Interview Round-Up: December-January, The Angels of Our Better Beasts

Been doing a number of fun interviews for the new collection, The Angels of Our Better Beasts.  Here’s a round up so far for the months of December and January!

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CBC NORTH:  Dave White has a chat with me about my new book and the Whitehorse launch of the book here on Soundcloud.

 

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WAG THE FOX: a den for dark fiction interviewed me for The Angels of Our Better Beasts.  It was a fun interview!  You can find this interview here.

 

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FULBRIGHT:  Fulbright Canada asked me to write a guest blog about how receiving a Fulbright Fellowship to Canada influenced the writing of this book.  Most of that information, specifically how the Yukon helped me develop as a writer, I covered in the interview I did with Jessica Simon. But specifically, I talk here about how important going to another country can be to you—especially if you let yourself be permeated by the culture of that country.  Being open to Canada was the beginning of a great journey for me.

 

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THE WHITEHORSE STAR: I was interviewed by Jessica Simon for the Whitehorse Star about the influence the Yukon had on me as a writer.  We got into some very interesting discussion about who gets to be a Yukon Writer and does that end when one leaves the Yukon?page-4-jan-09_17-1

Tor.com published my essay, “What Can We Learn from Star Trek’s Jake Sisko, Writer?”

VERY happy to have an essay up at Tor.com examining the roles of writers in the 24th Century, specifically through the lens of DS9 and Jake Sisko.  By offering us a character who chooses to be a writer in the 24th Century–even among all that technology and science–DS9 puts a value on writing, storytelling, literature even in the future.  We will need writers to understand new cultures.

Hope you enjoy the essay!

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The 24th anniversary of the first episode of Star Trek: Deep Space 9 took place earlier this month. The series took a lot of risks with the “idealized future” of Roddenberry as written into Star Trek’s DNA, adding nuance to Starfleet ideals by incorporating human desires and failings into the narrative. Some praised it for being more real, more relatable; some criticized it for being “too dark” and showing Starfleet in a bad light.

One thing I enjoyed was that in the midst of the Star Trek Universe’s science-and-tech-centric STEM paradise, DS9 showrunners made the captain’s son, Jake Sisko, a writer. We science fiction writers love our astronauts and engineers, but I was thrilled to see 14-year-old Jake developing into a writer and storyteller. They gave him a familiar writer’s journey: he dabbled in poetry, moved into short stories, then novels, and along the way he became a journalist, a war correspondent (echoes of Hemingway and Crane), and published a collection of essays about living under Dominion occupation, as well as a semi-autobiographical novel. By committing to Jake’s arc through the whole series, DS9 brought into broader relief how the series honoured storytellers.

Read the rest at Tor.com.  

 

My Faith in Werewolves

tumblr_nmlov9kobq1s3y6tro1_1280I grew up with a dangerous love of werewolves.  I wanted to meet them.  I wanted to run with them in the woods behind the house.  I wanted them to break into my room at night and kneel at my bed and whisper all the courageous, adventurous things I could become.

I drew pictures of werewolves. I couldn’t help myself.  Especially when I was 14 and living outside of Caruthersville, MO, on the levy by the Mississippi River, where my father was the pastor of a small country church–those pictures came every day into my head and just bled out of my pencils and pens.  Most of these werewolves were kind, masculine, big brotherly, mentor-like werewolves.  I was not clued-in to my head at the time.

These werewolves came, most likely, from my deeply embedded and hidden sexuality, a love for hairy men that I could not understand–a feeling like there was a wild side of me that I must hide away.  But the werewolves at my window were always free.  Free to run.

These werewolves I drew–the first one made me weep as a teenager–there was something important in that picture, something I couldn’t fully understand growing up in my deeply religious environment.  I don’t regret the beautiful years of being deep in that family and faith (and I’m still a big part of my family and faith) but I regret not knowing what that was.  I’d have been a much different person if I had known I was gay at 15 instead of at 34.

I appreciate the magic and wonder my ignorance left me–and that’s a strange blessing to be thankful for, but it’s a blessing nonetheless. Because I could not believe in my sexuality, I believed werewolves were real.  I musta lived under some really awesome bubble of cognitive dissonance for an A+ student to believe werewolves were possible and still understand and love my science classes.  But there I was–a high school student who kept a space open in my brain for the possibility of werewolves.  It’s not so hard to believe.  For me, son of a Southern Baptist minister, I had a world with angel-demon fights, Jesus talking to you out of the air, fiery chariots racing to the sky, resurrecting dead people, talking donkeys–that’s a world where werewolves can happen, too, isn’t it?  That space I kept open–it’s a similar space open for the possibility of miracles, of faith.  So why not a …sorta faith in werewolves?

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Launching Beasts in Whitehorse at -32C.

czp-version-of-posterIt was -35C in the Yukon Territory on December 13, and Baked Cafe was still packed. It’s a testimony to great friends I have in Whitehorse and the extent Yukoners will go to support musicians and writers and artists.

I felt so privileged and honoured to launch The Angels of Our Better Beasts in Baked Cafe in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory.  Baked Cafe was like an unofficial office for me for many years.  I sometimes wrote there, but more often I met folks there and talked for hours.  The lattes there are perfect.  I used to order a “Husky Hazelnut” latte–which is a 2% Milk version of the Hazelnut latte.  Instead of indicating I was trying to lower the fat in my drink, though, by calling it “skinny,” I wanted to call myself “husky” instead, which is a nice way of saying, “He’s a big fella.”

Anyway, the Launch. Yes.  So happy to have Marcelle Dube and Steve Parker there to read with.  Marcelle Dube is primarily a mystery/thriller writer in Whitehorse, but she does have science fiction and fantasy stories.  Steve Parker is best known for his Skrelsaga–and we hear he’s working on a sequel.  These two writers have been my friends for nearly as long as I’ve known the Yukon.  So–reading with them, and reading in Baked Cafe was a real wonderful pleasure.

I made a video of the launch–or at least of the parts before we started reading.  I wanted to give you a feeling of what it was like to have friends be there for you in a warm space inside a cold, cold night.  Sarah MacDougall kindly lent her song, “Cold Night” to the video.

 

My Fulbright experience: Be Transformed

cropped-img_3457.jpgFulbright asked me to write a short piece on how my Fulbright experience affected the writing of my stories, and–as I took it–my development as a writer.  Though the Fulbright was only one year, I stayed nearly 10 years in Whitehorse, Yukon, and go back frequently.  The north deeply affected my writing, and helped develop me as a writer.

In this piece, I encourage people to open themselves, become vulnerable, to another culture–whether it’s a short trip or a long immersion.  Culture, you’re soaking in it.

Be Transformed is up on the Fulbright blog.

For those who aren’t aware of Fulbright–they are a program that allows for an exchange of scholars to different countries.  I went to the far north of Canada.  (I was once loudly laughed at during a phone interview by a prospective college who was looking at my application to become their professor.  They wondered why I bothered getting a Fulbright to Canada.  As if we all have the money to skip across the border and stay for nine months–or as if Canada has nothing to teach us.  Believe me, my fellow Americans, you will be studying Canada in great detail in the coming years. )

For more on Fulbright in Canada, go here. I went on a Creative Writing Fulbright.  If you are currently a student, you can too.  There are also programs for scholars and teachers.

Be transformed by a place—let it sink into your bones.

 

 

They are queer Lumberjacks, and that’s okay: “A Lumberjack’s Guide to Dryad Spotting” by Charles Payseur reviewed

11884994176_203f040455_z_ink_liThere’s a sweet flashfiction piece by Charles Payseur on Flashfiction Online that highlights something awesome about LGBT writing today.  It deserves a read and a shout out.  “A Lumberjack’s Guide to Dryad Spotting” is probably about 1000 words, but it tells a pretty big story about two gay lumberjacks that goes beyond where I thought the story would go.

 

Be careful in these woods: SPOILERS AHEAD.  Why don’t you just go read it and come back here.

Good, you’re back.

First, let me say how happy I am to keep seeing LGBT writers in Lightspeed, Clarkesworld, Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Flashfiction Online, and other mainstream venues even beyond the “Queers Destroy” series, and other special issues.

The story sets us up to believe how valuable Dryads are in this world, that you can monetize their parts and sell them for money.  Our heroes, a pair of gay lumberjacks who are subtle, but not that subtle, in the camp about their relationship, are presented as good lumberjacks: they get there early, they chop down trees.  They do their jobs well.  We are also led to believe that these two men have a dream that requires money.

The narrative often tells us how aggressively hostile Dryads are to humans, and how to find them and collect the money on them.

But along the way, some great narrative magic happens–and the plight of our heroes becomes the plight of the Dryads. And instead of thinking selfishly–using the Dryads to fund their escape into safety–they take the dryads with them.

I love this story because it highlights an aspect of being LGBT that isn’t often explored in fiction: that our persecution does not make us selfishly protect ourselves, but creates compassion towards others who are hunted and persecuted too.  Even though the story establishes that the dryads have a hunger for human blood, and that they can be dangerous and attack, the gay lumberjacks are saving the dryads–in exchange for the dryads helping the couple hide in safety in the future.

“Come away with me,”is a beautiful line because it is so unexpected, and because it deepens the way we understand the main characters.

I also enjoy the shout out to the diversity in the LGBT community—that these main characters are “bears” (read: big bearded hairy gay men).  I also like where this story didn’t go: The other lumberjacks could have “found them out” and hurt them and this would have been a predictable “hurt the gays” story—but the men’s reactions are complex: they both desire the freedom of these gay men to form a relationship, and also have an impression that there is a fluidity to sexuality and the man you are in camp is not the man you are back in the “real world.”  There is a strange allowance for incongruity and a blurriness of masculinity here in the forest.  But, the text still signals the danger the men are in the more the camp fills up with other lumberjacks, and they keep their voices down in the tent, and they smother the openness they had when they were alone.

It helps Payseur make the comparison with the Dryads–who are perfectly fine if no one finds them, but who are in trouble the more the men encroach upon their privacy.  These gay men are not in some gay paradise–they are in an allowed limbo that is incumbent upon tacit ignorance and acceptance–a short-lived window of opportunity.

They use it well.  In the last paragraph, just as you’ve decided these men will use the dryads to fund their escape from this tricky life of masculine conformity, they form a union with the dryads by rescuing them, and, at least in the proposition one of the gay lumberjacks offers, replanting them in a “safe space” with the lumberjacks in their new home.

Perhaps it’s the sense of hope that I love in this piece, and maybe it’s the accurate reflection of compassion over self-interest.  Either way, it’s beautiful.

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What I Learned From Making Your Beasts Come Alive

img_0018When I went to World Fantasy in Columbus, Ohio, we debuted my book, The Angels of Our Better Beasts, and as a bonus, I offered to draw a free beast of your own creation.  Many people took me up on that!   They described to me beasts and I drew them, and here are some of those beasts.  If I drew a beast for you and it isn’t present, it could be because I didn’t have a photo of it, but if you send it, I will add it to the collection of beasts.

What I learned: that we all have a favorite creature–and that we have imagined them before.  Very few of you made up something on the spot.  You were ready.  You had a Beast in Mind.  As part of our childhood, as part of our parenting, or as just something we’ve longed to see as real.  At different times as a child, I used to walk around with an invisible Pegasus, an invisible Lassie, and I can’t tell you too much more about the werewolf I thought would come for me when I was a teen–except that he was there, on the fringes of my consciousness.  I was a creative kid.  You are too.  Your beasts travel with you.

There is nothing to be ashamed of in having your Beasts.  They are often playful, sometimes scary.  But the scary ones even bring a smile to people’s faces, as if the very badass-ness of the Beast they’ve created is wonderful.

I know one man, Alex, said that he created Uber-Corgi for his son, and that they told stories of Uber-Corgi.  Maybe you’ve made up a beast for your kids too…

Most of the beasts were Whimsical which I guess means that we see furry creatures as part of a fantasy, not a horror.  I know online RPGs enjoy giving you “pets” of exotic beasts and people love collecting those.

I’m glad I could be a part of making your beast come to life!

 

So if you have a beast not pictured here, and you send me the picture of it, I’ll add it here.

I know we did about 25-30 beasts in Columbus, about ten in Toronto (one I can’t put online–you know why, Stephen!). I didn’t have a chance to capture them all–but maybe you know where the fantastic beasts are and where to find them… hehe…

Just a note: I’m not running the free beast with a book program right now.  All of you I’ve promised a beast to are still getting one, if you don’t have it already… but it was a great promotion for the launch and for the Toronto Launch too.

I will start this up as a promo later in the year with ChiZine again so watch for the chance to get your Beast realized.  Until then, please enjoy these beasts!  And let me know where to find the rest!