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!

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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.

Upcoming Author Commentary by Ian Rogers for Vampire Week

Earlier this month, I asked horror author Ian Rogers if he would be willing to do a short commentary piece on his Black Lands vampires for Speculating Canada’s Vampire Week. Thankfully, he accepted and I am looking forward to sharing his thoughts with you. This will be the first Author Commentary on Speculating Canada, and I am excited that Mr. Rogers was willing to take the time to create this. If you have not yet encountered Ian Rogers’ work, please click on his name under the “tags” section to the left of this post.

Here are some highlights from his discourse on the Black Lands vampire:

“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.”

“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.”

Check out Ian Rogers’ Author Commentary “Vamping Things Up” during Vampire Week (Sept 9-15, 2012).