Speculating Canada on Trent Radio Episode 34: An Interview with Helen Marshall

At the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts, I was able to take a few moments of Helen Marshall’s time to do an interview. In this interview on Speculating Canada, we talk about the relationship between bodies and text, aging, changes, open endings, the power of fiction to open up new ideas and new possibilities, writing as an act of personal reflection and exploration, horror, transformations, and history and its relationship to speculative fiction writing. As always, Helen Marshall invites new ways of looking at the world through her fiction as well as through her discussions of fiction.

During our interview, Helen Marshall surprises listeners with an author reading of her brilliant, wonderful story Lessons in the Raising of Household Objects.

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 discover more about the work of Helen Marshall, visit her website at http://www.helen-marshall.com/ .


Mazes and the Futility of a Controlled Life

A review of James Bambury’s Thirteen Generations (on AEscifi.ca The Canadian Science Fiction Review)
By Derek Newman-Stille

James Bambury’s Thirteen Generations takes place in a realm of experiment, a lab in which specimens are put into a maze to test their ability to navigate complex locations and solve problems. Each specimen only lasts about an hour and passes on some of its knowledge to the next generation.

The researcher gradually begins hearing disjointed voices from the organisms as they pass from generation to generation, their language becoming more clarified as they gain greater abilities to problem solve complex mazes. Gradually the specimens come to recognise the presence of the researcher, and later generations begin to ask for things. Over time, the organism starts to question its existence and asks the researcher if life is just paths, eating, and signals. It recognises the limits of existence, the simplicity of it and its meaninglessness. When the researcher tells it that its death is coming soon, it, like us, wants to avoid any form of death.  When it discovers that death is not possible to avoid, it becomes despondent, seeing that there is no way that it can avoid or solve death.

As the specimens continue to progress, they begin to question the necessity of their behaviour and what they are doing. Death’s inevitability and the repetitive nature of existence drains them of their motivation.

Speaking to a creator and knowing that life is only a maze, a puzzle for the benefit of another robs existence of its excitement, its changeability and, by making death something inevitable, there is a loss of the speculative – the question that keeps us going. Change is motivational, questions help us to constantly strive, change, and modify the world around us.

You can explore this story at http://aescifi.ca/index.php/fiction/35-short-stories/1400-thirteen-generations . You can find out more about James Bambury at http://jamesbambury.blogspot.ca/ .

“It was science fiction, future fiction, SF, that taught us how to think about death and despoilation by radiation, chemical waste devastation, Big Brother, Star Wars and Nculear Winter. So what’s “unthinkable” now?”

-Judith Merril – Afterward (Tesseracts)

Quote – SF Taught Us How to Think About the Unthinkable

Upcoming Interview with Jerome Stueart on Tuesday December 18th, 2012

Jerome Stueart is the most Northern of the authors I have interviewed, hailing from the Yukon. An American ex-pat, he was able to look at Canadian SF both from an outsider AND an insider perspective. Check out our interview on Tuesday December 18th.

Author photo courtesy of Jerome Stueart

Author photo courtesy of Jerome Stueart

I hope that you enjoy his insights on SF in the Yukon, teaching and the education system, the links between science and SF, the ability of SF to evoke changes, climate and environmental issues, the importance of animal voices, and issues with our culture of greed.

Here are a few teasers from the interview for you to check out:

Jerome Stueart: “You can’t help but see the Yukon’s exotic environment—light all day in the summer, darkness in the winter, extreme temps, strange wildlife, and a plethora of scientist all trying to find treasure up here… Passions run high here.  I think I was surprised at how much my relationships, and the way the Yukon changes people quickly have both found their way into my writing.”

Jerome Stueart: “My relationship with my younger sister and her dyslexia formed the emotional core of the story, and my feelings against a one-style fits all teaching method that favors memorization.  I watched her struggle with a feeling of inadequacy because school didn’t ‘find’ where she was brilliant.”

Jerome Stueart: “Schools want to pass—so out goes anything that’s not going to help them pass.  Students are even more focused in high school on memorization to pass state exams to help the school out.  We’ve turned schools into manufacturing plants with a QC officer standing at the door of the school waiting to lock it up if the “plant” doesn’t produce good enough product.”

Jerome Stueart: “Society doesn’t back up any need to think as teachers might want their students to.  Society wants skilled workers and consumers, not skilled thinkers and changers.  We are a consumer culture.”

Jerome Stueart: “I think the current problems with getting the world to understand climate change is directly related to an inability to speculate—or see the future from the evidence you have…  Unless the majority of the population respects knowledge, has a healthy speculative mind, they can’t see consequences.”

Jerome Stueart: “If we don’t “produce” thinking minds—in every place in society—fear mongering will work, evidence won’t count.  That scares me.”

Jerome Stueart: “We’re all about reacting now.  We’re all about consuming.  We’re living like it’s the last days on Earth and we want our feast.  Anyone who says we have to ‘cut back’ which is the message of climate change—restraint—is taking away ‘our fun.’”

Jerome Stueart: “We are such a Mine Culture, not a Mind Culture.  We may live together, but we don’t think together.”

Jerome Stueart: “If we had insight into what animals are thinking about their environment—well, we’d have to start granting their wishes, thinking of their rights, their opinions, about the encroachment of humankind.”

Jerome Stueart: “I think SF can help us get ready for change, and see change as positive and desirable.  We get in our ruts.  If we want the Star Trek universe—we’re gonna have to work for it. But I think it can examine multiple paths for us—examining all possible scenarios and showing us a positive path.”

Jerome Stueart: “We get much more apocalyptic SF which shows us what NOT to do, but rarely shows us HOW to get to the change.”

Jerome Stueart: “Mainstream SF publishers and some editors are still not comfortable with queer characters.  Star Trek, which I love, and would love to one day write for, needs queer characters, instead of relegating them to the Mirror Universe where every body is omnisexual and perverse.”

Jerome Stueart: “SF is about commenting on societal problems more than character problems.”

You can check out my review of Jerome Stueart’s “One Nation Under Gods” that was posted on Speculating Canada on November 22, 2012 by clicking here https://speculatingcanada.wordpress.com/2012/11/22/american-expat-explores-the-american-myth/ . Explore Jerome Stueart’s website at http://jeromestueart.com/

Make sure to check in with Speculating Canada to read the full interview with Jerome Stueart on December 18th