Predator and Prey Relationships

A review of Suzanne Church’s “Mod Me Down” in Elements: A Collection of Speculative Fiction (Edge, 2014).
By Derek Newman-Stille

Cover photo of Suzanne Church's "Elements" courtesy of http://edgewebsite.com/

Cover photo of Suzanne Church’s “Elements” courtesy of http://edgewebsite.com/

Suzanne Church’s “Mod me Down” takes readers to the limit of the human experience, exploring that critical moment when culture bleeds into instinct. In a future where an attempt to prevent global warming has initiated an ice age, the American government has become totalitarian and given people a choice: be shot or take a shot of animal DNA to become something semi-human-semi-animal.

The modifications to the human body have been forced on the populace… or at least the less wealthy members of society. The richest of the American population are able to stay human and travel further south to be saved from the coming Ice Age, but everyone else is required to undergo genetic shots to transform them into human-animal hybrids. This transformation is also tiered, with the wealthy able to become predators, while the poor have to become prey animals, primarily vermin like rats and bugs. Suzanne Church highlights the issues with wealth stratification in “Mod Me Down”, literally turning the rich into predators who prey on and consume the poor much as the current economic system treats the poor as vermin and food for the wealth-generating machine.

Yet, her story also has a very personal quality. Lucas and Mary have been lovers for some time, yet haven’t been married, not seeing the point of it. But, when they receive their genetic modification assignments, Mary is told she will be a cockroach while Lucas is told he will be a rat. They are to be separated into different colonies since rats prey on cockroaches. Church tests the limits of the human when lovers meet the predator-prey relationship and love is tested against hunger.

To find out more about Elements and other Edge books, visit their website at http://www.edgewebsite.com/ .

To discover more about Suzanne Church, visit her website at http://suzannechurch.com/wordpress/ .

 

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Hunger

A review of Tyler Keevil’s “The Herd” in Dead North: Canadian Zombie Fiction (Exile Editions, 2013).

Cover Photo of Dead North: Canadian Zombie Fiction

Cover Photo of Dead North: Canadian Zombie Fiction

By Derek Newman-Stille

Tyler Keevil’s “The Herd” reverses the hunter/hunted dynamic in zombie fiction. Zombies, often characterised by their herd mentality in fiction are treated like a herd of prey and hunted by a man who has acquired a taste for human flesh.  Keevil mixes the mythology of the Wendigo with that of the zombie, creating a monster who craves human flesh and even inhuman flesh.

Cast from his tribe when starvation forces him to eat human flesh, the hunter finds a place of belonging in the north, characterised by its long periods of hunger and the cold, unmarked landscape that creates a place of moral ambiguity for him. The spread of zombiism makes this northern landscape an ideal place for inhuman acts of violence.

Many zombie tales feature the zombie as fodder for human aggression – a human body that can be killed without any moral consequence and Keevil plays with this genre trope and presents the human (or perceived human) hunter as a monster, a predator with an insatiable hunger much like that of his prey. This equivocation of human (wendigo) and zombie brings the reader into a place of instability between the category of the monster and the human (a category that is often presented in the zombie genre as something that is firm and only passes one way – from human to zombie through infection).

By making the zombie the object of hunger, the food that fuels the desire for consumption instead of the consuming figure, Keevil situates hunger as a human characteristic.

You can explore more about Tyler Keevil’s work at http://www.tylerkeevil.com/

To check out Dead North, visit http://www.amazon.ca/Dead-North-Canadian-Fiction-Anthology/dp/1550963554

April Aliens – Wednesdays throughout April

Throughout the month of April, Speculating Canada will be bringing you discussions of aliens every Wednesday.Alien mountie

Aliens in Canadian SF can be used to explore Canadian multiculturalism, the feeling of alienation, diaspora (being without a home), ethnicity, the clash of cultures, and the extents and limits of the human. Aliens are often created as a foil, an opposite, an other to humanity, but many Canadian SF authors (such as Julie Czerneda, and Douglas Smith) complicate this ideology and put the reader in the perspective of the alien, occasionally even alienating the reader from the experience of the ‘human’ by presenting human beings as alien in behaviour as the figure from a different planet.

Aliens call on us to question ourselves, to see ourselves from a new perspective and examine what it means to be human. They challenge us to look at ourselves in a distorted mirror. In the words of Canadian author Judith Merrill “We have met the Alien and it is us” (Afterward, Tesseracts).

Abandoned

A Review of Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s “A Handful of Earth” in Expanded Horizons: Speculative Fiction for the Rest of Us (Nov, 2012)
By Derek Newman-Stille

Author photo of Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Author photo of Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s “A Handful of Earth” available for free online by Expanded Horizons: Speculative Fiction for the Rest of Us ( http://expandedhorizons.net/magazine/?page_id=2442 ) narrates the Dracula story from the perspective of Dracula’s “brides”, the three “sisters” who accompany him, giving life to characters often overlooked in the Dracula mythos.  Moreno-Garcia explores the experience of people left behind when a man emigrates in search of new opportunities elsewhere. They are left in a bitter-sweet state, joyous about being without Dracula’s oppressive regime and his compulsion to leave them locked up “for their own safety”, barricading them from the world outside to keep them in a state of perpetual unchanging existence. But, they are also in a state of mourning, without the purpose and drive that he had imposed on their lives and with a lingering sense that he could return.

Moreno-Garcia’s vampires are figures who are trapped between memory and existence. They are frozen in a state of undeath, as vampires generally are, but they also experience a loss of memory, a loss of their previous identity: “We can never look back or we will be turned into pillars of salt”. They grow empty as they age, giving up on aspects of their humanity possibly at the conflict embodied in the daily experience of humanity and inhumanity staring at one another in the mirror of their own bodies.

The narrator holds onto her sense of humanity though her love and maternal care for her sister vampires, using this to maintain some semblance of life and to fend off the experience of emptiness that hollows out the immortal soul. When, as in the Dracula Story, both Dracula and the other sisters are killed, the narrator is left with a loneliness inside of her, a loss of the homeliness of her humanity that was shaped through her maternal affection. Even the castle around her decays and collapses, leaving her with nothing to hold her memories in place. Left without identity, without memory and left to wander in diaspora, she loses an essential part of herself.  With the loss of her home and family, she forgets even the semblance of life.

Moreno-Garcia’s vampires are figures of internal conflict – both in the now because of their continual existence and immortality, but also trapped in the past at the moment of their death. They experience an internal war between the desire to escape from the past, and also the desire to remember. The past is an anchor for memory and identity, and it helps them to hold onto something of themselves. Without connections to the past, like many people in diaspora, they feel hollowed out, emptied, and lost.

You can read this story online at Expanded Horizons: Speculative Fiction for the Rest of Us at http://expandedhorizons.net/magazine/?page_id=2442 . To find out more about Silvia Moreno-Garcia, visit her website at http://silviamoreno-garcia.com/blog/