A review of UnEarthed: The Speculative Elements Series Volume 3 Edited by Sherry Ramsey, Julie Serroul, and Nancy Waldman (Third Person Press, Cape Breton, 2012).
By Derek Newman-Stille
Once again Third Person Press has illustrated the incredible speculative work of Cape Breton authors with the third instalment of their Speculative Elements Series: UnEarthed. This volume, focussed on the element of earth, demonstrates the diversity of speculative stories that can originate from something as simple as the theme of “Earth”. Stories in this volume range from horror, to science fiction, to fantasy, and all of the genre-crossing points between them. Earth in this volume are related to themes of life and death, the hidden, buried things that resurface, notions of home and diaspora, and the general unsettling that can occur when the foundations of the world we live in are shaken, making Earth a ubiquitous symbol for exploring ideas of selfhood and our relationship to the world around us. Although speculative in format, these stories explore classic Canadian themes such as the unearthing of family secrets, unearthing hidden social issues, and unearthing buried memories.
The Earth theme serves as a great platform for the classic speculative quality of questioning the hidden aspects of the world around us, and encompasses the horror element of turning the normative, the predictable, the familiar into an unpredictable quality, an unsettling of the norms around us. The stories in this volume range from stories that feature alien mud worlds, spirits of the landscape, zombies crawling from their earthen graves to question ideas of conformity, threats from and to the natural world, buried memories, things hidden beneath the earth, social issues that are buried to make society seem more civilised, the animal buried beneath the surface of human civility, the haunting nature of the past, and notions of home made unfamiliar or violated.
This volume explores different forms of knowledge and many of the stories contained within it explore the idea that folklore and story-telling is itself a valid system of knowledge. This is made all the more clear based on the quality of the stories contained in this volume and the ability for these story-tellers to evoke new thoughts and ideas in the reader, unsettling the taken-for-granted notions that they have built around them. UnEarthed illustrates the pedagogical value of story-telling, reminding readers that stories are told to educate and teach the reader that nothing is as it seams and that everything should be questioned, uncovered, and unburied.
After reading this book you will never look at things as normal as grass, mud, herbs, or even your own home the same way again. Prepare to have all of your hidden thoughts, worries, and questions unearthed.
You can discover more about UnEarthed and the Speculative Elements Series at Third Person Press’ website: http://www.thirdpersonpress.com/ . You can also find a review of one of the short stories in this volume on Speculating Canada posted on September 10th.