Reality Skimming

Reality Skimming

Reality Skimming promotes optimistic SF -- stories that inspire us to fight the good fight for another day. Committment to larger projects, the writer's sense of mission, joy of reading, the creative campfire of the SF community and the love of deserving protagonists are celebrated. We believe in heroes and striving to be what we believe in. It is also a news hub for content related to the Okal Rel Saga written by Lynda Williams.

7Jan/15Off

Interview with Ira Nayman

Welcome_to_the_multiverse

Besides holding a PhD in Communication, Ira is the creator of Les Pages aux Folles, a Web site of political and social satire. He has self-published five collections of Alternate Reality News Service stories from the Web site in print, and he produced the pilot for a radio series based on stories from the first two ARNS books; “The Weight of Information, Episode One” can be heard on YouTube.

Ira has also written a series of stories that take place in a universe where matter at all levels of organization has become conscious. They feature Antonio Van der Whall, object psychologist. To date, eight of these stories have appeared in such collections as Even Birds Are Chained To The Sky and Other Tales: The Fine Line Short Story Collection, UnCONventional, Here Be Monsters, and Explorers: Beyond the Horizon.

Ira won the 2010 Jonathan Swift Satire Writing Contest. He signed on with Elsewhen Press for his Transdimensional Authority novel series, of which "Welcome to the Multiverse (Sorry for the Inconvenience)" and "You Can’t Kill the Multiverse (But You Can Mess With its Head)" were published in 2013 and 2014, respectively. You can find more about Ira at http://elsewhen.alnpetepress.co.uk/index.php/catalogue/author/ira-nayman/.

Interview by Christel Bodenbender

After self-publishing your first set of stories, what does it mean to you to have been signed on by a publisher the traditional way?

I love the control of self-publishing, and will continue to self-publish some of my writing despite now having a traditional publisher. That having been said, finding a traditional publisher was a very important part of my development as a professional author.

Self-publishing has a dismal reputation, often deserved given how many self-published books are riddled with typos and other evidence of bad writing. Having a traditional publisher gives a writer validation; it says to the public: somebody other than his mother believes in this writer. It’s not just the public, though; it also gives the writer a sense of validation. At the best of times, writing is a solitary craft; self-publishing increases this, since a book can be put out with no input from any other human being. When Elsewhen Press accepted my first novel, it proved to me that there was value to my writing.

One thing that I wasn’t expecting, but for which I am grateful, is the supportive community that my publisher has created, not only among all of the people who work on my books (including editors and cover artists), but the other writers that they publish. I have had two opportunities to meet other Elsewhen Press writers, and they are wonderful people. Given the solitary nature of writing, this has been a delightful perk of finding a traditional publisher.

Did the publisher approach you or did you get in touch with them?

I got in touch with them. But there’s a lesson in that story that I used to tell my students when I taught at Ryerson University: approach even the most mundane acts of career building as an opportunity to express your creativity.

When I am asked to write a bio for a science fiction convention I plan on attending, for example, I usually mix the personal information with a hefty dose of humour. One of the first cons I went to was Sci Fi on the rock, a convention held in St. John’s, Newfoundland. They printed my bio in the con programme. After I got there, whenever I would introduce myself, people would invariably point to me and say, “You’re the bio guy!” People knew who I was before they ever met me, which made talking to them (and selling them books) much easier.

What does this have to do with your question? Well. I sent a query letter to Elsewhen Press, outlining what I write and giving a brief description of Welcome to the Multiverse (Sorry for the Inconvenience). The response of the publisher, Peter Buck, was: we looked for some information about you on the Internet. You look completely bonkers – just the sort of person we’re interested in working with! Please send us the first three chapters of your novel.” Of course, he eventually published it. Would he have published the novel anyway? Possibly. But the fact that I made a good first impression couldn’t have hurt.

Don’t slough off even the smallest writer’s task; you never know what will benefit you down the road.

What is different in the writing and editing process between self-publishing and working with a publishing team? What do you see as the advantages of both?

When I decided to write humour lo these many years ago, I knew that I wanted to develop a unique comic voice. (This may not have been that smart, since it’s harder to sell people on something truly original than it is to sell them something that is a small variation on a formula they are already happy with. But, I was eight years old – what did I know?) Self-publishing allowed me to develop my voice without editorial interference; had I been more successful earlier in my career and had a traditional publishing path open to me, my writing may have developed in a more mainstream direction, which, I think, wouldn’t have been nearly as much fun for me or my readers.

An important advantage of working with publishing teams, and editors in particular, is that they force me to up my game. At this point in my writing career, I would like to think that I know my way around a story, that I know exactly the elements I need to make a sequence of events comprehensible to a reader. Still, I can’t begin to count the number of times a good editor has pointed out issues with a work that I hadn’t thought of. The process not only improves the individual works that the publishers have put out, but made me a better writer.

Please tell us more about the latest book and the universe of the Transdimensional Authority?

It’s a multiverse, actually. The basic idea is that travel between universes is possible, but it has to be highly controlled so that the fundamental fabric of reality doesn’t start to unravel. (What that means is explored in the first novel, Welcome to the Multiverse (Sorry for the Inconvenience) ) When you’re somewhere you shouldn’t be, doing things you shouldn’t be doing, the Transdimensional Authority is the organization that finds you, stops you and takes you back to where you belong.

The latest novel is You Can’t Kill the Multiverse (But You Can Mess With its Head). Different teams of Transdimensional Authority investigators are sent to universes where it appears that technologies are being used that do not belong in those universes. As their different stories unfold, it begins to become clear that the disparate investigations are actually somehow connected.

You Can’t Kill the Multiverse (But You Can Mess With its Head) was fun to write for many reasons, but I’ll give you just a couple. For one thing, it allowed me to explore some of the TA characters who had been briefly mentioned in the first book but who had otherwise been left undeveloped. For another thing, I was able to incorporate a character created by Michael Moorcock (with his kind permission). And there are dragons.

It’s the whole package, really.

Your stories thrive on humour. What is your source of inspiration for your writing style?

In reviews, my books are often compared to the work of Douglas Adams. While that is immensely flattering (not least because I am a fan), it is misleading: I have a much different set of thematic concerns and authorial voice.

My two main comic inspirations (which, apparently, surprise a lot of people) are the Marx brothers and Monty Python’s Flying Circus. At first, this may seem like an unlikely combination, but they both taught me two lessons that affect my work to this day: 1) maintain a high volume of comic elements, and; 2) use all of the comic devices at your disposal. The first point is important because the reader soon learns that if she doesn’t get a specific bit of humour, another will be along soon; as long as the reader gets most of the jokes, she won’t begrudge me some of the more topical or obscure or flat out strange ones. The second point is important because writers who use only one or two comic devices can become predictable, and surprise is one of the main characteristics of humour.

What does writing mean to you?

As I always say: writing is not what I do, a writer is what I am. It’s an essential part of my identity.

Many authors write four to six months a year, filling the rest of their time doing research and other career building things. I write just about every day (when you have to update a Web site on a weekly basis, you don’t have a choice). Because a lot of what I write is satirical, I read two newspapers a day as research. I try to read a lot of fiction, partially for the pleasure of it and partially to support my friends who are writers, but also to see if there is anything I can learn about craft from others. I carry writing utensils with me wherever I go and am prepared to make notes about projects at any time. (My friends are used to it.)

There is something about turning a clever phrase that is very satisfying. I really enjoy wrestling with character and situation (and, because I write humour, making it all funny). And, there is no greater joy than to have a complete major work and being able to say, “That’s mine. I made that.” (Okay, maybe there is one, but would it kill you to let me have my little bit of hyperbole?)

Tell us more about your future projects?

I have two books scheduled to come out in 2015. Random Dingoes is the third Transdimensional Authority novel. Noomi and Crash are the main characters (as they were in the first book); they are investigating a drug that is rumoured to make people high by allowing them to see into other universes without using any technology. Things go south when they are thrown out of the universe, sending the narrative in a completely different direction.

There will also be a sixth collection of Alternate Reality News Service articles called What the Hell Were You Thinking?: Good Advice for People Who Make Bad Decisions. It is a collection of humourous science fiction advice columns by ARNS regulars Amritsar, The Tech Answer Guy and The Biz Whiz.

I have also just about completed the Antonio Van der Whallcycle of short stories. After I have written the final story, I will write some interstitial material that will hopefully tie things together and answer questions about the world left unaddressed in the stories themselves, then I will look for a publisher for the whole package.

And there will hopefully be one or two surprises that I can’t talk about at the moment. So, for now, shhh....


26Nov/14Off

Sherry Ramsey interview

Sherry Ramsey

Bio:

After a brief stint of legal practice, Sherry turned her attention to writing. She is a member of the Writer’s Federation of Nova Scotia and a past Secretary-Treasurer of SF Canada, a graduate of Writer’s Digest School’s Novel Writing Workshop and a local community college Creative Writing course, and a founding member of a local writer’s group, The Story Forge. She spent several years as a copyeditor for The Internet Review of Science Fiction and is an editor for Third Person Press. Furthermore, she is an active member of several online writing groups, including the Fantasy & Science Fiction Writers’ Workshop in Second Life. You can find more about Sherry and her publication credits at http://www.sherrydramsey.com/

Interview by Christel Bodenbender

It is National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo), and I am impressed how many years you have been participating in the event. Tell us more about the story you are writing this year?

This year, I’m writing a sequel to my novel The Murder Prophet, titled The Chaos Assassin. These books are set on a future Earth where, thanks to spores from a shattered meteorite, the human race now has, to greater and lesser degrees, magical abilities. The main character is a private detective, so these books are a fun mashup of contemporary fantasy and mystery. Did I mention there's also a sentient goose and some sort of magical intelligence in the Internet? Like I said, fun!

For NaNoWriMo to what degree are you already laying out the story before the start of the event? If so, how closely are you staying to your outline, considering the word count you have to reach in a short time?

This is my thirteenth year of NaNoWriMo, and I think I have finally figured out my writing process (to some extent). Every year I think I'm going to work up an outline beforehand—but I'm terrible at outlines. I like to start with a general idea of the story and the central conflict and maybe some character ideas. If I’m really planning, I might scribble out a lot of disjointed ideas and notes and scene fragments. That's about it, though. Then I just start writing. By the time I get twenty-to-twenty-five thousand words in, I begin to see how things are going to fit together and how the story is going to go. A discovery writer (aka "pantser"), all the way! This is, admittedly, more problematic when writing a mystery, because when it's time to start scattering clues—you'd better have a clue! But I firmly believe that the really hard work comes later, in rewriting. First drafts, for me, are for exploration, listening for the muse, and having fun with the story.

While many authors work with sequels within the same universe, you have penned an impressive array of stories that are unrelated from one another. What is your inspiration?

I have written a couple of sequels—my novel this year, and the sequel to One's Aspect to the Sun. And I do have a series of short stories centered around the same character. But you're right, I do write more stand-alone stories than sequels or series. I’m not sure I can pinpoint any particular source of inspiration—like many writers, I think I simply have more story ideas than I could possibly write, and NaNoWriMo is a great chance to dive into one of those every year and see where it goes. The one time I didn't have an idea going into NaNoWriMo was the year I wrote The Murder Prophet. So I settled on the idea of using online generators for inspiration. That's where the title came from first—so then I needed to come up with a story to fit it. I really wanted it to be no-holds-barred, so whatever the generators suggested, I worked to fit it in. I don't think I'd like to use that technique all the time, but that year it was fun and exciting and I do love the novel that grew out of it. So I guess inspiration can be found wherever you go looking for it!

Tell us what writing means to you?

To talk about writing, I think I have to talk about reading, as well. While I do read to learn and explore, my primary reason for reading is for entertainment. What I generally want from a book is a gripping story about interesting people. It might also be funny, or suspenseful, or a puzzle to figure out, but I'm looking for an escape from the mundane world—give me something that triggers my sense of wonder. So in turn, those are the things that I want to write. Those are the kinds of ideas that crowd my brain, and the characters who come knocking, wanting me to tell their story. And once an idea really takes root, then I want to write it. I suppose writing might be, first and foremost, a way to entertain myself…or at least to explore those ideas and characters to see if they will also entertain others. Often, they turn out to have something more to say about us and the world, but I don't discover what that is until the writing is well underway.

Could you tell us about some future projects?

The sequel to One's Aspect to the Sun should be out from Tyche Books sometime in 2015, and I hope to be able to share some new novel news soon, as well. Over at Third Person Press, where I wear an editor/publisher hat, we're launching a new anthology in a couple of weeks, and we'll be accepting novel submissions for the first time in February, so I'm looking forward with interest to see what that process turns up. I hope to have the next book in the Magica Incognita series out in the spring. As a "hybrid" author, I juggle both traditionally published and self-publishing projects, and with a stack of NaNoWriMo drafts in various stages of completion, I have no shortage of things to work on!


Sherry Ramsey

19Nov/14Off

Interview with Felicity Walker

Felicity Walker

Bio:

Felicity Walker lives in Richmond, British Columbia. She has been consciously publishing zines since 2003. Some of her previous works are BCSFAzine, This Is What Happens When You Don’t Eat Your Vegetables, Drawings of the Vancouver Goth Scene, and Ish. She has edited BCSFAzine since 2009. To find out more about the BC Science Fiction Association (BCSFA), please visit: http://www.bcsfa.net/

Interview by Sarah Trick. Edited by Christel Bodenbender

Felicity, how did you become editor of the BCSFAzine?

 

I became editor in March 2009 when the previous editor, Garth Spencer, decided he would like to step down. Garth was editor when I joined BCSFA in late 2001. I began regularly contributing letters of comment, articles, and artwork, and after a while I started formatting my letters of comment as a zine, called BCSFAZINEzine. I also did an irregularly-published, unofficial second zine for the club called Ish. Garth contributed the name of the zine and several articles, and guest-edited the fourth issue. Finally, I published some one-issue zines and mini-comics. I think all this activity probably convinced Garth that I had enough interest in zine editing to take on the job.

What has changed for you since you took over?

I’ve been pretty happy with the format as Garth left it to me, both in terms of physical materials and size (digest, folded and stapled), and in terms of departments (LOCs, calendar, news, reviews, and articles). Garth and I both use humour, but it’s safe to say we have different styles of humour. He would come at things from a more intellectual point of view, combining his university background and interest in science and sociology with a Monty Python-esque absurdity, surrealism, and Dadaism. I’m not sure if I have a style yet or not, but in the last year or so I’ve noticed that I tend towards understated, gentle irony via footnotes and image captions. I also added the “Random Nostalgia” list to fill blank spaces and hopefully jog readers’ memories of obscure pop culture.

From a cosmetic standpoint, I’ve changed the fonts (Arial Rounded for headlines, Times New Roman for body text, and comic-book-lettering fonts I made by scanning my comic collection, for Random Nostalgia) and have limited the palette of cover paper to warm colours such as cherry, salmon, goldenrod, canary, buff, and ivory, with orange every October and red every December. I inherited the pattern of changing the colour every month from Garth, but he would use a wider range of colours, including the cooler colours of blue, green, and purple.

I’ve been told that I use more clip art than previous editors. Traditionally, fanzine editors would rely on both cartoons and serious illustrations from readers. I use all images that are submitted to me (and have no objection to fan art!), but I also save potentially useful royalty-free clip art, plus photos I take, to break up large sections of text.

What kind of work goes into editing a zine? How do you make judgements about what kind of content appeals most to your readers? What sort of content are you looking for?

The work that goes into editing a zine falls into “easy work” and “hard work.” The easy work (for me) is adding contributions from other people (letters of comment, articles, news items, calendar events, artwork) and looking up events to add to the calendar. The hard work is writing meeting notes and zine reviews, and fiddling with the layout of the images and text so that the zine is optically well-composed and comes out to a number of pages divisible by four, so that we can use the digest format (5½×8½ inches) that I greatly prefer.

It’s hard to say which of those two hard parts is harder! Both can involve a lot of sitting at the desk, brow furrowed, changing things back and forth over and over.

Your zine caters to a small local community. Is there any conflict for you between the needs of the local community and larger fandom? Has the zine changed as fandom has become more global?

There hasn’t been conflict (as far as I know) between the needs of the local community and larger fandom. The zine is our club newsletter, and our club is the British Columbia SF Association, so if a judgment call has to be made (such as whether to include an item in the calendar or the news), I can use geography and SF-ness as filters. I don’t usually have to do that; I appreciate contributions wherever they’re from, and some pieces of national news, such as the Aurora Awards, are relevant nationwide.

With so much genre content in the mainstream, fandom rapidly expanding and splitting into different subfandoms, and the Internet to help people find each other, clubs today represent a smaller share of the options for fans than 30 years ago.

Where do you hope to take the BCSFA zine in the future?

BCSFA members have a wide variety of interests and activities, but we’re still in the process of finding our place in global fandom. Trading zines with other clubs and editors was a way for fans across the globe to get a window into each other’s local scenes. The very long calendar of events in BCSFAzine is partly because I hope that a centralised list of local subfandoms’ events can somehow lead to cross-pollination and friendships between subfandoms. I should be getting the zine out there to more people, in that case.

Zine fandom seems to be going underground again, in that people today are more familiar with blogs and podcasts. Editors now have to consider the possibility that the average modern fan finds that zines don’t speak to them.

Zine editors are increasingly switching to PDFs rather than printed zines, mostly due to the high cost of printer ink and postage. I’m a die-hard fan of paper zines and will keep publishing on paper (plus a digital copy) as long as possible.

What place do up see for paper zines in the future with a new generation maturing who doesn’t know life without the Internet?

I recently had the idea that Generation X might be the last bored generation. The nice thing about the modern era of continuous Internet access is that you’re never bored. I can remember twenty years ago having hours, sometimes an entire day, with nothing to do, and desperately needing more stimulation. A zine to work on would have been helpful back then. Now, between work, friends, editing the zine, reading the zines sent by other editors in trade, and my own side projects, plus my offline and online entertainment options, I’m never left with nothing to do. In fact, I keep losing track of everything (like remembering to write this reply!).

Therefore it’s not that young people have shorter attention spans and read less, but that they don’t have entertainment vacuums to fill. That means that reading a zine, which requires focusing on one thing exclusively for several minutes, is proportionally more of a commitment for them than it would have been 20 years ago. They might feel as if they’re missing a lot of things if they stay on one thing for too long.

I was born at the same time as the personal computer, but reached adulthood shortly before the Internet became a commonplace utility for everyone. It’s hard to believe today, but as recently as the 1997, there was a huge percentage of people who didn’t have Internet access or cell phones, but they weren’t behind the times. Future historians could see the Millennials as a watershed in that way.

I wonder if every generation considers itself “the last bored generation.” Did people during my childhood see our twelve TV channels and early video games and think that was as much stimulation as anyone could ever need?

Are there any other projects you're working on that you want to tell us about?

I’d like to get back into drawing and tighten up my reviewing skills by reviewing everything from old 1980s B-movies to comics to zines to pro-wrestling to restaurants to books that authors have sent for review. Other projects: I’m struggling to write (with Amos Iu) a microbudget comedy web series called Paragon about a low-budget paranormal investigation company. I’m currently snagged on the series bible.

14Oct/14Off

Interview with Nancy Kilpatrick

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Award-winning author Nancy Kilpatrick has published 18 novels, over 200 short stories, and has edited 13 anthologies, most in the horror/dark fantasy field. She also published the non-fiction book The Goth Bible: A Compendium for the Darkly Inclined (St. Martin’s Press) and has written many articles and reviews. Her two most recent award-winning titles are (as editor) the anthology Danse Macabre: Close Encounters with the Reaper, and her sixth collection of short stories, Vampyric Variations (both from EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing). She lives in Montréal with her calico cat Fedex, but travels frequently searching out crypts, ossuaries, mummies, and original Danse Macabre artwork. Check her Website for updates: nancykilpatrick.com. But join her on Facebook for the latest news. And support the nEvermore crowdfunding at https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/nevermore-a-new-kind-of-anthology

Interview by Christel Bodenbender

Could you tell us more about the anthology?

nEvermore! Murder, Mystery and the Macabre is a collaborative effort in two ways. First, my co-editor, Caro Soles, and I are responsible for the idea and for the crowdfunding. We have acquired writers who write in the realm of this anthology and will be covering all the usual editorial aspects of the job. Then we hand off the manuscript to our publishing partner, Edge Science Fiction & Fantasy and they produce the print and ebook and handle distribution.

This anthology came from a spa visit. When I'm in her city, sometimes Caro and I hit the spa for a couple of hours, our too-rare luxury visits. We've been friends for many years and know one another's lives and work very well. We're both writers and we're both editors and we also both teach writing courses for the same college, she in the classroom, me, online. At one point we were in the pool, not so much swimming as wading back and forth, talking, and it came up that we've never done a project together. Somehow, Poe's name was mentioned--likely because we are both Poe fanatics--and Caro croaked out the word 'Nevermore!' Everything escalated from there.

On Indiegogo you mentioned this anthology is different from others. How?

nEvermore! is different because we want to blend the types of writing Poe is famous for but not try to emulate his writing style. He was Poe, everyone else trying to write like Poe is a poor imitation.

EAP wrote mysteries and is considered the father of the modern detective story, for example, with his short stories "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" and "The Perloined Letter". He also wrote scads of supernatural fiction, some of it straight up dark fantasy/horror, and some involving murders, like The "Black Cat," and "A Cask of Amontillado" with a preternatural element. His writing is dark, but what's amazing about it is that he manages to create a mood that reaches inside readers and touches on our fears, our despair, our niggling belief that humanity might not be the high life form we view ourselves to be. That there are other elements, including fate, which play a part in existence and which we give very short shift.

We all know that Poe did not have a wonderful life. He was orphaned early. Being a creative type, he clashed with his foster father and ultimately left and also was abandoned. His natural father also abandoned him. He lost both his mother and the love of his life, his wife Virginia, to tuberculosis, and it appears that he was in a state of perpetual mourning. His career also did not go smoothly and he rarely made enough money through his writing to sustain himself and, when she was alive, his wife. To cope, he drank excessively, and although there's no real information that he was addicted to other substances like laudanum, his characters were, so he knew about these pain relievers which were at the time legal. He died as tragically as he lived, passed out in the gutter, a deeply unhappy man, impoverished, alone, and even now, there is some question as to who is buried in Poe's grave--he might be in another part of the cemetery. All in all a man who lived and died in virtual obscurity yet who thereafter became world famous for his marvelous fiction, poetry, articles and essays. How could we not want to honor this man by asking some of today's top writers to emulate the types of blended stories Poe wrote. Our homage to a literary genius.

How are you going to distribute/publish the anthology?

Distribution will be through the publisher, who has a good network. The book will be in the chains in the US and Canada, and in specialty stores in both countries. And ebooks of course in the usual places. Caro and I will try very hard to sell foreign rights to what we believe will be an extraordinary book.

When did you first encounter the writings of Poe?

At a very early age. I recall being interested in spooky stories as a child and seeing Poe stories on television. The "Cask of Amontillado" was one I recall vividly. As I grew older, I began reading more adult books and going to the movies more often. I remember having a book of Poe's collected works from the library and devouring it! I loved that someone put all this darkness of the human spirit into fiction in a very readable character-driven and plot-oriented way. Poe's writing was not as dense as some of the later writers of Gothic supernaturals, like M. R. James and, later, H.P. Lovecraft. Poe's work has always been highly accessible to the masses, particularly in the United States, and that's why he is still read today by just about every school child in that country and in many other countries around the world. I could not have NOT encountered Poe. But, I'm extremely happy that I did.

What is your favorite Poe story and why?

I love the aforementioned "The Cask of Amontillado." But others that affected me particularly are "The Black Cat," the "Masque of the Red Death," "The Tell-Tale Heart, The Pit and the Pendulum," "The Fall of the House of Usher," and of course the poems "The Raven" and "Annabelle Lee." These are the most popular Poe pieces. But I also love many of his less-read works like "Eldorado," a beautiful and touching poetic quest. In truth, I don't think I have a favorite, just a sentimental attachment to what I first read. His work has a slow, churning quality to the life he presents. Sometimes the characters are angry or jealous and commit unspeakable acts from that state. Other times they are depleted, sad and grief-stricken. But they all feel wronged in some way, as if life has cheated them, and there's a certain bitterness that I believe most people have felt. We are often told as children that life is one way, be that good or ill, but as we get older, the reality of the world and how it works seeps in and there definitely is a feeling of being in some ways cheated of the promise. Especially when life was supposed to hold so much promise and turns out to be more routine, mundane, and limited than we were led to believe. Yes, I know, there are some Class A optimists jumping around right now yelling 'But, but, I was promised a wonderful, magical life and it's all magic for me!' That, I postulate, is not the bulk of the population on this planet. Most people seem to be rather unhappy and bitter (not all the time but generally). They were told life would be tough, and it has proven to be more than tough. Or they were told there were possibilities that have not materialized, sometimes through their own actions, sometimes because circumstances beyond their control, sometimes because of fate. Intelligent psychiatrists will assure us that happiness is not the goal, it's an emotion we feel sometimes. Poe captures this in his writing. There's a bleakness that speaks to humanity and says, yes, I understand. I've been there too. I've suffered loss, failure, being cheated and abused. And in Poe's case, the bleakness in his life was extreme, his tragedies deep and relentless.

You have written an impressive amount of stories in the dark realm. What draws you to the nether realms of speculative fiction?

I guess my childhood plays a part. And my genes. There, I've covered both heredity and environment! I do recall the first book I took out of the library when our class made a trip there and I was allowed to take a book home. The Little Witch. That, plus all the TV shows I had to beg to stay up to watch. Horror was my favorite subject matter, but any sort of noir story. I also liked science fiction, the happier cousin of horror.

Perhaps the biggest theme in horror fiction is death, and it's not sugar coated. Death is one of our two major events that completely alter us. We don't usually recall Birth, but are all aware of impending Death. And there's a desire to find out something about it, to know What Happens Next, and if there IS a Next. People have always held a fascination with and terror about death, hence the large and powerful religions that have formed over many centuries. The truly horrified need something to cling to. The rest of us vacillate between curiosity and fear. This is an event that WILL occur. Avoiding death is not an option. Writing about the big D and the smaller d's (which the French thought of as steps to prepare us), that's a big interest of mine and that falls into the dark realm of fiction. One can say that mysteries also deal with death, since there's usually a murder. I've read a lot of mysteries and have written about eight mystery stories and won an award for one, so I have a sense of that realm. But mysteries can often be 'soft', the horror of the murder seen through gauze by the reader. In the horror realm, it's in your face. Sometimes visceral, sometimes supernatural as in thrills and chills, but you're going to 'see' something, and more importantly, feel it. I like directness in most things so it's not unusual that my writing exhibits that despite the fact that I really enjoy tight-roping a line that borders two worlds with my fiction.

Tell us what writing means to you?

My life. My survival. Not so much financially because I think most writers find ways of surviving to support their writing, unless they have a spouse or family to support them, or the handful that are on the level where they receive large grants. There have been times I could live off my writing and other times not. It's feast and famine land. But more importantly, writing is survival of my soul. This is a pretty controlled and predictable world we live in, and getting more so. At a certain point, you tend to know what's coming next, just because you've lived long enough and the repetition is clear. But writing opens up a different world. The work can go anywhere and the job of the writer is to tell a good story without it being predictable. That's always my goal. This is an exciting world to live in that mitigates the dull-normal reality. A world where we are free--and I know this applies to all artists. When one gets published and has a readership, it's like icing on the cake. That others read my work and tell me what it means to them, this is a deep form of communication. It tells me I've tapped into something universal. And frankly, I'm always awed by that. Whatever 'pride' I feel is usually short-lived because I end up feeling humbled by the sense that there's something more, beyond me, that's been involved. I have no idea what that is but I trust it, knowing it's there, and I rely on this source; I'm grateful that this pipeline exists and that it never fails me.

Could you tell us about some future projects?

Besides nEvermore!, which will be out the fall of 2015, I have another anthology I've edited, this one solo. Expiration Date is coming spring of 2015, from the same publisher.

I write a lot of short stories and recent ones have appeared in the magazine Dark Discoveries, and the anthologies Dark Fusion: Where Monsters Lurk; Halloween: Magic, Mystery, and the Macabre; Searchers After Horror; Stamps, Vamps, and Tramps. Also recent non-fiction articles in Beware the Dark Magazine (where I write a column and reviews); Nightmare Magazine, guest writer for The H Word.

Upcoming are stories in: The Madness of Cthulhu; A Darke Phantastique; Zombie Apocolypse #3 Endgame; Blood Sisters: Vampire Stories by Women. And a non-fiction essay on vampires in Stone Skin Bestiary.

In addition, I've got one novel out with my agent and another I'm still working on which a publisher is waiting for. I just need time! But, who doesn't?


9Oct/14Off

Interview with Ursula Pflug

They have to take you in

Ursula Pflug is author of the critically acclaimed novels Green Music (Edge/Tesseract) and The Alphabet Stones (Blue Denim), as well as the story collections After The Fires (Tightrope) and Harvesting the Moon (PS). An illustrated flash novel, Motion Sickness, has just been released by Inanna. Her award winning stories have been published in Canada, the US and the UK, in genre and literary venues including Fantasy, Strange Horizons, PostScripts, Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet, Tesseracts, On Spec, NOW Magazine, The Antigonish Review and many more. Pflug has been shortlisted or nominated for the Sunburst Award, the Aurora Award, and others. She has served on the executive of arts boards including SFCanada, and has worked as an editor. Her first edited book, the fundraiser anthology They Have To Take You In (Hidden Brook Press) has just been released. She teaches creative writing at Loyalist College and co-organizes Cat Sass Reading Series.

http://ursulapflug.ca

Interview by Christel Bodenbender

Could you tell us about your inspiration for this anthology?

As a teen following my artist mother's suicide, I travelled extensively with often no money at all — a way of life that can be an adventure but also dangerous, so, in one way, this project is a way of looking after the person I was, or someone like her. In addition, the inspiration was the 2012 cuts to the Community Start Up and Maintenance Benefit. Some of this money has been replaced by funding to municipalities to fund housing and homelessness services but there is always a gap between what's available and what's needed, both financially and in terms of awareness. Around the same time, Kingston poet Bruce Kauffmann edited an anthology entitled That Not Forgotten. It was a fundraiser for the renovations on the Purdy House in Prince Edward County with the goal of turning it into a writers’ residency. I met publisher Tai Grove at the launch and he asked me if I had any ideas for projects. After giving it some thought I decided I'd like to do an anthology that focused on family, showcased local and national writers, and also benefited families.

I spoke to a few potential partners, but Gordon Langill is an old friend and he has a literary background so that gave him specific insight from the outset. The Dana Fund, administered by the Peterborough CMHA is a vehicle for making available a little extra. The fund was inspired by Dana Tkakchenko, a young recovery activist who passed away in 2010. An excerpt from her remarkable semi-autobiographical novel, Anna's Story, appears in the anthology.

Readers can buy the book but there's also a direct link for making donations to the fund: http://www.cmhahkpr.ca/get-involved/donate./.

The title of the anthology has a reference to families, but do they really have to take you in?

The anthology title is a reference to the Robert Frost poem “Death of the Hired Man.” It's about a dying farmhand who reappears at his former employer's rather than go to his brother's house. Many of us have families of choice in addition to our blood families and some of the stories in the book address that. According to Mary, the protagonist of Frost's story-poem, home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in. Warren and Sally known Silas better than anyone else does, and, obviously, he felt safer there than he did with his relatives.

Here is the text of the poem in it's entirety: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/173525

Your anthology provides valuable space for Canadian authors. What do you think are the unique struggles of Canadians to break into the market as an author?

We're competing with Americans. The US has a much larger population, hence larger print runs, larger budgets for promotion. In Canada a small press author isn't competing just with Canadian best sellers, but with books from the US lists. There are folks who are curmudgeonly about our granting system but that's one reason for it — to level the playing field.

Tell us what writing means to you?

Writing is a place that has always taken me in.

What is it like interacting with so many authors to bring together a cohesive issue? How do you make sure the multitude of stories reflects your vision? Or do you let the pieces guide you?

I've edited for journals and magazines and individuals for decades, but this is the first time I've edited an anthology. There was a fair bit of line editing involved in some of the pieces, so that we could get the very best story possible into the book. And just general correspondence with the publisher and writers was more than I'd anticipated, definitely. You can make friends while you're working with people, or cement or reawaken a friendship you already have. And that can be delightful. As to cohesion — mostly it just fell together, partly because many stories and poems were solicited from writers whose work I already knew I loved, such as Jan Thornhill, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Leanne Simpson, Joe Davies, Tim Becket, Robert Priest and others, but there are also stories I asked for which I then didn't include, because the fit wasn't right, and many stories by emerging authors who came very close that I was sad to turn down. And a few are 'slush pile' pieces from writers I'd never met or heard of, and it's gratifying when that happens.There were three more pieces I wanted to include but they all required a little work. This was last winter, during the polar vortex. There was ice everywhere, and then snow on top of the ice, and like a million other people I fell and broke my arm. I figured that was the proverbial message to 'close the book,' as it were.

How are you going to distribute/publish the anthology?

It's just been released by Hidden Brook Press, located in Brighton, and they distribute their own list. We just had a great launch event in Peterborough at Ryan Kerr's Theatre on King, an incubator for alternative theatre. We'll be doing another event in Toronto, date and location TBA but the amazing slam poet Cathy Petch is going to host, so it promises to be equally fabulous.

Here is the Chapters link for They Have To Take You In: http://www.chapters.indigo.ca/books/they-have-to-take-you/9781927725139-item.html

It's also available on Amazon.

Could you tell us about some future projects?

I had a crazy time the last couple of years — four books were accepted and edited and went to press — so I'm in promotional mode and expect to be for a while. Toronto's wonderful feminist press Inanna Publications has just released a flash novel, Motion Sickness. Governor General award winner Heather Spears wrote us a really nice endorsement. It means a lot, as Heather is both a writer and an illustrator so she understands both aspects of the book. Each chapter is 500 words long, and is accompanied by a woodcut like scratch-board illustration by SK Dyment. I'm touring the book this fall in addition to They Have To Take You In. We launched recently at Librairie Drawn and Quarterly in Montreal, and there will be an event at the Supermarket in Toronto on November 17th. You can find out more about Motion Sickness on Inanna's website, here: http://www.inanna.ca/index.php/catalog/motion-sickness/

PS Publishing in the U.K. has recently released Harvesting the Moon, a hardcover collection of previously published short stories with a gorgeous cover by Francois Thisdale and an endorsement from Jeff VanderMeer. In addition I'm still doing promotional events for The Alphabet Stones, a fantasy novel that came out with writer Shane Joseph's micro-press Blue Denim a year ago. The book takes place near Perth, on one of many ramshackle communes and Tim Wynne-Jones, who lives in that area, told me I'd nailed the milieu and that's flattering. Here's the Blue Denim link for The Alphabet Stones: http://www.bluedenimpress.com/alphabet-stones.php

I've also got a novel, Down From, in draft form that I'd like to finish one day. It's about a couple of witches who live in neighbouring villages. They're both artists, mothers and gardeners. The story tackles the ways in which women undermine instead of support each other. Gossip as black magic. Strong stuff.


They have to take you in
25Sep/14Off

Interview with Colleen Anderson

Chiaroscuro Reading Series in Vancouver

Colleen Anderson has lived a varied, artsy life. She graduated in photography (Visual Communications) and later also graduated with a degree in Creative Writing. She has a strong sculptural design aspect and loved glassblowing. Her piece “It Came from the Glass Studio” was juried into an art show at the Vancouver Public Library. She started writing around twelve, with poetry, but she hid it for years until she took it somewhere for a critique in her early twenties. These days she freelances in copy editing and writing, including manuscript editing. She is a past editor for Aberrant Dreams and ChiZine. She has edited many first-time novels for individuals as well as working with publishers and magazines. If you are looking for an editor, you can contact her through her blog. On 7 October 2014 she hosts the Chiaroscuro Reading Series in Vancouver, which will feature Lynda Williams as one of the authors. More information under http://chiseries.com/reading-series-vancouver

Interview by Christel Bodenbender

About two weeks ago I had the pleasure to meet Colleen for an in-person interview in a cozy pub at the foot of Burnaby Mountain. The rustic interior was a nice backdrop to our chat about the Chiaroscuro Reading Series in Vancouver and Colleen's life as an author. After we settled in and ordered a basket of fries, I took out my notebook with the questions I had prepared.

The Chiaroscuro Reading Series began further East, when did the reading series start in Vancouver and how did it come about?

The reading series was started by Sandra Kasturi in Toronto about five to six years ago. Sandra and her husband Brett Savory also founded ChiZine, an online magazine featuring poetry and short fiction, but due to funding issue the project changed its course and developed into ChiZine Publications (http://chizinepub.com/) through which they publish books.

Colleen was friends with Sandra and during a visit in Toronto she had a taste of the monthly reading series and immediately wanted to bring the event to Vancouver as well. She was excited to hear Sandra was thinking of expanding to other Canadian cities just around the same time and gladly took the lead to organize the reading series in Vancouver. The first local reading event was in April 2013, after which it has run on a quarterly schedule. The event has been thriving ever since, with the next upcoming set of readings commencing on 7 October 2014, featuring Alma Alexander, Paula Johanson, and Lynda Williams.

What draws you to live reading events?

Most of the arts involve a creator as well as an audience appreciating the artwork. For visual artwork there are galleries to facilitate the interaction between creator and viewer, but writing, in contrast, is a much more solitary endeavor. The reading series tries to bridge that gap as it provides a venue to share and experience the work. Additionally, the reading series helps to establish a community, where you buy the book but it also brings together readers and writers of the speculative fiction realm.

When did you start organizing reading events? What do you like about the work, what not?

Organizing the Vancouver ChiSeries is a new experience for Colleen. She likes the interaction with the authors and the audience. This pooling together of energies generates new ideas and inspiration. Furthermore, she loves the community aspect. Yet it isn't easy to market the event. In today's age of information over stimulation, it is difficult to reach people and make them understand the event is free to attend, although a donation is appreciated to pay the authors an honorarium.

Do you feel the audience changes with authors or is there a particular, dedicated crowd?

The reading series is still fairly new in the scene and hasn't run long enough to see a dedicated crowd, though she would love to see that for the future. So far the authors, the location, and even just the season can have a large impact on who is coming to the event. The focus of the ChiSeries is for the audience to get to know more local talent. That said, she had some Americans read as well, who either came through town or live in communities not too far south of the border.

Do you select authors and contact them or are you approached by authors?

So far it has been Colleen who has contacted authors and asked if they are interested to read for the series, in which case they would get back to her. She also mentioned that Sandra sometimes lets her know about a writer who expressed interest to read in Vancouver.

The reading series features a great variety of writing. What is your favorite?

Having different authors read each time makes it a fresh experience. When you have a wide range of interests, it is difficult to read all of it. Yet the reading series provides the opportunity to experience a multitude of authors and their worlds first hand. Since there is no guarantee that good writers are also good readers, the organizers of the series focus on published authors to make sure the writing is of a certain caliber, which the audience appreciates.

Tell us what writing means to you?

Colleen enjoys writing dark fiction and morality tales -- stories that feature a rich set of symbolism. She likes to dive into poetry that is mythic or fairy tale based, but can also be all over the map. Writing is a chance to explore worlds of what-ifs, taking familiar conflicts, yet highlighting societal issues by putting what exists into a different view. She stressed that we can have stories that have been told before but we can individualize them and then share them with others. By putting yourself into the viewpoint of the character, you can imagine how it would be like for you in that situation. Yet the reader still has his or her true emotional reaction to it. People sometimes try to identify the author in the story, but Colleen points out that no story or character can be representative of a person or their life, though some aspects of the writer can leak into it.

Could you tell us about some of your future projects?

Having worked on it for many years, Colleen has finished the draft of a novel and found an agent who is interested in it. Yet it is part of a series and the agent requested outlines for the following novel to see where the series is going before committing to the work. Colleen also writes away on the Compendium of Witches, consisting of thirteen poems with the first one coming out in OnSpec. Furthermore, she is co-writing a story for an anthology as well as in negotiations to co-edit another anthology, and is currently writing two articles--one about the types of monsters that are universal to all cultures. All in all, there are a host of stories on the back burner to be written and rewritten, which she focuses on when she is not working in her day job or going to conventions, such as VCON in Vancouver in October and OryCon in Portland in November.