Haunting Disability

A review of Mark Leslie’s “Hereinafter Referred to as the Ghost” in Tesseracts Seventeen: Speculating Canada from Coast to Coast (Edge, 2013)
By Derek Newman-Stille

Cover Photo for Tesseracts Seventeen: Speculating Canada from Coast to Coast courtesy of http://www.edgewebsite.com/books/tess17/t17-catalog.html

Cover Photo for Tesseracts Seventeen: Speculating Canada from Coast to Coast courtesy of http://www.edgewebsite.com/books/tess17/t17-catalog.html

With our youth-obsessed culture, actors generally only have a very short period in which to be celebrated for their acting career before they are viewed as “old”, “tired”, and they begin to be passed over for roles…. So, what happens when a ghost known for his great performances as other ghosts and haunting phenomena in the past starts to lose his power to change forms, his power to create a chill in the air, and his ability to fade in and out of mortal sight?

Mark Leslie’s “Hereinafter Referred to as the Ghost” explores the UNlife of Patrick Collins, a ghost who has stretched his abilities to the limit and now is experiencing his decline as one of the great haunting actors of the past. Ghosts take on a diversity of haunting roles, performing the expectations of human beings about famous historical locations, inspiring hope and imagination in human witnesses about the greater extent of reality. Patrick had been hired to perform multiple haunting roles in the past: the Flying Dutchman, Anne Boleyn, the Countess of Salisbury, taking roles as all of the great ghosts of history and adding to their mythology. But lately he has been feeling his age and losing his abilities. It hurts to transform into the shapes of other ghosts and leaves him with a massive headache, when he tries to take on female forms he ends up still looking like a man. The pain and loss of ability reminds him of the arthritis he developed late in his human life, but he persists in trying to take on big acts, wanting to maintain his reputation as one of the great ghost actors.

Patrick is losing contracts with Ghostlife Experiences, passed over for younger specters with less experience and his reputation is declining as he isn’t able to take on the roles that he used to. What is a ghost to do when the world calls for big, showy performances that his body can no longer handle?

Mark Leslie takes a critical look at changes in ability and the accommodations that accompany them. Abstracting this experience of aging and changes in ability over time onto the figure of the ghost, he invites us to look at the notion that glory is fleeting, changeable, and that as we age, we are in a continual process of mourning what we once saw ourselves as capable of doing.

You can explore Mark Leslie’s work at http://markleslie.ca/ .

Read more about the collection Tesseracts Seventeen: Speculating Canada from Coast to Coast on Edge’s website at http://www.edgewebsite.com/books/tess17/t17-catalog.html

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Interview with Michelle Carraway about The Courtesan Prince Play.

As someone who has been involved in theatre in the past and has acted in both stage performances and radio dramas, I was quite excited when I heard that Lynda Williams’ The Courtesan Prince was being converted into a live theatrical performance. I have often wondered what it would be like to act in a performance of speculative fiction, so I was quite excited that Michelle Carraway has allowed me to do this interview with her to share some of those quirky theatrical insights with the readers.

The performances of The Courtesan Prince will take place in November 2013 and will occur at  The River Rock Casino (tentative venue, may be subject to change)

A glimpse of sword-fighting rehearsals for The Courtesan Prince Play, courtesy of Michelle Carraway.

A glimpse of sword-fighting rehearsals for The Courtesan Prince Play, courtesy of Michelle Carraway.

Spec Can: Could you tell us a little bit about the transformation of Lynda Williams’ book The Courtesan Prince into a live performance?

Michelle Carraway:  Transforming “The Courtesan Prince” into a play was remarkably easy.  Lynda Williams’ style is a lot like a play of Shakespeare’s if it was written as a novel rather then as a play.

Courtesan Prince reads like a classic fairy tale and translating it into a play has been a very pleasurable experience. It is a rags to riches story about a noble prince who was stolen away by the machinations of  royal intrigue.  Forced into humiliation, the prince is always noble and his true nature shines forth despite  his situation. Courtesan Prince  is filled with the joy of restoration of position and wrongs being righted.  These are all traits that fit well with format of a play.

If you add in the many cases of mistaken identity and the spice of a collision of cultures, you have many of the ingredients that Lynda wrote into The Courtesan Prince and you can easily see why I was inspired to transform the novel into  a play for everyone to enjoy.

Spec Can: What inspired you to change Lynda Williams’ The Courtesan Prince into a play?

Michelle Carraway: The inspiration was mostly in listening to Lynda Williams read her novels out loud.  I was staying with Lynda and her family for a couple of weeks and every night, Lynda would read a chapter of one of her novels.  Listening to the stories that I had heard before in this context I was inspired to have other people see the stories in the same light as I was seeing them.

When Lynda reads her stories, she can’t help but to be a dramatic reader as all of her characters are alive inside of her and she channels them forth both when she writes and when she re-reads the stories.

My imagination was taken by the idea of sharing what I was seeing with a larger audience.  As I began to formulate this as an idea I began to ‘find’ the characters very vividly in other people who I then cast to play the parts.  The stories that Lynda Williams writes want to be enjoyed by people and the characters want to be seen.  My play is a venue for them that I am honoured to be able to provide.

Spec Can: What changes to the story of The Courtesan Prince did you have to do in order to change it into a play?

Michelle Carraway: The biggest changes that I have made to the story are simplifications.  I am closely adhering to Lynda’s main plot, that of the commoner Von becoming Prince Amel and to the theme of cultures colliding.

Many sub plots and minor characters have been cut from the play in order to keep it to a level that I can manage, both as a director and as a play wright.

There won’t be any big surprises for fans of the Okal Rel Universe although I’m sure that there will be some longing for beloved minor characters and the rich subplots that fill the story.

The subplots are wealthy enough to fill out a whole play of their own so the main characters, Von and Ann are the only ones who are closely followed.

Spec Can: What are some key things that you are hoping to capture in the performance?

Michelle Carraway:I am hoping to capture the passion and purity that Lynda Williams’ writes into her characters.  She is a writer who doesn’t machinate against her audience or her characters and she only writes the truth of the story.  I hope to capture that  clarity in my version of Courtesan Prince.

I also hope to capture the way that Lynda brought a new freshness to a rags to riches story and the depth of the characters that play in it.

Spec Can: Could you tell us a little bit about the actors and actresses involved?

Actors preparing a scene for The Courtesan Prince play (Ann of New Beach and Thomas Revert), Courtesy of Michelle Carraway.

Actors preparing a scene for The Courtesan Prince play (Ann of New Beach and Thomas Revert), Courtesy of Michelle Carraway.

Michelle Carraway: The actors and actresses that I have selected so far are all uniformly passionate about their craft and enthusiastic to the telling of a beautiful story.

They all come from very different backgrounds although they are all local to Vancouver and are doing the play out of love of the story and the craft.  Since we have started to get together and read the scripts, we have become fast friends and have begun working as a group on some other fun projects that we have all inspired in each other.

The Courtesan Prince  play is much like a creative collective rather than a Broadway play. You will find the same honest devotion that Lynda Williams writes with in each of the cast and crew members.

To find out more about the individual actors and actresses you can go to our blog site and read bios and see pictures of them. They have all agreed to write a short essay about how they felt when they first met the character that they are playing and their enthusiasm for them.

Spec Can: Were there any particular looks or personalities you were hoping to capture in your casting call?

Michelle Carraway: I have definitely been looking for the right person for each part.  There are still several parts that are not cast yet as I search for the right person for the job.

Ann of New Beach, played by Nicole Anthony, looks as though she stepped off of the cover of The Courtesan Prince.  When she reads the part of Ann she has exclaimed on several occasions: ‘I LOVE Ann, she is so my new hero!’.

Anthony Stark, who plays the part of Von who becomes Prince Amel, looks almost identical to Lynda Williams’ many loving descriptions of Amel.  When I announced that he would be playing the role at a party, all eyes turned to Anthony, then, almost as one, everyone began to nod and said, ‘Yeah, I can totally see him as Amel.”

Spec Can: What initial chemistry have you seen between the performers? How will this work for the stage or provide challenges?

A glimpse into rehearsals for The Courtesan Prince Play, courtesy of Michelle Carraway

A glimpse into rehearsals for The Courtesan Prince Play, courtesy of Michelle Carraway

Michelle Carraway:  As the actors meet each other and start to read together they have found some great chemistry.  The actors who play Thomas and Ann went to acting school together and they naturally play with each other at gentle jibes that flower marvelously into the lascivious looks and open approaches  from Thomas and the hard nudges that Ann responds to Thomas with.

As everyone becomes friends their ability to interact with physical comedy and force improves as well and provides flavor and validity to the scenes.

Spec Can: What are you doing about the set? What are some key features of the set that really excite you?

Michelle Carraway:  The sets will be painted on a fabric background so that they can be rolled up when we are finished and used for future productions.

As with any production a lot of what will make it all come together is a lot of creativity and hopefully some good luck.

Spec Can: What are some of the exciting things you are hoping to do about costumes?

Michelle Carraway: Costumes are going to be a group effort.  As many of the styles are a sort of fantasy Restoration era there will be a lot of corsets and fancy dress for women and men both.

Local shops are excited for the opportunity to be involved in the ORU legacy and many of the more valuable pieces, such as corsets have been offered for use in the play by local stores such as “Lace Embrace”.

Spec Can: How closely are you working with Lynda Williams on this performance? What input has she provided to the process so far?

Michelle Carraway: I have been working quite closely with Lynda Williams and also with her daughter, Jennifer Lott to read over the play for ideas for inaccuracy or misinterpretation.  So far everyone seems happy with the streamlined version of Courtesan Prince.  Lynda is very pragmatic of the need to simplify down to the major plotline and characters in order to put the story into a form short enough to put on stage.

Spec Can: What are some of the initial challenges to the performance that you have encountered so far?

Michelle Carraway: The initial challenges thus far have been finding all the right people to play the characters.  The two characters, Di Mon Monitum and Ranar of Rire have been the hardest to cast so far.   Capturing their essential dignity and motivation will be a difficult task that still awaits the right actors.

Spec Can: From my own years in the theatre, I know there are always those funny behind-the-scenes moments that really bind a cast together. What are some of the quirky, funny things that have happened so far?

Michelle Carraway: When I first met Andre Roshkov, the actor who plays Thomas Revert, I referred to him as Thomas within two sentences of having met him before he even read his first lines as Thomas.

Spec Can: What special effects (lighting, stage movement, etc.) are you using for this performance?

Michelle Carraway: I am getting the assistance of professional fencers in order to choreograph the fight scenes for the play.

I am also considering utilizing the expertise of local talented burlesque dancers for various scenes, especially the ones that  take place at a brothel.

Spec Can: What other performances have you directed? What directing experience do you have before this?

Michelle Carraway: I have directed several independent movies, including Truth and Wine which is still in production.  I have also directed many plays over the years including The Tempest and A Mid-summer’s Nights dream.

Spec Can: What other Canadian Speculative Fiction would you like to see transformed into performances?

Michelle Carraway: I would love to see some of Margaret Atwood’s writing such as After the Deluge and Oryx and Crake transformed into performances.  I think that you could tantalize audiences with nearly all speculative fiction transformed into a live performance. Imagine what fun it would be to do a performance of the The Life of Pi!   If it is done is such a way that the audience accepts the actors as the embodiment of their beloved characters and as long as scripts follow the reality of the novels to the best of their ability, it is always a winning combination.

Spec Can: Is there anything further you would like to add?

Michelle Carraway: Definitely! Stay tuned for more information and updates.  Everyone needs to come and see this play. Lynda Williams has encompassed an entire universe in her novels and this play is an expression of a great Canadian’s achievements.  It is the pride of Canada that we produce so many wonderful creative people but it is our shame that they aren’t promoted and supported more then they are.  Show your support for our home grown achievements  and have a great time while you do it.

Cheers!

I want to thank Ms. Carraway for this exciting glimpse into the world of speculative fiction theatre and for letting us see her creative process as it unfolds. This has been a great opportunity to see the collaborative writing process and I hope to hear more from Michelle Carraway and Lynda Williams about this project as it unfolds. 

Upcoming interview on Wednesday April 3rd with Michelle Carraway about The Courtesan Prince Play.

As someone who has an incredible love of the theatre and of speculative fiction, I have always been interested in portrayals of the speculative on stage. I was very excited to hear from Lynda Williams that her novel The Courtesan Prince was being converted into a stage performance by Michelle Carraway. It is with great excitement that Michelle  Carraway was willing to do an interview with me and provide me with insights on all of those little elements of theatre that I miss from my years on stage.

Michelle is both writing the theatrical adaptation of The Courtesan Prince as well as directing it, allowing her creative vision that came out of reading Lynda Williams’ work to be shaped on the stage.

Here are a few sneak peaks about our upcoming interview on Wednesday April 3:

Michelle Carraway:  “Courtesan Prince reads like a classic fairy tale and translating it into a play has been a very pleasurable experience. It is a rags to riches story about a noble prince who was stolen away by the machinations of  royal intrigue.  Forced into humiliation, the prince is always noble and his true nature shines forth despite  his situation. Courtesan Prince  is filled with the joy of restoration of position and wrongs being righted.  These are all traits that fit well with format of a play.”

Actors preparing a scene for The Courtesan Prince play (Ann of New Beach and Thomas Revert), Courtesy of Michelle Carraway.

Actors preparing a scene for The Courtesan Prince play (Ann of New Beach and Thomas Revert), Courtesy of Michelle Carraway.

Michelle Carraway: “I was inspired to have other people see the stories in the same light as I was seeing them.”

Michelle Carraway: “The actors and actresses that I have selected so far are all uniformly passionate about their craft and enthusiastic to the telling of a beautiful story.”

Michelle Carraway:The Courtesan Prince  play is much like a creative collective rather than a Broadway play.”

Michelle Carraway:  “As the actors meet each other and start to read together they have found some great chemistry…. As everyone becomes friends their ability to interact with physical comedy and force improves as well and provides flavor and validity to the scenes.”

Michelle Carraway: “As with any production a lot of what will make it all come together is a lot of creativity and hopefully some good luck.”

Michelle Carraway: “Costumes are going to be a group effort.  As many of the styles are a sort of fantasy Restoration era there will be a lot of corsets and fancy dress for women and men both.”

Michelle Carraway: “I think that you could tantalize audiences with nearly all speculative fiction transformed into a live performance.”

This interview was very appropriately timed as I found out about Michelle Carraway’s adaptation of The Courtesan Prince after accidentally stumbling across a radio play that I directed on Trent Radio many years ago when flipping through radio stations. My nostalgia for my theatre years was heightened and I couldn’t believe that I had the opportunity to hear about Ms. Carraway’s process as she adapted and directed this work of Speculative Fiction.

Check out Speculating Canada on Wednesday, April 3 for our full interview and I will make sure to keep you informed of Ms. Carraway’s adaptation as it develops. Hear about her use of special effects, the quirkiness of interactions between actors, and the excitement of adapting a novel for the stage.

Interview with Corey Redekop

An interview of Corey Redekop
By Derek Newman-Stille

Author photo courtesy of Corey Redekop

Author photo courtesy of Corey Redekop

Wouldn’t the world be better if we just asked the monsters politely if they could please not eat us at the moment? Corey Redekop and I had a chance in this interview to explore the figure of the monster and its role as a representation of the social outcast, the rejected. It is great to talk to an author who shares my belief that horror and SF in general can be a medium of social change. I hope that you enjoy our interview as much as I enjoyed talking to Corey Redekop.

Spec Can: Could you tell us a little bit about yourself to begin this interview?

Corey Redekop: I was hatched in the Canadian north, and spent the next 18 years building up my strength to order to escape. After bouncing around for a few decades, I wrote my debut novel Shelf Monkey, which helped open some doors I didn’t know existed. Currently I eke out a living as publicist for book publisher Goose Lane Editions in Fredericton, NB.

Spec Can: Why is the zombie so appealing to people right now? What has led to the current excitement about the figure of the zombie?

Corey Redekop: It’s well known that people flock to monsters and horror in times of stress, which explains the popularity of giant radioactive monsters during the beginnings of the nuclear age. I don’t know why zombies in particular have taken off. I think it has to do with the fear that we are the ultimate monsters in our world. If we want to better this planet, we have to fight our own fears, our own weaknesses, and our own ignorance.

Spec Can: What are some of the things that the zombie can represent in our society?

Corey Redekop: Zombies are a terrifically malleable monster, the “jack of all trades” of symbolism, capable of subtextually representing almost anything we care to name. Crime, disease, ego, sexuality, bureaucrats, consumerism, class warfare, conservatives; you name it, they can do it.

Spec Can: What myths of the zombie influenced the type of zombie that you created in Husk and what zombie myths fascinated you most?

Cover Photo of Husk, courtesy of the author

Cover Photo of Husk, courtesy of the author

Corey Redekop: Much of my initial idea had to do with the resurrection myths that permeate modern and ancient religions. In a real sense, they may be the progenitors to the zombie of today. What was Jesus post-death, really, if not a zombie with functioning brain? In my original manuscript, I played a lot more with this theme, trying to push the rotting corpse of Sheldon into a messiah figure. By combining the two, I tried to find a way that Sheldon could be both a zombie in the b-movie Hollywood sense and a fully sensate individual.

Spec Can: What made you decide to write Husk from the perspective of the zombie?

Corey Redekop: I didn’t want another “us vs. them” story. I like stories about outsiders and loners, which all monsters are to some extent. I also like tales where protagonists have to adapt or fight against something completely out of their control. (Which, I suppose, is the basis for all fiction, now that I think about it).

I love body horror, which is horror of the most unsettling sort; the horror of being trapped within flesh, a prisoner of your own DNA. David Cronenberg — whose movies The Fly, The Brood, and Videodrome are required viewing for those who appreciate both the form and a great mix of gore and intelligence — is the preeminent purveyor of the theme, and I wish he’d go back to it. I also find the idea of a man continually trying to keep his innards in check very funny, as well as gross; I recommend Stuart Gordon’s Re-Animator and From Beyond as two examples of just absolutely grotesque transmogrifications of the human form that are horrifying and horrifying funny. It seemed natural that I combine the two.

Spec Can: Is there something distinctive about Canadian horror? How so? What distinguishes it?

Corey Redekop: All horror is about coming across some form of evil; Canadian horror is about confronting such evil with unfailing politeness. Why thrust a wooden stake through the heart of the vampire when a strongly worded letter can be just as effective? “Dear ancient evil; I must strongly object to your recent killing spree…” (joke)

Horror is horror, no matter who writes it. I don’t think that there’s a necessarily Canadian POV that permeates northern horror, other than possibly setting (which doesn’t even work, since fiction crosses borders with such ease; one of my favourite horror novels, Cabal by Clive Barker, is set in Alberta, yet the author is British). I think this may be because fear is a primal instinct, something shared between peoples across the globe. Authors such as Andrew Pyper, David Nickle, Gemma Files, Michael Rowe, Susie Moloney, Ian Rogers, and Tony Burgess stand firmly with the best horror fiction available in the world. This could be because horror authors are all of a similar breed, a sect of damaged individuals who yearn to explore the darker corners of the world. Some are darker than others, but all appreciate what confronting our demons can achieve.

Spec Can: In your novel Husk, you wrote about a gay zombie. What inspired you to make your zombie character gay?

Corey Redekop: I actually didn’t know Sheldon was gay until (*SPOILER*) he killed his boyfriend. It just wrote out that way, but as soon as it did, I knew there could be no other choice. Sheldon has always been uncomfortable as himself, which may explain his striving to be an actor. He was never truly at ease with his homosexuality, a discomfort that can be placed at the feet of domineering religious mother. In our society, homosexuality is one of the last personal characteristics that some people feel very comfortable discriminating against because of their blatant fears and willful misreading of age-old texts that have very little bearing on the world of today (although this is lessening, thank God). Allowing Sheldon that experience informs his refusal to fully “monster up” and embrace his new identity as a member of the undead.

Spec Can: What can horror reveal about ‘otherness’ and the outsider experience?

Corey Redekop: In Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend, the hero Neville, after fighting vampires for what seems like ages, suddenly understands himself to be the outsider, the monster that preys on innocent victims. Similarly, in Cabal, Boone, filled with self-loathing and believing himself a monster, realizes that the monsters are in actuality the prey, living forever in fear of humanity. Like the best of any fiction, horror allows us to turn the mirror and see ourselves as others see us, as monsters in our own right. This isn’t meant to excuse the monstrous acts of others, of course, but is it right to condemn the monster (or the outsider) as evil simply for following its own instincts? A zombie isn’t intrinsically evil; it is simply following an impulse we do not share. A vampire is only trying to survive, the same as us, reacting in the same way as any animal that has its habitat threatened through civilization’s continuing encroachment.

Spec Can: Can horror be a medium for empowering people who have been oppressed? How so?

Corey Redekop: Storytelling can always be empowering, and using elements of horror in the medium is no different. Look at how many authors are imprisoned for their stories; there is great power in words and tales, which explains why some governments are so wary and distrustful of their artists. The more we discuss a subject, the more people begin to understand it, come to grips with it, and accept it. This is what some people find so dangerous. The world is a place of constant change and evolution, and that scares some people to the core of their being. This is why Harry Potter gets challenged and banned, because in its own way it challenges some people’s belief as to the way the world works.

Spec Can: Why does horror literature show such a fascination with the body? What does the body interest us so much?804381_10151519200179402_957214904_n

Corey Redekop: The fascination lies in the body’s fragility. The prick of a pin can lead to infection; the eating of a peanut may close our breathing passages. It doesn’t take much to kill us, really, and while we may fight disease, we all know that it is ultimately a losing battle.

There’s also the absolute unfairness of the body that terrifies us. When people die from outside actions, there is always a reason we can attach a form of blame to. The girder wasn’t built to specifications, the terrorist was angry at government inaction, the brakes on the bus failed. We get that; we can deal with it rationally. When our body rebels, however, we have no one to blame, no one to confront, no one to fight back against. That body you took such good care of is now a prison you never escape from. You could apply the term Kafkaesque to the process, although the machinations of the body is even more unfathomable that poor Josef K’s predicament.

Spec Can: What can Speculative Fiction do that ‘realist’ fiction can’t?

Corey Redekop: When people read speculative fiction, they are already primed to accept anything that would, under almost every other circumstance, be viewed as ludicrous. Once you accept that (in the world you’ve just begun reading about) starships travel faster than the speed of light, the colour of your hair may lead to insanity, a society of frog-people live beneath the surface of the lake, Trafalmadorians can experience any point in time at will, and the dead get up and walk around and hold down a job, you’re up for anything.

Speculative makes the impossible possible and the subtext palatable. A reader may not want to read a treatise on the damaging mixture of religion and politics, but a reader will read an enormous set of volumes on just that theme as long as its set on Arrakis. A viewer will not care to sit through a documentary on racial violence, but will watch again and again a tale of space prawns unwilling trapped in South Africa.

I actually don’t care for the term, actually; by definition, all fiction is “speculative.” It feels like a cheat to me, a way of elevating a genre through semantics. I’m all for declaring all genre classifications null and void. However, the librarian in me protests that form of anarchy, because then where would we put the books?

Spec Can: What drew you to write speculative fiction? Why do you write it?

Corey Redekop: This is the only spec-fic I’ve ever written, and I’m not sure I’ll return to the genre soon (I’m now starting work on a crime novel). But I love it. My childhood was made up of equal parts Star Trek, Star Wars, The Prisoner, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, The Wild Wild West, Stephen King, and Monty Python’s Flying Circus. I wasn’t popular as a kid, so most of my free time was spent in my imaginations, and the more outlets I could find, the better. I love stories that give you an alternate view of the world, a viewpoint you never considered.

Spec Can: What role can Speculative Fiction have in provoking people to think about new things and new ideas?

Corey Redekop: Fiction pushes at the boundary of what’s possible, and encourages readers to learn from example and then create themselves what they love in their stories. We dreamed of space travel through our stories, and then achieved it. Jules Verne and H.G. Wells were enormously influential, as is William Gibson today. Yet we’ve now advanced to such a point where such outward innovation has almost caught up to our imaginations. I think speculative fiction will have to look inward now, to expanding our consciousness beyond mortal limits. We see hints of this in talk of Artificial Intelligence and The Singularity.

Speculative fiction can also act as a warning by providing glimpses at what may happen should science go awry. Margaret Atwood’s books are terrific examples of real-world scenarios and advancements having devastating consequences.

Spec Can: Is there anything distinctly Canadian about the worlds and characters you create?

Corey Redekop: I don’t know. I write what I want, and leave the discussion on subtext and cultural influences to others. I like to think my protagonists so far have been polite, which works to their disadvantage.

Spec Can: In Husk, medical doctors are largely corrupt and disinterested in the human element. They privilege their research and economic factors over humane treatment. What influenced this image of science?

Corey Redekop: I certainly didn’t mean for my doctors to infer a distrust of the medical profession. I think doctors (the good ones) are some of the noblest people of the planet. I far more distrust corporations that underwrite research, politicians who suppress research and innovation because of ideological bent, and good old basic human greed. I also follow Vonnegut’s satirical writing rule, “Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them—in order that the reader may see what they are made of.” I need bad things to happen to Sheldon, and uncaring scientists seemed a good way to test his mettle.

Spec Can: Why focus Husk on an actor? What is the significance of the acting profession and how does it relate to your story line?

Corey Redekop: I thought acting would be a fine way for Sheldon to avoid being himself. Acting can be a psychologically damaging profession (I know from experience), and I thought it a nice touch that Sheldon can’t seem to get anywhere either as himself. I also wanted to play with some of the themes of fame, or more specifically, celebrity. I hate that in this world you can become a celebrity by virtue of being an absolute asshole with no redeeming qualities who somehow lucked into having a television camera catch every revolting act. Sheldon wanted fame, but not celebrity.

Spec Can: Is there anything further that you would like to add to this interview?

Corey Redekop: Only that the response has been far greater than anything I could have hoped for. I’m truly gratified that people have so enjoyed such a deeply weird story.

I want to thank Corey Redekop for this insightful and thought-provoking interview, as well as for his sense of humour. It is always delightful to talk to someone who can ponder about the nature of the Outsider effect in our society and then also joke about Canadian politeness.

 

If you haven’t had a chance yet, you can check out my review of Husk at https://speculatingcanada.wordpress.com/2013/02/25/five-stages-of-grieving-yourself/  and you can explore Corey Redekop’s website at http://www.coreyredekop.ca/ to find out a bit more about him and his upcoming projects.

Five Stages of Grieving Yourself

A Review of Corey Redekop’s Husk (ECW Press, 2012)
By Derek Newman-Stille

Cover Photo of Husk, courtesy of the author

Cover Photo of Husk, courtesy of the author

Corey Redekop’s Husk is a visceral, body novel with philosophical ponderings on existence. Redekop’s protagonist is a queer-oriented zombie actor, trapped in consciousness as his body deteriorates around him. The reader is put into the position of experiencing death and resurrection into a desiccated body and Redekop captures the feel of that experience – the emotional, physical, and psychological upheaval that would accompany the shift into a new form of bodily existence. His zombie protagonist, Sheldon, pines over the simple things that his body used to be able to do like sneezing, breathing, and yawning and he becomes obsessed with these lost experiences and the feeling that they were linked to his human experience.

Sheldon is a zombie, an Other, who pines for and grieves for his humanity. He fights the sociopathic impulse to feed on friends and family and the dissociation from the human experience that comes with his new state of being and the switch to viewing human beings as food. He struggles to make connections with others despite the rise in hunger when he approaches human contact. He has to re-train his mind and body to adapt to this new existence – to the loss of human contact and to the deterioration of his body.

As a horror actor, he is met with the idea that identity can be performed. Even on a Reality TV show, he is asked to perform his queer identity for an audience, play it up so that the audience can see that he fits with their stereotypes. But, his new body and change in existence forces him to come to terms with reality and see the falseness of social performance. Despite having to play human and adapt to human customs (and the little taboo against cannibalism), he sees existence more clearly. He watches as his agent spin doctors his zombieism into a sensationalist sales experience, marketing him for the masses, and sees the hollowness of that performance and that she is perhaps more sociopathic in her desire to make money and gain power than he is in his desire for human flesh.

Despite the deeper philosophical implications of exploring the mind and the body as a site of the mind as well, Corey Redekop infuses his work with humour, recognising the interrelationship of horror and humour, the little bubbles of laughter that arise when one is truly terrified, and the exaggeration of emotional experience that comes when one faces true horror. The horror of the novel amplifies its humour and the humour of the novel boosts the feeling of fear and revulsion.

The underlying horror that Corey Redekop evokes in this novel is not the fear of being consumed by the zombie (as is often the case with many zombie books and films), but rather the existential questions – the fear of being trapped in a state of awareness within a rotting body, being disembodied from consciousness and having no way to interact with the world around you.

To read more about Corey Redekop, you can visit his website at http://www.coreyredekop.ca/ . To get a copy of Husk for yourself, visit ECW press at http://www.ecwpress.com/