Friday, November 25, 2005

A Thought on the Word "Cinematic"

at my writing group last week i read from a story i am working on, currently titled "Thunderbird Refugee". one woman said how cinematic my description was. this was a compliment, of course, so i was surprised that i felt a little uncomfortable. it took a couple of days for the reason to rise into my consciousness.

when i wrote the piece, i was doing what i normally do, which is to envision the place and characters i was describing. much of that draws on memory, times when i have walked along a forest trail, or seen spaceships crash in the wilderness. (okay, maybe not that.) it had nothing to do with movies--although i can also remember times when i have been writing that i absolutely was envisioning a scene from a film--real or created at that moment in my mind. i suppose to a reader there might not be a difference, but when i am writing, there is--a difference in what i am seeing in my mind's eye, and also a difference in how i am relating to the story and it's characters. it is generally a more remote relationship, more interested in outward form than inward reality.

a film is something i watch and respond to, which, however wonderful, is artificial and intentional. as i watch it, i know that i'm seeing the scene before me for a reason. it is meant to tell me something, to set up a particular reaction, to drive the tale forward in some way.

when i am walking in the woods, sitting with a friend, or otherwise just going through life, i am seeing and observing (more or less attentively) but there is no particular "reason" for all that unfolds before me, and to me, it's meaningful in a very different way. it is simply the life i live and the world i respond to.

what disturbed me when she used the word "cinematic" was that it gave me the distressing image of us only really seeing vividly what is before us when it's put up on a screen and we know it's our job now to look. that otherwise we are wandering through the much richer world of actual life without really looking at it. that, in a way, we need movies to remind us to open our eyes--but what we are opening them onto isn't what is real, and necessary for our lives. a frightening thing.

it surprises me, actually, how much i remember of what i've seen, for all the days i have spent with my attention more firmly fixed on the inside of my head or the thing i am intending to do than on what is around me. it's a real gift to have the chance in writing, or in some other pursuit, to cast my mind back over a situation, no matter how mundane, and see any of the details of it in absolute clarity. it has taught me to keep my eyes peeled much more carefully, much more of the time, to see what there is right now and respond to it--or him or her--rather than only to the plan i have roiling in my head. (i've learned to do this more of the time, but far from all of it.)

i suppose the discomfort is simply loyalty to that gift of goal-lessness, of seeing whatever is, without purpose or intent. later, we can make stories of it if we like. but now, the joy is simply in getting to look. and the greater joy is in getting to learn from all that is offered, rather than having it neatly packaged before we open our eyes.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Stories of Our Life

i feel like a dope when i claim to like--and even write--speculative fiction, and then i am asked, "which authors do you like?" and i stumble a bit.

the problem is that i read more short fiction than long, generally in magazines, though sometimes in anthologies, very seldom single author collections, and unless i have met the person or have read several stories by them--which can take a while using this random method--then both the authors' and the stories' names tend to dribble out my brain, despite my trying to keep them in. it's frustrating because when i come across a story that i just love, and i want to remember so that i can catch that author again, and so i can let people know about them.

so i am going to jot down a couple of the stories from that last couple of years of reading that i have liked and which i still have on my shelf (problem two--i pass on my magazines when i am done with them, thus giving each writer several more readers to a piece--which means i can't thumb through and remind myself of their names), as well as a couple that have lodged themselves in my head long term.

one of the best stories i have ever read is by the very amazingly NOT prolific
ted chiang(yay ted!)--"The Story of Your Life"--which i first read in a hartwell "best" anthology, nestled in a chilly cabin in rural b.c. a year or two back. ted has gathered together several other of his peculiar and fascinating stories in his collection The Stories of Your Life and Others. a couple of those stand out, too, in particular the one about building the tower of babylon.

a story i got a kick out of in one of those "best" anthologies in that (by then hopefully warmed up) room was "Craphound", by
cory doctorow. this one still brings a smile.

barth anderson's Magnifico the Crimson won my heart in "Lark Till Dawn, Princess", from Mojo: Conjure Stories, ed. nalo hopkinson.

F & SF in 2004, i most enjoyed daryl gregory's "The Continuing Adventures of Rocket Boy", george guthridge's "Nine Whispered Opinions Regarding the Alaskan Succession, robert reed's "The Condor's Green-Eyed Child", and most especially alex irvine's "A Peacable Man". (i know because i kept the 2004 index when i passed on the magazines. good plan, that.) although i have to say that my interest in F & SF is flagging, as the bulk of its stories don't hugely grab me and i miss there being more women's voices in the mix.

Tesseracts 9, which i read with great interest, for obvious reasons, had a number of stories i liked. the two that really stand out are dan rubin's "The Singing" and
alette willis' "Thought & Memory".

two examples of stories in
Neo-Opsis that i have enjoyed: "Thirty-Three", by tom brennan & "The Rain Queen", by barbara davies.

a story in Asimov's september issue that i really liked was another by daryl gregory--"Second Person, Present Tense." so i am glad i wrote this list. it lets me know that of the stories i have read in the last year or so, two favourites are by the same guy. A Name To Watch For.

finally, the story i just finished reading that inspired me to write this posting today is from an old issue of On Spec (spring 1997), and is "Chad", by kate riedel. just lovely.

so now i know what to say when asked who i like. "well, in addition to certain novelists i enjoy, eileen kernaghan, mike coney, nalo hopkinson, to name a few, there is some great short work by writers like daryl gregory and ted chiang, kate riedel and robert reed, dan rubin and alette willis... why, i could just go on and on..."



Friday, November 04, 2005

Hello, Mike--Goodbye...

Mike Coney died this morning at about 4 a.m.. Thankfully, it was not as painful and difficult a process as had been feared. Science Fiction has lost an intelligent and lively writer.

A few weeks before he died, I interviewed Mike--that interview is currently with a publisher awaiting acceptance. For the moment I will offer this small excerpt here.

Mike: The whole matter of the Celestial Steam Locomotive arose out of boredom with standard SF, which up to that point, I had written. It was an attempt to write a story in which absolutely anything could and did happen, driven only by the mentalities of the people involved. I felt it succeeded in these terms but I don’t consider it an easy book to read and I have had a few adverse comments on it from people who simply don’t know what I was getting at. This was why I went on to write Fang, which I knew would be much easier for the reader to follow. I think it’s very easy for a writer to get too clever for his own damn good and to forget that his business is to entertain his readers. I’ve seen it happen to many other writers and now I could see it happening to myself. It was not what I wanted. The subsequent story on the website, The Flower of Goronwy is an attempt to return to the style and characters of my earlier books including Susanna and adding a touch of spice by the use of a truly horrifying heroine, Mistrale.

Casey: If you were to write a novel now, what would it look like? What theme, what setting, what mood would it strike?

Mike: If I wrote a novel now I think it would turn out to be like Flower of Goronwy. In fact, I think it has done.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Pals Doing Well

Eileen Kernaghan's Alchemist's Daughter has been nominated for a Saskatchewan Book Award--however, every time i try to write all this in and put links and such it all disappears, so if you are interested, do a search yourself! Meanwhile, this DOES bring to four the nominations for this book--Nominated for the 2005 Sheila A. Egoff Children's Literature Prize. Nominated for the 2006 Manitoba Young Readers' Choice Award. Short-listed for the 2005 Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Award, the Aurora, for best long-form work in English.

And Gail Nyoka has been nominated for a Governor General's Award for her book Mella and the N'anga, an African Tale. weird things keep happening to destroy this entry, too, so if no links show up go ahead and do a search on the book and the awards. i don't dare try again here!

Friday, September 30, 2005

Coming in from the Rain

well, it's begun--that beautiful wet cool that slides so easily into monotonous grey. strangely, i love this time of year. i don't have to feel guilty about staying in writing instead of enjoying the sun. it's easy to find my cats at night. (who wants to be out in that?) i feel baking urges (womanfully resisted), and my weekly writers' workshop starts up again.

yesterday was our second class for the season, and i was so juiced when i got home i fixed up the story i'd just workshopped, and then spent several hours packaging up new and returned stories for their next travel adventure. so basically the entire day was spent with writing-related work. i even decided to write a story especially for a submissions call i had received a couple of months ago but had nothing for. normally i would just forget it, but this one kept coming back to me, so i finally gave in to the Call. i figured i would get to it today.

well, but, my little brain started turning over the subject matter as i lay snuggled in bed, waiting for sleep to come. and the more i poked at the soil the more material i found to work with, and the next thing you know i was hauling my butt back out of bed (at 20 after 12) and turning the computer back on, sore arms and all, and for the next three hours just poured myself into the story. i've posted a little excerpt of Claude and the Henry Moores. you can find it by peeking below this entry, at ~Den Keeping~, or by following this link: Traversing the Wilderness: Works In Circulation.

i am like the guy in the story. i don't like staying up all night. but this time it was no problem at all. i was so swept away with the story that sleep didn't come even long after i was done. what a wonderful experience. of course, i was a little woozy today when i got up and started the second draught, but that was a small sacrifice for the joy of writing so enthusiastically, and being so happy with the result.

tonight, though, maybe i'll crash a little earlier...



Friday, September 16, 2005

Pallahaxi Mike

A long time ago an alien virus infected my brain and I gave up science fiction and got Serious. I didn't get serious and start reading Classical Literature, or improving my mind with CanLit. No, I got serious and stopped reading fiction altogether unless it was written by a friend or there was something specific I wanted to glean from it or—and it did happen from time to time—I fell off the wagon, took a holiday, grabbed some willing novel and read.

This is a frightening admission but it saves me pretending to be better read than I am, and it explains why it was only this summer that I realized I had never read a thing by Mike Coney and decided to do something about it. I went to his website to get a sense of where to begin, and discovered to my puzzled delight that he had made three novels and five short stories available there for free. I downloaded one, realized it was a sequel, got ahold of the original, and have since drunk with heady pleasure the fine wine of Michael's prose. What I have been missing!

The books are Pallahaxi Tide (first published in England as Hello Summer, Goodbye, and released in the United States as Rax) and I Remember Pallahaxi. Although they are related, they can be read separately and are fine and satisfying novels on their own. But for the greatest pleasure I recommend reading them both.

What to say about them, without giving too much away?

My first impression of Pallahaxi Tide was that it was a quirky fantasy novel set in a primitively industrial world that sounded a lot like my idea of England in earlier days. In fact, both books are solid and thoroughly-imagined science fiction. Yet the fantasy impression isn't entirely misplaced. There is a lushness to the world and an accessibility and occasional humour that seem to my poorly-read mind to be more common in fantasy than in sf. The humour in no way detracts from the seriousness of the story, but simply makes the narrators more endearing and keeps the SerCon* Virus at bay. It is a familiar, self-deprecating and dry humour that greatly appeals to me.

"I was sitting on the stern thwart, holding the tiller, while Wolff sat amidships grasping the mainsheet. We had reached the outer harbour and were running out of the shelter of the cliffs; the breeze was freshening, driving us briskly towards the lighthouse at the end of the breakwater. The water was a little choppy here and every so often a wave slopped over the low gunwales....

"...As I shifted position a river of icy water soaked my foot and cold fear ran up my leg. We were sinking. The water was freezing cold. I looked frantically around for help. We were many paces from the nearest boat, doomed to death from exposure preceded by the terrible onset of insanity as the coldness of the water gradually chilled our bodies and froze our brains.

"Having faced the worst I was able to devote my attention to more practical matters. "

In Pallahaxi Tide, we meet Drove and Browneyes, young people from different villages and very different stations in life. Drove is the son of a low-ranking official who busies himself with secret machinations while the scornful son befriends the low-class daughter of local inkeepers. As the story unfolds, the scope of the threat facing the people of this place, an Earth-like planet caught in a complicated dance with a star and its gas giant partner, becomes clear to the young people involved, and the choices they must make cut deep and irrevocably. Coney has realized the characters and plot completely, and treated us throughout to visions of an alien seasonal round and life-forms that surprise and delight.

One thing only disappointed me, and this is more than rectified in the following book, I Remember Pallahaxi. That is, the nature of the lorin.

The lorin are gentle and silent creatures that drift along the back edges of existence in the first book, intruding only occasionally in unexpected ways, without ever being really explained. In book two it is all gradually revealed, and the second book, though very different than the first, is if anything even more satisfying.

So now that I am hooked, a confirmed Coney fan, what do I do?

Well, it's tricky. Mike has written a good number of books and short stories, but the height of his popularity was in the 70's. As with so many excellent writers, as the trends in publishing changed, it became harder for him to find publishers for his work, and as a result it is not so easy to find these days. A number of copies of some of his novels are available via the internet (BookFinder has a healthy listing:, and others may be found in libraries and used book stores. But again, being softcovers, those library copies do tend to wear out, and go astray—as I discovered when ordering the English version of book one from the Vancouver Library.

It's worth the effort to look. And there are those offerings at his site. I certainly intend to slurp them up:

*SerCon (or sercon): Serious & Constructive. Important & Good (but if you ask me, dangerous if taken in too great quantities.) Usually refers to Fannish Activity (fanac), but also to the literature itself. I have expanded somewhat on its meaning here.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Good Review in Quill & Quire

I was forwarded this sneak preview of the Quill & Quire review of Tesseracts 9, in which (YAY!) "The Coin" is mentioned:

"Nalo Hopkinson and Geoff Ryman selected 23 of the best recent works of Canadian speculative short fiction and poetry, from both established and emerging writers, moulding an anthology that places the genre firmly alongside fantastical satirists such as Gogol and Bulgakov while also pushing the genre's boundaries.

"Ryman opens the anthology with a spirited essay that rejects notions of national identity in favour of the argument that Canada has become a universal, and therefore useful, venue for speculative fiction, concluding that Tesseracts Nine proves that there is no such thing as Canadian fantasy and science fiction. Hopkinson closes the book pondering what makes this speculative fiction Canadian and concludes that it's the work's diversity, concern for community, and abundance of humour.

"Many selections are enthralling: the fairy-tale quality of "The Coin" by Casey June Wolf, the suspense of Elizabeth Vonarburg's "See Kathryn Run," the touching hilarity of Candas Jane Dorsey's "Mom and Mother Teresa." But the fashionable modern excerpts from "Fugue Phantasmagorical," by Anthony MacDonald and Jason Mehmel, dispersed throughout the anthology left me cold. So, too, did the poetry selections.

"But no piece in Tessearcts Nine misses its mark completely. Artist and comic writer E. L. Chen's "Fin-de-siecle" is a well-crafted and entirely humane vampire story, while "The Writing on the Wall," by Steve Stanton, tells the tragic tale of the unexceptional midlife crisis of an exceptional man. on a similar Kafkaesque note, Claude Lalumiere's "Being Here" takes the theme of the man estranged from his partner to a thought-provoking and heart-wrenching end.

"Particularly touching is Newfoundland musician Dan Rubin's "The Singing," a beautiful and vivid account of an elderly woman inadvertently saving the planet by drumming and singing as she nears death. Aliens, poised to demolish much of the Earth of make it fit for colonization, are so moved by the song that they leave peacefully, while broadcasting it to all known frequencies in the universe. I wish no less a hearing for the Canadian writing presented in this delectable anthology.

" --Tracey Thomas, a writer and reviewer in Toronto. Page 36, Sept 2005"

Monday, August 22, 2005

Those Lazy, Hazy, Science-Fictiony Days of Summer

As promised, I have concentrated on reading more than writing this summer but, hey, some stories can't be stopped.

Two weeks ago, "After Hours at the Black Hole" came to be (from out of a White Hole, as far as I can tell). It seems like science fiction but I was in too playful a mood to worry about it too much—you can trust the info on black holes but forget details such as how spaceships function in space and how can you get close enough to do that anyway, and so on. I really had fun writing this one, and it's begun making The Rounds. Eileen Kernaghan tells me it is metaphysical and I believe her. She also tells me that a lot of what I write is slipstream, which she further informs me is fiction that slips between genres. Sounds accurate. By the way, Eileen's wonderful book, Winter on the Plain of Ghosts (one of my favourites last year), has been mentioned at length on Challenging Destiny in James Schellenberg's article on
Jared Diamond's Collapse, about collapsing civilizations. Very interesting article all round. (See his review of WoPG, also in C.D.)

No sooner had "After Hours at the Black Hole" taken care of itself when I found myself writing another, then unnamed story. "Equals" is pure science fiction, drawing on my interest in biology and ecology, with a lot of boning up on the specifics to carry me through.

Although I do draw on science in my writing at times, I don't often write a story that would be zilch without the science. "Equals" is one, and it is for me a very weird way to write, yet extremely satisfying. I am itching to give everything away but I'll control myself. At the moment, it's off with the experts—a biologist with a special interest in the field covered (Terry), and my favourite literary advisor (Eileen). We'll see what they say and then fiddle with it a little more before sending out. (30 Aug.: got the thumbs up from the pros--off she goes, then.) For sneak previews of these and other stories, click here:
Traversing the Wilderness: Works In Circulation

The next couple of weeks will have to be about reading more than writing, especially considering a five-day jaunt to Atlanta. I have a sliver of Jack Whyte's Skystone left, and then on to Andre Norton's Catseye and this pile of neglected short stories--Neo-Opsis Magazine, which I've just subscribed to, Asimov's, and a heap of F & SF.

When I was twelve years old, I had been avoiding reading science fiction despite my mother's interest in the genre (she gave me Tom Swift and His Jetmarine when I was eight or so) because I had heard disparaging things said about it and didn't want to be seen to be unsophisticated. On the other hand, Pippi Longstocking and so on were not really turning my crank, as I was led to believe they would.

One day, I saw a book called Catseye—I was already wise enough to be deeply fond of cats—and my resistance was gone. I slid it off the school library shelf, brought it home, and was ushered wide-eyed into a world I have never since wanted to leave. (Although, for a time I did. Within a few months of Catseye I had read Les Miserables, and went on to various other depressing tomes for several years until I finally realized literature was Not Much Fun, and I'd rather be unsophisticated. At seventeen, it was Andre Norton again, with her Witch World series, that booted me back to where I belong.)

As you probably know, Andre Norton died this past St. Patrick's Day. I decided, as a tribute to her and in celebration of my renewed writing of speculative fiction and re-energized joy in reading, that I would reread the book that started me off. So Troy Horan and his special animal sensitivity are waiting beside my bed, and I am greatly looking forward to leaping in. To the book. Not into bed with Troy. Don't misunderstand me.

The last Must Read this summer is Mike Coney's I Remember Pallahaxi, which I have downloaded from his site. I read and much enjoyed Pallahaxi Tide (also known as Rax in the U.S. and Hello Summer, Goodbye in England) and am looking forward very much to reading the Long-Awaited Sequel. I accidentally named the planet in "Equals" after creatures in that book—the lorin—and when I made the connection, was pleased and let it stick.

For those who are aware of Mike's illness, the word is that he is doing well at the moment and things are progressing more slowly than they might. Which is good news all around.

Happy reading and writing!


Friday, July 29, 2005

VCon 30 Reading for Tesseracts

i'm organizing a Tesseracts reading for VCon 30. if you have participated in any of the previous volumes in the series, or are in Tess9, and would like to be a part of this reading, please let me know by leaving a comment here.

see you at VCon!

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Wondrous Words of Summer

i have been writing fairly regularly lately, but to be honest, i am kicking back a bit, as it is summer and the big push to Get Things Done is over for a season. so i am focussing on reading instead (yay!).

i'm a bit of a read-around sue. i have at present nearly 20 books going although some get much more attention than others, and right now fiction is getting the most. so i want to report a couple of recent pleasures in the fiction line.

i confess, i have never (till now) read robert charles wilson. why not?! shameful! my countryman and friend of friends. i went to see him read a couple of months ago at white dwarf books (with rob sawyer) and enjoyed the afternoon very much. not having the twenty bucks to buy bob's new book, Spin (though i will get to it eventually), i hung on and instead bought a second-hand copy of a much older offering: Harvest.

at first, i wasn't so sure i was going to like it, although the actual writing was a pleasure to read. but i am not into disaster fiction, even disaster science fiction, and it did shape up in that direction at first.

but, lo! there is so much more to this novel than that. never one to give away plots—i hate knowing what is going to happen before it does—i will say very little about the book except this.

there are a few things i value most in a writer:
  • the ability to plot well and use words in at least an unobstructive way;
  • in sf, the creative use of science to make it an enjoyable and not a burdensome part of the book
  • a deeper perceptiveness of human nature and a shaded, as opposed to a B&W, way of viewing persons, problems, and outcomes;
bob has all of these things in spades in this book, and if he was writing this well ten or so years ago, he can only have matured since then—i look forward to reading Spin when its time comes.

carol emschwiller (wife of sf illustrator ed emschwiller) is someone i knew as an sf writer. so imagine my surprise when i was handed a pile of books to pick through (bless you, terry, bless you!) and there was a "western" by her in the mix: Leaping Man Hill.

it turned out to be the second in a two-volume set, but the stories were stand-alones so i went for it. The main characters are a young woman who is the daughter of a prostitute, and a not-so-young man who is damaged in heart and body by the first world war. it is not a western in the sense of shoot-'em-up or save the ranch, no.

what a wonderful book! all of the above wish-list (well, okay—not an awful lot of science there) and more. this woman can write, and plot, and get inside characters in a way few others in my experience can. after quickly inhaling the book, i ordered Ledoyt from the library. Ledoyt tells the story of a character who is secondary in . (note: this is something i never do. i like to get on to another author right away, for some reason. read-around-sue...)

i have to admit i went a little cautiously into the reading of Tesseracts 9, which includes my own First Published Story. i love short speculative fiction, but i tend to read "Best Of" anthologies and often find that first-run collections have a very lopsided set of good, not-so-good, and out and out annoying stories. since i wanted to think well of this book, i was a little nervous setting out.

i'm only about half-way through, but i am enjoying it. not all of the stories appeal to me—i can't say i entirely even get one or two—but several have really entertained me and some i like a lot. i don't think it is because i just finished it that dan rubin's story, "The Singing" stands out. (dan—i don't know if you were trying to be funny in this basically straightforward and poignant story, but that alien's name is a total unpronounceable hoot! i appreciated the counterpoint to solemnity.) i am relieved to find that my story still seems okay to me. shew. jerome stueart's "Lemmings in the Third Year" is a wonderful combination of good science, nuttiness and strong story-telling. and alette willis's "Thought and Memory" is outstanding. the list goes on.

i'm not the only one who likes the book. Challenging Destiny's james schellenberg says: "(T)he series is in pretty good hands with Hopkinson and Ryman, who are the editors this time out...Tesseracts 9 is a solid collection of short sf works, and I'll be curious to see where the series goes next." geoff ryman, by the way, is short-listed for the prestigious new Sunburst award, for fantastic literature published in canada. his book is called Air.

so, this is what i'm doing for my summer vacation. read for half an hour, get up and write for half an hour, go mindless over email for a little while, then get on with the general functions of life. i look forward very much to the books i have waiting for me.

next novel, after Ledoyt, is mike coney's Hello Summer, Goodbye!, also known as Rax and, in yet another country, as Pallahaxi Tide. Got to read this so i can get to his just-published-on -the-web sequel, I Remember Pallahaxi.

readings and writings, my friends!


Sunday, May 29, 2005

Cauldron for Writers Ancient & New

i recommend to anyone writing who has an interest in Celtic pre-Christian religion or in writing as a spiritual discipline the following article by Erynn Rowan Laurie.

the Cauldron of Poesy discusses a 7th century C.E. Irish manuscript which introduces the three cauldrons found in each person which govern and nourish our living and our art and our wisdom. wonderful stuff.

What's Chewing--


long time no post. but lots is happening in its slow and quiet way. i am working on a variety of stories--too many wonderful things keep coming to mind to just write ONE! and of course they all seem to require lots of supplementary reading. i sometimes think i write to justify research. especially when i get to read and reread and rereread some wonderful bits to get them really straight in my head, to put them into the context of all else that is going on in the story, even if it never actually hits the paper. very much like getting to spend all day in the sandbox, if you ask me.

one story is nearing completion that i am quite happy about, because of the opportunity it has given me to explore Celtic myth and pre-Christian religion and tell a tale i enjoy, to boot. It's called "Fionn McCumhaill and the White Worm of Dun na Gall", and we can but hope it gets into circulation soon. watch for a preview here when i am quite happy with it.

another fun thing is that at the urging of Eileen Kernaghan i approached Fran Skene of V-Con 30's con-com and have been invited as one of the minor minion-type writers to the con in Vancouver on 7-9 October 2005. very much looking forward to that. i always love the cons anyway, and it feels very encouraging to have taken this tiny but pleasing step in My Writing Life. besides, i've always envied the panelists because they are the only ones who have access to the water jugs during those long dusty talks.

i hope if you are in the area you will come to visit me at the con (guests of honour Robert Silverberg & Karen Haber) and have a look at Tesseracts 9, which should be out in just a couple more weeks.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Traversing the Wilderness: Works In Circulation

a few characters are out and about right now, hoping to pick up a warm trail. these include a team of alien scientists studying a miniature jungle, a girl named Aggie who plays vivid and disturbing games of imagination, a space-trucker with a problematic cargo, St. Francis and the creatures of the Italian woodlands, a lonely little girl who meets a very strange horse, and a Celtic warrior named Fionn mac Cumhaill. three new stories begin the entry--an elderly man discovers an alien in the woods of northern Canada; an aging guard protects an abandoned alien palace; a Haitian spirit intervenes in the life of a woman in despair;

here are a couple of samples from those:


Norman was walking slowly homeward when the explosion sounded. He stopped in confusion, looking around for a flash of lighting. To his mind came the sharp image of the Thunderbird, wings the length of a longhouse, her eyes clapping open and shut and flashing light across the sky. His heart pounded. For a second he was sure that she was there.

He stood quietly, listening, scanning what he could see of the sky. At that moment, distant smoke began to rise above the trees. Somebody was in big trouble, and they were far enough out that probably no one else had seen. He made up his mind without stopping to think about it. He found a good little fir tree and hung up his bags of groceries as high as he could, then headed through the woods in the direction of the crash.

Norman walked, and he walked. His hip began to ache where the logging truck had hit him years before, sending him spinning off the highway where he was working. He paused for a moment and rubbed his hip awhile, then carried on through the bush. Soon he would meet up with a trail that led to the river, and he could follow that a ways, but the last bit would be tough, and it was already late. He wasn't going to make it there tonight.

It was hard hurrying along in this old body. Once it had not been so difficult. That was so long ago he didn't worry about it anymore. He just carried on, puffing a little on the hills and moving steadily through the growing evening. He joined with the river, picking his way through brush along the bank, making it at last to a deer trail that headed for awhile in the direction he wanted to go. But the light began to fade finally and long before the moon was in the sky, he wasn't able to go on. He needed rest, and his hip was throbbing mercilessly.

Norman smiled to himself as he found a little spot to make a bed. He remembered those old days with his Dad when a hunting trip with no bed but his jacket was no big deal—he could sleep anywhere back then. Now, well, he would be a little stiff in the morning, he bet.

He pulled his bedding together from the trees and brush around him. He lay down carefully under the boughs of a fir, after brushing the cones and sticks away. He used his arm for a pillow and more boughs as a blanket, and curled up on his side, hoping he wouldn't get too cold.

Claude and the Henry Moores

As time went on Claude got used to the fact that people didn't see him, and he started not to see them, either. He'd "Please don't touch, Ma'am," whenever necessary and leave it at that. 

He read all the labels by all the paintings he guarded and he picked up the guided tour things, too, when they were available, and listened to them. He took to ducking in to the members' lounge when a certain girl was working and getting her to make him up a lox and cream cheese sandwich with a little crème caramel on the side. (Never ate like that at home!) 

He went for smokes with an older lady named Hannah out in the park on his lunch breaks and listened to her talk about her kids and that crap husband of hers, Kim, or sometimes he would eat his lunch with Benny Chan. Chan even invited him out to drink brandy and play cards one night, but Chan was a hard-living guy, and Claude didn't even like to stay up past ten, so that never really panned out. But the long and the short of it is, he got used to the place, and stopped worrying about feeling more special than he ever had.

Whenever he had the opportunity, though, he would hang out with the Henry Moores. The more he did, the more he felt he knew about them. He came to think of them by various names. Carla was the big honking blonde (well, okay, in his mind she was blonde) known as Draped Reclining Woman. By her date he could see she was old enough to be his mother but he knew in fact she was old enough to be his ancestor, back in the caves, if you know what I mean. Yet among the Giants, she was actually pretty young.

And the butt biter, well he turned out to be a real old yeller, maybe a light year or so old, maybe older—what could Claude know about a thing like that?—but way older than anything he could imagine, and yes he was a bit testy, old butt biter, whose real name, it came to Claude one icy winter morning, was probably Frank.

Standing Guard: a Vignette

As it cooled, Riddala went to the open door and out to the balustrade, to look across the vast lawns. There, once, on the far side of this great square courtyard, had been scented gardens that had so fascinated her when she was a young guard. Then, the Palasains were here in great numbers—not just in this building but everywhere, living their grand and boisterous life, building endlessly, exploring the land for its riches, sharing their wealth of culture with the people they'd discovered here. People who now proved themselves only thieves. People who would grin at her cynically when they glimpsed her at a window or a gate. Their hovels reaching nearly to the palace doors.

Riddala released a deep breath that might have been mistaken for a sigh, and returned to her cooled mush. She seated herself at the table where once such delicacies had been prepared—she smiled so slightly at the memory—vast quantities of Palasain foods, exotic fruits and animals, piled in impossible ways to resemble creatures from their world, jellied archways over crystallized cakes, tureens of satiny broths where living creatures swam. It dazzled the people—dazzled her, but the dignity she wore never let the wonder show. Yet even a guard could not help but glance at the marvels created in those days, and be amazed.

The gruel satisfied. The meatier chunks sustained. She rose and rinsed the bowl and pot and poured the water down a rusted drain, poured a few fingersful more of water after it to send the last bits away.
Standing, she folded the paper once more and put it back into her tunic, straightened her uniform again, and proceeded with her rounds.

Kouzen Zaka

And there was Denys, a neighbour and then a friend, and the growing sense that he was more than a farmers' activist, more than a man who dedicated his life to breathing health into his community, that he was almost a spirit of the land. She tried to explain this to him on one occasion when they were seated near cannons on a hill, old cannons built by frightened French who eventually sacrificed themselves to the violence they had made, men and women who had seen and despised and been savagely cut down.

He had laughed. A spirit he was not, but he knew a few, if she ever wanted to meet them, and strangely, although she desperately wanted to, she always declined. She would bring the question up, then dance evasively away, and he only smiled and moved on to other things. Denys was a patient man with only one agenda, and it was clear for anyone to see. It was clear in the early mornings and the late nights and the sleeves rolled up and the endless time to listen to any old man or child or work-worn woman who stopped him in his passage through their day. 

Yet Denys was not a spirit after all. He tired and he might have wept, if weeping had been an option, but instead he poured a little kleren on the concrete and sipped the fiery drink, and wiped his hand across his eyes and finally slept.Until the day he rose from his bed and washed himself and dressed carefully as every day and stopped by the home of Rochelle to walk with her awhile. 

As they stepped back into the street, he drew back to allow an urgent man to pass, and fell with a sickening cry beside her, his belly slit by an unseen knife.

Rochelle dropped to her knees and gathered him furiously, crying out, "No! No!!!" and pressing a helpless hand to his flesh in an attempt to hold it all together, a futile attempt to seal it back on itself, to roll back the seconds and unmake the attack, and as her own reality rushed violently away Denys, without a final word or glance, succumbed to a faint and on toward death.


ChiBraa sat with the slender, glass-clear jimns coiling and uncoiling around her body, her eyes set in the deep trance she could achieve in moments with the jimn, while I set about preparing their meals (a bit of slud and drunn) and, setting them aside, preparing hers and mine. 

She was a tungdra emissionist, ChiBraa was, and serious in her work. She examined the emanations patterns of the vast but miniscule jungle we had come to study. By individual, by species, and in association with the emanations of other organisms and the environment—it was her job to tease out each and begin to make some sort of sense of it all. 

It was a mind-crushingly complex and subtle field, from where I sat. A taxonomist only; that was me. Collect, dissect, and classify. Collect, dissect, and classify. Collect some more and return to the collection and redissect, reclassify. All the little informations were beautiful to me, from the molecular to the phenotypic, and balancing them one against the other was my favourite way to pass the time. 

It was a soothing pursuit and far less ethereal than hers but I was well aware that there are many strands to Mother Dextra's Web. I could only cling to my own, while watching others somewhat bemusedly as they clung to theirs.

After Hours at the Black Hole

He would have thrown away his own mother (he liked to joke) if she hadn't thrown him away first, for a price, of course, and a handsome one. He had towed space dirt of every kind, from the rubble of abandoned colonies to the floating jetsam of war—living or very, very dead—to the entrails of planets that had somehow gotten tangled up in somebody's personal space. 

Whatever—he didn't mind. But today's cargo was a whole nother thing, and it worried him.So, okay. Maybe those trusty black holes had swallowed everything so far without a burp. But he thought he'd spotted some energy shimmering where it ought not to last time circling Old Guzzler here, not just harmless vaccuum fluctuations, but something else. It was nothing he could pin down instrumentally and he let it go and puttered back for his next "desperately urgent" something that needed to be lugged away.

Now here he was, circling slowly at a distance of a handful of lightyears, a long trailer of ruinous lives in his wake, and he was nervous.

The White Worm of Dun na Gall 

Fionn passed one last day in search of Sabha in the southern woods, but he dared risk no more time than that. When he arrived at the twilight hour no closer to her than before, he tore a strip of cloth from his tunic and tied it to the branch of a thorn tree and prayed. To Oengus the God of Love, to Brigit for protection, to his own dead mother, to light Sabha's way. With a fallen heart he took leave that evening, and set out for Leinster and his mother's command. He arrived at the plain of Almu as the sun slid behind a long tattered bow of cloud. When the cloud had departed, so had the sun, lost again beyond the far hills.

He didn't need to search for his mother's body. In a line with the setting sun he saw on the plain a small group gathered together round a platform, and on that bier he made out the low mound of a fallen soldier laid beneath her green cloak. He walked toward them slowly, Bran and Sgeolan not leaving his sides, their long loose-hipped gait measured against his own. Soon he could make out the figures around his mother's bier. 

The Morrigna, three raven-black battle queens, standing like tall stones on three sides of Muirne's fallen form. Large, grey-bodied crows perched on their shoulders as they stood. The central queen had but a single, frightening eye, and a single powerful leg on which she stood without a quiver. As he walked closer he saw their eyes fixed hard on him, but he was not distracted. His own gaze was bound to his mother, and the upwelling of grief in him was even harsher than in losing Sabha, his wife. 

When he came up beside her, his eyes were blurred with sorrow. "Mother," he said. He lifted a hand to her uncovered face, black on one side with matted hair and blood. At her throat was the golden torc she always wore. He pulled back her cloak, examining her wounds, many and grave. She still wore the plaid tunic and leggings she had fallen in. Her hair was limed and her mangled hands lightly grasped the hilt of her sword, whose point stood out beyond her straightened knees. Her flesh, several days dead, was a misery, and the colour of her garments indecipherable for the blood. As he beheld her, one of the crows drifted from a Morrigna's shoulder to the corpse, and settled on the cage of her chest. It slipped it's beak into a crusted gash and tugged on the crumbling flesh.

"You have tarried," said the one-eyed one. He looked at her. 

"Morrigan," he said, taking a breath as he prepared to continue. "Do not waste her time," she hissed. 

Neamhain and Badh stared hard on her either side. Fionn closed his mouth. Nodded, eyes lowered. To a Goddess, even a leader of warriors was but a servant. To a Goddess protective of her kin, even a man who was half-God had best pay heed. 

The Morrigan pointed to a leather bag beneath the bier. "You have one night to rest in Almu hill. We will stand with your mother in final vigil. When you return in the morning, place her in this bag, and carry her with haste to Dun na Gall." She thrust her head low and forward on her outstretched neck. Her very cloak and mane of hair seemed to rise like feathers. "Do not delay." 

He was a man torn in two. Yet she was right. He would no longer play this fidchell with himself. He bent his head beside his mother's and clutched her horrid clothes. In the darkness of her blood-stiff hair, he began to weep at last.


Finding Creatures

This was worrying. She was far too big for me to make her follow. I could try to lead her, I guessed. She had no bridle or rope. I walked hesitantly back to her and looked at her glossy flank. I'd have to touch her. Pray God she didn't stomp me to death like I'd been warned horses might. I did a quick sign of the cross. "Hail Mary, full of grace," I whispered, the way Mom always did when she had to do something scarey. "The Lord is with thee...."

Then I reached a hand out, oh, so tentatively, and put it to her skin. It was very warm, wrinkly and finely haired, and it shivered under my touch as if I was a fly tickling it. Her long nose turned slowly toward me and raised to my hand. The great nostrils flared and sucked in my smell and blew out her own smell. She reached further and sniffed around my eyes, then opened her big lips to nibble my hair. I pulled back in surprise and she dropped her nose to look at me again. Then her head swung back to the weeds and the clippers of her jaw began tearing them, the tongue pushing them back in her mouth, the molars grinding, the plants moving back and forth as she chewed. I stared, fascinated, then remembered my goal. Before I could do one more thing, though, a voice rose from across the garden: my mother standing on the porch.

"Bernadette!! Come and get it!"

Lunchtime! She was looking around, her hand over her eyebrows to shut out the sun. I panicked, looking over at the giant at my side. There was no way to hide her. I was going to lose her, too!

Mom's eyes swept over us unseeing and carried on to the edge of the woods. She peered as if she could see down into the ravine and took a big breath, yelled even louder.

"BERN-A-DEEEEETTE!!! Come and get it!!! " Then she sighed, turned around and went back into the house.

I was stunned. I looked at the horse. The horse looked at me. I couldn't think of a thing to do. But a moment later, my body did it for me. There was just no way not to come when my mother called.

She was just coming out the door again, having put on her outdoor shoes, when I reached the end of the garden.

"There you are!" she said, looking relieved. "You had me worried. Come on in. Your soup's getting cold."

I couldn't resist glancing back at the horse. She was still there, watching our progress, munching. I was dizzy with surprise. To Mom, there was nothing unusual there at all.

"Were you in the ravine?" She asked. "See any dinosaurs?"

"No, Mom," I said quietly. Then, with a little smile, "I saw a horse, though."

"Really?" she said, looking surprised. "You weren't at the road, were you?"

I couldn't resist. "No, Mom. She's right there." I pointed to the horse in the garden.

Mom looked quickly, then smiled. "You monkey!" she said, and started off down the hall. "Get a move on, Cheeky. I have egg sandwiches for you, too," she called back. "Now hurry up."

I got to the front door and wiped off my feet. I didn't dare look back another time.

St. Francis and the Green Man

...But the true Francis, the one who gradually emerged over years of trial and prayer and self-reflection, was a man bathed in God, who slept God, dreamt God, sang God to the creatures of the woodlands, who saw God in everything. To him, creatures, persons, elements of wind and water and fire, even death itself were his brothers and sisters, were himself, his universe—for his Lord had made them all. Despite his troubles with his brethren, who would pull against the ways that Jesus preached and Francis returned to, of owning nothing and following only Him, with the church elders who called for houses, land and a semblance of normalcy, despite the weakness and pain in his ailing body, Francis, though not at all carefree, was a happy man, utterly in love with the Christian God.

But at some point in his life a thing happened that could not be accounted for.

It was when Francis was living as a hermit in the hills not far from Assisi. Already he was personal friends with the hare of Greccio, who trailed after him like a loyal pet, and the wolf of Gubbio, the kingfisher and fish of Lake Rieti, the pheasant of Siena and the cicada of the Portiuncula, who would come when Francis called him to sing the praises of God while sitting in Francis' palm. At a time when he was weakened by years of troubles and the constant seeping of blood from the wounds of Jesus he miraculously bore, he met the Man of the Woods, the leafy Godling, the Green Man of ancient times, and this is the general unfolding of that thing...

Aggie's Game

Even now when I think back on my oldest sister and her childhood games, there is something about Aggie that can make my hair stand on end. It wasn't just the way she could act so remote, even the odd time when she invited me into her games. She would weave a tale around herself and maybe her best friend Lisa and I would fill in the supporting spots—the driver, the waiter, the innkeeper. 

I would take my lead from her, with or without stage direction, and fill in the atmosphere the best I could. If Lisa was there, Aggie would give her a fair-sized role, and a fair amount of scope within it, but Aggie was always at the helm. She would interact with me only as the game demanded; she would stand delivering grand speeches or throw herself body and soul into her story, and yes, she was remote, unreachable by me. 

But it was more than that. It was how deeply she plunged, and how, sometimes, quite without warning, I would be carried in with her, and it was where, in her terribly accurate way, she could drag us both. 

Now when I look back on certain games I don't see her skinny self with bobbed hair and striped t-shirt and pale green shorts, standing in the front yard waving her arms around and spinning tales. I see instead the character she was playing, the room she was in, the misty headland or the silent sepulchre. My breath grows deep and slow and I am swept back to the wonder and danger of each place.


Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Advice for a Writer, from Korea's Premier Living Author

from The Thoughts and Feelings of Korean People in

There is an infinite universe beyond what we can see,
and we are all connected to it. Is creativity
possible in a world limited and framed by the certain
and the visible? Only copies would be produced. The
materialism which believes only the certain and the
visible has destroyed the earth. Living things,
abandoning themselves to the pleasures of hyper-
consumerism, are buried in garbage. Will writers
remain just as spectators of all this? Do they want
to enjoy the comforts of modern life, constantly
offered to us by civilisation? I am deeply grieved
by this. I assure you that there is no hope for our
times unless we respect other creatures. I told a
young person who wishes to become a writer: `Don't
try to write till you have overcome your narcissism
or self-interest, till you have been touched by
compassion for all living things.'

Park Kyong-Ni

Monday, March 28, 2005

Interview of Eileen Kernaghan Published


Just a short note that Ms. Wolf's interview with Ms. Kernaghan is now live at Strange Horizons at:

Note that the only significant change to the text of the interview was the insertion of an editor's note at Ms. Kernaghan's request mentioning that The Alchemist's Daughter was shortlisted for the Egoff Prize. (Congratulations, by the by!)

We hope that you're as pleased with the final article as we are proud to be running it. Thank you once again for your hard work on this piece.

Kyle Niedzwiecki
Senior Articles Editor,
Strange Horizons

Friday, March 04, 2005

News Release re: Tesseracts 9

well, the secret is out.  we have a release date for
Tesseracts 9. i look forward to reading who i am
hanging out with between the covers.



EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy
Now Includes Tesseract Books
Box 1714, Calgary, AB, Canada, T2P 2L7

For immediate release

Contact: Janice Shoults -- 780-460-1756

National identity? No thanks, we're

(Calgary, AB) -- Canada's largest genre publisher of
Science Fiction and Fantasy will release, on May 1st,
2005, the very best of new Canadian short stories,
essays and poems from Canada's top Speculative
Fiction (Science Fiction and Fantasy) authors.

Introduced by award winning authors Nalo Hopkinson
and Geoff Ryman, Tesseracts Nine presents 23 unique
views on how Canadians are different enough to be
perceived as unique by the rest of the world.

"Nobody in their right mind wants a national
identity." says Ryman. "Canadians are lucky they
don't have one." Speculative Fiction is the perfect
medium for telling such stories ... because they are
fantastic, they are universal! "Does anyone in SF
care that writers like Robert Sawyer, Yves Meynard
or John Clute are Canadian?" "Contributors to
Tesseracts Nine have almost nothing in common. A
language perhaps. Not a genre or a geography.
Certainly not a greater sense of cold or big empty
landscapes; no particular politics or ways of being,
or even a delicious post-modern Gallic sensibility."

"Readers of Tesseracts Nine will find both familiar
and new authors in this new collection of short
fiction, essays and poetry. It showcases the very
in Canadian literature (including French-
authors whose works are translated into
says publisher Brian Hades.

Since the publication of Tesseracts One, edited by
late Judith Merrill, the entire Tesseracts
series has
presented works from over 150 Canadian
fiction writers, many of whom have built
careers: Margaret Atwood, William Gibson,
Robert Sawyer,
Élisabeth Vonarburg and others.

Every volume in the series has been edited by a
different team of Canadian writers, publishers and
critics. Tesseracts Nine's editors, Nalo Hopkinson
and Geoff Ryman, were themselves selected as
representatives of modern Canadian innovative and
futuristic fiction and poetry. They are, together
the Tesseract Nine authors, the new leaders
emerging voices of Canadian speculative fiction.

Tesseracts Nine edited by Nalo
Hopkinson and Geoff Ryman will
be available May 1st, 2005.

For more information about Tesseracts 9, its authors,
and the editors, please contact Janice Shoults,
marketing director, EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy

List of Tesseracts Nine Contributors:
Anthony MacDonald and Jason Mehmel, Jerome Stueart,
Yves Meynard, Candas Jane Dorsey, E. L. Chen, Sandra
Kasturi, Steve Stanton, Élisabeth Vonarburg, Timothy
J. Anderson, Daniel Sernine, Dan Rubin, Nancy
Kilpatrick, Alette J. Willis, Rhea Rose, Casey June
Sarah Totton, Marg Gilks, Claude Lalumière,
Peter Watts
and Derryl Murphy, Sylvie Bérard, Rene
Beaulieu, Pat
Forde, Allan Weiss, Sheryl Curtis,
Howard Scott, Nalo
Hopkinson and Geoff Ryman.


Publisher's web site:

Books from EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy
and Tesseract Books are now
distributed by:

Fitzhenry and Whiteside (Toll Free 1-800-387-9776,
Fax: 1-800-260-9777, SAN# S1151444) and can be
at Baker and Taylor and Ingram wholesalers.