Authors in Quarantine – Kate Heartfield

With this this series, I am hoping to capture how this cultural moment is affecting our speculative fiction authors and how our authors are surviving during the COVID-19 outbreak

Spec Can: What have you been up to during the COVID-19 outbreak?

Kate Heartfield: The priority has been distance learning for my 10-year-old son, and I’ve also carried on with my regular freelance editing and online teaching jobs, in addition to trying to keep up with writing.

Even though I haven’t really had any extra time, I have been starting all kinds of new creative projects, because it helps my mental health. Projects help to remind me that today is different from yesterday and tomorrow will be different again, that change will happen. And I’ve always used work as a coping mechanism, rightly or wrongly! So in addition to everything else, I’ve been painting and assembling a hurdy-gurdy from a kit, baking a lot, and trying to get my garden in decent shape. I’ve signed up for an online course in Old Norse, because I figure, if not now, when? A lot of my projects (such as baking bread and making masks) also serve to help our household cope with the pandemic.

I’ve also been allowing myself the time to do a fair bit of relaxation activity, such as playing Civilization VI (my comfort game!) and watching TV with my partner and son. We just finished Tales from the Loop and are currently finishing up the last season of Clone Wars together.

Spec Can: How are you adapting to social distancing?

Kate Heartfield: Our household is pretty fortunate, all things considered. My partner, my son and I are all introvert homebodies at the best of times, so on a day to day basis it doesn’t feel that strange. But the uncertainty about the future, the stress of distance learning and the inability to see people I love is wearing, for sure. I feel like my heart is a rubber band that’s been stretched into the same position for two months and is weakening at the edges.

I’ve been using Zoom and other online platforms to keep in touch as much as I can with my writing community, although I miss all my writer pals terribly and nothing can make up for their physical presence. I’m taking part in two virtual conventions this month, including the Nebula awards weekend at the end of May, and that helps to keep me in touch too.

Spec Can: How is the outbreak affecting your writing?

Kate Heartfield: My creative brain is my coping mechanism, so I’m enjoying dreaming and plotting out my current novel. But when it comes time to sit down and write, I frequently struggle these days with a kind of brain freeze — I can’t execute and get the words down very well. An effect of long-term low-level stress, I think, and I’m sure a lot of us are feeling the same way. Also, I’ve lost a lot of the options I used to have to get into a fresh headspace by going to work at the library or my favourite coffee shop, which sounds trivial but was a bigger part of my working life than I realized.

So it’s slower than I’d like, but I’m getting work done. Soon, my editor will send some edits for my next novel, The Embroidered Book, which is coming out next year. When that happens, that will become my writing priority. In the meantime, I’m working on a novel that isn’t sold yet, so I don’t have a deadline, which is a blessing in some ways as it means there’s less stress, but it also makes it hard to keep at it, because writing a novel on spec is an implicit act of faith in the future and that’s hard right now. I really love the book, so that’s helping. I also wrote a story for The New Decameron Project, which was great, because it gave me a reason to take out an old half-finished concept and finish it up. The result was a story called “In a Hansom Cab at the Liberty Street Ferry Terminal” and it gave me great joy to write.


Interviewed by Derek Newman-Stille MA, PhD ABD

Authors in Quarantine – Cait Gordon

With this this series, I am hoping to capture how this cultural moment is affecting our speculative fiction authors and how our authors are surviving during the COVID-19 outbreak

No haircut? No problem!

Spec Can:What have you been up to during the COVID-19 outbreak?

Cait Gordon: For the first two weeks, I levelled up to 1000% disability advocate mode, encouraging people to flatten that curve. But also being connected with other disability advocates meant my social media timeline soon became demoralizing. There was no attempt from many abled people (even those in authority) to disguise that they thought we were expendable during this crisis, no veil at all, and the eugenics-based mindset drained me. I found myself entering into The Overwhelm™, and had to pull back in order to preserve my own mental health. An interesting tonic for this was April’s Camp NaNoWriMo. I was no way in shape to do it, but I went into Oh, why the heck not? mode. And the WIP I chose to work on was Iris and the Crew Tear Space a New One. This episodic series focuses on a command crew whose senior officers are disabled, Deaf, blind, and/or autistic, but my intention is to craft a world so accommodating and accessible, my characters just are. The focus is on their adventures, instead of an all-consuming narrative about their disabilities and/or conditions. I really needed the salve of living in Iris and the crew’s world while my own world felt like the ugliness towards my community was escalating. Thank goodness for speculative fiction. For me, it’s a true form of self-care at times like these.

Spec Can: How are you adapting to social distancing?

Cait Gordon: HAVE YOU MET ME? I was social distancing before it was cool! Seriously, though, as a mobility disabled person who lives in a suburb without decent transit, I’m usually housebound at least five days a week. So, I’m kind of a pro at it. However, my stresses tend to derive from other people not knowing how social distancing works. The streets around me typically empty in the BeforeTime, but now more people are at home, so more people go out. And in my opinion, they don’t always get how keeping one’s distance works. I’ve not gone on many walks because I’d feel myself heading for autistic burnout from others not adhering to the rules. Although, I am so tempted to buy a ridiculously wide hoop skirt to keep people at bay. Fiddle-dee-dee, I say!

Spec Can: How is the outbreak affecting your writing?

Cait Gordon: There’s always an ongoing hum of stress in my mind, and that makes writing difficult because I don’t have enough brain spoons. But thankfully, my online writing group, The Inkonceivables, restarted during the outbreak, so they are inspiring me to have something to read out loud every two weeks. (By the way, anyone who tells me I must write every day, especially now, will be walloped with The Whacking Pillow. Fair, right?) Since my current WIP is written like episodes instead of chapters, I just have to think in short-fiction goals, which I can handle right now. I love short stories; they’re a delightful challenge all of their own. In fact, I decided to keep up the 2020 Flash Fiction Draw Challenge on caitgordon.com, as another distraction. I thought I’d be the only one writing, but all the other authors who participate in it were grateful I kept it up. So, that was very telling to me. We creatives sometimes have to sit back to soothe our minds, but others need to tinker with words. Both ways are valid. And as I keep telling people, we don’t have to be productive during a pandemic. For now, we survive. Then, we thrive!


Cait Gordon is a disability advocate who wants everyone to pummel that curve! She’s also the author of Life in the ’Cosm and The Stealth Lovers. When Cait’s not writing, she’s editing manuscripts and running The Spoonie Authors Network , a blog whose contributors manage disabilities and/or chronic conditions. She also teamed up with Kohenet Talia C. Johnson to co-edit the Nothing Without Us anthology in an attempt to take over the world. Narf.


Interviewed by Derek Newman-Stille, MA, PhD ABD

Authors in Quarantine – Corey Redekop

With this this series, I am hoping to capture how this cultural moment is affecting our speculative fiction authors and how our authors are surviving during the COVID-19 outbreak

Spec Can: What have you been up to during the COVID-19 outbreak?

Corey Redekop: After a few hectic weeks of OMIGODWE’REALLGOINGTODIEREALSOON, I’ve managed to settle my mental state down a touch. If you consider that Stage One of self-isolation, Stage Two is the slightly more optimistic MAYBEWEWON’TDIEBUTHOLYGODTHISISTERRIBLE. I’m not at all certain of how many stages there are to this pandemic, but I’m glad to not having yet reached the Stage of MYHAIRCUTISMOREIMPORTANTTHANYOURLIFE.

Beyond that, I’ve got plenty of free time, being “temporarily furloughed” and all. I still work (very) part-time for Goose Lane Editions as their Social Media Maven, so I spend a small part of each day wading through online sites, looking for anything literary and/or marginally hopeful to share. I’ve tried a little baking, to mixed success; my bread is always fantastically heavy, but I’ve managed to produce a passable tea biscuit. I’m reading as much as ever—usually between 6-10 books a month—and I’m also trying to read at least one short story a day to keep myself interested (and to better get through my huge TBR pile).

I finally caved and subscribed to CRAVE, so I’ve binged a few shows, Watchmenand Devs being the highlights. I’m currently watching The Outsider, and I may go on to Penny Dreadful and Westworld afterward.

My usual job keeps me fairly active, so there has been a marked decrease in my exercise. I’ve quickly gained what I shall refer to as “The Epidemic Eight” and I’m well on my way to “The Quarantine Twenty.” The weighty bread does not help. I try to walk every day, but there’s only so many times you can look at the same streets without getting bored. Listening to podcasts helps; I recommend We Hate Movies, Teacher’s Lounge, and anything with Paul F. Tompkins.

Spec Can: How are you adapting to social distancing?

Corey Redekop: I’ve never been the most outgoing personality, so I’m well-suited to bunker-style living thus far. I do miss the occasional night of board games with friends, but we’re looking into online options. And I really miss going to movies. I count myself lucky in that my last moviegoing experience was the excellent Parasite. I have a few online friends who must suffer a lackluster night of Bloodshot to fondly look back on.

When I do leave the house, I take all steps required to stay away and apart from others, wearing a mask when necessary and being respectful of others’ personal space. I see footage online of people refusing to take such measures, protesting for their right to get sick and die, which I suppose is… a choice? I try not to despair, but when politicians advocate for death over the economy — when people argue that their right to a haircut takes precedent over my health — it’s difficult to stay positive. 

Is humanity reallythis self-centered and stupid, Magic 8-Ball? All signs point to yes. White men, anyway.

Spec Can: How is the outbreak affecting your writing?

Corey Redekop: Not much. It’s fortunate (in this exact scenario alone) that I’m a tremendously undisciplined and erratic writer. The impact on my creative product has been minimal.

havetaken major steps on finishing a novel I’ve been toying with for years. However, my cat of eleven years suddenly passed away a few weeks ago, which utterly wrecked me. I’m slowly coming around, but I still expect this silly, clumsy ball of fluff to be wandering around my office and squeaking for attention. It’s like phantom limb syndrome; I find myself reaching for her, and I’m still surprised when she’s not there anymore. Phantom pet syndrome. My brain acknowledges that she’s absent, but my body refuses the proof.

I’m getting back to writing, and I think I can have the first draft done by July. Thus far the book is wildly inconsistent in tone and plot development, there are scads of scenes that demand to be thrown out, I know I’ve forgotten about at least two characters, and I don’t know if the mystery aspect of it works at all. But hey, isn’t that what first drafts are for? My buddy Randal Graham (of the deliriously funny Beforelife) has given me valuable feedback and, perhaps more importantly, heaps of praise. 

Like most authors, I remain convinced and/or deluded that this isn’t all just a waste of effort.


Interviewed by Derek Newman-Stille, MA, PhD ABD

Authors in Quarantine – Karen Dudley

With this this series, I am hoping to capture how this cultural moment is affecting our speculative fiction authors and how our authors are surviving during the COVID-19 outbreak

Spec Can: What have you been up to during the COVID-19 outbreak?

Karen Dudley: The pandemic really hit at terrible time for me. My dad is quite unwell and I am currently recovering from major surgery (though naturally I tell everyone the 8-inch scar on my abdomen is from a bat’leth fight). Keeping everybody (including me) together has been tough. Combined with anxiety/fear about Covid has meant that I’ve basically been doing my best interpretation of a fruit fly: buzzing around, lighting on something for a picosecond before taking off again. I haven’t cleaned closets or made bread or learned a new language or calculated the distance to Mars in Mars bars. BUT my family is (relatively) sane, the cats are happy, everyone is getting fed, and the house isn’t too gross, so I call it a win.

At first, I spent too much time reading upsetting articles, scrolling through social media, and having an occasional cry. But I am trying to enjoy the beauty of a quieter, less smoggy world. I write messages of love in chalk on the sidewalk and put hearts and stuffies in the windows so kids out for their daily stroll can count them. We’ve also been taking advantage of the various productions that are streaming for free: operas, Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals, Shakespeare plays.

The other cool thing that we’re doing—the thing that is helping most to keep my daughter happy and occupied—is having theme dinners. The first (pictured above) was, not surprisingly, an ancient Greek dinner. We researched the foods, the clothing, the makeup, and the dining rooms to recreate an ancient Greek symposion. We brought out the camp cots to make dining couches and piled them with pillows. We dressed in our finest chitons and ate sesame pancakes and shrimps in honey while we listened to lyre music (thanks, Youtube!) and gossiped about how Socrates always looks like an unmade sleeping couch. It was so much fun!!! We went Medieval after that. We were nobles in our dining hall and all my grandmother’s old silver serving dishes looked amazing (though the kitten tried to make off with one of the trenchers). This weekend we’ll be dining in an Elizabethan tavern. My husband and daughter look fantastic as lace-collared dandies about town. I, however, will be a lowly serving wench.

Spec Can: How are you adapting to social distancing?

Karen Dudley: I DESPISE IT!!! I am an unabashed hugger; I HATE not being able to hug people. My husband and daughter are both introverts and it’s getting to the point where they beat a hasty retreat as soon as they see me coming. “No, Mom! Nooooo! Not another hug!!”
Needless to say, the cats are getting a lot more cuddles.
But I go for a walk every morning, and I smile at strangers as I pass by (always from at least 2 metres away). Most people smile back and I love that brief acknowledgement. The unspoken ‘I am only avoiding you because of the virus, not because of the way you look or who you are’. It lifts my heart. But I tell you, when this pandemic is over, I’m going to hug every single person I see. Every. Single. Person.

Spec Can: How is the outbreak affecting your writing?

Karen Dudley: I have to echo Kate Story here and laugh uproariously at the question. Seriously, how could something like this NOT affect one’s writing? Most days I can’t concentrate for more than five minutes at a time. It’s driving me crazy! And then there’s the problem of what to write. Before my surgery, I was working on the second book of a fantasy trilogy, but it’s set in a society on the verge of collapse. Quite frankly, I don’t want to write that right now, I’m LIVING it! And yet, I feel as though I do need to write—if only to lose myself in work for a spell. Fortunately, my daughter, who is a budding animator, had asked me a while ago to write down a story I made up for her when she was young (she wants to animate it for her grade twelve summative project). It’s a goofy tale of how our cat, Monsieur Goobère, got his stripes. When I realized that my fantasy novel wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon, I started working on the Goobère story. Not only have I been able to concentrate on it, the project has actually made me quite happy. It’s gentle and sweet and exactly what I need right now. Obviously, I hope to get back to my novel one of these days, but for now, this is enough.

Interviewed by Derek Newman-Stille, MA, PhD ABD

Authors in Quarantine – Regina Hansen

With this this series, I am hoping to capture how this cultural moment is affecting our speculative fiction authors and how our authors are surviving during the COVID-19 outbreak

Spec Can: What have you been up to during the COVID-19 outbreak?

Regina Hansen: I’ve been teaching online, trying to keep the family fed and the house clean.

Spec Can: How are you adapting to social distancing?

Regina Hansen: I am very good at keeping busy and I am lucky to be with my husband and kids, and to have a balcony so I can get outside. But I am not an introvert or a minimalist, so I really miss the joy of being around people, chatting, hugging, going to restaurants and movies. I am very much willing to give that up for everyone’s safety.

Spec Can: How is the outbreak affecting your writing?

Regina Hansen: I have been able to get the requested revision done for my novel but it is much harder to settle down to new writing. I’ve been channeling my imagination into other creative pursuits – singing, sewing/crochet, our balcony farm. I’m finally feeling ready to sit at a desk and write but I’m definitely not Shakespeare writing King Lear in quarantine.


Interviewed by Derek Newman-Stille, MA, PhD ABD

Authors in Quarantine – David Demchuk

With this this series, I am hoping to capture how this cultural moment is affecting our speculative fiction authors and how our authors are surviving during the COVID-19 outbreak

Spec Can: What have you been up to during the COVID-19 outbreak?


David Demchuk: I am lucky to be able to do my job from home, and to have a home which is already set up and equipped for remote operations. The team I work with is small; we communicate well, and spell each other off with the day-to-day work, special projects and the many video meetings that this situation has spawned. Apart from that I’ve been reading, catching up on movies and trashy TV, cooking and baking (and eating), spending too much time on social media, and playing Animal Crossing.

Spec Can: How are you adapting to social distancing?

David Demchuk: I was already a fairly solitary person, so I have not been as heavily affected by the need to isolate as many of my friends and colleagues. However, I suffer from agoraphobic anxiety, so going outside to go shopping or run errands is now one long panic attack from start to finish–and standing in store lines on narrow sidewalks is the worst. One thing that’s been a huge challenge: My partner and I have been together for 11 years but we live separately, albeit in the same building. He comes to visit for about an hour every day but, because he goes out more and has a greater potential for exposure, we remain at opposite ends of the couch six feet apart. We haven’t had physical contact for more than five weeks.

Spec Can: How is the outbreak affecting your writing?

David Demchuk: Well…the short answer is “I haven’t done any, so–great?” I am holding off on writng much, at least formally, until I receive my editor’s notes on my newest book. My hope is that I will be able to focus my energies (and my emotions, including my fears) on the pages once they’re in front of me. One thing I have been doing–both for the new book and the one I plan to start in the fall–is jotting down short snippets on index cards–images, dialogue, turns of phrase–and tossing them into a small plastic storage box beside my coffee table. No expectations of structure or order or ‘finished’ writing, just capturing material as it comes to me in unfiltered unprocessed snapshots. It’s oddly cathartic and makes me feel productive with probably the least amount of effort I can expend. Apart from that, there’s Animal Crossing!


Interviewed by Derek Newman-Stille, MA, PhD ABD

It Doesn’t Have to be ‘The Way it is’

One of the phrases that frustrates me most is “it is what it is”. As a speculative fiction scholar and fan, when I hear these words, I hear the closing down of opportunities and the reifying of the status quo. “It is what it is” tells me that people are frustrated with the existing state of things, but are unwilling or feel unable to make changes. SF is the literature of change, a literature of new potentials and possibilities. That is not to say that it reguarly challenges the way things are because most SF doesn’t imagine new possibilities but only further entrenches existing ideas and the current structures of power, BUT it has the POTENTIAL to imagine changes, to think of new ways of understanding the world and new possibilities that challenge the world as it is. 

Today I listened to a talk by Alyx Dellamonica about environmentalism and SF in which she reminded listeners that one of the most dangerous things we can do is say “there’s nothing we can do”. She pointed out that people will often close down possibilities for imagining new ways of being in the world because we convince ourselves that substantive change is impossible and then we close down our own faculties for thinking of new ideas and new solutions to existing structures. 

I think this illustrates some of the issues I have long had about phrases like “it is what it is”. These phrases serve to support the way things currently are, serve to further entrench them. We tell ourselves that it is impossible to imagine new ideas and to think of fresh ways of understanding the world and so we support the status quo, we don’t challenge the existing authority structures that are unwelcome, unhealthy, and unsafe for so many people. 

I have the same reaction to “what can you do?”, which, despite starting with “what”, a question, has never been about asking a question, but rather providing a nihilistic rhetoric, a closing down of questioning and imagining new possibilities. I would ask us to take that question seriously, to reimagine it as an actual question. When asked “what can you do?” that we operate in the realm of the imaginative, the realm of potentials and we work on thinking about new ways of existing with and within our world. SF has this potential, but that doesn’t mean that this is exclusively the perview of SF authors. As a public, we too can SPECULATE. We can interrogate existing systems and ask what they exist for, whether new and better ideas can rise out of them, how we can substantively change, what posibilities exist, and what we can imagine our way out of and, perahps more importantly, what we can imagine ourselves into.

I am not saying that we should all walk around with utopic visions in our minds, particularly since, for many of us from disempowered groups, we so often have our utopic visions shattered, but that we keep pushing at the fringes of our society to advocate for positive changes. There is still a place for the apocalyptic in our imagination since it often allows us to articulate the way we see our worlds shaped for something other than us, a world that is fundamentally hostile to us (particularly if we are from disenfranchised groups), but it is important to remember that every apocalypse is about change, about a world in flux, and THAT has imaginative potential. Apocalypses are about recognizing that the world is no longer able to support an existing way of being and they call on us to imagine a new possibility, a new method of understanding a changing and changeable world. 
SF can be a way of critiquing the world as well as a way of imagining a new world, new possibilities, and a change to look at our own world from askance to see the things that we ignore, push aside, choose not to contemplate so that we can exist in a world of “it is what it is”. How do we use SF to imagine a world that ISN’T “what it is”?