Speculating Canada on Trent Radio Episode 27: Speculative Fiction in the Music of Rush

On this episode of Speculating Canada on Trent Radio, I had a chance to talk a bit about the influence of science fiction and fantasy literature on the music of the Canadian band Rush. Rush is one of my favourite bands and I am, of course, in love with their use of speculative themes in their music. Inspired by various speculative fiction works, Rush blends the metaphors that come out of fantasy with their exploration of issues in the world around us.

The works that I explore in this episode, particularly Rivendell and The Necromancer have inspiration from Tolkein. By-Tor and the Snowdog, the last piece that I play, is particularly inspired by Greek mythology and imagery of the underworld.

Rush is currently celebrating their 40th anniversary, so I thought it would be a good time to explore their speculative music on my show.

Due to copyright laws, I am only able to include 10% of each song on this show (the original airing on Trent Radio permitted the full songs because of their radio license). In order to give you the chance to explore the full songs, I have included here some links to Rush’s website where you can stream some of the songs I refer to:

Rivendell (from Fly by Night): http://www.rush.com/albums/fly-by-night/

The Necromancer (from Caress of Steel): http://www.rush.com/albums/caress-of-steel/

By-Tor and the Snowdog (from Fly by Night): http://www.rush.com/albums/fly-by-night/

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.

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Coming of Age in the End of Days

A review of Brent Hayward’s Head Full of Mountains (ChiZine Publications, 2014)
By Derek Newman-Stille

Cover Photo of Head Full of Mountains courtesy of ChiZine Publications

Cover Photo of Head Full of Mountains courtesy of ChiZine Publications

The end is a concept that brings hyper attention onto ideas of the body, memory, and the notion of permanence versus change, and Brent Hayward’s Head Full of Mountains constructs a society who, in trying to fend off the end, to preserve humanity, ends up creating a post-human world. Through the figure of Crospinal, raised on distorted memories of the ‘old world’ and confused perceptions of the new, the reader is cast into a realm of confusion and change, uncertain about the various ‘truths’ being given through Crospinal’s encounters with various human and mechanical groups, each staking their own claim on interpreting the world around them.

Crospinal experiences the world in a mix of dreams, experiences, and haptics (computerised learning programmes) which blend together in a distorted reality that allows him to live in ambiguity, perpetually a stranger in a strange land. Despite being born into this new world, Crospinal’s isolation with his father means that the world outside of his father’s realm is one of inconstancy, and a series of challenges to his beliefs about the world around him.

Environment, body, and belief system are all in flux in Head Full of Mountains as the ship that the last remnants of humanity are travelling through space on constantly changes configuration, recycling old parts while building new ones. Crospinal’s body alters from a disabled body in a space suit that recycles his nutrients, to a gradually stripped body exposed to all of the biological contaminants and biological wonders around him, and constantly rebuilt by machines to match an able-bodied expected norm. Crospinal and others are constantly haunted by a past that they can’t recall, erased from the minds of the passengers who came from old Earth and not taught to the new human beings who are born on the ship from embryos.

A father and son text, Head Full of Mountains manifests the uncertainty and confusion following the death of a parent and the re-shaping of one’s understanding of the world as one realises that their parent’s viewpoint is singular and does not encompass the range of potential ‘truths’ about interpreting the world. This is a coming-of-age text wrapped in the end of days, a coming of the end.

To discover more about Brent Hayward, visit his website at http://www.brenthayward.com/

To find out more about Head Full of Mountains and other ChiZine Publications books, visit their website at http://chizinepub.com/books/head-full-of-mountains

Women Made of Words

A review of Sean moreland’s Rowena in Lackington’s issue 2 ( http://lackingtons.com/2014/05/13/rowena-by-sean-moreland/ )
By Derek Newman-Stille

Sean Moreland’s Rowena is a tale of names, words, and memory, and how these have been implicated in the creation of women’s identities. Structured as a series of letters from an accused witch to her daughter, Rowena is shaped by the aesthetic of loss. The eponymous protagonist reveals the loss of name and home that occurred for women in history and even after the death of her husband, who she is accused of murdering, she is forced to keep his name, taunted with the constant reminder that the world views her as his property.

Although words form her entrapment with her husband through contracts made between her father and husband, and words further rob her of her name, they are also part of the act of recovery, the means by which she is able to discover herself and her own identity. When she discovers a secret book written by her husband’s first wife, she is instantly attracted to her words. There is a blending of book into body that occurs as she lovingly examines the book’s spine, compares ink to bodily fluids and sexual fluids. The book becomes more than a text, but rather a communication across time and between spirits. There is a beautiful blending of text into identity, a love affair of words and spirits

Moreland reveals that much of what we are is words, that we are texts needing to be read and to express ourselves and that every reading of a book is a form of seance between the author and the reader.

De-voiced by patriarchy, disempowered by the official word, Rowena and her husband’s deceased first wife Ligeia need to voice the depth of their feelings and identity through subversion, through hidden texts, and these secret texts are part of the act of recovery, part of the expression of the self who is perpetually silenced.

Moreland’s Rowena is a beautiful love affair through ink and text, a meeting of pages full of memory and the desire to speak.

To read this and other stories from Lackington’s, visit the Lackington’s website at http://lackingtons.com/ .

You can access Sean Moreland’s story Rowena directly at http://lackingtons.com/2014/05/13/rowena-by-sean-moreland/ .

Only More Death on the Horizon

A review of Tony Burgess’ The n-Body Problem (ChiZine Publications, 2013)
By Derek Newman-Stille

Cover photo of The n-Body Problem courtesy of ChiZine Publications

Cover photo of The n-Body Problem courtesy of ChiZine Publications

Tony Burgess’ The n-Body Problem is a pharmacological journey through the zombie apocalypse, and a discourse on the collective social habit of avoiding one’s problems. The n-Body Problem explores a world where people keep moving after death, not threateningly or aggressively, but moving nonetheless evoking the question of whether they are alive, what constitutes death, and the bigger problem of what to do with so many moving bodies. WasteCorp, a waste disposal company proposes the idea of launching the living dead into orbit, suspending them in the atmosphere until they burn off as layers of fire, and they are able to do good enough PR work to convince people that this is an almost romantic way to go. The only problem is that the sky is greyed by the network of dead bodies around the Earth and it is creating health issues for the people alive on the planet – both from lack of exposure to the sunlight and from the depression that comes from seeing a network of the dead around their planet every time they raise their eyes. It is a zombie apocalypse filled with threat, but not from the zombies… at least not directly, but rather from the “solution” to the living dead and the horror that ensues.

In order to cope, the population is advised to avoid looking up and to regularly take SSRIs to deal with the perpetual depression and anxiety evoked by this permanently altered world. However, the SSRIs are not benevolent either, causing a Syndrome from the quantities they need to be used in, fundamentally changing the people who use them.

The characters have their moral compass set to grey from the beginning of The n-Body Problem but a dark, dirty grey that gets more ashy over time as layers of dust from bodies burned in orbit rains down on them… a zombie grey that exists in the perpetual twilight of a world that no longer has hope of change.

Playing with ideas of speech and silence, the notion that some people are best left in a devoiced state because when they speak it may only be a diatribe of horrors, Burgess explores the power of voice for propaganda, and the way the silenced are used for religious, corporate, and political causes. Whether corporate propaganda tells the people about the beauty of their dead loved ones floating in silence in orbit close to the stars, or religious leaders use the dead and the dismembered to bring on religious fervour born of fear and a need for some form of change, silence is made to speak loudly.

Burgess experiments with the idea of a social shift from the military-industrial complex and its profit from death through war to a new system of profit based around the pharmaceutical-waste-disposal-religious complex, intertwined in a system of making capital through the disposal of bodies and inciting people to suicide.

To say this is a bleak book is to downplay the significance of the melancholy it evokes – within this novel, the only thing on the horizon is more dead bodies… literally. It is a stream of consciousness narrative that reads like a hallucinatory voyage between pathologies and syndromes, a work that makes the body and the world around it a perpetual uncertainty, a slippery, threatened and threatening thing.

To find out more about The n-Body Problem, visit ChiZine Publications’ site at http://chizinepub.com/books/n-body-problem

The End is Only The Beginning

A review of Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s collection 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

Flooding, ghosts, spreading oil sinkholes, whitenoise, bio weapons, nuclear bombs, sudden population disappearances, a strange rotting of the landscape, persistent sleep, the drying of the world’s lakes, alien invasion, shadows, plague, constant rain, technological crashes, ruptures into the abyss, fires… the visions of the apocalypse are multifaceted and Fractured: Tales of the Canadian Post-Apocalypse imagines new nuances of each potential end. But ultimately, this is not a collection about the end, not about the apocalypse itself, but the experience of the end and the way that the end can be a beginning of a changed world, a world that envisions a separation from the past but is still haunted by its memory. Fractured imagines what characters in the post-Apocalypse are feeling, how they are making meaning out of their experiences, how they are coping with severe changes to their world, and ultimately, the loneliness that comes from facing the end. This is a volume of endings that embody beginnings.

The term apocalypse means revelation, the revealing of things and ultimately this volume reveals the nuanced experience of endings and focuses on people coping with the notion of the end, the thought about the idea of endings itself. It is a volume of change, memory, isolation, and desire.

Fractured looks that the connection between human and landscape and how each mirrors and is influenced by the other, illustrating hoe we are shaped by each other – place and people. It is a collection of scavenging from the past and collecting the detritus and rubbish of our civilisation as treasures, reminding us of our privilege to be living in a pre-apocalyptic world.

The post-apocalypse is as much about meaning as it is about survival.

To discover more about Fractured: Tales of the Canadian Post-Apocalypse, visit Exile Editions’ website at exileeditions.com

You can find a review of some of the short stories in this collection at

https://speculatingcanada.ca/2014/11/28/ectoplasmopocalypse/

https://speculatingcanada.ca/2014/04/09/hollow-signals/