Speculating Canada on Trent Radio Episode 68: Canadian Lovecraftian Fiction

In this episode of Speculating Canada on Trent Radio, I explore Canadian explorations of Lovecraftian fiction, particularly subversive re-writings of Lovecraftian tales.

You can listen to this episode of Speculating Canada on Trent Radio at the link below.


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.

Spin The Bottle With Death

A review of Helen Marshall’s “Death and the Girl from Pi Delta Zeta” in Gifts For The One Who Comes After (ChiZine Publications, 2014).
By Derek Newman-Stille

Cover Art for Gifts For the One Who Comes After courtesy of ChiZine Publications

Cover Art for Gifts For the One Who Comes After courtesy of ChiZine Publications

In horror films, sorority girls have a metaphorical relationship with death, perpetually constructed as figures who are courted by death. Helen Marshall, demonstrating her characteristic desire to play with tropes to disempower, subvert, and challenge expectations, makes that relationship literal in her short story “Death and the Girl from Pi Delta Zeta”. Marshall’s subversion is as beautiful as it is powerful, shifting reader expectations from the often disempowering genre of horror to play with expected tropes.

Marshall constructs a scene of a typical frat boy party, the sort where women in horror films are often the victims of monstrous acts. She creates the typical scenes of frat boys objectifying sorority girls, in this case literally writing their claims to them on their shirts along with sexualized slogans. Death serves as a contrast to this activity, asked by Carissa to sign her shirt with a magic word. Instead of writing exploitative messages, he playfully writes “abracadabra”.

Death is given celebrity status and constantly asked for his signature by people who he has helped by releasing loved ones from painful lives. Yet, he serves as a romantic contrast to all of Carissa’s previous frat boy lovers by giving her flowers, being romantic, and proving himself a gentle and caring lover. Death is by far the better alternative to frat boys. Horror film, generally constructing frat boys as the typical audience, depicting their expectations on screen, is here reversed by Marshall, who depicts them as background characters serving only as a contrast to the beauty of Death.

Marshall’s sense of play shapes this short story as a thoughtful but exciting piece. Like many of her works, she plays with scenes we have accepted as ‘normal’ and illustrates the beauty in re-framing them and seeing the subversive potential in them. She masterfully plays with normative scenes like a frat party or sending out wedding invitations and inserts a touch of the macabre.

You can discover more about Helen Marshall’s work at http://www.helen-marshall.com/

To find out more about the collection Gifts For The One Who Comes After, visit ChiZine Publications’ website at http://chizinepub.com/

You can read this story online at its original place of publication, Lackington’s at http://lackingtons.com/2014/02/13/death-and-the-girl-from-pi-delta-zeta-by-helen-marshall/

Speculating Canada on Trent Radio Episode 18: An Interview with Gemma Files

Gemma Files and I have been on a few panels together in the past and I have always found her incredible fun to talk to, so I was really excited that at Fan Expo Canada this year she managed to have a bit of time to do an interview that I could share with all of you listeners. Our interview is hilarious and simultaneously covers serious issues, marked with laughter and also important social questions. In our chat on Trent Radio, we discuss the use of Toronto by the film industry as the “EveryCity”… and the potential for horror in that anonymity and shapeshifting ability. We talk about Queer or LGBTQ2 content and kink communities and how these have lent themselves to the development of her fantastic fiction… particularly her Hexslingers series which features gay cowboys who use magic. We discuss the use of family and history in CanLit and how these can be factors making for a speculative story that is just as powerful for questioning ideas of ‘traditional families’. Gemma lends her insights about using characters who are morally ambiguous as well as the general problems with creating a ‘perfect hero’ and questioning of the whole social idea of ‘The Hero’. Overall, we venture into questions about subversive writing and the power to turn tropes on their heads as a way of empowering readers and authors.

Gemma talks about functional bisexuality in her characters, trans characters, and the general fluidity of gender and sexuality as a way of illustrating that change is powerful and that characters do change and transform and question notions of identity over time.

As part of her discussion of the subversive potential in literature, Gemma examines the wonderful world of fan fiction and the ability of fan fiction to insert questions into narratives that may not have otherwise asked them. She explores the ability of fan fiction to assert an otherwise ignored voice or people who are generally erased. She also examines the ability of fan fiction to serve as a queer medium allowing for gender or sexual transformations for characters.

Overall, our interview is a lot of laughs, a lot of fun, and a lot of social questions. At the end of this interview, you will find yourself being fairy-led to the bookstore to get some of Gemma’s books while simultaneously plotting out your next fan fiction story!

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.


Upcoming Interview with Michael Kelly on Wednesday June 19th

Teaser for Michael Kelly Interview

I was so excited to hear from Michael and share in the incredible and insightful comments he was able to provide. It is absolutely amazing to have an author provide deep and poignant insights that help the reader to see Canadian Spec Fic in a new light.

Author photo courtesy of Michael Kelly

Author photo courtesy of Michael Kelly

This Wednesday June 19th, check out Speculating Canada’s interview with author, editor, and publisher Michael Kelly. Michael discusses the appeal of horror, the link between good writing and emotional experience, issues with categorisation of genres, the difference between “horror” and “strange stories”, the ability of good literature to reveal something about human nature, the difference between Canadian horror and horror of other nationalities, the power of horror to question and engage with philosophical ideas, independent presses, and the power of body horror in general to provoke insights and speak to a common experience.

Here are a few teasers from our upcoming interview:

Michael Kelly: “Horror’s appeal is that it is, to me at least, the broadest and most inclusive of all literary forms. It truly has the widest canvas.”

Michael Kelly: “I hope they experience a shift in their perceptions, a slight subversion of the every day, a queer unease. Whether my approach is ontological or psychological, hopefully I can reveal to readers some small insight into human nature.”

Cover photo of Chilling Tales courtesy of Michael Kelly

Cover photo of Chilling Tales courtesy of Michael Kelly

Michael Kelly: “I sense a distinctly Canadian worldview, a disquieting solitude, perhaps, or a tangible loneliness, that permeates these stories and makes them truly chilling Canadian tales. There is definitely a Canadian aesthetic.”

Michael Kelly: “Horror is, to me, so inclusive of themes and ideas, the outré, that by it’s very nature it challenges the status quo.”

Michael Kelly: “Ghosts are mostly born from trauma or tragedy. When they return, when they haunt us, we still empathize with their circumstance, their condition, whether malevolent or not. It’s an interesting dichotomy — empathy for the dead. Ghosts, you see, aren’t about the dead, they’re about the living.”

Michael Kelly: “We’re made of blood and bone, skin and gristle, teeth and tissue. These are the fragile vessels that propel us around this fragile world. Bodies give us pleasure and pain in equal amounts. When the body is invaded and hurt, when it is mutilated or begins to erode, when disease attacks, it reminds us of our mortality. But there’s also, to some, something inherently deviant and taboo about seeing unnatural things happening to our bodies. Body horror brings a new level of intimacy to our lives.”

Michael Kelly: “The future of Canadian dark fiction is bright.”

I hope that you enjoy Michael Kelly’s insights as much as I did. This is a truly thought-provoking interview that will leave you thinking for hours (if not days) afterward.

Join Spec Can on Wednesday June 19th for the full interview with Mr. Kelly.

Upcoming Interview with Robert J. Sawyer On Friday, April 12.

I recently met Robert J. Sawyer at the International Conference for the Fantastic in the Arts and had the opportunity to invite him to do an interview here on Speculating Canada. For those of you who are not familiar with Mr. Sawyer’s work, he has been, at various points in his career, the recipient of all three of the world’s top awards for science fiction writing: the Hugo, the Nebula, and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award as well as the Canadian Aurora awards, the Humanism in the Arts Award, and the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.

Author photo courtesy of Robert J. Sawyer

Author photo courtesy of Robert J. Sawyer

On April 12, Robert J. Sawyer and I will be talking about the separation between life and SF writing, extraterrestrial intelligence and astrobiology, the distinct nature of Canadian SF, the interdisciplinarity of SF, and SF’s ability to ask complex questions. He is a science fiction writer who has as much interest in the past as he does in the future and lets that interest speak to his SF work. Mr. Sawyer experiments with the SF genre, infusing it with elements from courtroom dramas, detective fiction, romance, and thrillers.

Here are some teasers from our upcoming interview

Robert J. Sawyer: “I simply don’t make a distinction between work and the rest of my life. Besides, being a science-fiction writer is too much fun to actually be termed ‘work.’”

Robert J. Sawyer: “I love studying ancient life for the same reason I love the notion of extraterrestrial life: they’re alien beings. Not only is that cool in and of itself, but both are highly speculative areas: in paleontology, we try to puzzle out what dinosaurs might have looked like, and extrapolate from elusive clues what their reproductive strategies, diets, and social structures might have been like. In astrobiology, we go even further, trying to figure out what extraterrestrial intelligences might be like from first principles, without a single actual specimen to study.”

Robert J. Sawyer: “As for my fascination with anthropology, and especially paleoanthropology, again, it mirrors my interest in extraterrestrial intelligence. A Neanderthal or an individual of Homo erectus or Homo ergaster is fundamentally much more alien than, say, a Vulcan or a Bajoran.”

Robert J. Sawyer: “I’ve often said that science fiction is the literature of intriguing juxtapositions.”

Robert J. Sawyer: “Most other genre fiction is plot-driven; at its best, science fiction is thematically driven, and the high-level exploration of a theme—does God exist, do we have free will, what are our ethical responsibilities to other intelligences that already exist or that we might create?—demands an interdisciplinary approach.”

Robert J. Sawyer: “People who don’t read science fiction tend to think of it as a very narrow category: space opera, and not much more. But it provides the widest possible canvas: all of space, all of time, all forms of life.”

Robert J. Sawyer: “I’m a pacifist, and Canada is a country of peacekeepers, not aggressors—and you see that very much in my books. I’m firmly committed to diversity, and I reflect Canada’s multiculturalism in everything I write—and I’m so proud to twice have been nominated for the Gaylactic Spectrum Award, which honours works that positively portray gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered lifestyles.”

Robert J. Sawyer: “SF is a subversive genre, and always has been.”

Robert J. Sawyer: “It’s important to stress that SF can do everything that mimetic fiction can: it can move you to tears, it can make you laugh out loud, it can explore character psychology in exquisite detail, it can dazzle you with stylistic experimentation and beautiful prose. But on top of that, it can also get you to think about issues you haven’t thought about since late-night dorm-room bull sessions decades ago.”

Explore our full interview on Friday April 12 and hear more about the power of SF to subvert the norms and question social trends and ideas.