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.  

 

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.

 

 

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!

 

 

What have you done with 2016?

12715744_10153895453277095_8059101292263897684_nMany folks are writing up their last year’s work for possible awards eligibility, and since I did a compilation of work, I want to distinguish what’s new and what’s not.

But first can I say:  Finally, after years of writing, I published a book!  YAY!  It feels good to get something out and in a finished form. Needless to say, I’m very proud of this book.  Whatever it does in the world is fine with me.  It is a record now of what I’ve done.  I hope you like it.

For your consideration:

Collection of Stories: The Angels of Our Better Beasts, from ChiZine.

This collection pivots around beasts–the animal kind, the monster kind, and the kind we turn into with those we love–and asks questions about the influence we have on each other.

The Lemmings are really researching the Arctic biologists, the werewolves sing sweet Christian praise songs, and the signing gorilla just wants someone back in the cage for a minute or two. The Gryphon can fight your war for you, and there isn’t really a problem when the man you’ve been online dating turns out to be a bear, is there? No worries. Those old lions in the canyon aren’t up to something, are they? The doctors in the red coats just want to cure you of a terrible blood disease. Trust them. In the forest, the sasquatch has fallen in love with the cryptozoologist who follows him, while the god of the Brazos River courts the young, pretty Texas college students.

Four of the stories in this collection were new in 2016 and are eligible:

“Sam McGee Argues With His Box of Authentic Ashes” (a narrative poem)

Sam McGee is famous for his appearance in the Robert W Service poem, “The Cremation of Sam McGee” so famous, that the real Sam McGee was once offered a bag of his own ashes when he came back to the Yukon.  This poem is him in sudden conversation with his own “famous” ashes….

“Heartbreak, Gospel, Shotgun, Fiddler, Werewolf, Chorus: Bluegrass”

Always loved werewolves but wanted to play with the trope.  This werewolf is hiding in a gospel bluegrass band as the lead singer and banjo player.  The other members know, and they keep him shackled on moonlit nights, but they won’t kill him because the band is the best-selling, triple platinum soul-winning force for Jesus.  And though he’s killed two people, they are saving souls and doing good in the world and maybe that balances out two murders…

“You Will Draw This Life To Its End”

Auguste Rennault is an older  painter famous for his depiction of our human advance throughout the solar system–but he wants to retire to a mining colony in Jupiter-irradiated space around Ganymede to be with a man he loves.  The art community and his funders resist so he creates a great work to paint the miners, living with them, knowing it will be his last.  Instead of retiring, he starts using his fame to change the balance of power between miner’s unions and corporations, illustrating the Miner’s Strike,  trying to see how far the corporations will go to protect the famous painter in a dangerous place.  But it’s not easy to ascribe fame onto others, or use your fame for social change, and there are limits…

“Awake, Gryphon!” 

A young prince awakens to find his Holy City under siege, his father and brothers and sisters dead in a battle and himself as the recipient of the crown and the “great wisdom” that is said to pass from King to oldest surviving heir.  But are all his choices now coming from “the wisdom”?  And is it wise to awaken the unpredictable Gryphon to save the Holy City?  Everyone seems to have a plan on what to do for him, but none can really trust a prince who wants to wake the Gryphon.

I wrote one flash fiction piece, “Your Weird Aunt Pollymorph Says Hello,” that appeared inflight-full-cover FLIGHT: the Queer Scifi Flash Fiction Anthology from Mischief Corner Books and won first place in the contest they had.

It’s about a sentient holographic computer interface that can take on the shape of the person best suited to work with you, but who is struggling to understand who to be for a ten year old girl whose mother has taken her from her friends and brought her on the ship.

I also was able to write a couple of good blogposts, namely “My Mother, My New Club, and the Swastika On My Shoes” and “Wealth has always been the greatest (unspoken) superpower”

Since I’m both American and Canadian, my work is eligible for Auroras and Sunbursts as well as World Fantasy and LGBT awards.

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Overall, this year was a production year of getting the book ready to be published and then getting it in front of as many eyes as we could.  I moved Dec 30-31 of last year to a new place–so I was in Kettering when this year began.  An upstairs lofty, quirky kind of bedroom and outer-room that became an office.  From January-February, I was packaging the book together to give to Andrew Wilmot, my amazing editor, working at the behest of ChiZine.  I wrote two of the stories then–the long ones.  We had to make decisions at the end to not finish a couple I’d have loved to have in there, but they were long and they were taking a lot of time to get finished and would have made the book unbalanced.

I taught a class for the Lifelong Learning Center on Jesus in Science Fiction, which went over really well, and was also a guest speaker for the Fantasy And Science Fiction Appreciation Club on the University of Dayton campus and started a Science Fiction Writing Workshop Club on campus after being a guest speaker at LitFest in April.  I teach there as an adjunct.

After Andrew sent the manuscript back with edits, I worked on it even more through April.  Then in May I moved back into IMG_2923my friend’s house in Vandalia and drew 15 illustrations for the book.  My banjo playing werewolf from “Heartbreak” is one of them:

 

 

 

Once I sent those off, I went off to see my birthmother in Daleville, IN, some friends in Chicago, and then off to a novel-writing workshop in Kansas–met Kij Johnson, Andy Duncan, Chris McKitterick and a lot of wonderful new writers.  It was a hot, muggy, but informational two weeks where I learned a lot about myself as a writer and what I was prepared to do to write a novel.

img_3237When I returned from that, I taught a six week research writing course at UD and then moved into my new place in August in the Fairview area of Dayton.  Sept-Dec was teaching, teaching, teaching, and grading, grading, grading and taking on a new job as a Marketer for ManCo Property Services.  I market their property and work on their Salem Avenue Peace Corridor newsletter.  In October, my book came out!  I took it to World Fantasy in Columbus and launched it there (even though it wouldn’t be available in the US till Dec 13, another two months), then went to Toronto for the Canadian book launch of AoBB, and Texas for Thanksgiving to see my folks, followed quickly by a long trip to Whitehorse, YT and Calgary AB to see friends and recuperate from a long year.

In September I did an overhaul of this website, but will do another in a few days.  I’m making a promise to use blogging more this year and Facebook less.  Facebook is ephemeral and it’s hard to recapture what you did unless you want to scroll back through everything slowly….

2017 will be a huge production year too as I get One Nation Under Gods written and finished by the Fall for ChiZine, as well as a couple of stories that have been waiting a long time to be done.  I want them done by February.  I take on a new editing project–more on that in April–and some new changes in the Fall of 2017 for me, most likely.

In all, I got work to do.

So this was my year!  It was a good one.  We’re gonna make another one like this, but better for 2017.  Thanks for being a part of it!

Redecorating the Website and Bearing Witness

 

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Hello friends! You might notice a few things have changed on my website.  Actually, all the decor has changed, but the content really hasn’t.  It still has all the articles I’ve written before.

As I got closer to the release of my first collection, I thought my website could use a makeover, so I chose a new easier to read design.  The former white text on a slate blue background hurt my eyes—and was too small to read, so I’ve enlarged the font a bit (perhaps that a sign I’m getting old) and streamlined it, and put it on white.

It has a new title too, which I think you’ll notice first.  It used to say Yukon Science Fiction Writer and now it says Bearing Witness.  Quite simply I wanted to give the blog its own title, and not just reflect myself.  I’m a Yukon Science Fiction Writer, but the blog is not.

I lived in the Yukon for nearly 10 years and a part of me is still there and I will return many times and hopefully even stay one day soon.  I will always be a Yukoner.  I became a Canadian citizen there.  I climbed those hills and mountains and swam naked in those lakes (okay, in one lake–but it was very very cold).  I went on Moose hunts and sheep hunts and I laid on the dirt and collected low bush cranberries with friends.  I sang on cold cold nights with people who love the north, sometimes while sitting in a hot tub, watching our hair freeze, and I still have their songs in my heart.  But I needed a title for the page that said something about my whole work, not just about me, and I felt, too, like Science Fiction was only part of it.  My interest in faith and spirituality in both fiction and nonfiction should be in there too.

The former title of the page never really captured all that I was doing.  It didn’t tell you I’m gay, or that I write about faith sometimes, or that I’m an American transplant in the Yukon who went over the mountain back to Ohio.  It doesn’t tell you I’m a Navy brat, a Texas Tech grad, or adopted.  So I thought–instead of saying all the stuff I am, why not give the blog an identity?

So I did.  Bearing Witness is something you do for those who need to be seen.  It’s also a term used in faith, to bear witness to the things God has done, or to bear witness to each other through hard times.  It is about keeping our eyes open.  It’s also got “bear” in it, which winks to my love of the gay bear subculture, and the colours are pretty… cheerful, if you think about it.  The glass from the Chihuly exhibit feels like a nebula in space—and so it has a science fiction feel to it too.

Now the blog becomes it’s own collection of work, bearing witness to what I’m trying to do and what others are trying to do too.

So get ready, I’m about to start writing much more on this blog and the Wrestling with Gods blog too.  There are good things happening out there! We need to see them.