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We spent the last few weeks experiencing what Canadian cinema has to offer. This was the result:

Download the Podcast (30 MB, right-click to save)

Marie’s blog

Films discussed:

Ticket to Heaven

Porky’s

Quest for Fire

The Bear

Dance Me Outside

Rock and Rule

Heavy Metal

Maelstrom

A Dangerous Method

Take this Waltz

Edwin Boyd: Citizen Gangster

Men with Brooms

Paschendaele

Margaret’s Museum

Anne of Green Gables

Incendies

Rock Paper Dice Enter

Carts of Darkness

The Trotsky

The Clarion Effect?

I was absolutely delighted to hear an upcoming story of mine mentioned on Episode 31 of the Rocket Talk podcast, especially since I listen to Rocket Talk regularly. The last time I got this excited while listening to a podcast was when Tom & Veronica mentioned my Visual Guide to Boneshaker on the Sword & Laser. Anyway, in this episode, Justin Landon (of Staffer’s Book Review) interviewed the Book Smugglers about reviews, publishing and other things.

At one point Landon mentions something he calls “the Clarion Effect”—he claims that science fiction and fantasy stories published in professional venues tend to follow similar structures and display similar voices thanks to the enormous influence of the Clarion Writer’s Workshop on both writers and editors. This is the first time I’ve heard “the Clarion Effect” used this way; usually when a similar phrase pops up it’s in relation to the networking opportunities available for Clarion attendees i.e. meeting future editors and other writers, leading to a (arguably) disproportionate amount of Clarion graduates populating the highest-paying markets.

Of course, that also might be because the Clarion selection process is so rigorous that only the most talented writers who can afford the tuition and Greyhound ticket make it to the workshop in the first place.

I’ve never attended Clarion, so I can’t vouch for the networking or instructional benefits of going there. But I am curious about Landon’s “Clarion Effect”—have any of you noticed a sameness to voices and story structures in sff magazines, particularly American ones? Do you think a workshop can have such a large ripple effect in Anglophone fantastic literature? And do you think this is helpful or not-so-helpful effect to the current state of the field?

(I will note that in this context Landon was praising the Book Smugglers for avoiding the “Clarion Effect” and not automatically choosing big-name authors out of their slush pile—which was fortunate for me! So I’m probably more sympathetic to his argument than I should be.)

Bulfinch's Mythology

The first volume of Bulfinch’s Mythology is a massively important book. After its publication in 1855, The Age of Fable, or Stories of Gods and Heroes became the standard text on classical mythology in the English-speaking world until the mid-twentieth century. After that, it’s still the book most responsible for introducing people to these stories. Thomas Bulfinch’s retellings spread feelers out into wider literature, countless authors drew (and still draw) inspiration from it.

Not that Bulfinch intended his work that way; his own introduction sets out his goal as creating a more easy-going alternative to a classical dictionary. His Mythology wasn’t meant so much as a window into pre-Christian beliefs, but as a means for someone without the benefit of a classical education to understand the allusions of later writers. That is, he wasn’t initially setting out to instil appreciation for classical literature, but giving readers tools to better understand and enjoy poetry written in modern English. He still ended up doing the former, which is why Bulfinch’s Mythology was (and is) such an incredibly popular book.

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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

Icefields-Thomas-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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Unbearable

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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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