Speculating Canada on Trent Radio Episode 24: An Interview with Matt Moore

This is an interview that has waited far too long. Matt Moore and I have talked often about everything from villains to space to horror… and our conversations were always insightful! We had even organized a panel together… but for some reason, we kept missing chances to interview. So, I was incredibly lucky to have a chance to talk to Matt at Can Con in Ottawa, a brilliant Speculative Fiction Convention.

Matt Moore is an Ottawa-based author of Speculative Fiction whose work tends toward the horror and dark fiction genres, playing at the edge where science fiction meets the darkness. Matt has published short fiction in venues such as Postscripts to Darkness, Jamais Vu, Leading Edge, AE: The Canadian Science Fiction Review, OnSpec, and in collections like Torn Realities, Blood Rites, Tesseracts 14, and Fear the Abyss. His story “Touch the Sky, They Say” was an Aurora Award nominee and his first collection “Touch the Sky, Embrace the Dark” is now available to explore.

In our interview, we talk about a variety of topics from identity to horror to science fiction to disability (which those of you who follow my website know is a topic that I love to talk about) to gender to author readings to… well, you will just have to listen and find out! So, click below and hear our full interview.

Explore Trent Radio at www.trentradio.ca

Explore Trent Radio at http://www.trentradio.ca

This audio file was originally broadcast on Trent Radio, and I would like to thank Trent Radio for their continued support. I would also like to thank Dwayne Collins for his consistent tech support and help with the intricacies of creating audio files.

Make sure to allow a few minutes for the file to buffer since it may take a moment before it begins to play.

Speculating Canada on Trent Radio Episode 23: An Interview with Jason Loo

Continuing my exploration of Canadian Comics, this week I interviewed Jason Loo, the creator of The Pitiful Human Lizard, a Toronto based superhero.

Along with our interview, I had a chance to do a brief discussion of The Pitiful Human Lizard volumes 1 and 2, talking about some of the key features of Jason Loo’s art and narrative.

Jason and I talk about the power of naming a superhero “pitiful” and the potential this has to shift assumptions about superhero narratives. We discuss the normalcy of the Pitiful Human Lizard’s life around his crime fighting and Jason’s ability to take on the hypermasculinity of the genre and suggest some alternatives.

Click below on the icon to listen to a recording of the radio programme!

Stay Tuned: Saaaame Lizard Time…. Saaaame Lizard Channel!!

Explore Trent Radio at www.trentradio.ca

Explore Trent Radio at http://www.trentradio.ca

This audio file was originally broadcast on Trent Radio, and I would like to thank Trent Radio for their continued support. I would also like to thank Dwayne Collins for his consistent tech support and help with the intricacies of creating audio files.

Make sure to allow a few minutes for the file to buffer since it may take a moment before it begins to play.

“There’s something about this area – the lake and the land around it – that’s like a haven. I’m not hiding from the skyscrapers and parking lots and the craziness of the rest of the world by living here year round. I’m just, like, getting closer to the real world.”

-Charles de Lint – Mulengro (Orb 2003)

Quote – Getting Closer To the Real World

Spin The Bottle With Death

A review of Helen Marshall’s “Death and the Girl from Pi Delta Zeta” in Gifts For The One Who Comes After (ChiZine Publications, 2014).
By Derek Newman-Stille

Cover Art for Gifts For the One Who Comes After courtesy of ChiZine Publications

Cover Art for Gifts For the One Who Comes After courtesy of ChiZine Publications

In horror films, sorority girls have a metaphorical relationship with death, perpetually constructed as figures who are courted by death. Helen Marshall, demonstrating her characteristic desire to play with tropes to disempower, subvert, and challenge expectations, makes that relationship literal in her short story “Death and the Girl from Pi Delta Zeta”. Marshall’s subversion is as beautiful as it is powerful, shifting reader expectations from the often disempowering genre of horror to play with expected tropes.

Marshall constructs a scene of a typical frat boy party, the sort where women in horror films are often the victims of monstrous acts. She creates the typical scenes of frat boys objectifying sorority girls, in this case literally writing their claims to them on their shirts along with sexualized slogans. Death serves as a contrast to this activity, asked by Carissa to sign her shirt with a magic word. Instead of writing exploitative messages, he playfully writes “abracadabra”.

Death is given celebrity status and constantly asked for his signature by people who he has helped by releasing loved ones from painful lives. Yet, he serves as a romantic contrast to all of Carissa’s previous frat boy lovers by giving her flowers, being romantic, and proving himself a gentle and caring lover. Death is by far the better alternative to frat boys. Horror film, generally constructing frat boys as the typical audience, depicting their expectations on screen, is here reversed by Marshall, who depicts them as background characters serving only as a contrast to the beauty of Death.

Marshall’s sense of play shapes this short story as a thoughtful but exciting piece. Like many of her works, she plays with scenes we have accepted as ‘normal’ and illustrates the beauty in re-framing them and seeing the subversive potential in them. She masterfully plays with normative scenes like a frat party or sending out wedding invitations and inserts a touch of the macabre.

You can discover more about Helen Marshall’s work at http://www.helen-marshall.com/

To find out more about the collection Gifts For The One Who Comes After, visit ChiZine Publications’ website at http://chizinepub.com/

You can read this story online at its original place of publication, Lackington’s at http://lackingtons.com/2014/02/13/death-and-the-girl-from-pi-delta-zeta-by-helen-marshall/

Masked and Changed

A review of Richard Wagamese’s Him Standing (Raven Books, 2013)
By Derek Newman-Stille

Cover photo of Him Standing courtesy of Orcabook.com

Cover photo of Him Standing courtesy of Orcabook.com

Lucas Smoke learned the art of carving from his grandfather and finds that his hands seem to move of their own volition to carve figures that he sees in everyday life…. but when he learned the art of carving, his grandfather didn’t teach him the deeper meanings behind his craft, the knowledge that would keep him safe from exploitation.

When Lucas’ grandfather dies, his family wars over the man’s possessions leaving Lucas feeling uncomfortable since all he wanted was his grandfather, not his possessions. Lucas leaves the reserve and decides to busk in the city, using his gifts at carving to make some money by carving images of tourists on the boardwalk. When he is approached by a man who offers him a substantial amount of money to carve masks as his grandfather does, Lucas can’t pass up the opportunity to get himself out of a situation of poverty and agrees. He quickly learns that he is being exploited and that his mask carving, meant to “bring a legend to life” is bringing something into the world that he would rather not invite.

Wagamese explores the experience of urban aboriginal youth feeling conflicted about their relationship to history and home. Lucas is tempted by the views into his people’s past that making his mask and entering into the dreaming place provides. There is something alluring for him about seeing his community before European settlement and he feels as though he has connected with some lost part of himself. Lucas feels fragmented, like parts of his own puzzle have been missing. Even his art, although providing a link to his grandfather, feels incomplete, as though some of the most important teachings are missing – as though he has learned the physical acts of carving but not the deeper spiritual meanings or teachings that should have accompanied it. This sense of incompleteness has left him vulnerable to manipulation by white men who want power and are willing to use him to fulfill their own selfish ends. The loss of teachings and ways of understanding create vulnerabilities for others to exploit – skill without cultural understanding is incomplete.

Lucas is asked to venture into dreams to carve what he sees and unintentionally connects with an ancient evil that seeks to use him to return to the physical world. Like an addict, he becomes obsessed with dreams, losing track of time, not eating, not sleeping, and being consumed from within. His feeling of incompleteness means that he seeks to fill himself with things that are external to him, trying to attain some sense of selfhood while actually leaving him open to be possessed by an ancient evil.

Wagamese looks at the interconnection between story-telling and carving, the ability to make tales into physical things, revealing truths within objects. He examines the power of art and stories to re-shape the world, to bring legends into the living world and change our understanding of the places we dwell in.

To read more about Him Standing visit the Orca Book Publishers’ webpage at http://www.orcabook.com/productdetails.cfm?PC=1865

Dionysian

A Review of Gemma Files’ A Rope of Thorns: Volume Two in the Hexslinger Series (ChiZine Publications, 2011)
By Derek Newman-Stille

Cover photo for A Rope of Thorns courtesy of ChiZine Publications.

Cover photo for A Rope of Thorns courtesy of ChiZine Publications.

With A Rope of Thorns Gemma Files has written a Dionysian text. Like the Greek god, the world she creates is one of fluids and fluidity – of blood, Absynthe, semen, and sap – and these are intertwined in the form of her character Chess. He is a creature of raw sexuality and transformation – a queer cowboy turned magical demi-god after his flaying in A Book of Tongues. His godly characteristics in A Rope of Thorns, given to him by a Mayan deity through his flaying,  have meant that wherever he travels a weed follows, springing up on the landscape and only appeased when blood sacrifice is offered as it was to the Mayan deities who turned him into this demi-god.

Chess is a figure of flow and flux, constantly changing, uneasy in his personal and physical transformations.

Howver, this is no lazy Dionysian reverie, but rather a full on Bacchic revelry, complete with all of the pulse pounding drums of maenadic madness and delight in the spatter of fluids. Files pulls something from the liquid dark with this text, playing with audience desires and the twining of horror and delight.

And like a good Bacchic revelry, A Rope of Thorns is delightfully subversive, playing with the expectations of a Western novel with its hegemonic masculinity by bringing in male lovers, turning the genre on its head. Her characters are sexually fluid, changing as desires flux and situations change, not stuck in one sexual identity as many characters in Westerns tend to be.

The term Weird Western has been tossed about, but Gemma Files adds another delightful element to the western and creates a Queered Western as beautifully flexible as her gay cowboy protagonist Chess Pargeter.

To read more about Gemma Files’ work, visit her website at http://musicatmidnight-gfiles.blogspot.ca/

To read more about A Rope of Thorns visit ChiZine Publications’ website at http://chizinepub.com/books/rope_of_thorns.php

In Darkest Memory Submerged

A Review of Nick Cutter’s The Deep (forthcoming January 2015, Gallery Books).
By Derek Newman-Stille

Cover photo for The Deep courtesy of Simon & Schuster Canada.

Cover photo for The Deep courtesy of Simon & Schuster Canada.

There are unexplored places in our world, places of darkness, places of depth, places that are so hostile to human life that we can barely explore them. They are places whose contemplation itself inspires a reassessment of our fundamental understanding of our world. In The Deep, Nick Cutter asks what is submerged in that murky darkness where light can’t reach, what hidden, forgotten, lost, and suppressed things dwell in the pressures of the deep.

As much as The Deep is about the deep ocean and the strange, haunting landscape beneath the waves, it is also about other things suppressed, the mindscapes that we deny, submerge, and work to forget. The Deep begins with a disease that has spread across our world, the ‘Gets, a disease that causes us to forget, to lose our memories and identity in waves of illness. The population tries to hold on to normalcy and rituals as a way to feel normal, but nothing has ever been normal and Cutter’s exploration of humanity’s desire to forget about the ‘Gets reflects the suppression we enact in everyday life, refusing to ask the questions that we don’t or can’t have answers for.

Luke’s own existence is shaped by the interplay of suppression of memories and the simultaneous draw that those memories represent. Having lost his son, a mystery that was never solved, he lives in a place of absented presence, coping both with the possibility that his son may be somewhere in the world and the awareness that he is likely gone. Luke’s family life has always been shaped by a desire to forget – from the abuse and torment he faced at the hands of his mother, to his coping with the likelihood that his brother, a scientist, is likely sociopathic, with no capacity for guilt, sympathy, or emotional connection.

When Luke is called to a deep sea research station where his brother is conducting experiments on a life form that could cure the ‘Gets, he is forced to submerge both into the watery darkness of the deep ocean and simultaneously into the depths of his own memory, imagination, horrors, and fears… and to confront those fears that he has suppressed but that nevertheless have shaped his awareness of the world around him. The deep sea station itself and the research team are shaped by a dualistic desire to discover and a desire to suppress. The research team has ceased communicating with the surface world, ceased filing psych reports that were deemed necessary for ensuring their psychological health in the depths of a foreign and forbidding terrain. Yet, they are obsessed with the notion of discovery, of uncovering secrets that the universe has veiled in layers of sea water, darkness, and geological history. Scientific curiosity has met science’s suppression of likelihoods that are impossible for science to grasp. Luke’s brother Clay seeks to understand the odd and unusual but can’t comprehend it as this new substance at the sea floor called ambrosia consistently slips from his grasp, opening new possibilities as he systemically closes them out of his belief that they are impossible.

Cover photo courtesy of Simon & Schuster Canada

Cover photo courtesy of Simon & Schuster Canada

When Luke arrives at the station, he is physically confronted with the sea pressure of the ocean depths, the darkness that prevails, and the unimaginable foreignness of the sea floor, which contains creatures so odd that they slip from our understanding of life on this planet. These physical sensations are paired with the psychological as he faces the pressures of the unknowable, the darkness of buried and suppressed memories and the haunted things that have shaped his imagination, and the sense of the unfamiliar that enters his mind at the moment of entry into the station. Luke is forced to confront the threat that curiosity and the desire to know represent… particularly when knowing itself can be a trap for mind and body.

To discover more about the work of Nick Cutter, visit his website at http://www.craigdavidson.net/

To discover more about The Deep, visit Simon & Schuster’s website at http://books.simonandschuster.ca/The-Deep/Nick-Cutter/9781501101519