Growing Some Backbone

Growing Some BackboneA review of Marie Bilodeau’s “Hellmaw: Eye of Glass.” (The Ed Greenwood Group Inc., 2016)

By Derek Newman-Stille

There’s nothing quite so monstrous as finding a detached human head and spine in a back alley. Only something truly monstrous could do that kind of harm to a human being… but what if the detached head and spine ARE the monster and the victim at the same time? What if it has wriggled out of another world into a complicated interaction between humans and daemons?

Marie Bilodeau’s “Hellmaw: Eye of Glass” is a mixture of mystery, urban fantasy, and a taste of horror. Evoking dismemberment, Bilodeau complicates ideas of body horror by creating a sympathetic dismembered body in a complicated relationship with the world of “whole” bodies around her and the relationships they represent to each other and to her understanding of the world. However, Jaeda doesn’t think of herself as an incomplete body. She recognizes that there is a wholeness in bodies even when they don’t conform to a society’s expectations of “normalcy” and “wholeness”. 

Jaeda is the centre of a series of mysteries – those of the conspiracy theorists who have created an online chat forum about unusual circumstances, the police detective who is trying to discover what happened to the head and spine that went missing from the morgue… but most of all, she is a mystery to herself. Awakened without existing memories of her home world or her life before becoming a head and spine, Jaeda is uncertain about herself and how she relates to the people and cultures around her, but she is driven by a fundamental curiosity and this curiosity, that sense of wonder about everything around her, allows her to develop friendships across species because every experience is new to her.

“Hellmaw: Eye of Glass” is a clash of species and diverse bodies that leaves everyone uncertain and fundamentally changed. This is not a body horror story, this is a story of bodily wonder and mystery.

To discover more about the work of Marie Bilodeau, visit her website at

To find out more about the Hellmaw series, visit or

Speculating Canada on Trent Radio Episode 70: An Interview of Derek Kunsken

On this episode of Speculating Canada, I interview Science Fiction and Space Opera author Derek Kunsken. Today we discuss fandom, fan conventions, the power of short fiction, science, and the power of space opera. We discuss the use of biological sciences in particular in science fiction writing to explore the figure of the alien and the power to imagine other ecosystems. Derek mentions that he grew up in a small town, constantly imagining what could be out there in the universe to imagine, speculating how life would exist on other planets. His science fiction stories start with questions that he views as challenges that he can imagine solutions to by creating new worlds and new life forms. He observes that he is motivated by a sense of wonder. 

Tune in to hear about the strange new lifeforms he imagines by thinking about the questions of cellular development. 

You can listen to this episode of Speculating Canada on Trent Radio at the link below.

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 69: A Chat with Mark Shainblum

On this episode of Speculating Canada on Trent Radio, I invite Mark Shainblum back to talk about Canadian Superheroes. This time, we were able to do our interview at Ad Astra.

You can listen to this episode of Speculating Canada on Trent Radio at the link below.


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.

Class Constraints

A review of Rebecca Diem’s “The Stowaway Debutante” (Woolf Like Me Publishing, 2014)
By Derek Newman-Stille


Rebecca Diem’s “The Stowaway Debutante” is a steampunk story of disruption, shaking up the class divides of the Victorian Era. Diem writes a tale of escape from the boundaries, barriers, and confinements placed on gender and class. This is a tale of change and one of questions.

Clara is a woman from upper class society, confined by assumptions about her gender and by the roles placed on her behaviour by her family. She desires adventure, wants to change, and she is able to stow away on an airship to escape into the sky and away from everything holding her down. When she is discovered by pirates who offer her an opportunity for a new life, she leaves behind her debutante clothes and jumps into new adventures. She believes in the freedom of the sky, yet even in the sky she is underestimated, treated as a delicate flower in need of protection. She has to not only change herself, but also change the perceptions of those around her.

But she is not the only one to change. The pirate captain was formerly a Duke, giving up his role and status to share wealth with the poor. He is a steampunk Robin Hood, and like that other rogue, he has created a family of misfits. Clara is able to find her own family amongst these rogues and they provide the ability for her to choose her own path.

In order to free herself from the constraints placed upon her, Clara must play roles, clothe herself in identity. Rebecca Diem recognizes that clothing provides restraints on identity, shaping the way that we are read by people around us. Clothing wraps us up in assumptions, becoming a costume where others read us.

To find out more about Rebecca Diem, visit

QueerCon During Capital Pride – A Retrospective

Most of the Pride Events that I have attended in the past have tended to privilege events of performance and dancing. Pride parades tend to construct queer bodies as spectacles for straight people to observe. There tend not to be a lot of events for the more geeky queer folk.


At the same time, most geeky events (fan conventions) tend to be highly heterosexual and not provide a queer space. When there are queer panels, they tend to be off to the side, leaving queer people feeling as though they were included as an afterthought or part of a diversity checklist.


QueerCon, part of Capital Pride in Ottawa, made a safe space to be queer and geeky, to push boundaries and imagine new possibilities. QueerCon provided a space for imagining new possibilities while questioning the structures that tend to erase queerness.


QueerCon provided a fun space for opening up questions and critiques and this energy could be seen from the attendees who walked around asking questions about why queer voices don’t appear more often in public spaces. People were excited about new possibilities and new opportunities for imagining spaces where queer people could be comfortable being queer. There was a freedom of expression that is rare in other spaces.


The day began with an animation workshop that allowed people to access their creative abilities and express themselves in a new medium. People grouped together in unique ways, using the power of play to question and critique the society that oppresses queer lives.


Mariko Tamaki spoke about her inspirations for her comics “Skim” and “This One Summer”, sharing her ideas about expressing queerness through the graphic fiction medium. Sophie Labelle continued this discussion later in the day when she talked about her comic “Assigned Male” and the expression of trans experiences. People who attended these talks were able to imagine new possibilities for expression and the use of creativity. Having comic artists speak allowed QueerCon to bring attention to the way that we can write and produce art creatively in a way that allows us to find and share our voices. Comics have the unique power of intertwining art and word.


I spoke on a panel on Diversity and Representation with people from diverse perspectives and diverse engagements with queer geekdom such as Mariko Tamaki (comic book writer and artist), Niq Cosplay (cosplayer), Saffron St. James (burlesque artist), Rhapsody Blue (burlesque artist). This allowed us to explore the diverse ways that we queer geekiness or geek queerness. By combining academic voices with cultural producers, we were able to interrogate the ways that we engage with our communities and how we can bring these communities together.


There was plenty of play to be had in addition to the discussions and QueerCon invited people to engage with Geek Trivia and questions about cosplay (the creation and wearing of costumes from popular culture). The discussion of cosplay allowed for the imagination of the ways that we can transform characters from popular culture by wearing their costumes. Essentially, cosplaying bodies can become tapestries for imagining new possibilities.


QueerCon was a needed addition to Pride, allowing for new ideas to develop in a safe space where multiplicity of voices was encouraged.






Exciting News: Two Prix Aurora Awards for 2016

Exciting news Speculating Canada followers, the Speculating Canada website and the Speculating Canada on Trent Radio 92.7FM show each won a Prix Aurora Award this year at When Worlds Collide in Calgary. 

The Speculating Canada website has now earned 3 Aurora Awards and the Speculating Canada on Trent Radio show has now earned 2 Aurora Awards.

The success of Speculating Canada is entirely due to you brilliant fans and all of the fantastic authors that have done interviews with me here on the site. Without all of you, Speculating Canada would not exist and I only hope I have been able to create an exciting platform for exploring questions and thoughts about Canadian Speculative Fiction. Thank you all for joining me on this rocket ship journey through realms of possibility where curiosity is our guide.

I also want to thank Dwayne Collins for providing me with tech support and for providing a second eye to read through most of my posts, and I want to thank the brilliant folks at Trent Radio 92.7 FM in Peterborough for bringing me onto the airwaves. 

I want to congratulate everyone who won an Aurora Award this year. So many of you have been involved in various ways in Speculating Canada and I am excited and honoured to be journeying along with you. 

A Revolution Against Normalizing

A Revolution Against Normalizing
A review of Tyler Keevil’s “The Weeds and the Wildness” in Strangers Among Us: Tales of the Underdogs and Outcasts edited by Susan Forest and Lucas K. Law (Laksa Media Group, 2016)
By Derek Newman-Stille

Tyler Keevil’s “The Weeds and the Wildness” is a tale of resistance to conformity, a revolution against the dangers of enforced normalcy. Keevil explores the perspective of a gardener who is uncomfortable in social situations. He operates primarily from his house and sells products for gardeners through the internet. However, he soon notices that people around them are changing as their lawns are changing. After all, suburban bliss is just a lawn covered in turf away. As people’s lawns are being forced into conformity, with their flowers cut down and replaces by lawns of the same green grass and their hedges trimmed into the same ubiquitous shapes, people begin to lose what makes them unique, showing the same sets of blank stares and expressionless smiles. Every time the white vans go by, another person and lawn are converted into conformity.

Keevil’s “The Weeds and the Wildness” is a call out to ABnormalcy, to wild, uncontrolled spaces that allow nature to flourish and resist the controlling hand of civilization. Keevil raises questions about the power of “normalcy” to keep people acting and performing life in the same way, removing their uniqueness and “The Weeds and the Wildness” invites questions about how to maintain one’s difference in a civilization that prefers sameness.

To discover more about Strangers Among Us, visit

To find out more about Tyler Keevil, visit