“People are losing touch with themselves and with each other. They need stories because they really are the only thing that brings us together. Gossip, anecdotes, jokes, stories – these are the things that we used to exchange with each other. It kept the lines of communication open, let us touch each other on a regular basis.”

            -Charles de Lint – The Conjure Man In The Very Best of Charles de Lint.

Quote – Need Collective Stories

Prix Aurora Award Winning Website Speculating Canada

Yesterday, much to my excitement, Speculating Canada won the Prix Aurora Award. In the extreme of excitement at the Award Ceremony, I was only able to give part of my acceptance speech, so I wanted to place it here in a format that all of you could read and see so that you can know how much you, the readers, have meant to me, and how much Speculating Canada has come from a collaborative effort on the part of you, the fans and readers, the authors who were willing to push their boundaries during interviews, Dwayne Collins for being willing to be a second reader on my posts, Trent Radio for being willing to facilitate On Air radio interviews with authors, Alissa Paxton for encouraging me to do more radio interviews and for operating the complicated tech that terrifies me, all of the authors and publishers who have sent books for me to review, and all of you friends, family, and loved ones who have been supports throughout this process. Fans, without your excitement and engagement with materials, Speculating Canada would not have come to the attention of the Prix Aurora Awards.

Derek Newman-Stille with the Prix Aurora Award, October 6, 2013. Photo credit Dwayne Collins.

Derek Newman-Stille with the Prix Aurora Award, October 6, 2013. Photo credit Dwayne Collins.

My Acceptance Speech for the Aurora Award, October 6, 2013:

“As a scholar of Canadian Spec Fic as well as a fan, I am really pleased and honoured to be included in the Prix Aurora Awards. Speculating Canada came out of a unique set of experiences and fit with so many things that I value strongly. I designed the site because I was having memory difficulties due to disability and since I was writing synopses on the books I was reading for my own purposes, I thought I would share these in order to fulfill my personal goal of sharing the notion that SF literature can be  pedagogical. It can open questions in the minds of readers and help them to challenge status quos.

“I recognised the incredible vision of SF authors, their ability to see things from a different angle that evokes the need and ability in readers to similarly see things differently and question what they see in the world around them. Speculating Canada purposely mixes reviews with a little bit of lit crit to empower readers with the notion that they can all critically read texts, question and interrogate them and find out more than a surface reading might reveal. I want readers to know that they are intelligent, deeply mindful people who have value and can really contribute something to the experience of reading. I also wanted to acknowledge the incredible ability of our SF authors to see the depths of the world around them, which is why I ask more critical questions of authors, asking them to interrogate not just their writing process, but what it reflects of their inner and outer worlds.

“I owe a lot to the fans of Speculating Canada and the SF authors that I have spoken to for helping to shape Speculating Canada and for making it into a space where everyone can enter into a conversation about Canadian Spec Fic. I want to thank everyone who has participated in Speculating Canada and those who will participate in the future and help to continue to shape this intertextual and interpersonal conversation.”

Photo of Derek Newman-Stille giving his acceptance speech at the Prix Aurora Award Ceremony. Photo credit Kelsi Morris (thank you Kelsi)

Photo of Derek Newman-Stille giving his acceptance speech at the Prix Aurora Award Ceremony. Photo credit Kelsi Morris (thank you Kelsi)

Thank you to all of you, and thank you particularly to those of you who were able to attend the Prix Aurora Award ceremony and who made it such an incredible experience through your cheers and your excitement. I was far too excited after hearing your cheers to be able to say my whole acceptance speech, but you made sure that this will be an experience I will never forget and one that I will treasure throughout my life. I am honoured to call you friends.

I had the incredible opportunity of sharing the stage with incredible authors… people who I often become a fan boy around. Here is a list of the winners of this year’s Prix Aurora Awards:

Novel: The Silvered – Tanya Huff

Accepting the Aurora Award. Photo Credit - Dwayne Collins

Accepting the Aurora Award. Photo Credit – Dwayne Collins

YA Fiction: Under my Skin, The Wildlings – Charles de Lint

Short Fiction: The Walker of the Shifting Borderland – Douglas Smith

Poem / Song: A Sea Monster Tells His Story – David Clink

Graphic Novel: Weregeek – Alina Pete

Related Work: Hayden Trenholm – Blood and Water

Artist: Erik Mohr – Cover Art for ChiZine Publications

Fan Publication: Speculating Canada Blog – Derek Newman-Stille

Fan Filk: Kari Maaren – Body of Work

Fan Organizational: Randy McCharles – When Worlds Collide

Fan Related Work: Ron Friedman – Aurora Awards Voter Package

Thank you to all of you who were involved in the Prix Aurora Awards for all of your hard work and dedication to Canadian Speculative Fiction.

SF Versus Oppression

A Review of OnSpec #92 Vol. 25, No. 1

Cover for OnSpec Spring 2013 courtesy of OnSpec

Cover for OnSpec Spring 2013 courtesy of OnSpec

By Derek Newman-Stille

Speculative fiction is a genre of possibilities, potentialities, and change. It is therefore surprising that most SF tends to replicate patterns that support hegemonies – heterosexism, sexism, ableism, ageism, racism. When one sees how much bias can be replicated in SF, it is exciting when a volume like OnSpec #92 Vol 25, no. 1 comes along. This volume features otherwise ignored, underrepresented, oppressed, or poorly represented groups. Within this volume are portrayals of aged, queer/LGBTQ, and racialised protagonists. These characters are not portrayed as essentialised figures or stereotypes, but are rather given complexity, depth, and an essential humanity that most works of SF tend to deny the oppressed.

This volume pulled together the essential power of SF to challenge social preconceptions about people who are generally Othered or marginalised. It illustrates the potential of SF to open up new modes of thought and understanding.

With spiritual quests and ventures into other worlds and other time periods, blendings of the magical and the mundane, OnSpec #92 opens doorways. It is great to see that not all adventurers into the unknown are portrayed as white, young, heterosexual, able-bodied males. With all of the othered people are Selkies, dinosaurs, creatures from the depths, and space travelling sci fi writers.

You can explore some of reviews of individual stories at:

https://speculatingcanada.wordpress.com/2013/09/25/sci-fi-author-in-space/

https://speculatingcanada.wordpress.com/2013/09/29/mistaken-behaviours/

To find out more about OnSpec, visit their website at http://www.onspec.ca/ .

Mistaken Behaviours

A review of Liz McKeen’s “A Season Begins” in OnSpec #92 Vol. 25, No. 1
By Derek Newman-Stille

Cover for OnSpec Spring 2013 courtesy of OnSpec

Cover for OnSpec Spring 2013 courtesy of OnSpec

War is a confusing thing, like cultural contact in general. Liz McKeen’s “A Season Begins” explores the interactions of two alien lives – one primarily land-based and one aquatic. Both species’ see the other as a threat due to their fundamental bodily difference. They mistake the intentions of the other, viewing their behaviours as acts of war, hostile actions that seek to open warfare… and both sides seek to appease the other. They are trapped in a perpetual cycle of misunderstanding, misreading behaviours and acting accordingly.

McKeen illustrates the danger of perceiving difference as a threat, the fear that comes with ascribing others to the position of “threatening”. Rather than seeking to understand each other, learning from one another, they each read the other’s actions as territorial invasions and the desire for conflict. With this threat-based mentality and the fear of the other, everything becomes an act of war, and, rather than seeking a cooperative opportunity, they reconfigure the other as a danger. The differences they inscribe on each other are so extreme that they can’t even conceive of their fundamental similarities – the possibility that both sides love their families and children. Instead they assume the other is a monster, stalking them and seeking conflict.

By putting the reader in between these two conflicting species, watching them become more confused by the actions of the other, McKeen calls on her readers to question what they assume about others, how they read others and what biases and assumptions they create to distance themselves from those they view as threatening.

To find out more about OnSpec, visit their website at http://www.onspec.ca/ .