Ectoplasmopocalypse

A review of Orrin Grey’s “Persistence of Vision” in Fractured: Tales of the Canadian Post Apocalypse (Exile Editions, 2014)
By Derek Newman-Stille

Cover photo of Fractured courtesy of Exile Editions

Cover photo of Fractured courtesy of Exile Editions

Shaped by movie imagery with comparisons of the events of the story to a Hollywood film, Orrin Grey’s Persistence of Vision uses the unreality of film to contribute to the notion of an apocalypse that no one believes in. The notion of the end is difficult for anyone to conceive of, but Grey’s characters are especially confused because their end comes from the spectral presences of the past. People begin dying under odd inexplicable circumstances – pursued by shadows, picked up by spectral hands, scared to death.

After a scientific experiment with an old computer that was discovered beneath an asylum, the undead return to the earth… but not the expected undead that we have seen in post-apocalyptic survival film after survival film… instead Grey brings us a return not of the body but of the essence, a return of ghosts to the mortal realm. The world becomes crowded with the haunted presences of our past, the dead returned to wreck spectral violence on the living.

Grey creates an undead apocalypse far more frightening than the zombie apocalypse because these undead beings aren’t corporeal, their bodies can’t be destroyed. They are lingering presences that demand our attention by bringing us into their world.

Rather than a story of triumphant survivors challenging the odds and making a new world, Grey asks readers what sort of person would want to live in a post-apocalyptic world, particularly one where all one can do is hide, wait, and just survive. Although ghosts have returned from the otherworld, it is the living human population who are in limbo. They are the ones who wait in a meaningless stretch of time.

To find out more about the work of Orrin Grey, visit http://orringrey.com/

To find out more about Fractured: Tales of the Canadian Post Apocalypse, visit Exile Editions’ website at http://www.exileeditions.com/

Advertisements

The Horror of Childhood Logic

A review of Helen Marshall’s “Lessons in the Raising of Household Objects” in Gifts for the One Who Comes After (ChiZine Publications, 2014)
By Derek Newman-Stille

Cover Art for Gifts For the One Who Comes After courtesy of ChiZine Publications

Cover Art for Gifts For the One Who Comes After courtesy of ChiZine Publications

In “Lessons in the Raising of Household Objects” , Helen Marshall illustrates for us the horror of a child’s logic. Convinced that the twins her mother is carrying are probably dead, the narrator, Angela, is both terrified of them and views them as a threat. Her parents insist that she must learn to love the twins, so, in an attempt to love other things, she befriends two cans of soup, which she is convinced are capable of thought and speech. When she decides that the soup can named Simon has betrayed her, she takes pleasure in eating its innards, considering this an “object lesson” for the other soup can, Campbell.

Angela becomes convinced that the twins are stealing household items and creating a world within their mother’s belly because it keeps getting larger. In addition to considering the twins thieves, she also considers them to be violent because when she is near her mother’s belly, they kick her. When she is asked to listen to her mother’s belly, she is convinced that she hears the stolen items rolling around and bites her mother’s belly button. Angela’s perception of the world is shaped by ideas of violence and theft, considering birth a threat.

Marshall invites us into the horrifying world of a child’s logic… but she asks us an even more horrifying question at the end of her story… what if the child is correct in their logic. What if the dark things they dream up are really there.

You can discover more about the works of Helen Marshall at http://helen-marshall.com/ .

To discover more about Gifts for the One Who Comes After and other ChiZine books, visit their website at http://chizinepub.com/

 

Speculating Canada on Trent Radio Episode 24: An Interview with Matt Moore

This is an interview that has waited far too long. Matt Moore and I have talked often about everything from villains to space to horror… and our conversations were always insightful! We had even organized a panel together… but for some reason, we kept missing chances to interview. So, I was incredibly lucky to have a chance to talk to Matt at Can Con in Ottawa, a brilliant Speculative Fiction Convention.

Matt Moore is an Ottawa-based author of Speculative Fiction whose work tends toward the horror and dark fiction genres, playing at the edge where science fiction meets the darkness. Matt has published short fiction in venues such as Postscripts to Darkness, Jamais Vu, Leading Edge, AE: The Canadian Science Fiction Review, OnSpec, and in collections like Torn Realities, Blood Rites, Tesseracts 14, and Fear the Abyss. His story “Touch the Sky, They Say” was an Aurora Award nominee and his first collection “Touch the Sky, Embrace the Dark” is now available to explore.

In our interview, we talk about a variety of topics from identity to horror to science fiction to disability (which those of you who follow my website know is a topic that I love to talk about) to gender to author readings to… well, you will just have to listen and find out! So, click below and hear our full interview.

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 23: An Interview with Jason Loo

Continuing my exploration of Canadian Comics, this week I interviewed Jason Loo, the creator of The Pitiful Human Lizard, a Toronto based superhero.

Along with our interview, I had a chance to do a brief discussion of The Pitiful Human Lizard volumes 1 and 2, talking about some of the key features of Jason Loo’s art and narrative.

Jason and I talk about the power of naming a superhero “pitiful” and the potential this has to shift assumptions about superhero narratives. We discuss the normalcy of the Pitiful Human Lizard’s life around his crime fighting and Jason’s ability to take on the hypermasculinity of the genre and suggest some alternatives.

Click below on the icon to listen to a recording of the radio programme!

Stay Tuned: Saaaame Lizard Time…. Saaaame Lizard Channel!!

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.

“There’s something about this area – the lake and the land around it – that’s like a haven. I’m not hiding from the skyscrapers and parking lots and the craziness of the rest of the world by living here year round. I’m just, like, getting closer to the real world.”

-Charles de Lint – Mulengro (Orb 2003)

Quote – Getting Closer To the Real World

Spin The Bottle With Death

A review of Helen Marshall’s “Death and the Girl from Pi Delta Zeta” in Gifts For The One Who Comes After (ChiZine Publications, 2014).
By Derek Newman-Stille

Cover Art for Gifts For the One Who Comes After courtesy of ChiZine Publications

Cover Art for Gifts For the One Who Comes After courtesy of ChiZine Publications

In horror films, sorority girls have a metaphorical relationship with death, perpetually constructed as figures who are courted by death. Helen Marshall, demonstrating her characteristic desire to play with tropes to disempower, subvert, and challenge expectations, makes that relationship literal in her short story “Death and the Girl from Pi Delta Zeta”. Marshall’s subversion is as beautiful as it is powerful, shifting reader expectations from the often disempowering genre of horror to play with expected tropes.

Marshall constructs a scene of a typical frat boy party, the sort where women in horror films are often the victims of monstrous acts. She creates the typical scenes of frat boys objectifying sorority girls, in this case literally writing their claims to them on their shirts along with sexualized slogans. Death serves as a contrast to this activity, asked by Carissa to sign her shirt with a magic word. Instead of writing exploitative messages, he playfully writes “abracadabra”.

Death is given celebrity status and constantly asked for his signature by people who he has helped by releasing loved ones from painful lives. Yet, he serves as a romantic contrast to all of Carissa’s previous frat boy lovers by giving her flowers, being romantic, and proving himself a gentle and caring lover. Death is by far the better alternative to frat boys. Horror film, generally constructing frat boys as the typical audience, depicting their expectations on screen, is here reversed by Marshall, who depicts them as background characters serving only as a contrast to the beauty of Death.

Marshall’s sense of play shapes this short story as a thoughtful but exciting piece. Like many of her works, she plays with scenes we have accepted as ‘normal’ and illustrates the beauty in re-framing them and seeing the subversive potential in them. She masterfully plays with normative scenes like a frat party or sending out wedding invitations and inserts a touch of the macabre.

You can discover more about Helen Marshall’s work at http://www.helen-marshall.com/

To find out more about the collection Gifts For The One Who Comes After, visit ChiZine Publications’ website at http://chizinepub.com/

You can read this story online at its original place of publication, Lackington’s at http://lackingtons.com/2014/02/13/death-and-the-girl-from-pi-delta-zeta-by-helen-marshall/

Masked and Changed

A review of Richard Wagamese’s Him Standing (Raven Books, 2013)
By Derek Newman-Stille

Cover photo of Him Standing courtesy of Orcabook.com

Cover photo of Him Standing courtesy of Orcabook.com

Lucas Smoke learned the art of carving from his grandfather and finds that his hands seem to move of their own volition to carve figures that he sees in everyday life…. but when he learned the art of carving, his grandfather didn’t teach him the deeper meanings behind his craft, the knowledge that would keep him safe from exploitation.

When Lucas’ grandfather dies, his family wars over the man’s possessions leaving Lucas feeling uncomfortable since all he wanted was his grandfather, not his possessions. Lucas leaves the reserve and decides to busk in the city, using his gifts at carving to make some money by carving images of tourists on the boardwalk. When he is approached by a man who offers him a substantial amount of money to carve masks as his grandfather does, Lucas can’t pass up the opportunity to get himself out of a situation of poverty and agrees. He quickly learns that he is being exploited and that his mask carving, meant to “bring a legend to life” is bringing something into the world that he would rather not invite.

Wagamese explores the experience of urban aboriginal youth feeling conflicted about their relationship to history and home. Lucas is tempted by the views into his people’s past that making his mask and entering into the dreaming place provides. There is something alluring for him about seeing his community before European settlement and he feels as though he has connected with some lost part of himself. Lucas feels fragmented, like parts of his own puzzle have been missing. Even his art, although providing a link to his grandfather, feels incomplete, as though some of the most important teachings are missing – as though he has learned the physical acts of carving but not the deeper spiritual meanings or teachings that should have accompanied it. This sense of incompleteness has left him vulnerable to manipulation by white men who want power and are willing to use him to fulfill their own selfish ends. The loss of teachings and ways of understanding create vulnerabilities for others to exploit – skill without cultural understanding is incomplete.

Lucas is asked to venture into dreams to carve what he sees and unintentionally connects with an ancient evil that seeks to use him to return to the physical world. Like an addict, he becomes obsessed with dreams, losing track of time, not eating, not sleeping, and being consumed from within. His feeling of incompleteness means that he seeks to fill himself with things that are external to him, trying to attain some sense of selfhood while actually leaving him open to be possessed by an ancient evil.

Wagamese looks at the interconnection between story-telling and carving, the ability to make tales into physical things, revealing truths within objects. He examines the power of art and stories to re-shape the world, to bring legends into the living world and change our understanding of the places we dwell in.

To read more about Him Standing visit the Orca Book Publishers’ webpage at http://www.orcabook.com/productdetails.cfm?PC=1865