Old Enough to be Hurt

A review of Jeff Lemire’s “Old Man Logan: The Last Ronin” (Marvel Comics, 2017)
By Derek Newman-Stille

With the “Old Man Logan” series, Jeff Lemire has been playing with ideas of ageing, displacement, and the changes in identity that occur with the passage of time. This is a Wolverine who has been displaced from time from an apocalyptic future to a present he isn’t quite ready to face.

In “Old Man Logan: The Last Ronin”, Lemire explores the connection between the passage of time and regrets and Logan has had a long enough life to have a plethora of regrets. Logan finds himself back in Japan, a place he visited when he lived in the future and where he encountered a cult called The Silent Order that sought to claim Japan for its own and had envisioned him as simultaneously a foreign threat and a prophesized figure. Logan encounters The Silent Order again in the present with his memories of killing people in the future and seeks to divorce himself from the person he was in the future. In the present, he is filled with the regrets of his future life and tries to resolve things peacefully with The Silent Order, but the Order has a prophet who has seen what Logan will do in the future and is angry at the loss of his friends. This young, but powerful boy is plagued by the fear of his encounter with Logan in the future and tries to stop Logan before he destroys everything he cares about.

Lemire explores the way that fear, longing, and regret shape us, and the way that these accumulate over a lifetime in a way that transforms instincts into mirrors of the pain and suffering of a lifetime. Logan is a figure defined by pain, pierced as much by his guilt and regret as he is by his claws as they extend to deal with threats he feels to old to cope with. Logan is a man displaced, with nowhere to call home, and yet every place he visits is one he has already been to and already left enemies in. His long life means that he develops all of the conflicts of home, but doesn’t ever get to experience any of its comforts or connections.

To discover more about “Old Man Logan: The Last Ronin”, visit http://marvel.com/comics/series/20617/old_man_logan_2016_-_present

Immortality Quest

Immortality Quest

A review of Kelley Armstrong’s “Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word” from “Expiration Date”, Edited by Nancy Kilpatrick (Edge, 2015)

By Derek Newman-Stille

It is always exciting to see a collection on the notion of the “Expiration Date” open with a vampire story – a monster developed as a fundamental question to the notion of death itself and occupying a liminal status between life and death while complicating both ideas. Kelley Armstrong’s “Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word” reintroduces some of the vampires from Kelley’s other fiction including Zoe, the Toronto vampire who people feel doesn’t really count as a vampire, and Cassandra, a vampire who has lived well beyond the date at which most vampires die. In Armstrong’s Otherworld stories, vampires are only able to live a certain number of years and each year, on their birthday, they must kill a human being and drink the last of their blood. As vampires age (still well beyond a human lifespan), they begin to experience the effects of aging and eventually die. Cassandra is seeking a replacement for herself on the supernatural council as the vampire representative and she has identified Zoe as a potential replacement.

Armstrong’s vampires, like many vampires in fiction, embody the clashing of past and present – figures who blur the understanding of the past by carrying memory into the present. Cassandra embodies this clash of temporalities by being an antique dealer, working with items from the past and bringing them into the present. Zoe embodies her resistance to the timeline by being an antique thief, stealing those moments of the past as she does by living beyond her years. But, Zoe and Cassandra’s strange relationship to time is most important in the notion of what is remembered and what is forgotten or left in the past. When Zoe’s young, human protage, Brittany the (former) Vampire Slayer (yes, she is definitely an Armstronged Buffy) begins asking Cassandra about Zoe’s past, the vampire obscures the details of Zoe’s past to hide the more unsavoury details of her life, hiding the rawness of Zoe’s memories and her previous identity from Brittany. This desire to hide the past only highlights how much Zoe has changed and how much she is concerned about her changes. Yet, this is also a narrative about wanting an apology for a past wrong done to Zoe and apologies are a way of coping with the past.

To further the issues of time and long life embodied by the vampire, Zoe is also facing an influx of “immortality questers” into the Toronto area – supernaturals who dissect vampires as a way to try to gain immortality. This act of questing for immortality underlines the role of the vampire as a question about immortality and survival as well as the obsession our society has with finding ways to life forever.

Armstrong’s “Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word” is about the uncertainty of time and memory and about the loss that long lives can imprint on the undead. Situated in a collection about death, this story serves as a question about death and the social power it has.

To discover more about Kelley Armstrong, visit her website at http://www.kelleyarmstrong.com

To find out more about Expiration Date, visit Edge’s website at http://edgewebsite.com/books/expirationdate/expirationdate-catalog.html



Blurring the Boundaries

A review of Greg Bechtel’s Boundary Problems (Freehand Books, 2014)
By Derek Newman-Stille

Cover photo from Boundary Problems from http://gregbechtel.ca/

Cover photo from Boundary Problems from http://gregbechtel.ca/

We tend to think of boundaries as stable, fixed, unchangeable, but boundaries are inherently permeable, and any boundary that is created is created because someone or something is able to slip trough it. Greg Bechtel writes on these borderlands whether they be of genre (realism, science fiction, fantasy), gender (male, female, intersexed, trans, genderqueer) temporal (past, present, future), he shows a fascination with those luminal spaces and situations, heightened periods of intensity when things are shifting, because the reality is that everything is constantly in flux and stability is a fiction. And fiction, the stories that create us, constitute us, and shape our experience of the world, can be very much real.

Boundary Problems delves into a polyphonic mix of characters speaking themselves into the world from the margins, announcing their complexity and unwillingness to be captured in a single voice. Bechtel recognizes the inherent slipperiness of stories, the sense that writing a story down attempts to, but will never succeed in, fixing a story in one voice. Every reader will inherently read a story with their own voice, their own set of expectations and symbolic understandings. His characters fluctuate throughout the story, in some cases fluidly moving between gendered, racial, and sexual identities. He recognizes the permeability of story and personhood – that each filters into the other and that we are constituted by stories, tales that shape our identities. The uncertainty of his story endings speaks to this idea that he is only capturing a snapshot of a wider story and that the character has an existence separate from and larger than the story. He speaks to the continuity of all stories and that the stories that we write are fragments building a feeling, a state of being and an aesthetic for the reader but that no story is ever complete or done, but perpetually in progress. He reminds readers that writing endings is an artificial process, and that it limits the complexity of the notion of The Story itself.

Boundary Problems provides snapshots of the human experience, moments of people trying to make sense of the world around them. Bechtel shows an interest in going voice to people who have been expelled from the hegemony of “The Normal”, inserting those pushed to the fringes into a position of centrality. He reminds readers that those stories pushed to the fringes and devoiced are often the most complex, fascinating, and thought-provoking.

Bechtel’s collection explores that permeable place between speculative fiction and realist fiction, not shying away from either, but interweaving them – because reality IS speculative, and good speculative fiction should evoke questions and speculations about reality. Bechtel deals with real world issues like violence against women, place and selfhood, the policing and control of sexuality, surveillance and losses of freedoms, and the danger of hegemonic power structures silencing the voices of dissent, the voices who speak up against systemic violence and the erasure of their stories, their histories. Boundary Problems delves equally into quantum physics, magic, and the everyday experience of a coffee shop book reading… but all of these stories evoke something of the human experience, tell us about our relationships to each other, to our perceptions of ourselves, and to the world around us.

To read some reviews of individual short stories in this collection, see:




To discover more about the work of Greg Bechtel, visit his website athttp://gregbechtel.ca/ .

To read more about Boundary Problems, visit Freehand Books athttp://www.freehand-books.com/authors/greg-bechtel

A Brush With Mythical Madness

A review of Ursula Pflug’s The Alphabet Stones (Blue Denim Press, 2013)
By Derek Newman-Stille

Cover photo of The Alphabet Stones courtesy of Ursula Pflug

Cover photo of The Alphabet Stones courtesy of Ursula Pflug

Ursula Pflug writes The Alphabet Stones with a mixture of rural Ontario accent and a transcendent poetic quality. Her work glitters with the cadences of rural ontario while evoking a deeply poetic quality and beauty of phrasing.

The Alphabet Stones is a voyage of self discovery and delving into the blurry lines between myth and memory, the haunting quality that the past has on the present. Jody is a girl who was raised on a commune with a mother who has been committed to an asylum. The land around the commune and her experiences with others have written themselves deeply into her memory, shaped her into who she is but her memories are suspect, questioned, and shaped by an air of myth.

Pflug does an incredible job of exploring the dream-like quality of memory – shifting, changing, and uncertain. But, the memories she explores are literally tinged by the mythic, the unbelievable, and the supernormal. Jody and her friends have had contact with the otherwordly through a mythic place where stones are written with words and images that evoke a world beyond our own, and she has been touched by an element of the fey.

Jody is a youth invested with the qualities of old age – she is wise beyond her years and is steeped in a deep nostalgia that often only permeates those later in life – she misses things from her past, feels cut off from her places of origins, and senses that things have fundamentally changed while pining the fact that things will never be the same. She is defined by an inescapable sense of loss.

Ursula Pflug wends her story with twining threads of strangeness and loss, the alienating quality of the past. It is fantasy on the cusp of madness, with characters debating the reality of their experiences and the extent to which delusion may have permeated their lives.

Her characters prefer to believe that the otherworld is just stress or delusion. It is easier and safer for them to think that the world itself is knowable rather than subject to an uncanny quality, a place infinitely more complex than they can grasp or understand. Pflug doesn’t try to create easy answers in her novel, providing for her readers the same sense of dislocation that is invested in her characters. She allows the readers to truly feel what it is like to stand on the cliff between reality and the mythic, madness and ideas of normalcy.

To discover more about Ursula Pflug, visit her website at http://ursulapflug.ca/ .

Draconic Intersections

A review of Charles de Lint’s Berlin (in Wings of Fire Ed. Jonathan Strahan and marianne S. Jablon, Night Shade Books, 2010)
By Derek Newman-Stille

Worlds collide in Charles de Lint’s Berlin. De Lint explores the borderland between the human world and Elfland, a place called Bordertown where things mix and mingle and where magic and reality overlap with one another. Things that are generally ignored in our world are noticed here, and not just magical things – in a world where poverty is generally ignored and the homeless are rendered voiceless, a place can be found for them in Bordertown.

Like any town, it has problems, and gossip and misunderstandings feature strongly in those problems. Berlin, a woman who is primarily interested in defending the poor and finding a place for people living in poverty, is trapped in a conspiracy of lies that implicate her as a trouble-maker in a city that likes to avoid notice and attention. She becomes a pawn in a war of reputation.

De Lint doesn’t avoid the tough topics. He approaches issues of homelessness, drug abuse, gang violence, and, like many of his works, he uses art forms as a means of dealing with and coping with issues. In Berlin, de Lint explores the lingering presence of past traumas and how these traumas can continue to haunt us and influence us in conscious and unconscious ways, but it is through artistic performance, through acting out scenes that reflect on the past that characters are able to explore their trauma, feel it, and cathartically deal with the lingering essence of the past, and, in particular, past pains.

The realms of Elfland and the ‘real world’ are not the only things that collide in Bordertown – it is also a place where memory meets the present, where gang violence meets people trying to survive, where pain meets healing, and where dragon meets human. Berlin, like her community, is hybridised – she is human and dragon, and aspects of both bleed over into the other, much as the past bleeds into the present and violence spills over into places of community. De Lint reminds readers that every space is hybridised, made up of a running together of multiple pasts, multiple people, and multiple ideologies.

You can explore more about Charles de Lint and his work at his website http://www.sfsite.com/charlesdelint/ .

Interview with Nina Munteanu

An Interview with Nina Munteanu by Derek Newman-Stille

Author photo courtesy of Nina Munteanu

Nina Munteanu is both an author and a writing coach, sharing her gifts with other aspiring writers to help them to share their stories with the world. She is both an author and an ecologist, branching the worlds of science and fiction. Nina is tha author Darwin’s Paradox (and you can see the Speculating Canada review of this book posted on October 20, 2012), Angel of Chaos, and Outer Diverse. I will let Ms. Munteanu tell you a bit about herself below. 

Spec Can: Could you tell readers a little bit about yourself to start this interview?

Nina Munteanu: I was born in a small town in the Eastern Townships of Quebec to immigrant parents. The youngest of three children, I started writing and drawing as soon as I could hold a pencil. Even before I could read, I wanted to become a “paperback writer” like in the old Beatles song.

I’m a bit of a bohemian and enjoy wandering the world in search of the strange and wonderful. I come by my gypsy lifestyle quite honestly: 40% genetics (from both my passionate philosopher Romanian Dad and my wanderlustich explorer artistic/scientific Mom); 40% my upbringing (they were very supportive of my artistic pursuits) and 20% God’s will. I love them both dearly. They let me be who I was and because of that they helped shape what I now am: a loving mother; courageous artist; creative scientist; wandering explorer; everlasting child, trickster and storyteller; faithful student and enthusiastic teacher; judge and fierce advocate for the oppressed-ridiculed-and the silent; lover of all living and inanimate things and God’s humble servant.

After moving to British Columbia, I raised a family and taught science courses at the University of Victoria and Douglas College. I hold a masters degree in limnology and served for over 25 years as a research scientist and environmental consultant, writing technical reports and delivering research papers at conferences. I coach writers who want to publish their works and give workshops in various venues on writing and publishing.

In addition to eight published novels, I’ve written short stories, articles and non-fiction books, which have been translated into several languages throughout the world. Darwin’s Paradox (Dragon Moon, 2007) was the recipient of the Midwest Book Review Reader’s Choice Award and the Delta Optimist Reader’s Choice. Its prequel Angel of Chaos was a finalist for the Foreword Magazine Book of the Year in 2010. I regularly publish reviews and essays in magazines such as The New York Review of Science Fiction and Strange Horizons. I also serve as staff writer for several online and print magazines. I was assistant editor-in-chief of Imagikon, a Romanian speculative magazine and now serve as editor of Europa SF a site dedicated to the European SF community. Outer Diverse (Starfire, 2011) the first of the Splintered Universe Trilogy, is now an audiobook with Iambik (2012). My latest book The Last Summoner (Starfire, 2012) is a historical fantasy. Inner Diverse and Metaverse are due this December and early next year, respectively.

Spec Can: In addition to being an author, you are also an ecologist. What is it like to balance these two interests? How do they influence or support each other – i.e. do you find your fiction writing influences the way you look at ecology and do you find that your practices as an ecologist influence your fiction work?

Nina Munteanu: Definitely. My fiction and my ecology have co-evolved in a synergistic way. My interest in ecology stems from my interest in preserving this planet as well as my fascination for how Gaia works; these themes pervade most of my fiction and much of my non-fiction articles and essays.

The science of ecology studies relationships more than any other science. It looks at how things relate to one another. Ecology is the study of communities and ecosystems and how these interact in a global setting. Science fiction writing explores the interaction of humanity with some larger phenomenon involving science. Robert J. Sawyer calls it the fiction of the large. Large ideas, large circumstance, large impact. Both ecology and science fiction explore consequence in a big way.

My ecological interests and experiences have influenced my writing in every way: in providing me with ideas, in world-building, and in the interactive fractal nature of plot, theme, character and premise. For me, the two are intertwined. Writing science fiction has opened the doors of creative problem solving in my scientific pursuits; and my science has opened windows of possibilities in my writing. It’s a win-win situation, really.

I just wanted to add (almost as post script here) that, as a writer, I distinguish ecology as a science from most other hard sciences (e.g., chemistry, biology, physics). Most science and technology presents itself in literature through premise or plot, which influence various characters in their life journeys. Ecology—like setting—manifests and integrates itself more in theme. This is because, while most of the hard sciences study the nature and behavior of “phenomena”, ecology studies the consequences of the relationship of these phenomena and the impact of their behaviors on each other and the rest of the “world”.

Spec Can: What role does SF have in advocating for ecological awareness and curiosity about environmental issues?

Nina Munteanu: Environmental issues are largely a global phenomenon—concerns like water quality and quantity, air pollution, resource acquisition, allocation and sharing, wildlife extinction, etc. Science fiction is the literature of consequence that explores large issues faced by humankind; it can provide an important vehicle in raising environmental awareness. Literature in general has always served as a cultural reporter on themes important to humanity.  Critic Frederic Jameson posits that the literature of “science Fiction is in its very nature a symbolic meditation on history itself.” The science fiction genre—and speculative fiction particularly—explores premise based on current scientific and technological paradigms. What if we kept doing this?…What if that went on unchecked?… What if we decided to end this?… These are conveyed through the various predictive visions from cautionary tales (e.g., Atwood’s “Oryx and Crake”) to dystopias (e.g., Huxley’s “Brave New World”).

Cover photo of Darwin’s Paradox courtesy of Nina Munteanu

Spec Can: Your novel Darwin’s Paradox shows an intense interest in the experience of the outsider and the role of the media in casting certain groups as abject or ‘lesser’. What inspires your interest in the outsider and what have you noticed about the role of media in influencing what society considers socially desirable or the biases that develop?

Nina Munteanu: I honestly can’t say why, but I have always championed the downtrodden, misunderstood and outcast. I remember in primary school making a point of defending and befriending a young girl who was ridiculed by my peers (just because she was French Canadian and very poor). It seemed to be a calling.  Maybe I’m just an INFJ, like Chaucer, Goethe and Joan of Arc (giant grin).

I find the concept of “the outsider” fascinating from a psychological perspective. How we treat the unknown (e.g., with suspicion and fear or with wonder and curiosity) tells so much about who and what we are. The tension of this interaction not only makes for excellent and compelling story but serves an excellent platform to study our psyche.

Several of my books explore my fascination with mind-control, the use of propaganda and influence of the media on the population at large. It fascinates me how people in general can so easily be swayed by what they read or see (with some exception, we are not taught in school to question what we are told and to research for ourselves). There’s something out there that I call the “they say phenomenon”; it’s rampant, particularly now with “expertise” being re-defined through the Internet. Everyone seems to have an opinion of an issue, but when you ask them how they got it, “they” is invoked… “they say”… Who are they? No one seems to know…

We are a fickle, multiplexing busy culture who want it now, fast, easily digestible—and already summarized. Letting others decide for you what is newsworthy is so dangerous; it spawns gossip and feeds into propaganda. The example of the Nazi posters of Jews with long noses should be a reminder of where such things can lead.

I find much of what media does is seduce us to hand over our freedom through insidious tyranny of the mind. I studied George Orwell’s 1984 and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World as allegories in high school. While they still serve their purpose as dystopian cautionary tales, their concepts have already been in use. The trick to the successful implementation of mind control on a massive scale is 1) introduce concepts and related technology in ways that appeal to the public: in the guise of a service (e.g., Joe Public uses his RFID for safety but the government uses them to track his every move; Jane Public uses her Safeway card to get points but Safeway uses her information to better market its products); 2) introduce the changes in small steps (the analogy of the lobster in the boiling pot). When I read Orwell’s 1984 I never thought we would ever sanction such intrusive surveillance. Now, there’s a surveillance camera on every street corner, every storefront and inside every commercial building and hallway. The only place there isn’t one is in your home. Or is there???

Spec Can: What can Speculative Fiction do that “realist” fiction can’t?

Nina Munteanu: The science fiction genre is the pre-eminent literature of allegory and metaphor. By describing “the other” (what does not yet exist, what might never exist) science fiction writers describe “us”. Through our POV characters and their world’s reactions to the unknown.

Speculative fiction predicts consequence to current conditions. It projects into the future or alternate reality from current paradigms in science, technology and society. Speculative fiction uses the premise, “What if?”:  “What if this continued?” “What if we used that this way?”; “What if this caused that?”. It provides the proverbial “canary in the mine” on society. Where realist fiction makes commentary on our current society, speculative fiction takes that commentary into the realm of consequence by showing it to us in living colour. It is the ghost of future, present and past to our Scrooge. The arm of speculative fiction reaches far. This is its power over realist fiction and why, I think, mainstream realist authors like Margaret Atwood have discovered and embraced this genre (her latest three books are all speculative fiction). Speculative fiction doesn’t just “tell us”; it can “show us”.

Spec Can: How much does your Canadian identity influence the worlds you create?

Nina Munteanu: Quite a bit, actually. It’s a wonderful and interesting question that had me pondering quite a while—just like a Canadian—to respond. I feel a strong Canadian identity and I’m certain it imbues my main characters and the cultures I portray. Firstly, I make a point of using Canadian places as settings for my fiction (if set on Earth, that is).

I like that Robert J. Sawyer, back in the 1980s, either set part of his novels in Canada or made at least one of his main characters a Canadian. This was in a time when it wasn’t vogue for a large American publisher to set your novel outside the USA unless it was some place globally recognized, like Paris. Sawyer wasn’t the only one; other notable Canadian SF authors who set their stories in Canada include Charles De Lint, Cory Doctorow and Guy Gavriel Kay.

Cover photo of Outer Diverse courtesy of Nina Munteanu

Most of my novels are set at least partly in Canada, even my space adventure, the Splintered Universe Trilogy.  In the trilogy, detective Rhea Hawke travels to Quebec, where she encounters her past. Canada is a truly multi-cultural country and serves an excellent fractal microcosm for writing about mixed civilizations in the universe. The trilogy features over thirty alien cultures, worlds and species. I used both my ecological background and my own multi-cultural background to create it.

Spec Can: What do you see as distinct about Canadian Speculative Fiction?

Nina Munteanu: It tends to be darker and more reflective. With fewer happy endings… LOL! Who else but a Canadian would write a science fiction romance with a tragic ending? When I wrote The Cypol (Extasy Books) I discounted the protocol of the romance genre for happy endings. The Canadian publisher accepted the novelette, which says a lot. Even though the critics liked it, romance fans hated the book. LOL! I think that Canadian SF authors bring a dark edge to the genre that slides a bit into literary fiction. Again, perhaps why Booker prize-winner in literary fiction Margaret Atwood finds herself writing speculative fiction. Her works are a good example of what Canadian SF writers do best: infuse meaningful reflection and deep allegory in speculation. I think much of Canadian speculative fiction springs from our multi-cultural and northern setting.

Spec Can: What important role can curiosity play in creating a better future?

Nina Munteanu: Curiosity is a wonderful trait to cultivate. When you’re curious you step outside of yourself into a wonderful world. One of the things I re-learned from my son was how to stop and look. Really look, as in bend down on hands and knees and peer close, get dirty. Curiosity feeds our souls. It slows us down so we can pay attention. It teaches us to be interested in our world, to observe and feel. It helps us crawl outside the box, peer around corners into dark alleys where thrilling adventure lurks. It gives us courage to move and act. It helps direct us and self-correct. A great person once said that there is nothing disinteresting in the world; only disinterested people. If we all expressed interest in our world—instead of focusing on ourselves—I think we’d find it a much better place. One with less worry, conflict and war.

Spec Can: Darwin’s Paradox deals with the intersection of humanity and technology. What role do you see technology playing in our future?

Nina Munteanu: Technology is a wonderful tool. Tools, of course, reflect their user. So a tool can give aid in one case or be wielded as a weapon in another. This is the paradox of technology. In Icaria, the biotech world of Darwin’s Paradox, even people are considered tools (veemelds, bioengineered with the ability to meld with the machine community) to be used and abused according to the whims and insecurities of its Technocratic politicians.

I see technology playing a more dominant role in our society as we embrace its integration more and more. I’m thinking of wearable AI, intelligent homes, vehicles and roads, biotechnological implants that will make communication seamless and immediate or heal colds through nano-technology. Back in the 1980s, when I wrote my first draft of Angel of Chaos (prequel to Darwin’s Paradox) in which everyone wore a Vee-set (computer & communication device) on their head, there were no cell phones and certainly no Bluetooth devices in existence. Now, we don’t think twice when we see someone walking down the street talking to “themselves”.

Spec Can: Your work often deals with the collision of past and present and the way that our pasts continue to influence us no matter how much we try to escape from them. What inspires your interest in the lingering of the past?

Nina Munteanu: I like to explore the nature of causality, destiny, fate and free-will and how these interact in the hard choices we must often make with our limited perception. This is something I investigate much further in my latest book, a historical fantasy about parallel universes and splitting realities: The Last Summoner. In the story, the young hero Vivianne discovered that she was unable to alter History the way she’d intended. She found to her dismay that every time she set out to alter a crucial event, quirky consequences ensued and events did not yield to her clever manipulations—as though History had an uncooperative conscience and a predetermined destiny to fulfill. So, I ask the question: what if History (as in any realized reality) is predetermined through its harmonic relationship with other realizable realities? Given that all mass and energy is governed and expressed through frequency, and given that in physics (and music) frequencies exist as multiples of some fundamental frequency; then does it not follow that threads of realizable realities, intertwined around a fundamental path (of history), would move inexorably toward a common destiny?

Our past follows us like a shadow. Who we are is very much a function of our past (our upbringing, our education, culture, parental guidance and experiences of childhood and adolescence) and more; what we do with that is fascinating and compelling. Do we enslave ourselves to our past? Or do we learn from it and move on into the future? Do we fatalistically wait for destiny to unfold or do we create our own? But then, what about quantum mechanics and harmonic frequencies? What about karma, reincarnation, quantum entanglement, morphic resonance and the extended mind? Is that destiny?

More and more, I’ve become fascinated by the interrelatedness of things in space-time, particularly in ways that can’t be explained. Coincidence, precognition, déjà vu—these all appear to play a shadow-dance with each other. Quantum mechanics shows us that not only is “solid” matter made up mostly of energy and “empty” space but what makes a solid a chair vs. you sitting on it is the vibration of its energy. Quantum science has demonstrated that light and matter are made of both particles and waves and can exist in two simultaneous states: Schrodinger’s cat…quantum entanglement or non-local connection, the notion that particles can be linked in such a way that changing the quantum state of one instantaneously affects the other, even if they are light years apart. And what does it mean when solid flows, ghost-like, through itself under certain conditions? In my trilogy Splintered Universe one person’s past is another’s future. And where they meet…perhaps in dreams.

Spec Can: Your work employs scientific discourse, while being completely literary. In what ways can science and the humanities speak to one another?

Nina Munteanu: Through the literature of the fantastic: speculative literature, science fiction, fantasy. These genres explore—nay—celebrate and bridge the gap between logic and imagination, the mundane and the extraordinary, the known and the strange, order and infinite possibility.

Spec Can: Darwin’s Paradox explores the politics of fear and the use of fear as a mechanism for social control. What inspired your interest in this area? What should we, as a society, be concerned about regarding political uses of fear?

Nina Munteanu: Tyrants have always used fear as their primary tool to enslave a population. There is nothing like fear to motivate us. Fear of heights, of the dark, of failure, of change, of the unknown. Letting fear rule us spawns prejudice, racism, conformity and conservatism, and even tradition.

History has provided us with so many examples of how governments used fear to motivate its citizens, either through subversion (e.g., by pointing to an outside enemy, the “other”; e.g. the Jews in Nazi Germany and Poland; Taliban terrorists in the USA) or open oppression (e.g., dictatorship of Ceausescu in Communist Romania). While the latter is of course dreadful, it is the former that we must be so mindful of. It is far more insidious. Subversive use of fear allows shape-shifting politicians in the guise of “doing good” to do evil.

Spec Can: You have also coached and offered resources to aspiring authors. What is it like to mentor new authors and what is one of your most memorable experiences coaching an author?

Nina Munteanu: I’ve been teaching biology in college and university since the 1980s. There’s something very special about mentoring and helping turn on lights, particularly creative lights.  I’ve helped so many writers find their confidence and their way to get closer to publication. It’s very rewarding to see that. And when they get their first book out, that’s even more cool!

Spec Can: Are there any other ideas or thoughts that you would be interested in sharing with your readers?

Nina Munteanu: None except to say thank you for a wonderful interview and thought-provoking questions. I really enjoyed answering them.

I want to thank Nina Munteanu for this wonderful interview and for sharing her insights with readers. It is always a pleasure to interview such insightful people. One can easily see what a fantastic educator as well as writer she is. 

You can explore Ms. Munteanu’s website at http://www.ninamunteanu.com/


A Review of Douglas Smith’s Impossibilia (PS Publishing, 2008)
By Derek Newman-Stille

Impossibilia features Douglas Smith’s fascination with moral questions and morally ambiguous spaces where characters are forced to question conflicting values and ideologies. Through his characters, he asks readers What would change your morals? What are you willing to sacrifice? What would you do for the person you love? How much could you change and still be who you are? There is no certain ground in Smith’s work and readers are compelled to question every element of their identity and explore whether there is anything such as a fixed identity. Everything is changeable and everything is open to questions.

A collection of short stories, Impossibilia represents an exploration of the ways that the past continues to haunt us. Whether it is through a werewolf who lives with the memory and regrets of a past love, a gambler with the power to see luck who must revisit his daughter after living the wandering life, a man with the voice of his ex wife in his head, or even a woman obsessed with van Gogh and unable to escape from their mutual link of pain. Present and past intersect in Impossibilia, and memory is something inescapable.

Smith does not focus his stories on the development of new loves (that’s too easy), but rather the fall-outs of love, the casualties of love and the repercussions. He explores the odd families that develop in the wake of love and the potentialities that exist when things fall apart.

Smith explores his interest in the veil between the ordinary and the extraordinary, challenging the bounds of the possible.

In Bouquet of Flowers in a Vase, by van Gogh, pain becomes a point of connection, of sharing between people separated by time. The truth thought buried under lies surfaces through an exploration of the connection of pain between a young woman who can see into the past and van Gogh, an artist who shares her haunted experience of melancholy. The past is something that always lurks beneath the surface of the present…. and perhaps in some ways the present can even haunt the past.

Going Down in Lucky Town explores luck as a tangible thing and the awareness that one person’s luck is another’s misfortune. Charlie the Pearl is haunted by a past that he can’t stay still in, always moving on to the next adventure, chasing the path of luck to the next big reward.

You can explore my review of one of the short stories in this volume, Spirit Dance, posted October 31, 2012.

You can check out Impossibilia and Douglas Smith’s other work at http://smithwriter.com/impossibilia . You can get a ebook copy on Kobo at http://www.kobobooks.com/ebook/Impossibilia/book-920BLiV38U2erq3geBWO7A/page1.html

“The same earth you are standing on has been stood on by generations of your ancestors. The air you breathe, even these trees you don’t notice, have been touched and climbed by those that came before you. That rock you were sitting on, how many behinds have sat there, watching the sun set?”

-Drew Hayden Taylor – The Night Wanderer

Quote – Ancestors