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!