Speculating Canada on Trent Radio Episode 47: An Interview with Kelsi Morris

In this episode of Speculating Canada on Trent Radio, I interview Kelsi Morris, editor, comic book fan, and genre fan. Kelsi and I talk about monsters, comics (and Canadian comics in particular), fan culture, cosplay, and feminism. Kelsi brings in her own experience of comics as a comic book editor and her current work editing an anthology on Canadian myths and monsters titled “Those Who Make Us”.

You can listen to this episode of Speculating Canada on Trent Radio at the link below.

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.

You can find more information about Kelsi Morris’ anthology Those Who Make Us at https://thosewhomakeus.wordpress.com/

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Speculating Canada on Trent Radio Episode 46: A Discussion of Jillian Tamaki’s SuperMutant Magic Academy

In this episode of Speculating Canada on Trent Radio, I explore Jillian Tamaki’s graphic novel SuperMutant Magic Academy, a novel that plays with the theme of “You are different, so you should go away to a special school for people like you and everything will work out”. I discuss Tamaki’s clever play on Hogwarts (Harry Potter) and Professor Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters (X-Men), and her play with the notion of youth in a special school that embraces difference. I interrogate Tamaki’s portrayal of youth and the ability of youth to disrupt expectations.

You can listen to this episode of Speculating Canada on Trent Radio at the link below.

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.

Transitional Words

A review of Nalo Hopkinson’s Falling in Love With Hominids (Tachyon Publications, 2015)
By Derek Newman-StilleIMG_0213

Falling in Love with Hominids illustrates Nalo Hopkinson’s playfulness with language, her characteristic exploration of the way that language shapes social interactions and develops plot. Hopkinson illustrates her fascination with ideas of sound and the power of mis-hearings, exploring stories that came from her own mis-hearings of things and the point of speculation that occurs when one tries to determine what was actually said. In stories like The Easthound which came from a mis-hearing of “The Eastbound”, Hopkinson examines what an Easthound would be and how this notion can create a figure of terror. In “The Smile on the Face”, she examines the relationship between names and identities, creating a character named Gilla who discovers a resonance to the reptilian (coming from the association with her name) and a connection to mythic stories about other reptiles.

Hopkinson plays with characters who question the way they are written, examining figures (for example) from Shakespearian plays such as Caliban from The Tempest and allowing them a place to resist the texts that have been written about them and providing a space for them to push their own meanings through the text. In Shift, she explores the way that racialised assumptions have been cast onto Caliban and his desire to escape from the narrative that has shaped his life.

Hopkinson enters into shared-world creations and disrupts the idea of a very white, Euro-centric fairy world in the Bordertown series by creating figures who challenge this focus on the European magical world by creating characters who come from non-European mythologies. In “Ours Is The Prettiest”, she asserts the multi-ethnic nature of characters, playing with previous reader assumptions about character ethnicity and examining the intersection of ethnicities and cultural identities.

Hopkinson illustrates her ability to represent the under-represented, bringing attention to those areas that are cast in the shadows of most mainstream ideas of science fiction. She brings attention to those characters who are largely left off from mainstream SF, populating her worlds with characters from an array of sexual and gender identities, challenging the white-centric worlds created by most SF authors, and inserting those presences that are Othered in so many SF narratives.

Falling in Love with Hominids is a text of transitions, examining those times when change is at its peak. She examines transitions between adulthood and youth, portraying the idea that adulthood is not always in a protective role over youth and can, in fact, be damaging to youth because of the excesses of power adults wield over the young. She plays with the transition between life and death, exploring notions of life after death and the way that we tend to be haunted by memory and guilt.

Hopkinson casts the light of speculation onto those ideas that are cast into shadow in everyday reality, those areas that can be seen best by the outsider, the oppressed, the erased. Falling in Love with Hominids represents a text of examining the human experience, an act of recovery of those aspects of humanity that are suppressed or repressed and a re-invigoration at the sense of wonder about human experience.
To read reviews of individual stories in the collection, click on the links below:

https://speculatingcanada.ca/2015/09/16/the-oddity-of-children-2/

https://speculatingcanada.ca/2015/07/28/growing-up-monstrous/

To listen to an Episode of Speculating Canada on Trent Radio about Falling in Love with Hominids visit:

https://speculatingcanada.ca/2015/07/26/speculating-canada-on-trent-radio-episode-45-a-discussion-of-the-work-of-nalo-hopkinson/

To read more about Falling in Love with Hominids, visit Tachyon Publications’ Website at https://tachyonpublications.com/product/falling-love-hominids/

The Oddity of Children

A review of Nalo Hopkinson’s “Message in a Bottle” in Falling in Love with Hominids (Tachyon, 2015)
By Derek Newman-StilleIMG_0213

Nalo Hopkinson’s “Message in a Bottle” explores the strange nature of children and the complicated reaction people have to children who don’t fit the norm. The narrator, Greg, explores the social pressure to have children and his own perception of children as “like another species”. Like many people who decide not to have children, he is told that his life has no value without children and that he is incomplete without passing on his “legacy”.

Gradually over time, Greg begins to decide that having children is a good idea, illustrating the pressure to have children and how it overrides personal decisions. He begins to see children as not quite so foreign and strange, but there is one child that continues to seem odd and displaced to him, his friend’s adopted child Kamla, a girl who has a recent syndrome called Delayed Growth Syndrome. Children who have this syndrome develop large heads, but their bodies are relatively slow to develop. The oddity about Kamla, however, is not the size of her head (at least for Greg, though others call her Baby Bobber), but rather the odd insights Kamla shows into the future and her oddly adult manner of speech.

Hopkinson’s “Message in a Bottle” disrupts traditional ideas about aging and explores the discomfort that adults feel when children act or talk like adults. “Message in a Bottle” challenges embedded ideas about aging, encouraging the reader to question notions of “coming of age” and re-think aging as a simple binary of child/adult.

Hopkinson questions ideas of time and temporality by playing with the time travel narrative while simultaneously disrupting the idea of traveling as an adult and instead investing children with “knowledge beyond their years”.

To discover more about Falling in Love with Hominids, visit Tachyon’s website at https://tachyonpublications.com/product/falling-love-hominids/

 

 

 

 

Cosplay – Masquerading for Change at Fan Expo Canada

What is it that inspires people to cosplay? Despite the heat, despite the extreme discomfort of costumes that can include metal, plastic, craft foam, fun fur, and fabric in shapes like wings, antlers, spiked shoulder pads, and armour, cosplayers make the decision to wear their costumes. When I am at events like Fan Expo Canada, I wonder about what brings so much fulfillment to these players about their costuming.

Cosplaying is a costume play, a play with characters and, I would argue, with identity itself. By dressing as a fictional being, a creation of imagination and speculation, cosplayers imagine themselves as Other, the play with the fluidity of identity itself and point out to us that any identity is a mask, any claim of a stable identity is a fantasy, and that we can learn something about ourselves by playing something other than ourselves.

Costuming provides a Dionysian space of transformation, a playful engagement with the various identities we wear to operate in a world that all to often tries to force a conformist mask on us. This is a carnivalesque chance to push the boundaries of a mundane and limiting reality by asserting the immaterial, the ‘fictitious’, and the playful.

As I watch cosplayers engage with each other, I can see the power of a community of fans, interactions that are partially based on the characters they play, but also an acknowledgement of a certain resonance between them, as though the character they are playing has served as a mediator recommending them each to one another. Characters playing Deadpool (Marvel Comics) will high five one another, characters playing Hogwarts students (Harry Potter) will raise wands in salute to each other, princesses will twirl and bow to each other. Their fandoms provide spaces of connection, and, as I learned from a Klingon (Star Trek) couple, the connection of fandoms can become romantic. Fans embodying their characters bond through a shared experience of excitement and love of a certain media, but also some of the ideals contained within these fictional representations of a personality. Klingons mentioned that those who play Klingon identities know that others who share that performed identity believe also in shared ideas of forthrightness, honesty, and the idea that confrontations can be productive in defining one’s perspective. Deadpool cosplayers noted that they tend to share a certain playfulness and a desire to disrupt things. There is something fascinating about a shared culture based in a fictional culture or character that allows one to make assumptions about others who share that performance.

There is also a delightfully subversive quality to certain cosplay performances. Players often recognize that their characters are limited by the world that has shaped them and seek to push identities and assumptions by wearing modified costumes. From BroVader’s desire to both occupy and mock as “bro” identity to zombie Jesus’ desire to subvert and play with religious assumptions, characters can push the limits of the characters they wear. Some of the most powerful of these costumed cultural subversions and plays with identity come in the form of alt gender cos plays – taking a character of one gender and making their costume another – Lady Loki, male Elsa, Femme Immortan Joe – these players play with gendered assumptions in a way that points out social limits in the representation of pop cultural icons.

For many of these cosplayers, there is a feeling of isolation in the normative, “real” works outside of the convention, but within these halls there is a chance to embrace that marginality.

I should point out here that not everyone challenges norms, not everyone finds a place for their outsider selfhood. There are cosplayers who reinforce those gendered norms or use their modified bodies to reinforce those body structures that resist change and push normative notions of identity… But there is also a potential here, a potential to push and shift and change those limits of our “real” world and tell it what it could be. Cosplay can imagine a new relationship between the worlds we can think of and the real masks we are forced to wear to get through a world that tells us there is only one way to be “real”.

 

Cosplay Masquerade, Fan Expo Canada, 2015

Cosplay Masquerade, Fan Expo Canada, 2015

Cosplay Masquerade, Fan Expo Canada, 2015

Cosplay Masquerade, Fan Expo Canada, 2015

 

Cosplay Masquerade, Fan Expo Canada, 2015

Cosplay Masquerade, Fan Expo Canada, 2015

 

Cosplay Masquerade, Fan Expo Canada, 2015

Cosplay Masquerade, Fan Expo Canada, 2015