The Teaching Rocks

The Teaching Rocks

A review of Drew Hayden Taylor’s “Petropaths” in Take Us To Your Chief (Douglas &McIntyre, 2016)

By Derek Newman-Stille

Drew Hayden Taylor’s “Petropaths” is a tale of the ongoing nature of colonial violence, centred on the exploration of the way that this continued assault has created a generation of indigenous youth who are, as he suggests “stuck between the past and the future”. He points out a need for youth to connect to their past and to create a future, something that colonialism has sought to deny indigenous peoples by erasing the past and presenting imagery of a white future. It is significant that Hayden Taylor uses science fiction as a genre of critique when exploring the issue of most science fictional texts presenting a very white future that portrays an absence of indigenous people. Hayden Taylor uses science fiction and a time-travel narrative to explore the idea of temporal uncertainty, but also calls attention to the problematic way that indigenous people are portrayed in most time travel narratives.

Hayden Taylor centralizes elders in “Petropaths”, pointing out their role in providing educational opportunities for youth that ground them in the ongoing practice of engaging with teachings. The narrator, an elder, explains to his grandson along with the other elders that “he need to know who he was, where he came from and what his path was”. Elders in this tale are situated not only as guardians of the past (as they are in many narratives that feature ageing), but also as guides to the future, having a role that subtends time.

“Petropaths” is a tale about petroglyphs, sacred carvings in rock, and Hayden Taylor situates these rocks as a text that extends through time, connecting the person exploring the texts to the past when they were created, to their presence now, and to the future they will survive into. Hayden Taylor is from Curve Lake First Nation whose territory extends to the petroglyphs frequently called the “Peterborough Petroglyphs”, and often acknowledged as “The Teaching Rocks” by Anishnaabe people. Teaching is central to this tale and the relationship between Hayden Taylor himself and “the teaching rocks” underscores the role of the petroglyphs in his story as storytellers and teachers themselves.

Hayden Taylor illustrates the role of conversation that the petrogyphs represent in his tale when he says “It took me a while to understand these were musings and dreams of our ancestors, the thoughts and history of our people carved into Mother Earth for us to see.” These are not static background images in his tale, but, rather, are centred and engaged in a conversation with the characters. He describes these stones as teaching “a lot more than one of those degrees at university”. These stones are not static, rather they “tell their own story their own way… like a whisper in the wind…. Like it was the Earth telling us a story… or, more accurately… like it was a song waiting to be sung”. The stones are not static background figures, but, rather they are storytellers and teachers, engaged in a process of conversation.

The imagery of stone is not isolated to the petrogyphs, but is also evident in the imagery that Duane’s grandfather ascribes to his dissociation from his emotions. He discusses “the wall he had spent years building, emotional brick by emotional brick”, paralleling and yet also contrasting the petroglyphs, which the story situates as a wall. Yet, although both are walls, the petroglyphs are a living, changing text that speaks and shifts for Duane, and may have the power to disrupt the static wall he has constructed for himself.

“Petropaths” is a story that acknowledges the importance of learning and, especially learning through storytelling. This learning is not individualistic, but, rather, it exists in conversation with petroglyphs, the land, animals, and community elders. It’s a story about taking the time to listen to others, but also to listen to oneself. This community of teachers engaging in storytelling is part of the process of beginning to heal Duane from the colonial violence that he has experienced. Storytelling is not just something that Duane hears, but, rather, Hayden Taylor has him engage in storytelling, adding his stories to others while also becoming part of the story. The past is not something fixed or static in Hayden Taylor’s tale, rather it is something that shifts and changes while bringing new voices into it. Duane’s time travel is part of this conversation with storytelling and his role in becoming part of the story. He is an active participation in the past and Hayden Taylor uses this active participation to illustrate that history is not passive, but, rather, that we are always in conversation with the past and the stories told about the past. As Duane says “History isn’t in books anymore. We can walk through it.”

To discover more about Take Us to Your Chief, visit http://www.drewhaydentaylor.com/books/take-us-to-your-chief/

To find out more about Drew Hayden Taylor, visit http://www.drewhaydentaylor.com

Old, But Not Obsolete

A review of Jeff Lemire’s Old Man Logan Vol 1: Berserker (Marvel, 2017).
By Derek Newman-Stille

So many narratives of ageing feature memory and reflection, an exploration of a life lived rather than a life in the process of being experienced. Like many representations of ageing, Lemire’s aged Logan finds himself in a world that isn’t the way it should be… but instead of this narrative being another story of an old man who has lost touch with the passage of the world, this is a tale of a man from the future visiting his past, a world that isn’t as it should be because it will all be destroyed. Logan experiences a dissociation from his world not because it has moved on without him, but because he moved on without it.

Logan has to relive his past, see friends and family that have died in his future and find his way in a world that no longer suits him. Logan has escaped from a post-apocalyptic future world, but one that has left its stain on him, changed him fundamentally and coloured the way he engages with this world from his own past.

Wolverine (Logan) has been defined by his ability to resist age, to resist health issues, and to resist ageing, but this Logan is one who feels the aches in his adamantium bones, who doesn’t heal as quickly, and who has now experienced ageing. This Wolverine’s life has been shaped by regrets and he now finds himself inexplicably in the past and able to do something about those regrets. His healing factor may be slowed down, but this is a Wolverine who needs to do a lot of healing.

To find out more about Old Man Logan Vol 1: Berserker, visit http://marvel.com/comics/series/20617/old_man_logan_2016_-_present

Speculating Canada on Trent Radio Episode 57: An Interview with Joanne Findon

In this episode of Speculating Canada on Trent Radio, I interview Joanne Findon – author, professor, medievalist, and specialist in children’s literature. We discuss the complicated category of children’s literature and the fact that children’s lit has a great deal to teach (especially to adult readers). We explore ideas of time travel and the importance of history, medievalism, folklore, feminism, empowerment, and Canadiana.

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

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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.

 

Timelines

Timelines
A review of Joanne Findon’s When Night Eats The Moon (Red Deer Press, 1999)By Derek Newman-Stille

Time travel is ultimately about responsibility – responsibility to the timeline, to the past, the present, and the future. Perhaps this is why it works so well for a Young Adult novel. In When Night Eats The Moon, Joanne Findon’s narrator, Holly, begins her voyage through time by idealising the past. She sees the past as an idealised place, separate from the issues of modernity and she wants to escape her personal circumstances (the tension between her parents and the shroud of secrets they have woven around her life) to find a reality that resonates with her desires. She has to cope with the clashing of fantasy and reality and the uncertain barrier between them. Rather than her fantasies being eclipsed by reality as occurs in so many coming-of-age narratives, Holly’s reality is expanded by the incorporation of the fantastic into her life and her fantasies are augmented by the infusion of the need for thinking about the real world impact of imagining.

Holly is placed on the edge of family secrets and forbidden knowledge beyond her understanding. Holly discovers a group of vessels filled with time that are able to transport her to the ancient past, letting her meet the builders of Stonehenge. During her voyage, she meets Evaken, a boy who has also discovered forbidden secrets in a Magician’s Apprentice narrative where he takes on magic for which he doesn’t yet have the wisdom to understand. This collision of times and secrets produces a space of healing, an integration of separate narratives, of stories divided by space and time. Holly is able to gain perspective on her own life when she encounters the violent collision of people in the past and is able to bring a perspective from the future to people in the past who need new tales to give them context on their complex world. 

Believing that she is powerless to change the world, Holly learns that she has the power to change the world. She has to come to terms with the responsibilities, challenges, and complexities of realising that she has meaning in her world and that her choices can alter the world. 

The Oddity of Children

A review of Nalo Hopkinson’s “Message in a Bottle” in Falling in Love with Hominids (Tachyon, 2015)
By Derek Newman-StilleIMG_0213

Nalo Hopkinson’s “Message in a Bottle” explores the strange nature of children and the complicated reaction people have to children who don’t fit the norm. The narrator, Greg, explores the social pressure to have children and his own perception of children as “like another species”. Like many people who decide not to have children, he is told that his life has no value without children and that he is incomplete without passing on his “legacy”.

Gradually over time, Greg begins to decide that having children is a good idea, illustrating the pressure to have children and how it overrides personal decisions. He begins to see children as not quite so foreign and strange, but there is one child that continues to seem odd and displaced to him, his friend’s adopted child Kamla, a girl who has a recent syndrome called Delayed Growth Syndrome. Children who have this syndrome develop large heads, but their bodies are relatively slow to develop. The oddity about Kamla, however, is not the size of her head (at least for Greg, though others call her Baby Bobber), but rather the odd insights Kamla shows into the future and her oddly adult manner of speech.

Hopkinson’s “Message in a Bottle” disrupts traditional ideas about aging and explores the discomfort that adults feel when children act or talk like adults. “Message in a Bottle” challenges embedded ideas about aging, encouraging the reader to question notions of “coming of age” and re-think aging as a simple binary of child/adult.

Hopkinson questions ideas of time and temporality by playing with the time travel narrative while simultaneously disrupting the idea of traveling as an adult and instead investing children with “knowledge beyond their years”.

To discover more about Falling in Love with Hominids, visit Tachyon’s website at https://tachyonpublications.com/product/falling-love-hominids/

 

 

 

 

Traditions and Time Travel

A review of Matthew Johnson’s “Another Country” in Irregular Verbs and Other Stories (ChiZine Publications, 2014)

By Derek Newman-Stille

Matthew Johnson’s “Another Country” introduces a new way of examining refugee status and travel. Instead of just looking at travel through space, but rather travel through time and space. Johnson explores the sense of dislocation that happens temporally, over time, and therefore considers the way that cultures change as time passes and that nothing is every fixed or stuck in time. He introduces the PREfugee, the refugee from the past. “Another Country” follows Geoff, a Roman who has assimilated to modern North American society and given up the cultural traditions of his Roman past. He prefers to speak in Latin, calls himself “Geoff” instead of “Galfridus”, and encourages other voyagers through time to assimilate into their new cultural context and give up their Roman heritage. 

The dislocation Johnson plays with ideas of tradition and modernity that often are applied by governmental bodies to actual refugees in our world when they are told that their traditions and cultural behaviours are “traditional” and therefore don’t apply. Assimilation is often applied by governments through the pretention of “modernity”, problematically suggesting that any culture that is not North American is “of the past”.

Johnson highlights this idea of dislocation by exploring the children of prefugees and their struggle with the question of whether to assimilate or whether to embrace Roman culture. The pressures to give up Roman culture are applied by Johnson’s imagined culture by using terminology like “Delayed Integrations” to describe people who want to keep their traditional Roman names, cultural beliefs, and the use of Latin language. 

Johnson explores the fears of North American culture that it will be changed by the introduction of new cultural ideas and traditions by abstracting this onto the idea of a temporal paradox and the government desire to prevent travel back through time because it may change the path of history. 

“Another Country” is a tale of loss and rediscovery, traditions and change. Johnson challenges established narratives of belonging by introducing the cultural conflict between dominant cultures and those of groups that represent a cultural minority. 

To find out more about Matthew Johnson’s Irregular Verbs and Other Stories, visit ChiZine Publications’ page at http://www.chizinepub.com

Doomed to Change

 A review of A.M. Dellamonica’s “The Color of Paradox” at tor.com. 

By Derek Newman-Stille

Like the past, the future has a way of getting into you and this is certainly true for Jules Wills. Knowing the end of the world was in sight, Jules and other time travellers were bounced off of that horrifying future and sent into the past. The only problem is that the brief glimpse of their future stained them, changed them bodily and mentally. Jules is stained by the future he glimpsed when in the Timepress and sees the horrible burning of that future, the smell of rotted flesh, and the strange, unnatural colours of the future every time he sleeps. Even his personality has changed and he has shifted from a non-violent person to someone who dreams of inflicting horrors on others. He feels that he has been infected with the violence that he saw at the end of the world. His body has been irreparably changed by the process of time travel and feels as though it is fundamentally damaged.

A.M. Dellamonica’s “The Color of Paradox” explores notions of inevitability and the desire to change the future during a time (around World War II), when the world seems attached to an inescapable doom. Dellamonica explores the idea of time travel as an attempt to undo some of the horrors that war could inflict on humanity and shapes the idea of survival of the war as itself a form of miracle (one that this story suggests is achieved through time travellers changing the outcome). She explores the damage that war does to bodies and minds and though the PTSD and bodily damage done to her characters is a result of time travel, it mirrors the effects of war and the trauma done to those soldiers who are told that their actions are necessary for ‘saving the world’. 

Dellamonica puts her characters into a situation where they have the choice of either ignoring orders to save one innocent child who they are sent to kill or allow that child’s life to cause the future that eventually dooms everyone. She puts her characters in that classic philosophical question of whether they would kill one innocent child to save millions or allow the child to live and doom the huge amounts of others… and she carries her readers along for this moral ride, questioning how we would cope with this situation and react under similar circumstances. 

You can access this story for free at http://www.tor.com/stories/2014/06/the-color-of-paradox-am-dellamonica

Explore A.M. Dellamonica’s website at  http://alyxdellamonica.com