Author Archive

How We Write About Faith: New Seminar and Workshop starting Feb 2   1 comment

Buddhist, Pagan, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Agnostic, Atheist—we all have a belief system–”faith” in something, a set of beliefs, a god, gods, guiding principles, morality.  It’s hard to express sometimes WHY we believe these things, or HOW they guide us, or how we know they are TRUE.  Sometimes we’ve been hurt by religion, disappointed by faith.  We want to talk about that too.  Maybe we want to pass our beliefs, our experiences down to our kids.  We want to explain it to ourselves, sometimes.  We’d like to keep a record.  But pinning down the inexpressible nature of faith and belief is difficult.
WRITING FAITH SEMINAR AND WORKSHOP
Come join a writing workshop that explores how we talk about faith.  Starting this Saturday, Feb 2, we’ll have a one day seminar/workshop from 10-4 that explores Writing Faith with writing tips, games, exercises, and a few readings that map out the basic writing techniques of writing about Faith.  Then Feb 8-March 22, join us on Fridays from 5-8 (potluck snacks), at the Whitehorse United Church to explore more in depth how others write about their faith and get some good feedback on writings you may write about your faith.  The group is always ecumenical and eclectic and supportive of new writers.  It has been a successful group four times now, three in the Yukon.  We teach mostly memoir, but fiction as well.
We don’t teach theology here; we teach writing.  We are including writings beyond Christian writings this time around—mostly from the Best Spiritual Writing 2013 that just came out.  We aim to be inclusive.  We have readings from Pulitzer prize winning author, Annie Dillard, as well as Anne Lamott, Andre Dubus, E.O. Wilson, Langston Hughes, Jhumpa Lahiri, Ron Hansen, Thich Nhat Hanh, and other writers covering a broad spectrum of spirituality—for techniques.  We play writing games.  We’re kind of like a summer camp for writers.  Only in the winter.
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted January 29, 2013 by jstueart in religion, writing, Yukon

Tagged with , , , ,

Canada offers a Way to Avoid the “Hockey Cliff”, forms New League   1 comment

"What else can we do? We have an obligation to our Canadian fans, our players. Playing them is the only option," says Mike Gillis GM of the Canucks

“What else can we do? We have an obligation to our Canadian fans, our charities and our players. Playing them is the only option,” says Mike Gillis GM of the Vancouver Canucks

There’s more than one cliff North America approaches and, even as US President Barack Obama hopes to steer clear of the “fiscal cliff,” the NHL is trying to avoid a cliff of their own.  After 107 days of the NHL Lockout, fans are steaming at a lack of hockey in their lives.  Just in time, perhaps, to save everyone, Canada has a plan.

Canadians announced today that their teams are withdrawing from the NHL and immediately forming the Hockey League of Canada.  Prime Minister Stephen Harper has budgeted that every major city in Canada will have its own Hockey team if they don’t already have one.  For example, this includes Goose Bay, Iqaluit and Whitehorse.  They are inviting all Canadian hockey players to ditch their American teams and come play on a new league immediately.

“It’s Canada, so players can be assured that they will receive great pensions and healthcare, without having to barter their lives and careers away for that,” Dermott Mulchahy said in a statement to the press this afternoon outside of Rogers Arena, home of the Vancouver Canucks.  After Muchahy spoke, GM Mike Gillis of the Canucks said, “What choice do we have?  We have an obligation to our Canadian fans, our charities, and our players. Playing them is better than not playing them. Playing them is the only option.”  He looked around the room.  “Canadians and hockey fans in general are fed up.”

Players will be chosen in a lottery so that every city has the chance of winning star players.  This completely shakes up any of the teams–but many already believe this will be a good thing.  The new games begin on February 1st.  Mulchahy, as President of the newly formed Hockey League of Canada, believes that fans will be so excited to see hockey happening that they won’t care if it’s called NHL or HLC.  And American cities, still mired in the negotiations for their hockey teams, minus Canadian players who defect and come back home, will probably find themselves watching HLC games and not caring if the NHL ever forms again.

Farm teams in the south, like the Odessa Jackalopes, are being offered the chance to come play major league hockey right away, adding a lot of surprise, and fresh blood, to the game.  “Me and my buddies, we’re already heading north!” said Jamie Gonzalez, one of the best scorers in the Jackalopes.

Whitehorse, Yukon, already knows the name of their team, the Dawson City Nuggets, even though the team will play in Whitehorse.  “It’ll bond our two cities together,” said Whitehorse mayor, Dan Curtis.  “We couldn’t be more thrilled.”

If the NHL does not reach an agreement by midnight January 1st, the HLC goes into effect in Canada.  Canadians are now hoping that the NHL never gets their act together.

“Come home,” Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in a statement today to Canadian hockey players worldwide.  “Come back home to Canada and play your hearts out.  We’ll tend your goals.”

______________________

You’re reading a blog about science fiction, fantasy and the Yukon.

My Interview over on Speculating Canada   Leave a comment

Bears at AMNHDerek Newman-Stille, over at Speculating Canada, a hot new-ish site for reviewing Canadian science fiction/fantasy and horror, gave me a really fun set of questions for this interview, asking me to think pretty deeply about the motivations I had when writing three of my stories, as well as asking me farther-reaching questions about the power of science fiction to change society!  Pretty heavy stuff, but I did my best to come up with answers.  We all hope to sound intelligent during interviews, at least interesting.  It helps to have good questions.

We cover subjects as diverse as the American educational system, healthcare and the difference to science it would make if animals really did talk. (What would that grizzly be saying to you?)

Thanks to Derek for doing what he does to help get more science fiction reviewed, and read, by those looking for it!

(photo is from the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, a display of grizzlies in the North American Mammals section.  I do believe Theodore Roosevelt brought these in.)

Young Sherlock Holmes vs. Harry Potter: If Chris Columbus doesn’t bring claims against JK Rowling, No One Should   3 comments

Yes, this should ease JK Rowling’s mind and set a new standard for anyone pursuing copyright claims against her.  If they can’t get as close as the Barry Levinson directed, Steven Spielberg produced, Chris Columbus penned, Young Sherlock Holmes (1985), then they have absolutely no case.  If Chris hasn’t pursued a claim, no one should.

Young Sherlock Holmes was a fantastic movie for its time.  But it could never have been made AFTER Harry Potter.  Let’s look at it through Post Potter eyes.

Taking place in a boarding school, it involves two boys and a girl who uncover magic mystery that involves the duplicity of one of their teachers.  A beloved, befuddled mentor figure dies.  One of the boys is short and has glasses, looking very Harry Potter.  A lot of running to the library to figure out what teachers and detectives won’t tell them, and Holmes is the most famous kid in class, whose rival is the rich, pompous Dudley, every bit the Malfoy look alike.  His hair is even died ice blond as Holmes’ revenge.  The young Watson, who looks too much like Potter, is called a Weasel at one point, and his character works like that of Ron Weasley, comic relief, loyal buddy, and always trying to get out of adventure.  The girl, Elizabeth, is no Hermoine, but then Rowling admitted that Hermoine is herself in the Harry Potter series.  The kids spend most of their time with a retired schoolteacher, WaxFlatter who serves as both Dumbledore and Hagrid.  The kids are threatened with expulsion for all their snooping around.  A cult is the culprit and the villain is their own professor.  Magic, in the form of hallucinations, is the staple of the film.  Many of the scenes are set as they would be on Harry Potter–including an identical Great Hall scene, though cramped, and a Professor of Chemistry that reminds me of any of the professors from Potter, especially the Potions room (though I imagine many are typical boarding school sets).  There is a Diagon Alley full of shops and crowds of consumers. Even a shopkeeper who closely examines their blowpipe reminds one of the wand seller.  The set up in this movie is that Holmes’ nemesis Moriarty will continue to plague him, even as the Potter/Voldemort must occupy the series.

This is NOT to say that Rowling copies anything or even saw this movie, but that Chris Columbus, her first director knew this kind of film intimately.  Though Wikipedia claims that he was selected based on Mrs. Doubtfire and Home Alone, no one can miss the Harry Potterness of Young Sherlock Holmes.  Spielberg, who was in negotiations, it is said, to direct Potter 1 ultimately wanted to make it animated–according to this source.  Why would he say that?  Young Sherlock Holmes does everything that Harry Potter did–except the story and casting are weaker–he could have just rinsed and repeated.  Rowling had a better story, but the sets and the structure would have been very familiar to Columbus and Spielberg.

If you see the film, you’ll realize this could not have been made post Harry Potter–too many elements are the same.  Columbus wrote the script for Holmes, so it was conceived as a movie first, which means that it was built to be filmed not read.

My biggest question is that when Potter came out as a book, then a film, people asked themselves–why did this strike such a chord?  And my question is why didn’t Young Sherlock Holmes grab that same audience in a film first.

It could be that Holmes and Watson were already established characters–they had no freshness to them.  But a boarding school mystery with magic and the occult—with two boys and a girl.  It’s the formula that wins in Potter.  One can’t merely say that it was that combination that finally became a hit with audiences and children.  ONe has to look at the execution of that kind of story.

Inevitably a huge nod in Rowling’s direction must be given for taking a combination that had been seen before and making it fresh and more complex.  Whereas Columbus was restricted by Doyle, to a certain extent, on the way he could craft the characters of Watson and Holmes, Rowling’s development of the main three characters, as well as a believable world is to her credit.  Columbus was good in his writing of Young Sherlock Holmes, but Rowling was amazing with the same elements in Harry Potter.

So when I hear of silly people who think Rowling copied them–one can point back to an earlier model for all of them–and say that it’s not the material you have, it’s not the little elements that add up because no one beats Columbus for more elements.  It’s what you do with it that’s important.

Rowling is not in the set pieces; Rowling is in the writing.

Speculating Canada reviews my story, “One Nation Under Gods”   1 comment

Really thrilled that Speculating Canada reviewed my short story, “One Nation Under Gods” which appeared in Tesseracts 14. It’s hard to get short fiction reviews and they are so valuable.  The SF/F/H community should hold tight and nurture as many reviewers as we can. With a growing market of books, the discerning reader looks to reviews to help choose what to read.  And reviewers who choose short fiction, new authors, and anthologies help support beginning writers who are starting their careers, hoping that someone notices.  So we can’t fete reviewers enough–we need them, we love them, we should be very kind to them.

I’d say this for any thoughtful reviewer, even if Derek had NOT liked my work.  It’s the way he liked my work that makes me happy. 

Speculating Canada has a really great aim:

This site has been created in response to the overwhelming number of people who are surprised that Canadian literature includes the fantastic. Canadian SF, fantasy, and horror have been cast into a literary ghetto under the power structure of CanLit, and cast as either inferior literatures, or literatures that are not ‘of here’, i.e. from abroad. Yet, Canadian speculative fiction has a long history in Canada and engages with ideas of Canadian identity, belonging, and concepts of nationhood, place and space (both ‘the final frontier’ type, and the geographical).

Realist fiction is often seen as the only ‘truly’ Canadian fiction, but even realist fiction speculates, postulates and creates a fantastic idea, just one that is based more closely on the normative world around us than most SF authors are inclined to do.

Canadian SF allows for the engagement with ideas such as What is Canada? What does belonging mean? What is the nature of ‘human’? Why are things the way they are? How do we change things? Can things change?

The appeal of Canadian SF is not just regional, but has implications for a wider audience. Canadians, long un/comfortable with our identity as a hybrid of the American and English, Francophones and Anglophones, Aboriginal and settlers, and the multicultural mix that is embedded in our philosophy, means that we are comfortable with questions of identity and the exploration of our place, ideas that naturally lend themselves to science fiction, fantasy, and horror. We live in a world that is unsure of itself, and uncomfortable with ideas of belonging, and Canadian SF plays with ideas of belonging, disrupts the normal (or what has come to be seen as normal) and allows for a new way of experiencing the world.

As for the review–well, I’ll let you read most of it as his site, but here’s a nice chunk:

Read the rest of this entry »

The Yearning To Be Seen: a Review of Do You Want What I Have Got? A Craigslist Cantata   Leave a comment

Deeply touched by the Arts Club Theatre Company’s production of Do You Want What I Have Got? A Craigslist Cantata.  Veda Hille and Bill Richardson have written a non-linear musical that uses actual Craigslist ads for its lyrics.  Craigslist, in case you’ve been in a hole, is an online one-stop-shopping for finding whatever it is you want— from someone you saw on the train that day, to an old trumpet, to homes for your cats.  It’s a pared down, non-glitzy site—just text–where you have to use words to sell what it is you want to sell, or get what you want. Ads are quirky.  I think with the number of them, people have to come up with newer and more outlandish ways to make their ad stand out.  It’s not a Tumblr site so there’s no pics in your subject line to make you stand out–just a line of text.  What is Craigslist anyway?

The musical is episodic, going from ad to ad, occasionally reverberating or repeating a motif in another ad, enough to make it stick together well.  There are a number of “characters” who have very specific and ludicrous (sometimes even strange) desires and wants.  It would be easy just to laugh at all of them–and we do.  Audience tonight was having a great time laughing it up at the woman trying to sell her 300 stuffed penguins, singing an alphabetical list of the different species of penguins and hoping to find a special child who might want them all.  Or the man who wants someone to sit in his bathtub of cooked noodles…  Or the wanderers who keep missing each other–though having a brief moment with someone they fall for.

It would be easy to laugh, except Hille and Richardson don’t let us off that easy.  They have found a way to make that search poignant, a statement on 21st Century technology becoming the medium for expressing our desires.  There’s a song though that Hille sings in the middle–a quite surprising song about Noah and the doves he sends out into the world to find land.  And this becomes the central metaphor that pulls the show together in a quite exposing, vulnerable, emotional way— that Craigslist is a collection of those doves, sent out–with no replies, really.  “No one learns how the story ends.  Did they find each other?  We don’t know,” Hille says in the Artist talkback tonight.  There are only beginning moments–story starters, if you will–but we don’t know if any of the missed connections actually connect.

Read the rest of this entry »

CBC’s DNTO to air my story on Coming Out to My Church for “Lost Causes”   2 comments

Definitely Not the Opera, (DNTO) a CBC Radio One program devoted to the art of storytelling in Canada, asked me to tell my story of coming out to my church for their Nov 3 show “Lost Causes”.

I had pitched the idea to them last year for a different show called “Making Enemies” but withdrew the pitch because a) I don’t think I meant to make enemies, nor do I think I have made enemies; and 2) because I didn’t want to restir a pot that has finally calmed down.

But they remembered my pitch.  And they sought me out.  Which is humbling, and cool.  We recorded on Friday morning and they are editing my lengthy story to 3-4 minutes.  I appreciate Andrew Friesen’s belief that my story was important and needed to be told.  I feel like the story is more appropriate under “Lost Causes” because trying to reason with people who don’t want to listen to you, or discuss with you–and believing that you alone have to spark change–well, it can feel like a “Lost Cause”.  But in the end–and the end hasn’t come yet–who knows if the cause is lost?  I think every person who says the church must look at the evidence, must consider the Christian testimonies of LGBT folks in the discussion, is a step towards change.  We need more people who realize how many people have fallen away from the faith, have decided against Christ, have been repelled from the church, and who, sometimes when there is no hope left, taken their own lives, all because the Church has historically refused to consider the scriptures in an accepting light–and this causes their members to refuse to accept their children in an accepting light.  This splits familes.  My God and my Christ are not what I encounter when I come into a Baptist Church anymore.  I daresay they wouldn’t recognize it.  Churches are not all one defined Mass though–as many churches are beginning to change their minds about LGBT people.  Episcopals, Lutherans, Presbyterians, United Church of Canada–all have begun seeing that this is just the next issue the church has to rethink.  As it did slavery, race, and its treatment of Women.  And divorce.  Change comes when people inside churches decide they can’t hold false doctrine anymore.  Christianity and Faith are not the problem.  Interpretation is.

Read the rest of this entry »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 72 other followers