Eco-Refugees

Eco-Refugees

A review of Kate Heartfield’s “Gilbert Tong’s Life List” in Shades Within Us: Tales of Migrations and Fractured Borders Edited by Susan Forest and Lucas K. Law (Laksa Media Group, 2018).

By Derek Newman-Stille

Kate Heartfield writes a tale of ecological refugees and birding in “Gilbert Tong’s Life List”. Initially these would seem to be disconnected themes, but she uses the cataloguing of birds as a way to explore notions of migration and global movements. Birds are frequently treated as symbols of freedom and perhaps that is what they represent for Gilbert’s father, who became an avid birder when he and other Kiribati moved into a refugee camp in Canada after their island was submerged in rising waters. The Kiribati people are confined in a refugee camp, keeping their spirits up with the possibility of Canadian citizenship even though the Canadian government fears the economic impact of their refugee status. They are denied health care, access to Canadian education systems, and freedom of movement outside of the camp.

Although the camp is on Canadian territory, it is treated like a foreign nation and fenced off. Refugees are treated as prisoners in the enclave and left without a sense of home or connection to their own territory and culture. They are encouraged to assimilate, but not given access to the country that they are assimilating to. Everyone is given an RFID tag to prevent them from accessing Canada. They are aware that they are living as fugitives, forever homeless.

Within this environment, where refugees (especially young ones) are aware that compliance with Canada’s rules won’t actually benefit them or protect them in any way, so they seek out other ways to cope with their imprisonment, engaging in illegal activities just to survive in their exiled and imprisoned nation. Gilbert has to deal with the disconnection he feels with home, the need to bend the rules to survive, and his father’s compliance with rules that don’t benefit anyone in the Kiribati community. He is engaged in a struggle between maintaining a sense of Kiribati culture and family identity as he has become migrational like the birds his father studies.

To discover more about Shades Within Us, visit http://laksamedia.com/shades-within-us-an-anthology-for-a-cause/

To find out more about Kate Heartfield, visit https://heartfieldfiction.com

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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

 

 

 

Asymmetrical

A review of Kate Heartfield’s “Bonsaiships of Venus” in Lackington’s issue 4 (
By Derek Newman-Stille
When most envision the space-faring future, they tend to picture sleek space ships that are ideal forms of symmetry. This is why it is so refreshing to see Kate Heartfield’s notion of bonsaiships, space vehicles that are trimmed like bonsai trees over time toward an aesthetic not based in symmetry, but in an organic growth.
Kate explores ships that are not just functional, but rather constantly evolving works of art, taking on nuances of beauty one subtle snip at a time. The constant in these ships is change, lending the ships a notion of organic growth rather than a stable form that will approach obsolescence. In a society that tends to view technology as disposable and tends to throw out objects rather than revitalize them, it is refreshing to see a vision of the future in which constant change in technology is considered beautiful, and even necessary. Her bonsaiships wear down unless they are constantly trimmed and pruned to keep them alive. But this is also a risky business since the ships are fragile and if too much is cut, the ship can be pierced and jeopardize the lives of everyone within it. Heartfield captures an aesthetic edge that is sharp as death.
Rather than devaluing art and viewing it as an indulgence of the artist as our society often does, the society of the future that Heartfield captures depends on their art for survival, both to refresh and renew the ships to keep them from decay and also to renew the scientists within the ship, who daily watch the artist trim the ship in order to become revitalized.
Kate Heartfield creates a text of renewal, both for the ships that are constantly being reshaped and reformed and for the artist who has lost his husband and is going through his own process of change as he accommodates to the loss in his life.
To read this story online, visit Lackington’s at http://lackingtons.com/2014/10/28/bonsaiships-of-venus-by-kate-heartfield/

What Lay Beneath Modernity?

A Review of Kate Heartfield’s Their Dead So Near, Lackington’s issue one, Winter, 2014 (http://lackingtons.com/2014/02/13/their-dead-so-near-by-kate-heartfield/)
By Derek Newman-Stille

We are distant from our dead. In urban centres, we build over the dead, erasing the history of what came before us in our construction of the new. Kate Heartfield’s Their Dead So Near takes us into Ottawa’s Macdonald Gardens, called by those in the know, those who are fascinated by the macabre as the Boneyards and gives voice to the dead, buried over by a society that seeks to cover things over, hide them, bury them, and scrub them clean.

Heartfield reminds readers that we are always walking on the bones of the dead, supported by their detritus while we tread over history. Graveyards are places of discomfort for us – reminders of our own mortality – so we seek to render memory and place more “hygienic” by erasing the miasmic reminders of our own doom. We seek to forget names, forget history while giving token reminders in the form of small plaques that speak of a place we no longer want to recall.

Heartfield speaks for the dead, giving them voice in her short story Their Dead So Near, bringing readers close to those remnants of the past poking up into modernity, demanding to be heard, asking us to scrape the surface of urban reality to see what rests beneath the surface.

To read Their Dead So Near, visit Lackington’s website at http://lackingtons.com/2014/02/13/their-dead-so-near-by-kate-heartfield/ .

Artwork for Kate Heartfield's Their Dead So Near in Lackington's issue 1 by Luke Spooner

Artwork for Kate Heartfield’s Their Dead So Near in Lackington’s issue 1 by Luke Spooner

To explore more of Kate Heartfield’s work, visit her website at http://heartfieldfiction.wordpress.com/ .

“And we, the dead, bear them on our backs, as we have done a million times. They play on our green grass while the sun slants indulgently over their tousled boy heads.”

-Kate Heartfield, The Dead So Near, Lackington’s Issue 1 (http://lackingtons.com/2014/02/13/their-dead-so-near-by-kate-heartfield/)

Quote – Dead Carrying Us On Their Backs