There Are Stories You’ve Never Heard, Brilliantly Told: a review of The River

I went Saturday night to The River, a Nakai production, with Michael Greyeyes directing a play written by David Skelton, Judith Rudakoff and Joseph Tisiga.  To be frank, I wasn’t sure if I was interested in what I thought would be a sermon on homelessness.  I just didn’t want the guilt.  (And yes, I’m ashamed I actually said that—but I’m human and honest, and homelessness seems so much larger than I can comprehend–and I don’t know how to react “properly” or have any effect on the problem.  I suspect avoiding the issue is part of that problem–and yet, it’s the easiest thing to do.)

But local playwright David Skelton co-wrote the play, and I’m a huge fan of David and Nakai.  So I went.

I was blown away.   It wasn’t a sermon.  It wasn’t a guilt trip.  It was eye-opening, and it was riveting, and it was brilliant.  

For more of my review of The River at What’s Up Yukon

In a nutshell, brilliant writing, directing and acting take you into the vulnerable world of the homeless in Whitehorse.  Inspired by first person stories, collected by the writers through interviews over several years, that interviewing technique gives this play a realistic quality you won’t find in stories about homeless people.  You want to catch this play fast.  It’s here for a limited time, limited seating.  You won’t be disappointed.  I predict a long life for this play, and many, many performances across Canada.

(For more stunning photos of The River by photographer Richard Legner, visit this page.)

For the Love of Whitehorse: Why I Live in the Wilderness City

Occasionally, people will ask me why I’m here.  They don’t mean I should leave– only what it is that keeps me here.  It’s good to think about why you live in the place you do.  You can always say that work brought you here, or love, or you were raised here, or it’s all you know… but I can’t say any of these…  so I start thinking about why Whitehorse is the perfect city.  

Whitehorse has some very unique qualities.  In a nutshell:  It functions as both the capital and largest city of our territory, while maintaining many characteristics of a small town.  It has the cultural capital of a city 10 to 20 times its size, compressed in a small area, as it is home to a surprisingly large number of artsy folk–musicians, artists, writers and our ilk.  Whitehorse is drenched in pivotal and interesting history.  Finally it is surrounded by extensive wilderness that affords outdoor enthusiasts a vast playground, and keeps folks green-minded.    Continue reading

Yukon Fantasy/Science Fiction Writer Profiles: Marcelle Dubé

Marcelle DubéThe Yukon is home to more than just one science fiction/fantasy writer. In fact, there’s quite a few, so I’d like to profile them. These will be based on my experiences with them, not just interviews, though I’ve linked and excerpted sections of an interview Marcelle did with Joanna Lilley in What’s Up Yukon.

I first met Marcelle during the first Yukon Writer’s Conference in 2002. She was instrumental in bringing up Canadian sci-fi guru, Robert Sawyer, and for co-organizing a writer’s conference here that would do any university proud. We had six major writers, across genres, editors and agents, each giving multiple seminars. It was a three day event, complete with contests, one-on-one sessions with editors and agents, and food. I remember how shocked I was that this major operation was run by two people. Marcelle was stuffing bags full of free On Spec magazines, pens and pads of paper, in the Westmark when I ran into her for the first time. She didn’t seem like she was running amok–so I had no idea that she didn’t have a staff of twenty with her somewhere in the hotel.

We became friends, writing colleagues. She was part of the growing science fiction/fantasy community here in Whitehorse. And she wanted to provide writers here with the same advantages that writers down south would have. Not to mention, i think, that she wanted to bring up some people that she wanted to meet too!

Marcelle describes her work in this interview with Joanna Lilley:

I always like a plucky heroine who finds herself in a situation and needs her brains and her courage to get herself out.

Her stories often have well-conceived, elaborate cultures. I remember one of my favorite stories of hers, “Jhyoti“, that concerned how women prepared the dead for burial. Vividly detailed, well written, the story ended up in Challenging Destiny. Richard Horton, of Locus, recalls her story and two others (out of 14) in his end of the year review of Challenging Destiny:

From #25 I really enjoyed a rather traditional story — but very well done — by Marcelle Dubé: “Jhyoti”. The heroine is a low-caste woman trying to make it in the Academy. Doing some research, she finds evidence of terrible abuse and murder of a low-caste woman by a higher-caste person — can she risk her career, and disappoint her patrons, by investigating this? There are no surprises here, but it was quite satisfying.

Marcelle also got her work published in Julie Czerneda’s anthology of Polar Science called Polaris. She is just starting to sell, like me, and she has an excellent critical eye for story. I value her critique on my work. She attended World Fantasy with me and Claire Eamer (another writer you will get to meet on this blog soon) and made several more contacts. I suspect we’ll be hearing a lot more from Marcelle in short stories to come. She has attended a Master Class workshop in the short story from Dean Wesley Smith on the Oregon Coast, and will be attending another this year.

But Marcelle is not satisfied with just growing her own career. She wants to help all of us. This generosity of spirit has made her invaluable to the writing community. Since 2002, she has helped host two other conferences, that I can think of, and one coming up in 2009. She and Barb Dunlop invite writers, editors and agents that span every genre–romance, literary, mystery, science fiction–so that everyone gets helped up here. Because of these conferences I have met more science fiction writers than I ever did in Texas (cause none of them came to Lubbock, Texas ) and all the writer’s conferences were done by AWP or MLA or SWPCA and had hundreds or thousands of attendees, which meant that authors, agents and editors were swarmed by people, who had much higher clearance than some refugee from Texas Tech. (I met Ray Bradbury in Lubbock–which is another story.)

Because of Marcelle and Barb–and the moneys granted to them by the Advanced Artist Awards and other Yukon agencies for the growth of the Arts–I was able to meet, dine with, and learn from Robert Sawyer, Matt Hughes, Candas Jane Dorsey, Terrence Green, and editor, Diane Walton of On Spec–as well as authors, agents and editors in othe genres. Yes, in the Yukon. Taking classes from Terrence Green moved my story “Lemmings in the Third Year” to publishable quality and his suggestions on places to send it helped it get published quickly in Tesseracts Nine.

See, we are never alone as writers. We are always beholden on the community around us to lift us up, connect us, encourage us, critique us, kick our asses. I’m glad Marcelle is up here; she’s a great colleague and friend and I hope to see more of her unique vision in all the fantasy and science fiction magazines. I also hope, for the Yukon’s sake, she and Barb continue to organize these conferences which bring the world of Publishing to the Yukon.

See you all in April for the 2009 Yukon Writer’s Conference!