“Life’s an act of magic, too…. Without magic – or call it wonder, mystery, natural wisdom – nothing has any depth. It’s all just surface. You know: what you see is what you get. I honestly believe there’s more to everything than that, whether it’s a Monet hanging in a gallery or some old vagrant sleeping in an alley.”

-Charles de Lint – In The House of My Enemy In The Very Best of Charles de Lint.

Quote – Life is an act of Magic

Upcoming interview on Wednesday April 3rd with Michelle Carraway about The Courtesan Prince Play.

As someone who has an incredible love of the theatre and of speculative fiction, I have always been interested in portrayals of the speculative on stage. I was very excited to hear from Lynda Williams that her novel The Courtesan Prince was being converted into a stage performance by Michelle Carraway. It is with great excitement that Michelle  Carraway was willing to do an interview with me and provide me with insights on all of those little elements of theatre that I miss from my years on stage.

Michelle is both writing the theatrical adaptation of The Courtesan Prince as well as directing it, allowing her creative vision that came out of reading Lynda Williams’ work to be shaped on the stage.

Here are a few sneak peaks about our upcoming interview on Wednesday April 3:

Michelle Carraway:  “Courtesan Prince reads like a classic fairy tale and translating it into a play has been a very pleasurable experience. It is a rags to riches story about a noble prince who was stolen away by the machinations of  royal intrigue.  Forced into humiliation, the prince is always noble and his true nature shines forth despite  his situation. Courtesan Prince  is filled with the joy of restoration of position and wrongs being righted.  These are all traits that fit well with format of a play.”

Actors preparing a scene for The Courtesan Prince play (Ann of New Beach and Thomas Revert), Courtesy of Michelle Carraway.

Actors preparing a scene for The Courtesan Prince play (Ann of New Beach and Thomas Revert), Courtesy of Michelle Carraway.

Michelle Carraway: “I was inspired to have other people see the stories in the same light as I was seeing them.”

Michelle Carraway: “The actors and actresses that I have selected so far are all uniformly passionate about their craft and enthusiastic to the telling of a beautiful story.”

Michelle Carraway:The Courtesan Prince  play is much like a creative collective rather than a Broadway play.”

Michelle Carraway:  “As the actors meet each other and start to read together they have found some great chemistry…. As everyone becomes friends their ability to interact with physical comedy and force improves as well and provides flavor and validity to the scenes.”

Michelle Carraway: “As with any production a lot of what will make it all come together is a lot of creativity and hopefully some good luck.”

Michelle Carraway: “Costumes are going to be a group effort.  As many of the styles are a sort of fantasy Restoration era there will be a lot of corsets and fancy dress for women and men both.”

Michelle Carraway: “I think that you could tantalize audiences with nearly all speculative fiction transformed into a live performance.”

This interview was very appropriately timed as I found out about Michelle Carraway’s adaptation of The Courtesan Prince after accidentally stumbling across a radio play that I directed on Trent Radio many years ago when flipping through radio stations. My nostalgia for my theatre years was heightened and I couldn’t believe that I had the opportunity to hear about Ms. Carraway’s process as she adapted and directed this work of Speculative Fiction.

Check out Speculating Canada on Wednesday, April 3 for our full interview and I will make sure to keep you informed of Ms. Carraway’s adaptation as it develops. Hear about her use of special effects, the quirkiness of interactions between actors, and the excitement of adapting a novel for the stage.

Superhero Complex(ity)

A review of Masked Mosaic: Canadian Super Stories (edited by Claude Lalumiere and Camille Alexa, Tyche Books LTD, 2013)
By Derek Newman-Stille

Cover photo of Masked Mosaic courtesy of Tyche Books

Cover photo of Masked Mosaic courtesy of Tyche Books

There has been a recent increase in the public interest in the superhero genre with increasing numbers of superhero movies, increasing numbers of people wearing superhero related merchandise and increasingly larger population groups getting excited about the figure of the superhero. Yet superheroes that are being represented often embody American ideals of the self-made man, the perfect body, and dichotomous views of good and evil. It is therefore timely that Claude Lalumiere and Camille Alexa released Masked Mosaic: Canadian Super Stories.

Masked Mosaic seeks to push the boundaries of the superhero genre: to include complexities and issues that were often ignored in the Golden Age of comics and continue to be ignored in our culture’s nostalgia over comic figures of the past. The stories in this volume often play with Golden Age themes and complicate them. Rather than replicating hegemonies, the characters are diverse: aged, not ideals of bodily perfection, queer/ LGBTQ2, and culturally diverse. They represent a more inclusive reality of Canadian culture. It is a combination of pastiche and resistance to the past hegemonies that were embedded and encoded in Golden Age comics.

The binary image of superheroes with a universal idea of good and evil is disrupted in this volume, blurring the boundaries between hero and villain. The authors of these short stories recognise that heroes often support causes that are unjust and that heroism is often tied to political beliefs of the time and are not, in fact, universal concepts. Heroism is tied to ideologies of the ruling elite, enforcing power structures. Yesterday’s heroes may be considered today’s villains or vice versa. This volume is a reminder that heroes can fall.

Superheroes as mythic and iconic symbols are explored as well as exploring the complexities and problematic nature of symbols.

Featuring the work of E.L. Chen, Kristi Charish, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Jonathan Olfert, Kevin Cockle, David Nickle, Derryl Murphy, D.K. Latta, Emma Faraday, Mike Rimar, Emma Vossen, Patrick T. Goddard, A.C. Wise, Rhea Rose, David Perlmutter, Lisa Poh, Marie Bilodeau, Rhonda and Jonathan Parrish, Chantal Boudreau, Michael S. Chong, Jason Sharp, Alyxandra Harvey, Michael Matheson, and Jason S. Ridler this volume contains a diversity of voices in Canadian SF – both new and established. The stories involve everything from supervillains in a relationship with heroes, superheroes made out of dreams, Mexican wrestlers, aliens, seamstresses, archaeologists playing with possession, and figures from the Canadian mythic past and from history.

In an era of obsession with origin stories, Lalumiere and Alexa collect stories that represent every part of the superhero’s life from origin to retirement.

You can find out more about the Masked Mosaic collection at Tyche Books’ website http://tychebooks.com/ . You can check out a review of Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s “Iron Justice Versus the Fiends of Evil” from this volume at https://speculatingcanada.wordpress.com/2013/03/26/unmasked

Unmasked

A review of Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s “Iron Justice Versus the Fiends of Evil” (in Masked

Cover photo of Masked Mosaic courtesy of Tyche Books

Cover photo of Masked Mosaic courtesy of Tyche Books

Mosaic: Canadian Super Stories Ed. Claude Lalumiere and Camille Alexa, Tyche Books LTD., 2013)

Many superhero stories in the golden age of comics tended to focus on young, white, straight, able-bodied men. Silvia Moreno-Garcia seeks to disrupt that exclusionary notion of the ‘regular’ superhero by injecting some diversity into the superhero serum. Iron Justice is a retired Mexican wrestler, who, in his youth fought vampires, mummies, and other monsters that threatened humanity. Now, he and another aged superhero, La Colorada, have to solve a crime in Vancouver as the city gradually begins believing that the criminals are a South Asian group called the Tcho Tcho,  and begins preparing to do racialised violence against people because their cultural customs differ from the Vancouverite majority. As much as they desire to solve the crime and find out which monsters are responsible, they are also working to prevent hate crimes based on a society’s need for easy answers and an outsider group to direct violence toward.

Moreno-Garcia’s “Iron Justice Versus the Fiends of Evil” explores issues of cultural commodification and appropriation as well as simultaneous abjection and hatred directed toward people who are depicted as culturally “other”.

She unmasks the racism and lack of diversity in the portrayal of superheroes by portraying her hero as one who defies comic book tropes. He is non-white, and rather than just stealing cultural characteristics from culturally diverse cultures (as many superhero figures do – stealing their powers from the tombs of people that are culturally distant from them), he is, himself, of Mexican birth and embraces the cultural history of the portrayal of Mexican wrestlers. Iron Justice is also gay in an era when few superheroic characters are portrayed as queer-oriented, and those that do inspire controversy and are often relegated to an alternative universe, a less popular super team, or are rarely depicted in same-sex relationships for fear of losing comic book fans.

Although comics generally portray heroes trapped in a consistent state of youth, afraid to explore the question of “what happens when my body is no longer what society considers the peak of bodily perfection”, Iron Justice and La Colorada are aged, suffering from bodily pains, and having to fight in different ways to keep their bodies from being damaged.

As aged characters, they face a world that has changed, modified, and inconsistent with the characteristics of the world of their youth. Villains have changed – they are no longer the monsters of the past but became instead drug-dealers, embezzlers, and white-collar criminals. Their nostalgia reminds the reader of their own nostalgia for the comic books of their youth, but filtered through the lens of diversity Moreno-Garcia has applied to the story, readers recognise that the comics they are nostalgic for were inadequate, not presenting the diversity of experience, but rather the power structures at the time. One looks backwards and notices the absences in past super stories, the underrepresented and deleted people.

To read more about Silvia Moreno-Garcia and her work, you can visit her website at http://silviamoreno-garcia.com/blog/ . You can find out more about Masked Mosaic: Canadian Super Stories on Tyche Books’ website at http://tychebooks.com/ .

Frankenfoot

A review of Julie Czerneda’s “Left Foot On A Blind Man” (in Silicon Dreams Ed. Martin H. Greenberg and Larry Sergiff, DAW 2001)

As a scholar of disability studies, I am always excited to read a work of Canadian SF that really engages with ideas of disability. I have rarely encountered a short story that engages with so many disability issues as Julie Czerneda’s “Left Foot On A Blind Man”. Czerneda explores what it would be like for a robotic prosthetic to gain sentience, shaping its experience through interactions with different bodies and different roles it takes on. The RRP (Robotic Replacement Part) began its existence as a prosthetic foot for a blind man, acting both as a foot and also equipped with vision to assist the man in navigating his environment, then was retrofitted to work as an arm for a bricklayer, and finally as a nose for a chef. With each of these new experiences, the RRP gains diverse experiences of different individuals and different perspectives from the body parts it has taken over. As its exploration of diverse bodies increases, so does its awareness and personal experience.

This story explores an idea that is commonly of concern to people who have received transplants: the feeling that the new part of their body is separate from them and still maintains some connection to its original host. What would it be like to feel like part of your body is separate, and perhaps altering you in small and then later significant ways? Czerneda explores that feeling in a magnified way, giving the reader a visceral experience of the feeling of bodily betrayal, and a deep internal fear of the loss of bodily integrity and selfhood.

The fear of bodily control is strongest in the first host for the RRP, an elderly blind man. Though his doctors and his son try to get him to explore replacement eyes, he is reluctant – as a former artist, he wants to maintain the authenticity of his vision and sees the eyes as firmly connected to his selfhood. His son and doctors only partially respect his wishes and when he agrees to have a replacement foot made, they install it with an eye that they feel will help him navigate his environment better. Here, Czerneda explores a common trope in the experiences of elderly people with disabilities, the belief by medical practitioners and younger family members that they know better and can impose their will on the disabled body.

When the unnamed elderly blind man begins to feel as though his cybernetic foot has a mind of its own, rather than believing in the authenticity of his experience, his son and the doctors have him committed.

This short story is told from the perspective of the RRP after it has gained full sentience. Being an entity that has gained its sentience through being various replacement parts, the prosthetic has gained a composite selfhood from its composite bodily functions. The RRP sees itself as superior to human experience, but still enjoys and craves human interaction.

Czerneda explores the difference between people who want to be upgraded and see technology as a means of augmenting what is supplied by nature and those who feel a certain authenticity of their body would be lost through the process of technological change. She magnifies the social pressure to conform to bodily norms and socially-imposed ideas of ideal bodies by illustrating characters who want to augment aspects of themselves (including sexual enhancements) and people who require prosthetics to engage with the able-bodied world. The RRP itself absorbs some of these notions of enhancement and feels that everyone should augment themselves and augment themselves in significant ways.

This story is a fantastic digital biotext, exploring ideas of bodily integrity and the impact of the technological on ideas of selfhood.

You can explore more of Julie Czerneda’s work at http://www.czerneda.com/