Tag Archives: SF

Alice Unbound: Call for Submissions

Hello, world, and happy new year.

books, publishing, collection, reprints, ebooks, Smashwords, writing, book production

Creative Commons: Ninha Morandini

I can’t guarantee I’ll get more posts out this year but I can start with a bang. I last co-edited Playground of Lost Toys with Ursula Pflug. The anthology was nominated for an Aurora Award, as well as one author being nominated for an Arthur Ellis Award, and three longlisted for the Sunburst Award with Catharine MacLeod’s Hide and Seek winning in short fiction. Now, to hopefully repeat that sucess, I will be editing an anthology of speculative fiction, due to be published by Exile Editions in the spring of 2018. Read on for Alice Unbound guidelines.

Lewis Carroll (Charles Dodgson) explored childlike wonder and the bewildering realm of adult rules and status, which clashed in bizarre ways. Many characters in his tales are anthropomorphic, whether talking cards, crying mock turtles or saucy Tiger Lilies. Over 150 years later, people still recognize characters from Carroll’s works. Who doesn’t know of vorpal blades and tardy white rabbits, protagonists and antagonists that resonate in a primal part of the human psyche. They hearken to the mysticism and mystery of the ancient world, when one wondered how the rain fell, or which gods empowered madness through drink, or whether a person was separate from an animal or could become one.

Alice in Wonderlnand, Through the Looking Glass, fantasy, speculative

Sir John Tenniel’s famous Alice illustrations. The Griffin, the Mock Turtle and Alice.

Centuries passed and myth became fairy tale, evolving to resonate with each era, showing the triumphs of the common man, the humble and generous woman who outsmarts tempters, jailers, and evil stepmothers, or the trials and tribulations of seeking the unknown. Carroll’s characters jumped forward, not just following the regular metamorphosis of an age-old tale, but leaping off the cliff of the familiar into something altogether new, different and endearing. We might not truly want to live in the world of Alice or have to deal with mad queens and bandersnatches, but what if that Wonderland ceased to exist on a separate plain, and melded with our modern world? How would these characters fit in, and what would they bring or change? Are we ready to accept Alice Unbound into our hearts and let the Jabberwock in the back door?

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was Carroll’s most famous work but there are other stories and poems (some within the greater works) where madcap creatures abound. Alice Unbound should contain an element of the speculative and may embrace fabulist, weird, myth, SF, fantasy, steampunk, horror, etc. Other speculative elements or characters may be combined in any way. I don’t want to see rehashings of Carroll’s tales but stories taking place in a modern or slightly futuristic world. I’ve seen many of the Alice as well. If you have a talking cat, it must be recognizable as the Cheshire Cat. I will consider a few very select poems, but they must have a storyline and not just be an observation or an image. You should not be copying Carroll’s style but telling a new tale in your voice.  Too many stories submitted with the same character will limit chances of the story being accepted. The anthology needs to go beyond Alice in every way.

Whether the Mad Hatter, the mock turtle, or Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, use Carroll’s elements and characters to write a new tale. QUILTBAG or people of colour as characters are encouraged. Alice doesn’t have to be white and blonde. I will accept any characters from the following works . I have not read everything so if you want to write about another character that fits into Carroll’s fantastical tales, please write first and ask.

  • Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

    Lion and unicorn, Alice, Through the Looking Glass

    Sir John Tenniel illustration.

  • Through the Looking Glass
  • The Hunting of the Snark
  • Phantasmagoria

These are story examples only but not requirements:

  • The caterpillar is the owner of a medical marijuana store but turns out to be part of a moonlighting superhero team by night.
  • The Walrus and the Carpenter’s strange relationship is strained farther when they both fall for a mermaid, who crusades for the murdered oysters.
  • The Snark is as elusive as the Sasquatch, but when they vie for the same space in endangered environment, what happens?
  • The last Jabberwock is captured and used to battle an overpopulation of vampires.

Writers must be Canadian citizens (living in Canada and/or paying taxes in Canada) or permanent residents of Canada. LGBQLT, POC are encouraged to submit. I will read cover letters last and will choose stories on merit first. This resource may be of use in your research: www.alice-in-wonderland.net

Payment: .05/word

Length: 2,000-5,000 words. Poetry: minimum 1,000 words.

Submission window: Feb. 1 to May 31 at: https://exilepublishing.submittable.com/submit Please go to this site to see some expanded information.

Simultaneous submissions: No; if you submit to me, please do not send it anywhere else until you receive a rejection.

Multiple submissions: You may send one story, or two poems. Please wait until I’ve sent a rejection before you send anything else. I may hold some pieces until the submission window is closed.

Acceptances: Final acceptances will go out a month after the submission window closes. I may ask for rewrites before making a final decision.

Manuscript format: Please use standard manuscript format (Google William Shunn): CDN spelling, double-space (except for poems), no extra spaces between paragraphs, indented paragraphs, title, etc. Failure to follow formatting may see your piece rejected unread.

Now, don your Mad Hatter’s cap, clean out the teapot and start writing.

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Playground of Lost Toys Interviews: Whan & MacLeod

Meagan Whan and Catharine MacLeod are the authors featured today. Their tales both start out innocently enough, involving a found die and a game of hide and seek. However, these stories have a darker heart as you read them.

Meagan’s “The Die” looks at alternate realities. It’s another one that touches on time travel, but worked well without getting twisted in its own logic (one reason I hate many time travel stories). But it might also be the same time and just an alternate universe.

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

 I was reading calls for submissions and the concept of a supernatural toy intrigued me. It seemed like a good challenge to come up with a unique toy. As a sometimes doll maker (I made the one in the photo), I thought of dolls first, but they seemed too common, so, I continued to think of options. Once I thought of the die, Elizabeth’s story snapped into place.

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

toys, games, chance, dice, alternate realities

Meagan Whan makes dolls but “The Die” looks at the game of chance when it involves your future.

When I was a child, my father and I were in the vegetable garden digging and unearthed a porcelain figurine of a hound dog. A curious find as our property had been a field before we lived there and the figurine did not belong to us. The owner of that figurine, like the origin of the die in my story, remains a mystery. 

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

I’ve always been interested in stories involving multiple universes, alternate takes on a single character. I wanted to play with the variations of a character, exploring how different decisions would alter her circumstances and those of the people in her life.

The human mind is constantly prophesying/ planning for innumerable futures; in those moments, we are all living “alternate” lives.

  1. Is there anything else you wish to mention about your story or the theme of the anthology?

There’s such a great variety of stories in the collection. I look forward to sharing the book with the people in my life, and I hope readers enjoy the collection.

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

I’m working on two projects, one an episodic story about brothers in the 1930’s & 1940’s, the other a low fantasy about loss. Sometime in the new year I’m hoping to set up a presence on social media.

toys, childhood, nostalgia, fantasy, SF, fiction, short stories

Playground of Lost Toys is available through Amazon, published by Exile Writers

Catharine story looks at what it means to become an expert at the game of hide and seek. But in fact, there are two different ways to hide, and the seeking travels the very dark edge of terror. Like the game of hide and seek, you eventually want to be found, but that’s only if you know you’re in the game.
 1. What was your main reason for submitting a story to Playground of Lost Toys?
I had a strange little story that didn’t seem to fit anywhere. I submitted it to PLT with my fingers crossed.
 2. Does your story relate at all to anything from your own childhood?
I used to be pretty good at Hide-and-Seek. But thank Heaven that’s all I have in

macleod

Catharine MacLeod’s “Hide and Seek” explores what it means to be truly invisible.

common with my main character.

 3. What theme or idea were you exploring in your story?
It fascinates me how some people can go completely unnoticed–and scares me how many people actually want to.
 4. Is there anything else you wish to mention about your story or the theme of the anthology?
The only toy I can ever remember losing was my Slinky. I found it a week later in my mom’s garden. She’d wound it around the tomato plants to keep the rabbits off them.
 5. What other projects do you have in the works, pieces people can buy, or places to find you in the coming year?
The only story I have out that’s really current is “Sorrow’s Spy” in CZP’s The Unauthorized James Bond. My story “Sideshow” will be in Imaginarium 4. Beyond that, I don’t know. The writer’s life, it’s all about the hustle…

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Playground of Lost Toys Interviews: Eikamp and Runté

Today, authors Rhonda Eikamp and Robert Runté. Their tales are both science fiction and involve games of strategy: chess. And while one deals with issues of ego and doing the right thing, the other examines more the consequences of doing the wrong thing, though you could say that in both cases ego blinds the characters.

Rhonda is an American living in Germany and her story was the only one we could accept from out of the country. That meant competition for the spot was very tough and we hung on to a few stories right until the end. Rhonda’s story “The Garden of Our Deceit” is one of the few we received that takes place off planet. It’s far future, as is Lisa Carreiro’s “Makour.”

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

I was inspired by the call for submissions and Jonathan Carroll’s wonderful quote. Stories of childhood and toys just strike me as the perfect juxtaposition of innocence and creepiness that you can do a lot with in genre (proven by the stories the editors have put together here!). I started out with something slightly steampunky-Victorian, with the idea of giant powered chess pieces, but the focus ended up on the alien corothai and issues of tyranny and freedom.

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

    chess, strategy, aliens, SF, short fiction

    Rhonda Eikamp’s story deals with games, betrayal, control and rebellion in Playground of Lost Toys.

I wasn’t exposed to chess until my 8th-grade math teacher taught us all and set up tournaments. I’d only played sporadically since, and so I played some online games to get the feel again while writing, which made me realize the corothai would want to hang from the ceiling to get a better view of their tournaments.

  1. What theme or idea were you exploring in your story?

I love exploring how alien intelligence and psyches might differ from our own, what the good and bad in being human is and why we will probably never overcome that (and shouldn’t). Would an alien race understand us, our love, relations, humor, the need to play? And I love a good rebellion. I’m interested in how we’re manipulated by those in power, the media, etc. Schools should be teaching kids how to assess what they’re told and how it’s being presented, and to get to the truth. The way news is channeled and selected now, at some point we’ll all be obliviots, knowing only what we want to know.

  1. Is there anything else to do with your story or the theme of the anthology you’d like to mention?

The takes on the theme here are amazing. Each story puts its own twist on playing or on that long-forgotten item from your childhood. Chris Kuriata’s “Fun Things For Ages 8 To 10” even captivated my refuses-to-read 14-year-old.

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

I have a story coming up in Pantheon (for which I had to dip into my childhood as well and my memories of tornadoes trying to pick up our Texas house) and a story in Midnight Circus: Age of Legends, which should be out January.

There’s a list of my stories that can be read online, at my (very neglected) blog https://writinginthestrangeloop.wordpress.com/.

toys, childhood, nostalgia, fantasy, SF, fiction, short stories

Playground of Lost Toys is available through Amazon published by Exile Writers

Robert Runté’s tale “Hacker Chess” has a lighter tone but examines well the obsessive nature of games, without always taking in a the bigger picture. It’s an amusing look at our current to near future, when all of our devices are automated, linked and “smart.” Robert chose to answer the questions in a block. Robert’s story is like Geoffery Cole’s where the characters get a little too caught up in their games.

  1. What was your main reason for submitting a story to Playground of Lost Toys?
  2.  Does your story relate at all to anything from your own childhood?
  3. What theme or idea were you exploring in your story?
  4. Is there anything else to do with your story or the theme of the anthology you’d like to mention?
  5. What other projects do you have in the works, pieces people can buy, or places to find you in the coming year.
chess, hackers, computers, smart technology, SF

Robert Runte’s “Hacker Chess” is a fun romp in Playground of Lost Toys.

When the call for submissions went out, I had no story, nor any idea for a story that would fit the theme. But I really respected both the editors, and the idea of writing to a specific target appealed to me, so I ended up submitting three stories: the first was too far off the theme; so I wrote the second directly on target, but the editors didn’t go for it; so I wrote the third at the 11th hour, and the editors took that one. That whole process was a lot of fun, actually. And I’ve already sold the first one elsewhere, and the second is off to a CanLit market, so we’ll see.

I would therefore recommend accepting the challenge implicit in writing to a specific theme, however unfamiliar, since that enables one to write several stories more quickly than starting from a blank page. But you have to trust the editors involved: it’s their job to tell you if you missed the target or if the story isn’t up to standard. I knew these two had high standards so that allowed me to play fast and loose, secure in the knowledge they wouldn’t let me embarrass myself.

The second story was right out of my childhood; the first was out of my friend’s childhood; and the third was based on an anecdote told me by another friend. The moral is, anything you tell a writer is likely to be taken down and saved against the day when they can turn it into a story.

“Hacker Chess” is about getting carried away when playing a game, rather than about a specific toy; though we often refer to computers as “toys” when guys get too fixated on having the latest and greatest tech. The main theme of “Hacker Chess,” to the extent that there is one, is recognizing childish behavior, and maybe, you know, to stop doing that. The characters and the world they inhabit are part of several other stories I have on the go, so hopefully I’ll be able to gather them together at some point to create.

The next story I have coming out is “Age of Miracles” in Strangers Among Us, but I am most excited about two books I’ve edited for Five Rivers: Den Valdron’s The Mermaid’s Tale and Dave Duncan’s Eocene Station. Den’s book is the best thing I’ve read in a decade and I consider my discovery of that manuscript the high point of my career so far: it’s going to win every award on the planet. Duncan’s book is SF, something we never see enough of, and the character of Tempest is just brilliant. So, pretty happy about how things are going!

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Writing: The Playground of Lost Toys

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Creative Commons: Ninha Morandini

“Usually at least once in a person’s childhood we lose an object that at the time is invaluable and irreplaceable to us, although it is worthless to others. Many people remember that lost article for the rest of their lives. Whether it was a lucky pocketknife, a transparent plastic bracelet given to you by your father, a toy you had longed for and never expected to receive, but there it was under the tree on Christmas… it makes no difference what it was. If we describe it to others and explain why it was so important, even those who love us smile indulgently because to them it sounds like a trivial thing to lose. Kid stuff. But it is not. Those who forget about this object have lost a valuable, perhaps even crucial memory. Because something central to our younger self resided in that thing. When we lost it, for whatever reason, a part of us shifted permanently.”

Jonathan Carroll

Ursula Pflug and I will be co-editing a speculative anthology titled The Playground of Lost Toys. This will be published by Exile Editions, in time for the holiday season. See below for guidelines.

Our childhood toys embodied our emotions. We just knew our favourite doll loved us, and that our toy soldier was as brave as we would be if given the chance. A child easily attributes magical powers, personality or secrets to a coloured stone or a twisted stick, but don’t we continue to do so as adults, just in different ways? Certain objects accrue power from the home or the landscape, absorbing our dreams and wishes, and the elemental energies that lie buried in a sandbox, hidden in the closet, or in the bole of a tree.

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

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Stories should touch on wonder, mystery, dread, awe: the delight when a strange toy appears, or loss when a cherished plaything is broken. A tale might, for example, explore the classroom ritual of show and tell, or the lost and found box in the corner of the gym in the moon colony.

Toys are often gendered so that beloved hockey stick might belong to a girl and the flying figure skates to a boy. Dolls reflect not just societal notions about gender but also about diversity; Mattel, for example didn’t issue a black Barbie till the late 60’s and then amidst controversy. These tensions can all be rich sources of speculative inspiration!

anthology, writing, submissions

Creative commons: photosteve101, flickr

What if there was a Matryoshka doll where each smaller container held mysteries to the seven wonders of the world, or a toy spaceship that entered other dimensions? Imagine a paper fan that controls the wind, a whistle that calls back the dead, a Chinese tiger hand puppet that protects. While these suggestions are fantastical, we also want stories about “normal” toys in science fictional or fantastic settings. Additionally, the toy itself needs to appear or disappear, to be “lost” or “found.” This need not be the core of the story arc, but it should be an element. Toys don’t have to be physical but could be metaphorical or allegorical as well.

Speculative subgenres from steampunk to magic realism will be considered. Excessive gore will be a hard sell. Sex is okay, if it’s integral to the story. Tales that are multi-faceted and go beyond a simple nostalgic trip down memory’s lane will have a better chance. We welcome QUILTBAG and/or People of Colour authors. At least 90% of the authors must be Canadian (or pay taxes in Canada); we can consider only a small percentage from other locales.

SUBMISSION LENGTH: Original, unpublished prose up to 5,000. Slightly longer works are okay but query for longer lengths. No reprints, no multiple submissions. Canadian spelling. Please follow standard manuscript format. If you don’t know what that is google William Shunn’s manuscript format. If we reject your story before the deadline, you’re welcome to send another.

PAYMENT: .05/word

SUBMISSION PERIOD: Feb. 1, 2015-Apr. 30, 2015 (midnight PST)

RIGHTS: English World rights, one-year exclusive print and digital, non-exclusive reprint rights, Exile Editions

PUBLICATION DATE: Nov. 2015 (tentative)

SUBMISSIONS: Through submittable. (this link might not work until Feb. 1)

NOTE: If your address is outside of Canada, please indicate whether you are Canadian expat (and paying taxes to Canada) or what your citizenship is. We have very limited space for stories from outside of Canada.

We are getting a LOT of doll stories. Please note the guidelines. While a doll story or maybe two could be accepted, we won’t be taking all that many. This is to be a diverse anthologies that covers toys that were, toys that are and toys that are yet to be.  Think about the word “toy.” What do people toy with? There are adult toys; computers are toys, people are toys, animals have toys, aliens have toys. Go wild! Make something up and think outside the sandbox!

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Writing: Marketing at Cons

Literaryliaison sent me this question:

cosplay, fantasy conventions, fans, SF, marketing writing

Dressing like this might get you the attention of an editor. Creative Commons: Florian Fromentin, Flickr

This year, I will be going to my first con. My sister and I will be dressing up as characters from The Hobbit, but we were wondering if a con is a good place to market fantasy. Have you had a lot of success in the past? Do you dress up as one of your characters? We thought that might be a creative idea.

I thought I’d actually write a post about cons and marketing your writing. First, there are three “world” cons. There is World Fantasy Con, World Horror Con and Worldcon. All three move from city to city and sometimes country to country. The first two are what is called a professional con. These conventions are mainly for the publishing industry. The industry is composed of writers, editors, artists, agents and publishers. Therefore your percentage of professionals to fans ratio is very different than Worldcon or any other fan cons. While fans may attend WFC or WHC, they are small in number. But yet, there are still fans but in this case those fans are writers of differing degrees, from the new writer with a first story to sell to the seasoned pros who come to mingle, be on panels, check in with their agents and publishers in person.

Professional cons tend to not have any fan tracks. There will be no gaming, no movies going on, no costume contest, etc. Therefore, there will be no costumes. What has been a somewhat snobbish view in the publishing industry is that if you show up at a pro con in costume you’re just a fan and not really a writer. I don’t agree with this and it’s my pet peeve that WFC is held around Hallowe’en every year and they don’t do costumes. Except last year, in Brighton. I’m also not all knowledgeable in this and it could be attitudes are changing. Those of us that go to the pro cons might affect weird contact lenses, flamboyant clothing and jewellery. I’ve been known to wear a pink brocade tricorn hat. It’s not a costume; it’s my clothing. 😉 It’s sort of a subtle way of circumventing the costume rule.

Now I should say I’ve only attended one Worldcon and that there are other very large conventions in various cities, such as Dragon Con in Georgia or Comic Con. The last, while more comic oriented is huge, filled with media stars and people wearing cosplay. I don’t know what writing/pro tracks they have but the norm is costuming.

fantasy authors, writers, professional conventions, World Fantasy Con

Do you think George R.R. Martin cares what you’re wearing? No. But he might not buy your novel either. Creative Commons: dravecky

You could always do a combo at the cons. Definitely dress up, have fun and, if you can manage it, do go as one of your characters. While agents or editors might look askance, or be drawn to your outfit, the other fans will eventually be your reading audience and they count. Writers won’t care. Maybe editors won’t care, especially if you’re wearing one of the skintight outfits of female superheros, or the bare-chested brawny male hero version. Also if they have panels to do with writing and marketing fiction, attend them, even in costume. These panels can give you a wealth of info and you might get a chance to talk to an editor or agent and see what they want. Sometimes there are publisher parties. Another good place to chat with editors and find out what they’re looking for.

If you’re self-publishing, use every gimmick you have to spread the word. Bookmarks, free giveaways and dressing as one of your characters is a good way to make people aware. These days, there are thousands of books and authors, and not everyone who is successful writes great works. Some have good publishers, agents and marketing. Marketing matters, even for people with large publishing firms.

I’ve not dressed up as one of my characters but then I haven’t written a character that I look like at all, but it’s a great idea. If you do happen to go to World Horror or World Fantasy, you might tone down the costuming because you’ll stick out like a sore thumb but with all other cons, you’ll be part of the fun. I do hope though that a good editor or agent would not miss the opportunity to find a great writer just because of a costume. Good luck!

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Tesseracts 17 Interview: Dianne Homan

surreal worlds, SF, metaphor, Tesseracts 17, anthologies

Dianne Homan’s world is regimented and plastic, in M.E.L.

Today we hit the Yukon, nearly the end of the interviews for Tesseracts 17, Dianne Homan’s dystopian world in M.E.L.

CA: M.E.L. was a very bizarre world, yet reminiscent in feel (not setting) of other dystopian futures, such as Logan’s Run, or even the morlocks of Orwell’s The Time Machine. Did you draw on any such existing tales for this setting?

I actually don’t read science fiction so I can’t say I drew on any literary worlds. I have a huge aversion to plastic—packaging, toys, utensils, etc., so I imagined a world coated in the stuff as something my protagonist would have to get past, get through, get under.

CA: In some ways your story could be taken as metaphorical. Would you say there is a metaphor you’re using in this?

Never thought of it metaphorically. One of the main points in this story is that, if we are tuned in to earth, there is knowledge that comes to us without our being able to pinpoint the source of our knowing—like M.E.L.’s knowing about dirt and W.W.B.’s knowing about bugs.

CA: This world has a regimental control of people’s lives. While it is a different world, do you think parts of our world are as regimented as this, for good or for ill?

The thing about our world that concerns me most is the control of, dare I say everything, by

anthology, speculative fiction, SF, fantasy, Canadian authors

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

the corporate powers. They control what the media tells us, what schools teach, what is available on the market, etc. They can’t control what we learn from the earth although they can make fun of, and try to minimize the importance of, that knowledge.

CA: Do you think we will see a future where our environments will become more artificial to survive environmental changes?

No. I, unfortunately, sense that we have passed an environmental tipping point, and that there is not much hope for survival of most life forms on the earth. That said, I think there is still so much potential for beauty and love and heroism that I feel blessed to be living on this planet.

CA: What other projects are you working on?

I am currently teaching grade 1/2/3 in a small rural school, and my work load is so intense that I have no brains left for writing when I end my work day. Writing projects are on hold, but all are fictional and all have love of the earth as their guiding principle.

Dianne Homan was born in Englewood, NJ, across the river from the bustling-est city on earth. She now lives a world, and a continent, away in a log cabin off-grid in the wilderness outside Whitehorse, Yukon. She is an arts education advocate and enjoys nothing more than incorporating art, drama, music and dance in her work as a teacher and in her imaginings as a writer. Her stories and essays have appeared in anthologies and magazines, and she co-edited two volumes of Urban Coyote.

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Tesseracts 17 Interview: Willie Meikle

anthology, speculative fiction, SF, fantasy, Canadian authors

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

William Meikle hails from Scotland and Newfoundland, and brings us a tale of deep space mystery with “In the Bubble.” http://www.williammeikle.com

CA: “In the Bubble” is hard core SF, in space with a mysterious murder. Do you think when we do head for the stars that humanity will come together against a common unknown (space) or do you think humankind’s baser emotions will still play out their dramas?

I’m a pessimist when it comes to humanity. We’re just too stupid to see beyond immediate gain and look at the big picture—we are already way too far down the line to disaster, and I can’t see us getting anywhere close to the stars. We’ll kill ourselves off first, over  food and water rights on a dying planet. There’s a cheery thought to start a new year.

CA: Do you think science will one day take us to being able to read another person’s thoughts? Do you think it will make communication better or worse if this could happen?

I think something close will be possible— some kind of emotion reader should be doable very soon, and people are already working on turning dreams into screen images. I doubt it will improve communication. It will make misunderstandings less common, sure. But it will also mean people would know exactly what you think of them. I foresee a lot more punch-ups.

CA:  Would you ever want to literally get inside someone’s head to think, see or feel as they do?

mysteries, thrillers, SF, speculative writing, Canadina authors, Scottish writers,

William Meikle writes mysteries that take place in space and in Glasgow.

Nope. Not even remotely. I have enough trouble inside my own head as it is. I think part of what makes us human is trying to figure out what other people are thinking. If we ever actually find out, the mystery is gone. Then what is left?

CA: Since your story is also a crime thriller in space, do you write other mysteries, and do you enjoy reading them?

CA: I do indeed enjoy reading them—I grew up on a diet of Ed McBain, Raymond Chandler and Agatha Christie amid all the genre work I was reading.  Quite a lot of that has seeped into my own writing, in particular into my Midnight Eye series. Derek Adams is a Glasgow PI,  usually down to his last cigarette and bottle of scotch, wearily fighting his way though the Glasgow underworld and the supernatural elements that keep leaping at him despite his best efforts to avoid it. I’ve also attempted a cozy murder mystery, and have a collection published of weird Sherlock Holmes stories. I suspect there’s more to come.

CA: What other projects do you have in the works?

I’m busy. I’m in the middle of a six book contract with DARKFUSE for horror works, I have a Professor Challenger collection coming this year from DARK RENAISSANCE among other things, and I’m currently coming to the end of the writing of three Sherlock Holmes novellas.  After that I have a ghost story collection I want to write, and a space opera novel that’s been gestating for a while, so I’m going to be busy for years to come yet.

William Meikle is a Scottish writer, now living in Canada, with twenty novels published in the genre press and over 300 short story credits in thirteen countries. His work has appeared in a number of professional anthologies and magazines with recent sales to NATURE Futures, Penumbra and Buzzy Mag among others. He lives in Newfoundland with whales, bald eagles and icebergs for company. When he’s not writing he plays guitar, drinks beer and dreams of fortune and glory.

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January 15, 2014 · 8:41 pm

Tesseracts 17 Interview: Catherine Austen

Tesseracts 17, SF, futur worlds, marginalization, zombies

Catherine Austen writes of a future with people as commodity in “Team Leader 2040”

I was hoping to get all the interviews done for Tesseracts 17 before the ned of the year but I’m also trying to finish the first draft of my novel and do some jury reading. So, my apologies for all the lags. I’m also going out of order a bit from the table of contents because some people are on holidays. Today, I talk with Catherine Austen who lives in Gatineau, Quebec.

CA: “Team Leader 2040” riffs off of the popularity of zombie movies, TV and fiction that is pervasive right now. Yet you made your story a much more realistic and possible future. Do you foresee the zombie craze getting to this level?

I don’t foresee it, but if someone were to offer such a park, I think it would have customers. As virtual reality gaming becomes more sophisticated, some players might want a different experience, something retro and grounded, and entrepreneurs might provide a zombie hunting amusement park if it could make money and were legal. Its success–in terms of it being awesome fun–would hinge on the idea that it is harmless and victimless. But people have no problem buying and selling that idea about all sorts of destructive and dehumanizing things.

CA: This tale has a streak of the darkest aspects of our society. Do you believe we could get to such a world as you show, or do you think we are already there?

anthology, speculative fiction, SF, fantasy, Canadian authors

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

I think we could get there. I’m not able to judge how close we are because I have led a privileged life in an insular world characterized by its utter lack of desperation. Everyone I encounter day to day is basically kind and generous, so it feels like we’re ages away from such a world as the one in my story. But someone from a slum or a macho backwater or a collapsed country where people are bought and sold right now and entire ethnicities or genders are considered worthless might think we’re pretty close.

CA: In some ways, “Team Leader 2040” is apocryphal. And while every writer is always showing a scenario, do you consider it a warning at all?

I suppose it’s a warning about how normalized the idea of people as commodities can become if market values are our highest values. But I didn’t write it as a warning. I just wanted to explore the character, the Team Leader, who is in this vulnerable position of having to do a job that’s morally reprehensible. And though it’s a speculative story, I think that basic conflict is timeless.

CA: Would you say human rights are better these days than a century ago, or just that the values have shifted?

I have such mixed feelings about this question. “Human rights” didn’t extend to all that many humans in times past and I think things are better these days, if only in that the circle of concern covers more people–including me, as a woman. There’s no other time or place I would rather be than Canada right now (or maybe back in the ‘80s).

It feels as if some people are more precious than ever while others are more disposable than ever, and maybe that’s just the growing gap between rich and poor. There was a sense in the 20th century that, in between the wars and genocides, we were moving toward more democracy and freedom and shared wealth, which are all good for human rights. But it’s less common to encounter that optimism now. Around the globe there is so much destitution and dislocation combined with the possibility of huge profits for selling your neighbor–and that’s a bad mix for human rights. So, while I don’t think there was an Eden of respect that we’ve fallen from, the future does not look rosy.

CA: What other fiction pieces are you working on right now?

I am working on more short stories about the buying and selling of humans and their parts, all set in the same future world as “Team Leader” (which is also the setting of a sequel to my award-winning teen novel, All Good Children). But I usually write for young people. I have a middle-grade comedy coming out this spring with Lorimer (28 Tricks for a Fearless Grade 6) and a picture book scheduled for 2015 release with Fitzhenry and Whiteside (When Squirrels Stole My Sister). Right now I am revising a teen novel (Can I Keep Him?) that will hopefully be done and out over the next couple of years.

Catherine Austen writes fiction for all ages. Her most recent novel, All Good Children (Orca), won the Canadian Library Association’s 2012 Young Adult Book Award and the 2012 Sunburst Award (YA category). Catherine was born in Newcastle, New Brunswick, raised in Kingston, Ontario, and now lives in Gatineau, Quebec. She is proud to be a Canadian and she hopes our future will not be as grim as the one she imagines.

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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?

anthology, speculative fiction, SF, fantasy, Canadian authors

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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