalism.

Cannibalism is a pretty common theme in my work. I also write a lot of stories about how love not only goes wrong, but horribly wrong. And in most of my stories, anything with power that approaches the Divine is usually pretty sadistic, its desire for worship wholly selfish and narcissistic. I’m with Pablo Neruda on this one: “All gods are our enemies.”

3. Do you feel horror/dark fiction is an important genre and why; what does it bring to the table or allow you to explore? Who inspired you?

Fear is one of the primal human passions. Pain is one of the central human experiences. The Universe is not necessarily a friendly place. These are the fundamental truths that horror puts on the table; it’s definitely an important genre.

As to who inspired me—the usual male authors (King, Lovecraft, Bloch, Matheson, Poe), but I was also inspired by the fact that the genre originated with a woman (Mary Wollstonecraft-Shelley), that its most popular 19th century practitioners were women (the Gothic writers were often female), and that some of the strongest and most original horror authors of the 20th century were female. Shirley Jackson, Alice Sheldon, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro and Anne Rice taught me that you could aspire to the highest literary art and still write horror.

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Deacon’s Tale by Arinn Dembo, through Kthnoia Press.

4.  Do you feel women are under-represented in any way in the speculative arena or do you think there is more focus on them than on men? (or examples of how there is a balance).

Women do write and read a great deal of horror, but they are deliberately marginalized when it comes to professional recognition and awards that the genre can offer. When Rice and Laurell Hamilton hammered out a new sub-genre of horror in the 1980’s and 1990’s, it was deliberately re-branded “fantasy” and then “paranormal romance” so that their enormously popular books wouldn’t drown out the “real horror” that male authors write, and male readers prefer.

I’ve read these books, and they are full of blood, depravity, witchcraft, torture and murder. The fact that the protagonists have lusty sex lives or romantic relationships would not be a problem if the protagonists and the authors involved were male. And it’s certainly not that the genre as a whole cannot cope with innovation or change—so long as men are driving it. Look what happened when David Schow, R.C. Matheson and a movement of primarily male authors came up with another new sub-genre of horror during the same period.

“Splatterpunk” is classified as “real horror” today and has been incorporated seamlessly into therest of the genre, because…penis. End of story.

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Fort Zombie, the role-playing game

5.  Abuse against women is worldwide: the gang rape of the Indian woman, women assaulted in various terrorist attacks or protests against regimes (Egypt, Syria, etc. throughout time), domestic violence and murder at the hands of boyfriends, fathers, families and husbands, sexist representation, being treated as second class citizens or possessions and made to dress in a particular way, etc. With all that’s going on, what do you want to say about where women are what we can do to stem the tide?

The violence is happening because we ARE stemming the tide. The world is changing, and The Man is fighting a desperate, last ditch battle to defend His traditional privileges. The beatings, the acid attacks, the rapes and murders, are all a frantic attempt to scare us back into our cages.

This time, don’t go back. Be willing to die rather than live as a slave. No human being has ever been free or ever will be free without that courage.

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Moonsoon and Other Stories, by Arinn Dembo

Patriarchy always has been and always will be a protection racket. It is based on the same fundamental principle that drives the economy of terror between the Mafia and the shopkeepers in a ghetto. The Man tells you a horror story about what will happen if you don’t pay up. “It would be a shame if you were to get raped or killed, if I was ever to stop…protecting you.”

Don’t fall for it. Live free or die.

6. Lastly, this is your space to add anything else you would want to say.

Keep writing, keep reading, and for God’s sake, support each other! Buy books by women, read books by women, demand that female authors be recognized and given their fair share of awards. Men didn’t get to be in charge by stabbing each other in the back or clawing each other’s eyes out, fighting on the floor for a pitiful handful of scraps.

Demand your seat at the table. Horror belongs to women as much as anyone.

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