Vulnerable

A review of Phil Dwyer’s “Invasion” in Cli Fi: Canadian Tales of Climate Change (Exile Editions, 2017)
By Derek Newman-Stille

Phil Dwyer’s “Invasion” explores a Canada who is preparing for American invasion in a world of scarcity where Canada’s natural resources are desired. Dwyer looks at an economy reduced to essential products, just what is needed to survive in a world where having resources means being under threat. 

“Invasion” examines a world where resource scarcity and nationalism are interlinked and borders are patrolled and violated in the name of resource protection and exploitation. Dwyer examines Canada as a space that is rich in resources, but has few military defences, eclipsed by the military-industrial complex to the south. In this world, Canada even shut down their hospitals to ensure that no one would invade because they might see Canada’s medical system as exploitable: “Hospitals were closing all over the world – in Europe and the US people were dying by the hundreds. We had to show solidarity with them. Stand shoulder to shoulder, making the same sacrifice and suffering the same consequences. If we hadn’t can you imagine the backlash?”

Dwyer examines Canadian vulnerability in the event of a world where water is scarce and where people are willing to kill for resources.

To discover more about Cli Fi, visit Exile at http://www.exileeditions.com

Planets Contaminated

A review of Crystal Yates’ “Earthsong” (Overmorrow Media)
By Derek Newman-Stille

“Earthsong” is an incredibly beautiful and chilling fantasy graphic narrative. Crystal Yates plays with light and images of fabric to create a comic that, while dealing with serious issues, also feels like a warm blanket wrapped around the reader. 

Crystal Yates’ “Earthsong” is an interplanetary fantasy where the planets themselves take on life and consciousness. Some of these planetary spirits interact with their creations, their children, but most have been content to sleep. Many of them have slept right through a crisis that has been happening throughout space and on their own surfaces. A contamination has leaked onto the surface of planets that attaches itself to various of the planet’s sentient children and, if unchecked, will destroy the lifeforce of the planet itself.

The planets got together to deal with what was occurring and decided that the best way to solve the issue of contamination is to remove contaminated people from their planet and place them on a new planet and the planet who named herself Earthsong has become a host for all of this misplaced travellers. These planet children end up on Earthsong without their memories, dropped into a complex battle they know nothing about.

Yates explores ideas of quarantine, contamination, the loss of selfhood, and the desire to learn about oneself in “Earthsong”, creating a narrative about planetary contamination that isn’t about pollution but reminds us of the fragility of our place on our planet nonetheless.

To find out more about Earthsong and read some of the online comic, visit http://www.earthsongsaga.com

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. 

Learning How Not To Be A Hero

Learning How Not to Be A HeroA review of Edward Willett’s “Falcon’s Egg” (Bundoran Press, 2015)

By Derek Newman-Stille

Lorn had always wanted to be a hero, always looked up to those revolutionary leaders he saw pushing boundaries and changing society, but when Lorn sees his “changed” government behaving in the same way as the previous regime, he is forced to question the ideals of change. Lorn tries to uncover secrets that the government is keeping from the populace and he has to take leave from his job in government policing in order to figure out what the government has become and what they are now capable of. 

As Lorn has aged, his heroes have become more humanized and he begins to see the weaknesses in the social construction of heroism. He is forced to face the reality that the idealisms of youth have become the cynicisms of age. 

In “Falcon’s Egg” Edward Willett takes on the notion of heroism itself, exploring the casualties of war and the results of battle on the psychology of the protagonist who has endured the traumas of war. “Falcon’s Egg” is a text of revolution, a war narrative with a bit of frontier ideologies since it is set on an alien world that is in conflict with the more technologically developed centrist planets. However, unlike most exploration, war, revolution, and adventure narratives who uncritically cast the hero as a figure who is above trauma, Willett’s narrative explores the toll that heroism takes on the mind of the hero as well as the toll that it takes on human lives and society. Lorn, through his trauma, is forced to re-assess what it means to be a hero and acknowledge the harm that he and others who saw themselves as heroes have done in enforcing their ideals. At the beginning of “Falcon’s Egg”, Lorn, like many soldiers, begins his story trying to convince himself that he had to do every horrible thing he had done to make the world a better place, and, when told by a psychiatrist that he had PTSD, ignored what he was told and saw PTSD as a “disease of lesser people”. But, when he experiences increasing flashbacks and scenes of horror, he realizes that he needs to shift his perception of himself and his role in society. The toll of human lives becomes too much for him and his own horror at how casually he can now commit murder opens a doorway to a room full of unanswered and unsettling questions for him. Lorn realizes that his dream of running away to space, away from home and his family has always, fundamentally, been a desire to run away from himself.

Willett creates a coming of age narrative that is not limited to a youth. He portrays Lorn as a man, like most others, who is perpetually going through coming of ages, understanding himself in new ways as his viewpoints change with experience. Lorn experiences an awakening to his own ignorance and self denial that lets him finally come to find himself and find meaning in his life beyond the fairy tale narratives of the hero that are portrayed by his society. Willett creates a character who is learning how not to be a hero, but, rather, learning to be a human being. 

You can find out more about Edward Willett’s work at http://www.edwardwillett.com 

You can discover more about Falcoln’s Egg and other Bundoran Press books at bundoranpress.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

The End is Only The Beginning

A review of Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s collection Fractured: Tales of the Canadian Post-Apocalypse (Exile Editions, 2014)
By Derek Newman-Stille

Cover photo of Fractured courtesy of Exile Editions

Cover photo of Fractured courtesy of Exile Editions

Flooding, ghosts, spreading oil sinkholes, whitenoise, bio weapons, nuclear bombs, sudden population disappearances, a strange rotting of the landscape, persistent sleep, the drying of the world’s lakes, alien invasion, shadows, plague, constant rain, technological crashes, ruptures into the abyss, fires… the visions of the apocalypse are multifaceted and Fractured: Tales of the Canadian Post-Apocalypse imagines new nuances of each potential end. But ultimately, this is not a collection about the end, not about the apocalypse itself, but the experience of the end and the way that the end can be a beginning of a changed world, a world that envisions a separation from the past but is still haunted by its memory. Fractured imagines what characters in the post-Apocalypse are feeling, how they are making meaning out of their experiences, how they are coping with severe changes to their world, and ultimately, the loneliness that comes from facing the end. This is a volume of endings that embody beginnings.

The term apocalypse means revelation, the revealing of things and ultimately this volume reveals the nuanced experience of endings and focuses on people coping with the notion of the end, the thought about the idea of endings itself. It is a volume of change, memory, isolation, and desire.

Fractured looks that the connection between human and landscape and how each mirrors and is influenced by the other, illustrating hoe we are shaped by each other – place and people. It is a collection of scavenging from the past and collecting the detritus and rubbish of our civilisation as treasures, reminding us of our privilege to be living in a pre-apocalyptic world.

The post-apocalypse is as much about meaning as it is about survival.

To discover more about Fractured: Tales of the Canadian Post-Apocalypse, visit Exile Editions’ website at exileeditions.com

You can find a review of some of the short stories in this collection at

https://speculatingcanada.ca/2014/11/28/ectoplasmopocalypse/

https://speculatingcanada.ca/2014/04/09/hollow-signals/

 

Edgy Relationships

A review of Suzanne Church’s Elements: A Collection of Speculative Fiction (Edge, 2014)
By Derek Newman-Stille

Cover photo of Suzanne Church's "Elements" courtesy of http://edgewebsite.com/

Cover photo of Suzanne Church’s “Elements” courtesy of http://edgewebsite.com/

In her short story collection Elements: A Collection of Speculative Fiction Suzanne Church treks across stars, across time, beyond the human experience, into the magical, the mystical, the dark, infusing pages with otherworldly imagination that invite us to be fellow travellers into the unknown. She crosses genre boundaries, infusing each with new life brought trough experiences submerging in the others. Her work touches the barriers between horror, science fiction, and fantasy, playing with reader expectations and expanding the scope of the reader’s imagination.

Elements IS fundamentally elemental, not just because some of her characters play with weather (the elements) and with the elements of fire and water, or even because some of her androids are named after elements from the Periodic Table, but because there is something both incredibly large and incredibly intimate about her work because whether it be about aliens, androids, sentient coffee cups, future warriors, or magic users, her work fundamentally explores RELATIONSHIPS, those strange, impossible, and yet oh so familiar things – and relationships are things that we share, whether they be romantic, familial, friendly, or interspecies. Suzanne builds bridges across species, planets, dimensions, and states of being in order to capture that moment when Others touch, when a sharing of experience occurs, and a fuzziness develops between the Self and the Other.

Not all of the relationships in Elements is positive, because relationships hurt, relationships can damage us. This is, by far, not a romantic collection, but is rather about the interactions between people, the ways in which we understand and relate to each other… and not all of the ways we relate to each other is positive. Her stories deal with issues like domestic violence, sexual abuse, war, imbalances of power, abandonment, and situations where the only safe relationship can be created after an escape from home… but they also forge improbable connections, friendships between unlikely allies, allegiances between seeming enemies, a push beyond fear to allow for connections between people who fundamentally see each other as opposites.

Relationships are part of how we understand the world, how we interpret it, creating understanding and interpretation through dialogue, through the experience of sharing ideas with each other, but they are also painful, sharpened by feelings of abandonment, differences in viewpoints, codependency, contexts of pain, confusion, misinterpretations, and an Us against Them mentality. Suzanne Church explores all of these, pushing the extents of human relationships to the edge, and perhaps even peaking beyond the human, displacing our centrality in our view of the world.

To explore reviews of some of the individual stories in this collection, visit:

https://speculatingcanada.wordpress.com/2014/08/05/evangelical-science/

https://speculatingcanada.wordpress.com/2014/07/27/predator-and-prey-relationships/

https://speculatingcanada.wordpress.com/2014/07/26/body-of-war/

and for a discussion of this collection with Suzanne Church, visit our interview at https://speculatingcanada.wordpress.com/2014/08/02/speculating-canada-on-trent-radio-episode-14-an-interview-with-suzanne-church/

To find out more about Elements and other Edge books, visit their website at http://www.edgewebsite.com/ .

To discover more about Suzanne Church, visit her website at http://suzannechurch.com/wordpress/ .