Upcoming Interview with Ursula Pflug on Tuesday, October 29th

It is great to have a chance to interview another local Peterborough area author, and this time, one of Science Fiction. I have admired Ursula Pflug’s use of poetic language in her SF for some time and marveled at her brilliant way with words. I was very excited that she could take time to do this interview so close to the launch of her new novel The Alphabet Stones. You can check out my review of The Alphabet Stones at https://speculatingcanada.wordpress.com/2013/09/10/a-brush-with-mythical-madness/ .

Cover photo of The Alphabet Stones courtesy of Ursula Pflug

Cover photo of The Alphabet Stones courtesy of Ursula Pflug

Ursula Pflug has been involved in art and authorship in various capacities over the years: as art critic, graphic designer, comedy, and, of course science fiction writing. She is an activist both in her writing and out of the literary space. In our interview, we have the opportunity to discuss the changes that technology can bring to society, green energy an environmentalism, the genesis of powerful stories from observations about the world, the potential for ideas but also the conservativism of the genre of SF. Ms. Pflug reveals her extensive knowledge of Canadian SF and SF criticism, and her decision to engage in a dialogue with questions raised in SF and by the society that creates it. She provides tips on how you can support Canadian SF authors through reviews, applying for grants to house author readings.

Plus, in this interview Pflug even outlines a short story idea that came from her experiences in Japan.

Here are a few teasers for our upcoming interview:

Ursula Pflug: “Eastern Ontario has seeped into my bones something fierce and been a big influence on my work.”

Ursula Pflug: “While history has always been written by the winners the web allows each of us to have our say.”

Ursula Pflug: “I’m a writing teacher, so that is where I begin, is with the elements of story. Anything can happen, and at the beginning of telling the story we have no idea what that anything will be. No matter how detailed our preliminary outline is, as writers we may still deviate—our characters often turn out to have minds of their own. So—for me, any story can encourage readers to think in new ways.”

Ursula Pflug: “At its best, speculative fiction, whether it’s science fiction, fantasy, horror, slipstream or anything else, allows us, both as readers and writers, a larger canvas. We can draw outside the lines.”

Ursula Pflug: “One way we can help our fellow authors is by writing reviews of their work. Since the big dailies aren’t reviewing much we tend as authors to post reviews on GoodReads or LibraryThing.”

Ursula Pflug: “I want people to be given more tools for breaking down the ways in which they define reality. I keep going back to your tagline, Derek, but I do think you’ve nailed it so nicely.”

Ursula Pflug: “The moments we are most moved by as readers stay with us and influence us as writers, even though most often we’re not aware of the influence when we write. “

Derek Newman-Stille, Ursula Pflug, and Leah Bobet (left to right) at The Cat Sass Reading Series

Derek Newman-Stille, Ursula Pflug, and Leah Bobet (left to right) at The Cat Sass Reading Series

Ursula Pflug: “When we read about magic are we escaping or are we expanding our notions of what is possible?”

Ursula Pflug: “If naturalistic fiction takes place in two dimensions, the moment we add a reality bending element we’re adding an extra dimension. There is more room to play as an author and more room to play as a thinker and reader. This is true of science fiction as well and I think whether we like magic or extrapolated science is largely a matter of  taste.”

Ursula Pflug: “Reading about magic can open our minds.”

In this interview, as with her artistic work, Pflug illustrates that we can find powerful stories in little sketches of narrative, the little bits of our experience that contain science fictional potential – the potential to question and change the world. Check out our full interview on Tuesday, October 29th and find some new techniques for challenging, questioning, and changing the world.

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/ .