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

Speculating Canada on Trent Radio Episode 22 Part 2: An Interview with Rachel Richey

At Fan Expo Canada, I ran into Rachel Richey, part of the dynamic duo of women who brought back Nelvana of the Northern Lights. We had a chance to talk about her latest project, bringing the WWII era Johnny Canuck comics back into the public eye, recovering this lost figure in Canadian comic book superhero history.

We had a chance to share in unabashed fandom and talk about Canadian comics and the role of self-discovery, the wonder of archival discoveries, the issues of superheroes who wear the flag, the Canadian desire to see our comics of the past and the power of Kickstarter as a platform for accessing public enthusiasm to bring exciting things to the public. I invite you listeners to share in our excited fandom and Rachel’s fantastic insights.

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 22 Part 1: An Interview with Hope Nicholson

You have heard me talk previously about my adoration for Nelvana of the Northern Lights, Canada’s first Superheroine, now you can hear from one of the brilliant women who brought back this figure of Canada’s comic book history and republished the Nelvana comics. In our interview, Hope Nicholson talks about her newest comic book recovery project, bringing Brok Windsor, WWII era Canadian comic superhero back into the light.

We discuss the relationship between Canada and the landscape, feminism and comics, Canadian comics, the role of the comic book archivist, adventure stories, and the wonders that comprise Brok Windsor. I hope that you are as enthralled with Hope’s brilliance and passion as I was.

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.

Appologies – link to Mark Shainblum interview was broken

Sorry all, the link to my interview with Mark Shainblum was broken, but is now repaired. I hope that you have a chance to check it out!

Thanks for your patience everyone and thanks to Claude for letting me know that the link had stopped working! Much appreciated.

Here is the link to the post http://speculatingcanada.ca/2014/10/19/speculating-canada-on-trent-radio-episode-21-an-interview-with-mark-shainblum/

Speculating Canada on Trent Radio Episode 19: An Interview with Dominik Parisien

When I mention Speculative Poetry to most people, they respond with a bit of confusion. I often think this may be because they are seeing poetry as the quintessential example of  high culture and anything “genre” as the pits of low, popular culture… then again, maybe they just picture poems like this:

Roses are Red
Aliens are Green
Space is vast and largely unseen.

But, that isn’t what speculative poetry is like (unless I am attempting to write it).

Dominik Parisien is a master wordsmith, able to play with language in such a way that all communicative forms become weirded. He shows both the potential of language to push boundaries, and also the inadequacy of non-poetic forms of communication for capturing the complexity of an emotional situation.

In our interview Dominik and I discuss aging, disability, poetry, high versus low culture, the human body, sexuality, and so many things. For some of the answers, Dominik realised that poetry was the only way to answer the question adequately and that conventional speech was too limiting to express the full body of emotion, thought, feeling, philosophy, and ideal that poetry can bring together with clever word play and evocative image intermixing.

A brilliant editor, author, and scholar, Dominik will fascinate you and inspire you to open the world up to questions. I hope that you enjoy our interview as much as I did!!

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.

You can explore some of my reviews of Dominik Parisien’s poems at:

http://speculatingcanada.ca/2013/09/12/hidingrevealing/

http://speculatingcanada.ca/2012/10/01/the-green-in-the-human/

You can explore Dominik’s website at https://dominikparisien.wordpress.com/

Speculating Canada on Trent Radio Episode 21: An Interview with Mark Shainblum

After reading Northguard, I knew I had to meet with Mark Shainblum and talk to him about his work in Canadian comics and the overall idea of creating a Canadian superhero. I was lucky that I ran into Mark at Fan Expo Canad and had a chance to chat with him.

In our interview, we talk about the characteristics of the Canadian superhero, the role of superheroes in the imagination, francophone Canadian culture, Jewish Canadian identity, the importance of having heroes who make mistakes, and comics as literature. Hear about some of Mark Shainblum’s upcoming projects as well as his extensive knowledge of comics and comic history.

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.