LGBT Canadian Authors Talking About Writing Queerly – Tanya Huff

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I want to thank Tanya Huff for once again providing a brilliant and insightful essay. This time Tanya talks about writing queerly, an important question in LGBT writing and speculating about the topic of queerness. Here is her fantastic reflection:


Writing Queerly or Queer Writing by Tanya Huff

Given my age, as far as I know, there was nothing resembling queer culture in Kingston while I was growing up and even if there would have been, I wouldn’t have been one of the queer kids, I’d have been one of the geek kids. Plus, I was already an outlier as far as the other teenagers were concerned: I had no parents, I’d moved around from family to family to family and was currently living with my grandparents — by grade twelve I was living on my own — and in a collegiate and vocational school where the vocational kids outnumbered the collegiate kids about ten to one, I was one of the top ten of the collegiate kids. The school was working class almost exclusively and no one had time for questions of sexuality since most of us had a couple of jobs as well as school work. I had to think for myself as I didn’t have the security to allow social norms to think for me.

It was probably the late seventies/early eighties by the time I acted on my attraction to women as well as men and that came through fandom. 

I’m not even sure what a queer book would be. A book with queer characters? Then all of mine. (except possibly the first two, but I wrote them thirty years ago and haven’t read them for a while and I once forgot I’d used death as a character so you can’t actually take my word for that) A book that deals with queerness as social struggle or culture? Then none of mine. As a personal discovery? Then one of mine. Ish. 

The identity that shapes my writing would be self sufficiency. In all but one case, the sexuality of my characters is secondary to the needs of the story. That one case is, of course, The Fire’s Stone, the only one of my books where the sexuality of the character is an issue — and all of my books have variable sexualities because I have variable sexuality — and which is my coming out book. Well, technically, it’s Aaron’s coming out book. Everyone in the queer community has one — why wouldn’t they? Self discovery is always big. Write it, write it well, and move on. And use the coming out to support the story or the story to support the coming out but don’t leave either dangling all on its own.
If you don’t have to identify as a small furry creature from Alpha Centauri to write about small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri then you don’t have to identify as queer to write queer characters. Imagination plus empathy plus skill. Talent helps but discipline trumps talent in the long run every time. Do your research. Put yourself in the shoes of every one of your characters. And the greatest of these is empathy. And when you’re writing about personal experience, you’re not writing a biography — unless you are — you’re writing about how you connect to the universal — to love, to hate, to truth, to sacrifice, to fear, to joy. How you identify along the broad spectrum of human sexuality is only one of the lenses you look at the universal through.

There’s nothing wrong with a girl gets boy ending as long as that’s not the only ending we ever get. And it’s not, not any more. If you’re reading for the relationship, there are enough romance books out there with alternative relationship endings,if you’re reading for the story there are enough endings where the relationships are just another part of the mosaic; you never have to read another boy gets girl again if you don’t want to. Which, by the way, I always read as girl gets boy. According to studies done in the US and UK some years ago — please don’t make me look up the citation, I have no idea where my notes are — heterosexual women read more than any other social/cultural group — why wouldn’t there be more books out there that make them happy? They’re the ones spending the money.

Media is another matter. We can’t even get the Black Widow and AD Hill having a conversation let alone a cuddle. And the amount of money spent is directly proportional to how conservative the people spending it are going to be. Someday we’ll get a big budget, science fiction, action, tent pole movie where the Captain America equivalent ends up with the Winter Soldier equivalent because non queer people will have learned to see themselves in every relationship, not just the ones with a direct correlation to their own, but today is not that day. Change is constant; work to make sure that the narrow minded don’t control that change.

Remember that creating is about making a “you-shaped door” for your audience. Some people bash big holes in the narrative so anyone can fit through, some people make holes so specific that only a few will fit. If you write one way, own it. If you write the other, own that. Acknowledge that the way you write could limit your audience and realize that if we all wrote the same thing the same way it’d either be a pretty boring or a pretty exclusive world. There is absolutely nothing wrong with choosing to fill a niche and everything wrong with being forced into it while yelling, ““Montresor! For the love of God!!” as the last brick goes up. Kick the wall down.

The world has looked through the lens of the hetro-normative culture for a long time. How do queer writers get the world to take a chance on looking through our lenses? Write a good book. Write sympathetic three dimensional characters of all kinds who support the plot. Worry less about isms and more about storytelling. Work to evoke an emotional response. Recognise that if you’re out on the edge of the dominate culture there won’t be too many people out on the edge with you. That’s what the edge is about. Work to keep moving the edge further out. Ad Astra…


Canadian SF Authors, What are you Reading? Corey Redekop

A spectacular readinf list from Corey Redekop perfectly timed for all of those boxing day sales!! Thank you Corey for this brilliant description of your best of books for 2015! It looks like i have a LOT of books to add to my reading list!



Top Baker’s Dozen Books 2015 by Corey Redekop

There are three things I keep in mind when making such lists: 1) I arguably read too many books, and inarguably am not terribly discerning. 2) I fully realize the inherent subjective flexibility of such lists; tomorrow this list could be completely different. 3) There is nothing more dispiriting then cutting books out of a list.

Today, this is the list I ended up with, my favourite reads of 2015 (but not necessarily from 2015).

I’m going to cheat a bit and provide a baker’s dozen of taste treats. I’ll present alphabetically by author and leave the choice of “best” up to you. And yes, I’m cheating even more by adding more than one book per author. Sue me.

Jacqueline Baker – The Broken Hours (2014, HarperCollins Canada)

  
• Baker’s tale of the personal assistant to H.P. Lovecraft evokes the cosmic weirdness of Lovecraft’s work while keeping the story fully rooted in the real. The result is both tremendously spooky and a remarkably moving treatise on the lonely art of writing.

Andrew Battershill – Pillow (2015, Coach House)

  
• I picked up Battershill’s debut novel on a whim, but within ten pages I knew I had discovered something special. Battershill’s crime yarn of a boxer caught up in the wild gangster machinations of a famous French surrealist really shouldn’t work on any level, but succeeds on them all.


Nick Cutter – The Deep (2015, Simon & Schuster), The Acolyte (2015, ChiZine)

   
 • Cutter released two markedly different books in 2015. The Deep’s tale of scientists trapped in a deep-sea laboratory is a claustrophobic nightmare, evoking Michael Crichton’s scientific mumbo-jumbo and Stephen King’s depth of character. The Acolyte is a dystopian detective fiction set in a militaristic theocracy that is equal parts Raymond Chandler and Fahrenheit 451. Both terrified me to the core, for markedly differing reasons.

Sebastian De Castell – Traitor’s Blade (2014, Penguin Random House)

  
• The flat-out most enjoyably fun novel I read this year. De Castell mixes the swashbuckling exploits of The Three Musketeers with dashes of fantastical magic and gritty dialogue, resulting in an adventure novel that never stops moving and leaves you wanting more.

Beth Goobie – The First Principles of Dreaming (2014, Second Story Press)

  
• Being a juror for the 2015 Sunburst Award, I’ll quote my Honourable Mention description here: “An unsettling and unnerving erotic exploration of a young woman’s psyche, Beth Goobie’s mix of sexuality, morality, and religious fundamentalism is a coming-of-age tale unlike any other.”

Kenneth Mark Hoover – Haxan, Quaternity (2014, 2015, ChiZine)

   
 • I’m hardly a western aficionado, but these two books in Hoover’s John Marwood series instantly rank among my favourites of the genre. Grisly, horrific, intensely personal, and plaited with blood-soaked threads of magic realism, these violent yarns of a man’s hopeless search for redemption are simultaneously unpleasant and impossible to put down.

Matthew Johnson – Irregular Verbs and Other Stories (2014, ChiZine)

  
• Johnson’s compendium of zombies, folksingers, detectives, dragons, and Mark Twain may be my favourite of all ChiZine short story collections. If you consider that ChiZine authors include Helen Marshall, David Nickle, Ian Rogers, Gemma Files, Halli Villegas, Douglas Smith, Claude Lalumière, and more, you’ll understand just how good Johnson (and ChiZine) is.

Nathan Larson – The Dewey Decimal System, The Nervous System, The Immune System (2011, 2012, 2015, Akashic Books)

   
   
• Being a librarian, how could I not read a novel called The Dewey Decimal System? Larson’s blisteringly odd series of an obsessive-compulsive bagman caught up in conspiracies galore in a post-terrorism New York is damned fun, Dashiell Hammett filtered through Chuck Palahniuk (when he was good).

Saleema Nawaz – Bone & Bread (2013, Anansi)

  
• Unlike everything else on this list, there’s no overt weirdness present in Nawaz’s gentle narrative, only the lovely, sad story of two sisters growing up Sikh in Montreal. Nawaz captures the minutiae of sisterly relationships like few others I’ve read, admittedly a short list but why damn such a fine novel with faint praise? This is a winner through and through.

Peter Norman – Emberton (2014, Douglas & McIntyre)

  
• Back to weirdness. The adventures of a strangely illiterate man working for the dystopic Emberton Dictionary, Norman’s gothic novel careens back and forth from office satire to tangled mystery-thriller to epic Lovecraftian horror, all the while working as a meta-examination of the intricacies of language. It’s breathtakingly original, and hits all my sweet spots.

Robert Repino – Mort(e) (2015, Soho Press)

  
• After the ant rebellion, evolved members of the animal kingdom take up arms against humanity. Through the war and its aftermath, housecat turned hero Mort(e) searches for his one true friend, a dog named Sheba. I have an inexplicable love of anthropomorphic fiction, and Mort(e) more than earns an honoured place on my shelves next to William Kotzwinkle’s The Bear Went Over the Mountain, Tim Davys’ Amberville, and Clifford Chase’s Winkie.

Emily St. John Mandel – Station Eleven (2014, Penguin Random House)

  
• After all the awards and accolades, there’s nothing I can add about Mandel’s wonderful work. Following a troupe of artists after the fall of mankind, Station Eleven has earned its fame. Damn this is good.

Lavie Tidhar – A Man Lies Dreaming (2014, Hodder & Stoughton)

  
• If you’re not reading Lavie Tidhar, shame on you. Equaling his superb work in Osama and The Violent Century, A Man Lies Dreaming is at once a crazed detective story (starring a certain German dictator) and a devastating Holocaust novel. There’s no reason for any of this to work, and I’d fear to read any lesser author taking on such a challenge. But Tidhar simply kills it.
Now that that’s done, let’s look at what didn’t make my list.

Sadly, I had to disqualify: The Exile Book of New Canadian Noir (2015, Exile) and Licence Expired: The Unauthorized James Bond (2015, ChiZine)

• If it weren’t that I am a contributor to both, I‘d have gladly placed them near the top; both gifted me with some of the best short fictions I’ve read in years.

  
• New Canadian Noir is laden with dazzling stories that demolish preconceived notions of “noir” and expand the concept into fantasy, sci-fi, and horror. All the stories are outstanding, but Keith Cadieux’s “Donner Parties” and Dale L. Sproule’s “Nunavut Thunderfuck” are personal faves.

  
• Licence Expired similarly plays with expectations, resurrecting the literary roots of Ian Fleming’s superspy in utterly surprising ways. Robert J. Wiersema’s “The Gale of the World,” Ian Roger’s “Two Graves” and A.M. Dellamonica’s “Through Your Eyes Only” are my standouts in a crowded field of excellence.

And finally, another baker’s dozen, this one of superior runner-ups, any of which could be dropped into the above list with no loss in quality:

Margaret Atwood, The Heart Goes Last; Adam Christopher, Empire State; Ian Colford, The Crimes of Hector Tomás; Wab Kinew, The Reason You Walk; Thomas King, The Back of the Turtle; Nicole Kornher-Stace, Archivist Wasp; Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Signal to Noise; James Morrow, Galapagos Regained; Carsten Stroud, The Reckoning; Paul Tremblay, A Head Full of Ghosts; Robert J. Wiersema, Black Feathers; Jane Woods, The Walking Tanteek; Ben H. Winters, World of Trouble

Now go read something, will you?

Funding Canadian SF – Insights from author Silvia Moreno-Garcia

I have been thinking a lot recently about crowd-funding projects and about the funding that goes to Canadian SF in general, and after a great conversation with my friend Silvia Moreno-Garcia, she agreed to write something for Speculating Canada about funding writing projects, and share some of her personal insights. 

I am extremely excited about Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s new book Young Blood and hope that people can spare some resources to support her project and help to crowd fund it into existence and, in the process, help to support our creative community and the production of quality Speculative Fiction.

Here are a few words about funding, the crowd-funding process, albino squid, Canada Arts Grants, vampires, moose, and MRIs by Ms. Moreno-Garcia:

Author photo of Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Author photo of Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Silvia Moreno-Garcia:

It started with the MRI. That’s how this whole fund-your-own-novel project began. [http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/young-blood–2/x/166963]

Okay, no, that’s not true. It started before that, but the MRI was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.

Flashback!

A few months ago I decided to apply for a Canada Arts Grant for $3,000. In case you are wondering what that is:

“The Creative Writing Grants component gives Canadian authors (emerging, mid-career and established) time to write new literary works, including novels, short stories, poetry, children’s and young adults’ literature, graphic novels, exploratory writing and literary non-fiction.”

I had been working on a novel called Young Blood, about Mexican vampires and drug-dealers and a teenage garbage collector. I just couldn’t find the time to finish it because time is money. So I thought, this is the perfect solution. They give me money, it buys me time, I finish the book.

I have published a bunch of things in a bunch of magazines and anthologies. In fact, the short story that inspired the novel appeared in Imaginarium 2012: The Best Canadian Speculative Writing. I also have my first short story collection, This Strange Way of Dying, out this summer from Canadian lit press Exile Editions.

I thought my extensive bibliography and this kind of stuff might be sufficient to sway the grant people, but alas, they said no. Later on, a friend told me I should have added some moose to the grant application. But moose in Mexico City? How the hell was I going to insert that into el DF? I think I could have forced the protagonist to eat a KD dinner, but I can’t remember if I ever had that in Mexico, though I admit that shit is addictive.

Anyway, having lost my grant due to a lack of moose, I started thinking of wild funding ideas. Scratch and win. Bank loan. Fundraising raised its head. After all, I organized a successful campaign for Sword and Mythos. We got $5,000 for that one. But it’s different to command the attention of a bunch of Cthulhuheads, a bubbling sub-genre, than to convince people to give $5,000 to me and a bunch of vampires.

I let go of the idea and went back to picking the lint from my belly button.

And then I got the call that they needed to schedule an MRI.

Now, I don’t want you to think I’m at death’s door. I just have a weird bump on the back of my neck. I never knew what the Black Eyed Peas song about the lady hump meant, but now I do. It probably means someone like me.

Anyway, we’ve been trying to figure out what the hump/lump is for a little while and then I got a call that I should get an MRI and the word oncologist was dropped.

That’s when I began to freak out and picture myself like that lady in Prometheus when she slices her belly and takes out an albino squid. Not that albino squid aren’t cool, but I began to consider the possibility one might be burrowing inside my brain. Not cool.

When the thoughts of squid-bursting begin to permeate one’s head, something funny happens. You realize you are mortal and suddenly you begin to consider all the shit you said you would do tomorrow and never get to. Like clean the closet. Visit Prague. Or finish the damn novel.

So I decided to finish and publish the novel. With the help of Indiegogo, just like I had done for Sword and Mythos (we made the front page of Indiegogo with that one). This means a lot of blogging and Tweeting. I realize I’m not someone famous. I’m afraid of making a fool of myself and raising a grand total of squat. Of course, there’s that other possibility that I might actually get the money.

I can’t say fundraising through Indiegogo or Kickstarter will work for everyone. But it offers a way to raise money that was not available to most writers until now. You don’t have to do the Canada grant dance or pray for an advance. You can try to do it yourself.

If you’re interested in learning more about Young Blood head here:  [http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/young-blood–2/x/166963]

I want to thank Silvia Moreno-Garcia for writing this insight into funding and Canadian SF and I also want to direct your attention to her crowd fund project. If you get a chance, check out Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s site so you can read her first chapter and see how absolutely fantastic her novel is shaping up to be!

Vamping Things Up – An Author Commentary by Ian Rogers

I would like to quickly (re)introduce you to Ian Rogers. Ian is the author of the Felix Renn series of supernoirturals, and has had his work published in various collections (including Imaginarium 2012 and Strange World) and markets such as Cemetery Dance, On Spec, Broken Pencil, and Supernatural Tales. His collection of Felix Renn stories titled SuperNOIRtural Tales will be published in November, 2012 and his collection of short stories Every House is Haunted is currently available for pre-order. You can read more about Ian Rogers at www.ian-rogers.com and more about the Black Lands at www.theblacklands.com .

If you have not yet done so, please feel free to check out my Interview with Ian Rogers on Speculating Canada at https://speculatingcanada.wordpress.com/2012/08/23/interview-with-ian-rogers/ and my reviews of his books by  clicking on Ian Rogers in the tags section to your left. I want to thank Mr. Rogers for this exciting revelation into the Black Lands Vampire.

Vamping Things Up

by Ian Rogers

 When I started writing stories set in the milieu of the Black Lands — a dark dimension filled with supernatural entities that lies next door to our own — I knew that at some point I’d have to write one about vampires.

So I decided to write it first.

Temporary Monsters is, ostensibly, a story about a designer drug that turns people into monsters. It introduces Felix Renn, a Toronto-based private investigator, his ex-wife/assistant Sandra, and the alternate reality in which they live where the supernatural exists as a matter of course.

When I decided to include vampires in my Black Lands bestiary, I knew I wanted to keep things simple. I wasn’t going to introduce a bunch of wacky new features to make my vampires stand out among the rest. Black Lands vampires are vulnerable to… Lucite! Yeah! And they don’t mind sunlight, but they real hate… uh, fog! Yeah, that’s it! A certain young-adult author has already done that, and her vampires are so different from the norm that some readers don’t even consider them to be real vampires.

Despite that, I knew that I had to be consistent. I wasn’t just writing stories here, I was building a world, and if I said vampires could be killed by a wooden stake to the heart, then I had to be sure to stick to that from then on.

My vampires, which is to say the ones that come from the Black Lands, are fairly standard. I tossed out most of the “magical” properties and tried to make them as real as possible. I tried to look at vampires, as I do all of the entities from the Black Lands, and think, What would it be like if they actually existed? What would a bunch of scientists and doctors make of them?

Black Lands vampires start with a virus. It has a long technical name, but most people in my world refer to it simply as the vampire virus, or VV. And if you think that sounds a bit like HIV, well, that’s not a coincidence. VV operates a bit like HIV, and in my world people are as afraid of getting one as they are of the other.

VV is passed through the blood and is highly contagious. It attacks the immune system, then everywhere else, until it induces a coma-like state. Then it really gets down to business. After a period of gestation, usually between 24-48 hours, the virus reawakens its host as a vampire.

Vampirism as a virus is not a new concept, but it was the one that felt like the best choice for my stories. The science I use is probably a bit wonky, but then I’m not Robin Cook writing medical thrillers over here. I want to make things seem real. I want readers to think, Well, I’m no medical doctor, but that sounds like it could happen. It’s Michael Crichton and frog DNA in Jurassic Park. Yes, a roomful of scientists could probably tell you why it wouldn’t work, but that’s not the point. It’s about plausibility combining with creativity to make fantasy.

Going with a few simple rules allows me to tell the stories I want to tell. I’m not as interested in bloody shoot-‘em-ups as I am about the characters. I like exploring how people live in a world where the supernatural exists. They don’t really understand it, which makes them afraid of it, unwilling to deal with it, but they can’t deny it.

In a story I have coming out this fall, “Midnight Blonde,” Felix Renn meets a woman who has been bitten by a vampire. She comes to him because she knows if she goes to the emergency room and tells them what happened, she’ll be put into federal quarantine.

Again, I tried to think what would happen in a world where the vampire virus exists. What would the authorities do to protect society against someone who was infected? I could see this poor woman locked in a room for observation — a room with a very large window to let in the sunlight, which would be the truest test to determine if she was infected. And if she wasn’t, if she turned out to be one of the lucky few who managed to avoid catching the virus? Well, she’d probably still be detained by the feds, being poked and prodded for years to come, maybe for the rest of her life.

This was the story I wanted to tell in “Midnight Blonde.” What would you do if you had a death sentence hovering over your head? Who would you go to for help? What hopes would you cling to?

Of course, Black Lands vampires aren’t just undead. That would make them closer to zombies (and yes, there are zombies in the Black Lands, but that’s a subject for another time). They have fangs, they crave blood, and they have above-average strength and reflexes. They’re not so strong and fast that I would call them “superhuman,” but you still wouldn’t want to meet one in a dark alley.

Their strongest feature is their regenerative ability. Black Lands vampires can be injured by physical trauma, and they do feel pain, but their bodies can repair themselves almost immediately. Shooting a vamp or stabbing one with a knife may slow it down, but it won’t kill it.

When it comes to killing Black Lands vampires, I again decided to stick to the common folklore. One way is sunlight. The other is a stake to the heart, cut off the head, and burn them in separate piles. Black Lands vamps don’t melt into goo or disappear in a puff of flame. Just like they don’t turn into bats or mist or summon wolves or sparkle.

For the most part, I’ve tried to keep my vampires rooted in the physical world, while leaving a few things about them in the dark (so to speak). Why are they vulnerable to wood? Why must the heart be pierced if they’re already dead? Why do they need to be decapitated?

Some of these things I know, and will reveal in future stories, while the rest… well, it’s the supernatural. It’s part of the fear. And that’s also part of the fun.