Steam Until Completion

Steam Until CompletionA Review of OnSpec 100 (Spring 2015, Vol 27)  

By Derek Newman-Sille

  
Steampunk is a complicated category and OnSpec’s much anticipated 100th issue was a great opportunity to explore some of the complexities of the genre. For this volume, OnSpec pushed the boundaries of the *punk genre, exploring areas like fairypunk, alternative histories, and diselpunk while examining all of those new areas waiting to be punked. This is not the traditional steampunk or cyberpunk collection but rather a look into those fringe areas, the under-represented. OnSpec extends the punk genres into unexpected areas.

Punking genres allows for the exploration of deep social issues and this volume explores issues such as fascism, the potential for criminals to become resistance fighters, eugenics, sexism, domestic abuse, racism, reproductive rights, espionage, and climate change.

To discover more about OnSpec, visit their website at http://www.onspec.ca

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Quote – Fairy Tales Prepared Us For If We Wandered Into Their Land

“I’m not sure, to be honest. I think the tales we grew up on served to both warn us of bad faeries, but also prepare us to accept their magic and wonder, in case we ever wandered to their land. Or were kidnapped.”

-Marie Bilodeau, Nigh Book 3

Sands of Time and Landscapes of Memory

Nigh-book-2-completed

Cover image of Nigh Book One, Courtesy of the author

A Review of Marie Bilodeau’s Nigh Book Two (S&G Publishing, 2014)
By Derek Newman-Stille

Memory, made of time and place and story, shapes Marie Bilodeau’s Nigh Book 2, a tale about the return of the faeries and the collision of human and faerie cultures. Like the first book of Nigh, this book explores the power of the slippery landscape, changing and shifting with the will of the faeries, but the fluidity of the landscape evokes a need in her characters to hold on to their identities, to hold more tightly to family, memory and what makes their lives meaningful and resist the changes that they are plunged into.

Humanity has been displaced by the intrusion of faerie into our world, but so have the faeries who have ventures from their kingdom of centuries into the human world that had cast them out and changed over time. Nigh Book 2 mixes ideas of place and belonging with a sense of uncertainty.

The faerie world runs on a different time than our own, and this mix of two times and two landscapes allows Bilodeau to explore the relationship between memory and times, places, connections, and the stories that shape our identities. The intrusion of faeries into the human world is accompanied by their intrusion into human minds and bodies – their exertion of control over humanity through their melodic voices and powerful gaze – but the allure of faeries pulling humanity in also offers an escape from memory, from guilts of the past. This second book of Nigh offers the chance for readers to look at how memory is connected to our needs, fears, anxieties, desires, and that it too is changeable like the fairy world. Bilodeau disrupts the idea that memory can be preserved and that by holding on to our memories we can resist change because encounters with faeries are always encounters with instability and fluidity.

To discover more about Marie Bilodeau and the books of Nigh, visit http://mariebilodeau.blogspot.ca/p/nigh.html

To listen to an interview I conducted with Marie Bilodeau about Nigh, visit https://speculatingcanada.ca/2015/03/28/speculating-canada-on-trent-radio-episode-31-an-interview-with-marie-bilodeau-about-nigh/

To read my review of Nigh Book One, visit https://speculatingcanada.ca/2015/03/08/not-tinkerbell-welcome-to-the-fairypocalypse/

Cover Images of The Books of Nigh, courtesy of Marie Bilodeau

Cover Images of The Books of Nigh, courtesy of Marie Bilodeau

Speculating Canada on Trent Radio Episode 31: An Interview with Marie Bilodeau About Nigh

In this episode of Speculating Canada on Trent Radio, I interview the wonderful Marie Bilodeau about her new series Nigh, a series about the Fairiepocalpse. In our conversation, Marie and I discuss the power of myths and legends about fairies, the relationship between the natural world and human occupation, the power of unsettling norms and expectations, and the nature of apocalyptic narratives. Marie recognises the magic of the apocalyptic and the idea of The End as a place of speculation.

You can listen to this episode of Speculating Canada on Trent Radio at the link below

Explore Trent Radio at www.trentradio.ca

Explore Trent Radio at http://www.trentradio.ca

This audio file was originally broadcast on Trent Radio, and I would like to thank Trent Radio for their continued support. I would also like to thank Dwayne Collins for his consistent tech support and help with the intricacies of creating audio files.

Make sure to allow a few minutes for the file to buffer since it may take a moment before it begins to play.

Not Tinkerbell… Welcome to the Fairypocalypse

A review of Marie Bilodeau’s Nigh (S&G Publishing, 2015)
By Derek Newman-Stille

Cover photo for Nigh courtesy of Marie Bilodeau

Cover photo for Nigh courtesy of Marie Bilodeau

There has been an incredible interest in apocalyptic scenarios. We are fascinated with the notion of “the end”. Whether zombies, environmental catastrophe, meteors, alien invasion, nuclear war… we are fascinated with the idea of an end of the story of human experience. Marie Bilodeau’s Nigh evokes creatures from humanity’s past, creatures who have been pacified in our recent cultural representations, but who nevertheless embody all of that otherworldliness of ancient myths and stories, creature who when encountered in ancient stories spelled doom … the fairies… and they have returned, angry at their long separation from our world and what humanity has done with it.
Marie Bikodeau’s title, “Nigh”, speaks to now-ness, a sense of the impending, but also, being a word that is rarely used in common parlance, evokes an old-timely quality, speaking to the past. It is a title that suggests a clashing of ideas about time, and Nigh, dealing with fairies, creatures who in myth alter time causing people to age hundreds of years in a night, evokes an idea of time clashing and past and present uncomfortably overlapping. The central image of this work is a watch, an object that promises a regulation and easy understanding of time. But this watch is different from what one would expect from a watch. As a family heirloom passed down through the generations and an object that has been the centre of family storytelling, this watch embodies memory, history, and myths – family legends told for generations. It’s position as a link between past and present may make it a key to understanding what is happening with the world as the fairies enter back into our world.
Marie Bilodeau explores the power of fairies to disrupt expectations, as figures who challenge the fixed, scientific, unchanging, rules-oriented way that we view reality. Fairies are figures that invert our expectations, play with our belief in ‘normalcy’ and illustrate to us that our world IS fundamentally topsy turvy, no matter how much we try to think of it as a place governed by understandable rules. The fairies of Nigh, like those of our myths invert the expectations of reality, assumptions about the assuredness of solid ground, materiality. Bilodeau takes away the sense of stability about our world, taking away our sense of the firmness of our world as the landscape becomes porous, allowing in  something different, something both familiar and strange.
This is a tale of uncertainty that challenges our comforts about a world that is ours and instead reveals to us that this world has always been something that contains an Other.
To find out more about Marie Bilodeau, visit her website at http://mariebilodeau.blogspot.ca/
To discover more about Nigh, visit http://mariebilodeau.blogspot.ca/p/nigh.html

Slippery Landscapes

A review of Kate Storey’s Blasted (Killick Press, 2008).
By Derek Newman-Stille

Steeped in the rich fairy lore of Newfoundland and a sense of longing for home, Kate Story’s Blasted is a novel about dislocation. Story’s stream of consciousness style of writing beautifully enhances the sense of temporal and special dislocation represented by movement through and slippage into fairy realms. Her poetic use of language adds to the depth of the landscape, it’s history, and the people upon it, reveling in the simultaneous beauty and terror embedded in the land.

Cover photo from Kate Story's "Blasted" courtesy of http://www.katestory.com/

Cover photo from Kate Story’s “Blasted” courtesy of http://www.katestory.com/

Newfoundland, as an island landscape of harsh extremes, fog, snow, unclear edges… it is a perfect location for fairy stories and a tradition of wandering into the fairy lands and being lost. As a place that experiences a great deal of emigration – the loss of population to other locations out of the belief that there will be better economic opportunities elsewhere – it has become a place of loss, a place of inconsistencies of population, a shifting populace where people ARE lost. Story combines this narrative of loss and the feeling of diaspora, of being separated from home, among Newfoundlanders who have left the island, with the losses into the fairy landscape – a place where people disappear, where people are led and lured into another place and pulled from home.

Ruby is a character who is enmeshed in both types of loss and dislocation – economy-led to Toronto with the belief that there are better economic opportunities, and fairy-led into Fairy from a difference in her blood, a family disposition to wander into fairy. Her sense of home is disrupted, discontinuous, yet no less strong.

Ruby’s family history has been kept secret, Othering her in her own home. Fairies in Newfoundland are considered to be beings that it is best not to speak about, and suffering in Ruby’s family is believed to be increased by being discussed. But this secrecy, carried out through the belief that it will keep Ruby safe, leaves her unprepared for the realities of her family and its interactions with “Them”, the fairies, the strangers who are also intimately close – in the landscape, in her home, and within her blood.

You can discover more about Kate Story on her website at http://www.katestory.com/

To find out more about Blasted and other Killick Press books, visit their website at http://www.creativebookpublishing.ca/en/index.cfm?main=groupdescription&poid=278

Dead Depressed

A Review of James Marshall’s Zombie Versus Fairy Featuring Albinos (ChiZine Publications, 2013)
By Derek Newman-Stille

Cover photo courtesy of ChiZine Publications

Cover photo courtesy of ChiZine Publications

Zombies are normally pretty content – they groan, they chase, they eat, they shuffle… but what happens when a zombie becomes depressed? In James Marshall’s Zombie Versus Fairy Featuring Albinos, depressed zombies get promoted. No matter how much they tell their bosses they hate their jobs, plan to demotivate workers, and decrease productivity, a diagnosis of depression is a one way ticket to the top… in fact, Buck Burger’s description of how he plans to destroy the company is exactly the skill-set and thought pattern that zombie corporate life thrives on. After all, when you are a people that are totally steeped in decay and the destructive lifestyle, what is more appealing than destruction. But, Buck starts to feel stuck, realises the monotony of his existence… and unlike most zombies, he dislikes this monotony… he wants to do forbidden, stigmatised things like change.

When Buck meets Fairy_26, a green-haired beauty infused with life, he sees in her everything that is lacking in his own unlife. The fairy, and the supernatural races have something that he has been desiring, something that challenges the monotony of existence and promotes growth. She is the opposite of everything every zombie wants (which is probably why the zombies and the supernatural races have been at war for so long), but because she is so different and because he hates his unlife due to his depression, she represents an opportunity for change, a challenge to the status quo of boring zombie existence. Instead of mindless destruction, she is steeped in mindful life.

Buck wishes he could become what he eats… a living human being. He pines for his lost life and envies the living. Fortunately, as depression often does, his depressed state serves as a hunger suppressant, which is ideal for someone who wants to give up gnawing upon people.

Buck has to question commitments, obligations, social restraints upon him that hold him in his current unlifestyle in order to make a new unlife for himself. He has to challenge his marriage obligations to his wife, his job requirements, and commit social faux pas that would horrify any moral zombie in order to free himself from the chains of dull, colourless zombie existence and open himself to the vibrancy of fairyland and fairy life.

Marshall reveals a social critique of the monotony of human existence through the figure of the zombie. In our corporate greed and unquestioning repetition of outmoded patterns, we become like zombies – unwilling to change things, unwilling to question, unwilling to extend our creative impulses. His zombie society represents a flesh and blood covered mirror of corporate life and the eerie creep of suburban society. Zombies in his world impose their values on the young through an unquestioning education system designed to make them into automatons and prepare them for transition into zombie society or the zombie digestive system.

Marshall notes the allure of the zombie lifestyle and why it is so desirable for so many people “I know how they feel. Angry. Mindless. They’re doing things because they’re supposed to do things. They don’t want to. They don’t know what they want. They don’t know anything. For a while, they tried to learn but they didn’t so they stopped. They became zombies. It’s easier than trying to stay human when everyone else isn’t” (195). Like zombies, we get trapped into simple desires in an attempt to fill a void in our life of what we really want with meaningless trinkets that the marketing world tells us will fill that void. We mindlessly replicate things, follow the status quo, don’t seek to learn the meaning behind things. This is pretty alluring. It seems, on the surface, to be an easy lifestyle… but our society have become like zombies, not questioning, not changing, following outdated patterns, and mindlessly destroying – after all, look what we are doing to our environment. After reading this, any trip to the mall or witnessing of road rage lets the reader see the zombie apocalypse already in full swing.

To find out more about Zombie Versus Fairy Featuring Albinos, check out ChiZine’s website at http://chizinepub.com/books/zombie-versus-fairy.php

To read more about what James Marshall is up to, visit his website at http://www.howtoendhumansuffering.com/ .