Speculating Canada on Trent Radio Episode 44: A Discussion of the Work of Matthew Johnson

In this episode of Speculating Canada on Trent Radio, the work of Matthew Johnson is explored. This episode examines Matthew Johnson’s collection Irregular Verbs and Other Stories (ChiZine Publications, 2014), looking at Johnson’s exploration of cultural interactions, language, aging, and other ideas of change.

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.

To find out more about Matthew Johnson’s Irregular Verbs and Other Stories, visit ChiZine Publications’ page at http://chizine.com/books/irregular-verbs

 

 

 

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Traditions and Time Travel

A review of Matthew Johnson’s “Another Country” in Irregular Verbs and Other Stories (ChiZine Publications, 2014)

By Derek Newman-Stille

Matthew Johnson’s “Another Country” introduces a new way of examining refugee status and travel. Instead of just looking at travel through space, but rather travel through time and space. Johnson explores the sense of dislocation that happens temporally, over time, and therefore considers the way that cultures change as time passes and that nothing is every fixed or stuck in time. He introduces the PREfugee, the refugee from the past. “Another Country” follows Geoff, a Roman who has assimilated to modern North American society and given up the cultural traditions of his Roman past. He prefers to speak in Latin, calls himself “Geoff” instead of “Galfridus”, and encourages other voyagers through time to assimilate into their new cultural context and give up their Roman heritage. 

The dislocation Johnson plays with ideas of tradition and modernity that often are applied by governmental bodies to actual refugees in our world when they are told that their traditions and cultural behaviours are “traditional” and therefore don’t apply. Assimilation is often applied by governments through the pretention of “modernity”, problematically suggesting that any culture that is not North American is “of the past”.

Johnson highlights this idea of dislocation by exploring the children of prefugees and their struggle with the question of whether to assimilate or whether to embrace Roman culture. The pressures to give up Roman culture are applied by Johnson’s imagined culture by using terminology like “Delayed Integrations” to describe people who want to keep their traditional Roman names, cultural beliefs, and the use of Latin language. 

Johnson explores the fears of North American culture that it will be changed by the introduction of new cultural ideas and traditions by abstracting this onto the idea of a temporal paradox and the government desire to prevent travel back through time because it may change the path of history. 

“Another Country” is a tale of loss and rediscovery, traditions and change. Johnson challenges established narratives of belonging by introducing the cultural conflict between dominant cultures and those of groups that represent a cultural minority. 

To find out more about Matthew Johnson’s Irregular Verbs and Other Stories, visit ChiZine Publications’ page at http://www.chizinepub.com

Nursing Home Zombies

A review of Matthew Johnson’s “The Afflicted” in Irregular Verbs and Other Stories (ChiZine Publications, 2014).

By Derek Newman-Stille

Matthew Johnson’s “The Afflicted” levels a critique at older adult care facilities and the general social desire to make the elderly invisible. Johnson highlights the way that we tend to hide older adults away in care facilities that are largely there so that we can hide from the spectre of age. Yet, his elderly population refuse to submit to erasure. Instead, they act boldly, making the threat of age literal by turning them into zombie-like cannibalistic figures. 

The first signs of The Affliction are whitening of the hair, memory loss, and some disorientation. The Affliction then proceeds to make the afflicted violent, inspiring them to hunt other human beings and bite their flesh. 

The Afflicted have all been taken out of nursing homes and placed in locked, gated facilities deep in the woods where no one can see them or visit their elderly family members or friends there. These facilities are believed to be better for those who are likely to eventually become End Stagers – the final stage of The Affliction when the person loses all identity and becomes a ravenous feeding machine. 

It is revealed in the story that The Affliction came from out of the nursing homes, that it originated in these facilities, which allows Johnson to comment on the type of care that is received by the elderly in older adult care facilities. These facilities (before the outbreak) were largely run by machines, limiting human contact between residents and the outside world. Each facility only had one nurse on staff. This lack of contact relates to The Affliction since Kate, the nurse at the facility that The Afflicted takes place in, notes that generally older adults who have regular contact with family and friends don’t go End Stage as early and are able to resist some of the dehumanizing effects of The Affliction. Johnson emphasizes the need for human contact for the elderly and the health benefits of regular contact with family members.

Johnson’s “The Afflicted” brings attention to the way we, as a society, dehumanize the elderly. We turn them into our social fears of death and aging and erase them by placing them in facilities where we don’t have to see them. Johnson powerfully challenges our preconceptions about aging and forces readers to confront the spectre of age and invites readers to question their own assumptions about aging. “The Afflicted” is a powerful reminder of what is forgotten – the people left behind.
  

To find out more about Irregular Verbs and Other Stories, visit ChZine Publications’ website at http://chizinepub.com/books/irregular-verbs

No Longer Invulnerable, But Not Vulnerable Enough

A review of Matthew Johnson’s “Heroic Measures” in Irregular Verbs and Other Stories (ChiZine, 2014)
by Derek Newman-Stille

Superheroes inspire the imagination. They are larger than life. They are impossible. They are figures of immortality, defying the touch of death and aging. So, what happens when our superheroes age? What happens when their bodies begin to change? 
Matthew Johnson explores superhero mortality in “Heroic Measures”, presenting readers with an aging superhero who seems remarkably similar to Superman (with dark-framed glasses, invulnerable skin, a little s-curl of hair on his forehead, a bald, wealthy adversary, and plucky former reporter for a partner). This superheroic figure has had what may be a stroke and is experiencing the shut-down of all of his bodily organs.
Doctors, in their compulsion to ‘fix’ whatever they see as ‘broken’ try to intervene in his health care, but their medical technology is no more able to pierce his skin than a speeding bullet would be. They admit that even if they could see into his body with X-Rays or a scalpel, they still wouldn’t know what was normal for his alien biology. This Super body is medically defiant and resistant, unable to be ‘fixed’. But, his body is also trying to constantly heal itself. He is suspended in a liminal space between healing and death, his organs healing themselves only to have others fail. 
What happens when our Supermen age and approach death? What happens when these icons of seeming eternal youth and virility meet age, something that our society imbues with the imagery of loss and eventual death? 
To discover more about Matthew Johnson, visit his website at http://zatrikion.blogspot.ca

To discover more about Irregular Verbs and Other Stories, visit ChiZine’s website at http://chizinepub.com/books/irregular-verbs