Only Work is Perpetual

A review of Suzanne Church’s “Lost Flesh” in Lazarus Risen (Bundoran, 2016)
By Derek Newman-Stille

The right to die is a complicated issue that brings with it questions of whether people want to die because our society makes it impossible for a disabled person or an aged person to survive comfortably in our society. With the right to die, people in the disabled community have asked “Is it really a right to die when our society provides no ability for disabled people to live within it?”. Suzanne Church takes on the complicated issue of the right to die in “Lost Flesh”, a tale about immortality and the desire by immortal characters to die once their lives become monotonous and unstimulating.

Church brings up an issue that people often ignore in tales of immortality: what does it mean to be immortal in a capitalist society. She explores the idea that every extension of life brings with it a contract for prolonged work, highlighting the issues of ageing in a capitalist society. As characters age endlessly, the only constant in their lives is work and the monotony that comes with perpetual work means that life quickly loses its joie, its vigour, its value. Characters lose their sense of wonder and life begins to feel like an eternity of repetition. 

“Lost Flesh” is a story that explores the horrors of immortality within a capitalist system, where unageing bodies become only vessels of labour, machines of production. Church asks what the right to die means in a society where living means exploitation. 
To discover more about the work of Suzanne Church, visit her website at http://suzannechurch.com/wordpress/
To find out more about Lazarus Risen, visit Bundoran’s website at http://www.bundoranpress.com/product/1/Lazarus-Risen 

A Plague of Immortality

A review of Matt Moore’s “Innocence Prolonged, and Overcome” in Lazarus Risen (Bundoran, 2016)
By Derek Newman-Stille

Contagion narratives have been increasingly popular in our fiction, exploring the human fear of the microorganism, a tiny predator that can consume us without being seen. However, what happens when a virus gives us what we think we want? We are also a society who fears ageing, so what if a virus can end ageing? 

In Matt Moore’s “Innocence Prolonged, and Overcome”, a contagion named the Grail Virus has spread,, killing the vast majority of people that come into contact with it, but granting immortality to a select few people. Because the virus is deadly to most people, this select group of immortals, frozen at the age of infection, have been cut off from the rest of society, quarantined in a small town. 

Moore explores the image that is often projected onto small towns – a timeless space where nothing changes – by introducing a town that is literally frozen in time, unageing… and yet this town is not one that is quant or traditional – this is a town that has systemic violence and a space where people fight against the isolation and agelessness that is often viewed by urban people as the idealized space of the small town. 

Moore’s tale examines the discomfort that comes with agelessness, and the reminder that small towns are places of memory where people can carry on feuds for generations… and in this town, where no one ages, no one needs to rely on stories about slights of family members – these townsfolk remember every slight that has happened to them because they have lived through it all. 

Moore uses the subject of immortality to explore ideas of change and to examine whether people are actually capable of change, interrogating that idea that an “old dog can’t learn new tricks” by giving them an eternity to try to learn new tricks. Moore invites the question of whether people are stuck unchanging because society casts them in that role, always assuming that they are the same person who everyone remembers them being. He asks whether it is possible for people to change if no one will let them and everyone refuses to remember them any other way.

To discover more about Matt Moore’s work, visit https://mattmoorewrites.com/

To find out more about Lazarus Risen, visit Bundoran Press at http://www.bundoranpress.com/product/1/Lazarus-Risen 

Mecha-care

A review of Fiona Moore’s “Seal” in Lazarus Risen (Bundoran Press, 2016)
By Derek Newman-Stille


Over the past few years, there has been a rising interest in robotic assistance for Long Term Care homes for aged populations. One of the technologies that has been developed is a robotic seal (called Paro) that emulates life and serves as a companion for aged people. Fiona Moore explores this trend through her science fictional story “Seal”, which examines the interactions between an ageing programmer, her daughter, and a robotic companion seal. Viv has consistently disparaged technologies developed for ageing populations and believed that the only valuable scientific pursuits were in space travel, but she now lives in a Long Term Care home and is experiencing that technology directly.

Moore points out issues with Long Term Care homes, bringing attention to the imbalance in resources and the allocation of resources to wealthier people in the home. She highlights the costs associated with care and the resultant inaccessibility of resources for people who are not wealthy. But, most importantly, she examines ideas of surveillance and the lack of privacy in the LTC home as Viv is constantly monitored and all of her habits and behaviours noted by the nursing staff.

Moore highlights issues of family involvement in the LTC home by bringing attention to elder abuse and the potential for family members to take resources away from those in the home.

“Seal” is a collision of technology and the imagination of what constitutes long term care, questioning practices that are taken for granted as normal aspects of care. 
To discover more about Lazarus Risen, visit the Bundoran Press website at http://www.bundoranpress.com/product/1/Lazarus-Risen

Small Town Ontario Bodies

A review of Jeff Lemire’s Essex County (Top Shelf Productions, 2009)

By Derek Newman-Stille

Jeff Lemire’s Essex County provides a fascinating look into small town Ontario life. Rather than just fixating on the lives of the young in this coming-of-age narrative, Lemire explores the multiple times in our lives that we come-of-age and expresses the idea that we are constantly coming of age as we change and our social and bodily circumstances change. 
Lemire explores ideas of escape and settlement in small town Ontario life illustrating the way that home is something that constantly shifts and changes and is something that is made up as much of relationships to others and to traditions as it is about a physical space. Lemire complicates notions of home, portraying his characters as constantly trying to fit in but also feeling a sense of longing when they leave. 
Lemire’s exploration is about the people in Essex County, but it is also about their bodies since many of the characters become disabled at different points in the narrative, shifting their understandings of their own bodies and their bodily identities. As bodies change and shift, relationships are also altered and changed, pointing out the ways that our bodies are complicit in our understanding of our world. 
The graphic novel format of Essex County brings attention to the ways that bodies occupy spaces and the absence that they leave in the spaces they cease to occupy. 
To discover more about Essex County visit Top Shelf Productions at http://www.topshelfcomix.com/catalog/essex-county/640

To find out more about Jeff Lemire, visit his website at http://jefflemire.blogspot.ca/ 

Ageing “Usefully”

A Review of Teri Babcock’s “Prometheus on the Operating Table” in Lazarus Risen (Bundoran Press, 2016)
By Derek Newman-Stille

Frequently, the discourse around ageing is that elderly people are no longer useful in our society. Teri Babcock’s “Prometheus on the Operating Table” complicates these ideas of “usefulness” around ageing by creating an aged character who is the most useful person on the planet, indeed the story opens with “Old as I am, Im useful still, so they keep me alive”. After a viral outbreak damages the livers of Earth’s inhabitants, a 120 year old man discovers that he is the only person with immunity and his liver is repeatedly cut into smaller pieces to be disributed amongst the remaining population. 
The discourse of usefulness shapes his care and he receives extra care because of his perceived importance, pointing out that frequently care is constructed as something that should only be available to the few people who society deems are useful. Yet, his care is also related to constant monitoring and control. He lives out his extended life in a coffin-like pod with a zipper attached to his body for easy access to his liver. Quality of life isn’t a concern for his care-givers and instead they focus on providing him with bodily necessities which reflect their own necessities for the use of his body.
While in “care”, his body is treated as a useable commodity, controlled and without options, and simultaneously treated as a resource to be exploited both for his liver and also for his other bodily fluids since his sperm is also taken and used to impregnate people without his consent. 
Yet, Babcock brings attention to the way that care of aged people need to take into account psychological and social needs, portraying a decline in health coming from depression.
Babcock brings critical attention to the treatment of aged bodies and perceptions about identity and critical needs by portraying a future in which an aged body is constructed as extremely useful, resisting the social portrayal of ageing as a decline in use.
To discover more about Lazarus Risen, visit the Bundoran Press website at http://www.bundoranpress.com/product/1/Lazarus-Risen

A Wilde Ride Through Time

A Review of Sean McMullen’s “The Life and Soul of the Party” in Lazarus Risen (Bundoran Press, 2016)
By Derek Newman-Stille

Sean McMullen’s steampunk tale “The Life and Soul of the Party” imagines a world where the dead can be brought back to life through the use of atomata, letting their spirits inhabit the bodies of machines. McMullen plays with that classic philosophical question – who deserves immortality. 
“The Life and Soul of the Party” focusses on two spirits brought back from the grave – Oscar Wilde and the Lady Avondale, two people whose lives were shaped by social censoring and gossip. These are two people whose lives have been challenged and changed by their peers ultimately are given the experience of separation from the human experience of death. 

McMullen explores why Wilde and Avondale would be chosen for immortality, examining questions of science and what it means to be human while also reflecting on the potential losses to humanity that occur with extreme age in a non-human body. 

To discover more about Lazarus Risen, visit Bundoran Press’ website at http://www.bundoranpress.com/product/1/Lazarus-Risen

No Longer Worn Down.

No Longer Worn Down
A review of Amal El-Mohtar’s”Seasons of Glass and Iron” in The Starlit Wood (ed. Navah Wolfe and Dominik Parisien, Saga, 2016).

By Derek Newman-Stille

Amal El-Mohtar interweaves two tales of disempowered women, one forced to perpetually walk to save an abusive husband, and one forced to remain perpetually still to avoid being placed under the power of men. Both are trapped -one in movement and one in stillness. In most fairy tales, both are situated as women in distress and need.

“Seasons of Glass and Iron” is a tale exploring the way that men attempt to control women through stories, rhetoric, and actions and the way that women can liberate themselves through collective action, and by creating their own narratives. El-Mohtar brings two disempowered fairy tale heroines together in her “Seasons of Glass and Iron” to illustrate that women are not passive objects to be moved around a man’s chess board, but rather are figures who can shift and change each other, providing support and encouragement to discard the disempowering texts surrounding them. 

Tabitha, doomed to perpetually walk in iron shoes, and Amira, doomed to a life of frozen near-death at the top of a mountain have to learn to loosen each other’s bounds, unlatching iron shoes and discarding glass mountains in order to find themselves and change the stories that have been written around them to bind them. It is a release from the spell of patriarchy – one that is presented, all too often, as unbreakable. 

“Seasons of Glass and Iron” is a tale of change and self-liberation where women come to recognize their own magic. Frequently women in fairy tales do magical things, but are not considered magical in comparison to other characters. El-Mohtar centralizes women’s magic. 

To discover more about Amal El-Mohtar, visit her website at https://amalelmohtar.com/

To find out more about The Starlit Wood, visit http://www.simonandschuster.ca/books/The-Starlit-Wood/Dominik-Parisien/9781481456128