Frozen Wooden With Steampunk Horror

Frozen Wooden with Steampunk Horror

 

A review of Kate Heartfield’s “The Seven O’Clock Man” in Clockwork Canada: Steampunk Fiction, edited by Dominik Parisien (Exile Editions, 2016)

By Derek Newman-Stille

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As much a horror tale as it is a steampunk story, Kate Heartfield’s “The Seven O’Clock Man” evokes the powerlessness of youth. Heartfield constructs a community where the late mayor had built a clock with a clockwork automaton in it who seeks out any children who are awake past 7 o’clock to turn them into wood. The mayor had viewed order and control to be central to his city, believing that the best means of exerting control was to create a persistent threat to the children of the community, punishing them for disobedience of community rules that are imposed on them. Like many communities that use fear as a means of securing power, the mayor made certain that any of the children who were turned to wood would become part of the clock, peaking through the clock’s doors when the clock struck the hour. The children held within the clock were frozen in horrified immobility, able to see the world, but controlled by the mechanisms of the clock, exhibiting the horror of absolute powerlessness.

 

As much as “Seven O’Clock Man” is a discourse on the powerlessness of childhood it is also a narrative about systems of colonial power. The mayor of the city was particularly interested in controlling aboriginal children, viewing them as a threat to the order of the city. He constructed the clock in order to force his notion of decorum onto the population of aboriginal children, symbolically representing the horrors visited upon aboriginal children in the residential school system where children were similarly taken away, locked up, and subject to threats and violence all in the attempt to force children to conform to colonial cultures. Most of the children frozen in the clock were Mohawk and the man who the mayor forced to wind the clock was also a man who came from a Mohawk family – Jacques. Jacques is forced to continue to wind the clock because his son has clockwork gears installed in him that wind down if the clock is not wound.

 

Heartfield brings attention to the depression and post-traumatic stress that comes from systemic colonial control and threats when Jacques’ wife Marie-Claire (a former slave) experiences regular depressive episodes, freezing in catatonia while her husband winds the clock. Her life of horrors shapes her ability to interact with her family and her frozen state mirrors the frozen state of the statues subject to the punishment of the figure in the clock.

 

Heartfield creates a sense of creeping horror with “The Seven O’Clock Man”, evoking the fear of being made powerlessness, subject to someone else’s will, and the emptiness that flows from being denied expression.

 

To find out more about Kate Heartfield’s work, visit her website at https://heartfieldfiction.com/

 

To find out more about Clockwork Canada, visit Exile’s website at http://www.exileeditions.com/singleorders2016/clockwork.html

 

 

And Dominik Parisien’s website at https://dominikparisien.wordpress.com/clockwork-canada-anthology

 

 

 

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Speculating Canada on Trent Radio Episode 29: A Discussion of Vampires and Adaptation with Amy Jane Vosper

In this episode of Speculating Canada on Trent Radio, I am joined in the studio by horror scholar Amy Jane Vosper as we discuss the figure of the vampire! Amy Jane and I examine the history of the vampire and how the vampire has changed, adapted, and modified itself in our mythology and fiction to express the issues, fears, and anxieties of various ages and cultures. We particularly look at that enigmatic figure Dracula and how Dracula has changed since Bram Stoker’s novel over time.

Because Amy Jane and I are both feminists, we examine the figure of Dracula’s Brides, characters who are relegated to the background, sexualised, and disempowered and we look at how these figures have changed to become empowered figures in Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s brilliant short story “A Handful of Earth”.

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

To read Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s “A Handful of Earth”, go to http://expandedhorizons.net/magazine/?page_id=2442

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.

Image of Amy Jane Vosper at Trent Radio

Image of Amy Jane Vosper at Trent Radio

In Darkest Memory Submerged

A Review of Nick Cutter’s The Deep (forthcoming January 2015, Gallery Books).
By Derek Newman-Stille

Cover photo for The Deep courtesy of Simon & Schuster Canada.

Cover photo for The Deep courtesy of Simon & Schuster Canada.

There are unexplored places in our world, places of darkness, places of depth, places that are so hostile to human life that we can barely explore them. They are places whose contemplation itself inspires a reassessment of our fundamental understanding of our world. In The Deep, Nick Cutter asks what is submerged in that murky darkness where light can’t reach, what hidden, forgotten, lost, and suppressed things dwell in the pressures of the deep.

As much as The Deep is about the deep ocean and the strange, haunting landscape beneath the waves, it is also about other things suppressed, the mindscapes that we deny, submerge, and work to forget. The Deep begins with a disease that has spread across our world, the ‘Gets, a disease that causes us to forget, to lose our memories and identity in waves of illness. The population tries to hold on to normalcy and rituals as a way to feel normal, but nothing has ever been normal and Cutter’s exploration of humanity’s desire to forget about the ‘Gets reflects the suppression we enact in everyday life, refusing to ask the questions that we don’t or can’t have answers for.

Luke’s own existence is shaped by the interplay of suppression of memories and the simultaneous draw that those memories represent. Having lost his son, a mystery that was never solved, he lives in a place of absented presence, coping both with the possibility that his son may be somewhere in the world and the awareness that he is likely gone. Luke’s family life has always been shaped by a desire to forget – from the abuse and torment he faced at the hands of his mother, to his coping with the likelihood that his brother, a scientist, is likely sociopathic, with no capacity for guilt, sympathy, or emotional connection.

When Luke is called to a deep sea research station where his brother is conducting experiments on a life form that could cure the ‘Gets, he is forced to submerge both into the watery darkness of the deep ocean and simultaneously into the depths of his own memory, imagination, horrors, and fears… and to confront those fears that he has suppressed but that nevertheless have shaped his awareness of the world around him. The deep sea station itself and the research team are shaped by a dualistic desire to discover and a desire to suppress. The research team has ceased communicating with the surface world, ceased filing psych reports that were deemed necessary for ensuring their psychological health in the depths of a foreign and forbidding terrain. Yet, they are obsessed with the notion of discovery, of uncovering secrets that the universe has veiled in layers of sea water, darkness, and geological history. Scientific curiosity has met science’s suppression of likelihoods that are impossible for science to grasp. Luke’s brother Clay seeks to understand the odd and unusual but can’t comprehend it as this new substance at the sea floor called ambrosia consistently slips from his grasp, opening new possibilities as he systemically closes them out of his belief that they are impossible.

Cover photo courtesy of Simon & Schuster Canada

Cover photo courtesy of Simon & Schuster Canada

When Luke arrives at the station, he is physically confronted with the sea pressure of the ocean depths, the darkness that prevails, and the unimaginable foreignness of the sea floor, which contains creatures so odd that they slip from our understanding of life on this planet. These physical sensations are paired with the psychological as he faces the pressures of the unknowable, the darkness of buried and suppressed memories and the haunted things that have shaped his imagination, and the sense of the unfamiliar that enters his mind at the moment of entry into the station. Luke is forced to confront the threat that curiosity and the desire to know represent… particularly when knowing itself can be a trap for mind and body.

To discover more about the work of Nick Cutter, visit his website at http://www.craigdavidson.net/

To discover more about The Deep, visit Simon & Schuster’s website at http://books.simonandschuster.ca/The-Deep/Nick-Cutter/9781501101519

“Walking through your fear makes you stronger. It makes you able to walk through other fears. It gives you courage. It gives you faith that there are bigger powers in the world than you fear. When you walk through fear, you… become a bigger power than the fear. It is its own medicine in the end.”

-Richard Wagamese – Him Standing (Raven Books, 2013)

Quote – Walking Through Fear Makes You Stronger

“As a writer, I spend hours alone with the blinds drawn against the sun, inhabiting other people’s lives. Any reader who has ever lost themselves in a well-written tale of terror on a stormy night will understand what I mean when i say that I sometimes wonder if we don’t bring the stories back into the world with us by reading them alone; whether or not they stay contained. A board creaks in an upstairs room even though you know you’re alone in the house. A tapping on the glass has to be a branch tortured by the wind. A sign in the shadows of the far recesses of the next room has to be a draft. The slumped figure drifting just out of your line of sight is a shadow cast by the candles. You’re alone, reading.”

Michael Rowe – Introduction: In Praise of Queer Fear in Queer Fear (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2000)

Quote – Inhabiting Other People’s Lives

“Solitude can be a good thing sometimes, when you require quiet time to catch up on your thoughts and sort them, like sugar being sifted through a sieve. There’s a difference between solitude and being lonely though. The first one depicts self-sufficiency as you set out along your own path without company. The other denotes a variety of emotions, all of them bordering on insecurity, pain, unease, perhaps even fear.”

-Lorena Foreman and Carol Weekes – The Lonely Place (Canadian Tales of the Fantastic)

Quote – Solitude Versus Loneliness

“I know that we are going to destroy the world that holds us. We are savages, treating the Earth like a toilet, fouling our own nest. We all seem to agree on that now… We knew what we were wreaking and it scared us, most of all because we couldn’t see any way of stopping it. So we stick our heads in the sand. The ostrich does this not to become invisible to its foe; it wants to avoid seeing what’s coming for it.”

-Scott Fotheringham – The Rest is Silence (Goose Lane Editions, 2012)

Quote – Hiding Our Heads As We Pollute The Earth