The Book Smugglers announced their upcoming short fiction offerings today, which includes my story “Mrs. Yaga.”

This was the first market I sent that story to, so I was pretty shocked (and pleased!) by the acceptance. The story will also be available as an ebook, and there will be commissioned artwork for the tale.

More details to follow as the publication date approaches.

Fantasy Cataclysms

Continent-shifting cataclysms have been a mainstay in fantasy literature since the 1920s, epic fantasy in particular. It’s a curious thread. After all, human history is such a miniscule portion of geological time that while we’ve seen coastlines shifts or islands rise and sink, we haven’t seen significant alterations of any one landmass since the Stone Age. Continental drift will, by necessity, rarely affect a story or the characters except in the broadest sense. Yet massive geological shifts stay simmering in the foundational works of the modern fantasy genre. Robert E. Howard’s Hyborian Age, while ostensibly set in our prehistory, has a significantly different-looking map of what would become Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

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Reading Tom Wharton


After reading some truly dire Canadian fiction, I think it’s worth turning my attention to a Canadian author I’ve enjoyed reading. Thomas Wharton is a writer out of Edmonton who I was vaguely aware of during undergrad because he taught creative writing courses at the University of Alberta. I never took a creative writing course, and it was a long time before I got round to pick up one of Wharton’s books. Which is a shame, because based on the two novels of his I’ve read, taking a class with him would have been worth it.

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Shortly after I discovered Bear (1976) by Marian Engel existed it became a minor internet meme. It surprises me this didn’t happen earlier—Bear is the kind of strange book the internet gravitates towards. It’s about a dreary, unfulfilled urbanite archivist named Lou who leaves Toronto when she gets an assignment to catalogue the books in a 19th-century house somewhere in northern Ontario; when she gets there, she finds out the previous owner kept a pet bear who the neighbours still feed.

Then she has sex with it.

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Exclusionary Arts

Today I was going to draw a visual guide to Marian Engel’s Bear (1976), the truly awful (and Governor General Award-winning) novel about, um, a woman who has sexual relationship with a bear, but recent news has soured me on the idea. Why? This is the Acknowledgements page for Bear:

The author acknowledges with thanks the Canada Council and the Arts and the Arts Council of Ontario, who provided funds while this book was in progress.

Today I learned that the Canada Council for the Arts has cut funding for Canada’s premiere speculative fiction magazine On Spec: The Canadian Magazine of the Fantastic.

I’m well aware that this is an unfair juxtaposition. A bear sex novel getting a grant nearly forty years ago doesn’t have any bearing on what gets funded now.

And yet it still makes me sad. I guess that helps balance out the anger.

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For a long time I was only familiar with The Story of Sinuhe from Mika Waltari’s historical novel The Egyptian (1945), which I read when I was 12 years old. Having now read the source material, the strangest part is that The Egyptian is historical fiction based on historical fiction. Like The Report of Wen-Amon, the events in The Story of Sinuhe are at least fictionalized if not outright imaginary. The supposed autobiographical account takes place in the early 20th century BCE, the earliest manuscript dates from about two hundred years later. Taking that as somewhere near the date of composition, it’s like a novelist today writing a story set in the Victorian era. Judging from the various copies floating around, it was extremely popular, an ancient Egyptian bestseller.

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Like this.

Last month, I announced that my serial novella collection Zeppelins are What Dreams are Made of was picked up by a small press. Yesterday, I learned that small press was closing, the contract is void, and all rights to the collection have reverted back to me. Since the publication process stalled before I even received an advance, the situation is like I never sold the novellas at all. A slate wiped clean.

So what now?

That’s the problem, really: I’m not sure. Since I wrote the first story in 2010, I’ve submitted it to various magazines. I had a few near-misses where editors held onto it (sometimes for quite some time) but ultimately didn’t accept it. Even that first story is over 7000 words long, meaning it’s too lengthy for most sff magazines. If I had sold that story, the rest in the series probably wouldn’t have followed: you just don’t see serial characters that much anymore. Continue Reading »


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