Putting Monsters on the Map

A review of Kate Story’s “Equus” in Clockwork Canada: Steampunk Fiction, edited by Dominik Parisien (Exile Editions, 2016)By Derek Newman-Stille


Fairy tale collides with steampunk in Kate Story’s “Equus”, where the past and ideas of futurity collide to create an uncertain present. Story narrates the experiences of Sir Sanford Fleming, an inventor known for proposing standard time zones and for his work on surveying and mapping. He is a historical figure who already brings to the narrative a sense of time and landscape, embodying these symbolic media through his own inventions. For Story, he became the perfect character to adapt to her tale, which is fundamentally one about the way that time plays out on a landscape and the way that maps and standardized time zones seek to standardise and explain a world that resists understanding. 

Story explores the power of the relationship between maps and margins and the idea that the more we try to chart and explore things – the more we attempt to rationalize them – the more the irrational reminds us of its existence. While Sanford Fleming is employing a new machine to survey Canada and establish barriers and territories, he is repeatedly haunted by his own past, the life he led before he came to Canada, and spirits of the world that defy the simple cartography applied to our world. History and ideas of progress come into conflict as characters begin to realise that the spreading of railways and communication technology are binding the land, forever changing it by adding elements of the human to natural landscapes. Fleming is forced to face the question of whether there is a price for progress and whether all change can be defined as progress. 

To discover more about the work of Kate Story, visit her website at http://www.katestory.com
To find out more about Clockwork Canada, visit Exile’s website at http://www.exileeditions.com/singleorders2016/clockwork.html
And Dominik Parisien’s website at https://dominikparisien.wordpress.com/clockwork-canada-anthology

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