22nd Century Earth is a pretty nice place. Earth is becoming more and more integrated into the Galactic Milieu, with alien trade and technology rapidly fixing the problems of Earth and making life better for everyone. Mental powers, for so long disbelieved, distrusted and unreliable, have proven to be a Thing, and it is in fact Man’s discovery of these metapsychic powers that caused First Contact to happen in the first place back in 2013.
Yet, even in a Earth heading toward utopia, there are going to be people who are dissatisfied. There are people not so happy with the idea of alien cultures influencing and affecting Earth. There are those who seek a “final frontier”, one even more exotic than colonizing nearby star systems. There are those who seek to disrupt this happy society. Continue reading
This semester, I’m teaching a course on American literature which seeks to challenge what that term actually means and how we can define “American Lit” as something which is multi-national, multi-cultural, and infinitely larger. After all, we live in the Americas; technically speaking, Canadians are Americans in this sense of the term. That’s why I’m here talking about Surfacing by Margaret Atwood and not As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner.
Though only loosely fantastic, Atwoods Surfacing is a complex, character-driven feminist tale about relationships, patriarchy, nationalism, and the human psyche. It follows an unnamed narrator who returns with her friends to her childhood home to search for her missing father, who she assumes has either died or run off into the woods. As she tries to piece together her father’s last days from the clues left in his cabin, she is confronted with her friends’ abusive marriage, her recent and distant past, and the crippling expectations of post-WW2 society (and the changes brought on by the Quiet Revolution in 1960s Quebec). Though not intended as horror, Surfacing explores its themes with a sense of impending terror, such that the final moments, which I won’t discuss in any detail here, are profoundly fantastic, with the character drama forming the root of an exploding, terror-driven tree. Continue reading
When I was growing up, I heard stories about the flying heads-with-entrails that would lurk in the dark. People would grow cacti or thorny plants in their gardens to deter such horrific creatures. So there I was, listening to my relatives breathlessly account their experiences (or friend of a friend’s, you know, the usual) of finding one of those flying heads stuck in the cacti, their entrails caught and snared.
Then, there were the stories when I grew up and started working. How my friend’s father confronted a pontianak out right. They had heard her shrieks in the darkness. Frightened, they huddled, but the father simply stalked out and challenged the Pontianak: “I know you are here! Show yourself!” A pontianak is a spirit of a woman who has died in childbirth and undead; she stalks for blood, especially the blood of a newborn and its mother. Continue reading
My Superpower is a regular guest column on the Skiffy and Fanty blog where authors and creators tell us about one weird skill, neat trick, highly specialized cybernetic upgrade, or other superpower they have, and how it helped (or hindered!) their creative process as they built their project. Today we welcome Steve McHugh to talk about how the power of Having a Brain That Won’t Shut Up relates to With Silent Screams.
My superpower is a brain that won’t shut up. I don’t mean just one that’s always full of new ideas and stories, but one that just won’t let something go.
Now, as a writer, 9 times out of 10, this is the greatest gift in the world. The ability to keep coming up with fresh ideas and stories is pretty much essential if I want to keep writing new books.
Normally I’ll have an idea, a glimmer of a story or character, and then I’ll spend the next few days thinking on it, mulling it over and allowing it to evolve into whatever it needs to in order to grow. I discard the notions that don’t work, or file them away for use later, and see how far it needs to go before whatever gave me that initial thought becomes something fully formed and much more real. Continue reading
In 1985, I had the chance to see Godzilla on the big screen for the first time since that treasured day in the mid-70s, when my father took me to a matinee of Godzilla vs. the Thing (aka Mothra vs. Godzilla, 1964). On this occasion, the film was Godzilla 1985 (aka The Return of Godzilla, 1984). Like the 1954 original, it had been re-edited by its American distributor, with Raymond Burr shoehorned in. It was also dubbed. I didn’t care. It was Godzilla. When a couple of kids (about eight years old, I’m guessing) called out “Hi, Godzilla!” when he appeared, I barely restrained myself from doing the same. But there was another voice in that theatre. In the row ahead of me, a couple sat with their daughter. She was young enough (four? five?) that it’s possible this was her first movie. Twice during the film, I heard a small voice emerge from the seat in front of me with a quavering, “This scares me.” The first time was early in the film, when a corpse is found on a derelict ship. The second time was when Godzilla’s massive foot comes down on a fleeing crowd. Continue reading