Creating Community in Isolation

A Review of Julie Czerneda’s Riders of the Storm (Daw, 2008)
By Derek Newman-Stille riderss

Displacement is a factor that is prevalent in the lives of many people who have had to leave home for whatever reason. The finding of “home” is a nebulous, complex, and constantly changeable phenomena. Julie Czerneda explores the search for home in a foreign and confusing space in Riders of the Storm. On a planet with three self-aware and hugely biologically different species (the Om’ray, Oud, and Tikitik), agreements exist to keep the balance between these three peoples from shifting. Czerneda focusses on one group, a small band of travellers from the Om’ray who defy social customs by their biological differences. They threaten the balance that the Om’ray seek to maintain by the fact that they are different, that they represent change in a society that resists change and prefers to conceive of existance only in the form of living people (ignoring notions of the past). This small group of travellers are manifesting new abilities beyond the natural abilities of the Om’ray, which include telepathy, healing, collective dreaming.

The telepathy of the Om’ray has created a notion of fundamental racism. Since they are only able to telepathically sense each other, they cast all other non-Om’ray groups as “not real”. They see themselves as the centre of the world and believe that the world only exists where they are. They have created an isolated society both from other races, but also from other periods of time. They see their society as always having been the same, that history does not exist and isn’t worth exploring because it would suggest that things were capable of changing.

Aryl Sarc has been forced to become the leader for her small band of Om’ray, leading them on a journey that they believe to be impossible because it represents the possibility of change, something her society resists, and the necessity of shifting the status quo. Aryl doesn’t seek leadership, but she is a figure who represents change by her very body – she has abilities that are far beyond other Om’ray and the uncertainty within her body makes her more willing to accept uncertainties and therefore willing to confront challenges.

In a society that focusses on static notions of culture (the idea that things don’t change) and has an interest in keeping secrets, Aryl tries to make everything open to her people. She is interested in opening questions in a society that largely accepts things unquestioningly. She and her group of exiles finds an abandoned Om’ray village, one that presents the inevitability that things do, in fact, change. It represents a place for a new start and one that embodies history, opened secrets, and the challenge and potentialities of a new future that is different from the now. The uncertainty of this village, Sona, makes it an ideal place for a changeable people.

The group of exiles have to create a new sense of home in a place that is embodied by history, a history that speaks to them (literally through dreams about the past and figuratively through their need to interpret objects that have remained). Those who have been exiled out of a fear of change, now have to live with change and the flexibility, fluidity, and the general flux that is represented by an uncertain future. They seek to create an idea of belonging in a place that is different, that has history, and that keeps reminding them that things can and do change. They are haunted by the reminder that the land they are on predates them.

Aryl becomes more comfortable with ideas of change and with notions that would have been considered threats to her society. She is able to help her society to accept and be comfortable with ideas of chance. Aryl’s comfort with change makes her an ideal person to speak to people of other races – she is willing to speak to the Oud, the Tikitik, and even a human visitor to her planet. She is not restrained to notions of the Om’ray’s singularity and superior significance. She learns to be willing to accept that those who are “not real”, may in fact just be different and that intercultural communication, although uncertain and potentially confusing, is worth approaching. When trying to approach the Oud and Tikitik, she learns from the human visitor to her world, Marcus, that she will need to take into account both cultural differences and also biological differences since what is biologically normal for the Oud would be threatening for the more vulnerable Om’ray.

As outsiders wherever they end up going, Aryl’s group of exiles create community through their willingness to accept change, to create community through difference and to cooperate with others who their society traditionally resists or views as insignificant.

You can explore Riders of the Storm and other books of the Clan Chronicles series through Julie Czerneda’s website at http://www.czerneda.com/sf/clan.html .

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The Bookstore of Belonging

A review of Claude Lalumiere’s The Door To Lost Pages (ChiZine Publications, 2011)
By Derek Newman-Stille

Cover Art for The Door To Lost Pages courtesy of http://chizinepub.com/books/lost_pages.php

Cover Art for The Door To Lost Pages courtesy of ChiZine Publications

In The Door To Lost Pages, Claude Lalumiere once again shows his ability to add a hint of the mythic to the underpinnings of reality and challenge the hegemony of the real by suggesting that there is more to the world than what we deem to be real. Lalumiere creates the ideal bookstore, the one that every person who has been a social outsider dreams about, a place to escape from the humdrum world around them and find a place to belong and a place that acknowledges that reality itself may be more diverse than mainstream society accepts or portrays it to be.

Lost Pages is the ideal bookstore for those who have been cast as “weird” to find themselves. It captures the ability of bookstores to create a place of escape and comfort for many of us who are social outsiders. Lost Pages is a place OF the strange and FOR the strange. It is a physical embodiment of the fringe, existing on the edge of reality and changeable, only really noticed by those who need it. Lalumiere illustrates that stories and myths themselves are places of belonging, as uncomfortable, weird, and simultaneously homey as the people who read them. The space between words is one where one can discover a place of belonging, discover one self, and be able to be comfortable and even revel in being weird, different, socially abject.

As with many of his stories, Lalumiere’s The Door To Lost Pages evokes in the reader a desire to question that reality is just what we see or make of it. He plays with intersections of multiple realities, duplicates, changeable worlds, and diversity of perception. He acknowledges that for a world of diverse people, the way we see the world, the way we define reality, is itself diverse, multiple, and changeable. We do live in a world of multiple realities and every person has their own reality, their own way of viewing the world and we neither can nor do see what others see, but we need to learn to try.

Claude Lalumiere evokes the dreaming mind, the subconscious, unconscious, superconscious, and the semi-permeable barrier between dream and reality becomes the space between one page and the next.

You can read more about Claude Lalumiere at his website at http://lostmyths.net/claude/ . To explore The Door To Lost Pages, you can visit ChiZine Publications’ website at http://chizinepub.com/ .