The Prix Aurora Awards

The Prix Aurora Awards are Canada’s Science Fiction and Fantasy Awards. They’ve been celebrating Canada’s literature of the fantastic for over thirty years. They are administered by the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association (CSFFA). I’ve been behind these things as long as I’ve been aware of them, encouraging people to nominate and vote.

More to the point, the Auroras deserve to be broadly known, as they celebrate the best of Canadian Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror, and Canada’s practitioners of such are among the best in the world. Best, is of course subjective, but in the case of the Auroras, we’re talking about the books, stories, poems that readers and fans felt were the best.

(I’m also glad I kept in the habit of badgering people about the Auroras, as this year, I finally have a dog in the hunt: my short story “First Light” which is currently posted on my excerpts page.)

Here is a list of eligible works. If there’s a story you love that’s Canadian and not on the list, please add it, so that other readers might find it too.

Here is my list of works that really stood out in 2011.

Novels:
Spell Bound by Kelley Armstrong
Magebane by Lee Arthur Chane (aka Ed Willett)
A Rope of Thorns by Gemma Files
Napier’s Bones by Derryl Murphy
Enter, Night by Michael Rowe
Wonder by Robert J. Sawyer

Short Form: (I’ve never actually read this many short stories in one year, which marks something of a milestone for me, but damn is it going to make narrowing the field down to three tough.)
V-Link by Eileen Bell (Evolve 2)
Victim 18 by Eileen Bell (10th Circle Project)
The Memory Junkies by Kate Boorman (Tesseracts 15)
Costumes by Shen Braun (Tesseracts 15)
Just Dance by Erika Holt (Tesseracts 15)
Exit Interview by Patrick Johanneson (Daily SF)
Foxford by Sandra Kasturi (Chilling Tales)
Slowing of the World by Sandra Kasturi (Evolve 2)
The Door to Lost Pages by Claude Lalumiere
Skin by Helen Marshall (Future Lovecraft)
Homo Sanguinus by Ryan T. McFadden (Evolve 2)
Looker by David Nickle (Chilling Tales)
Safe by Brett Alexander Savory (Chilling Tales)
Tom Chestnutt’s Midnight Blues by Robert J. Wiersema (Chilling Tales)

Poetry & Song Lyrics:
Zombie Bees of Winnipeg by Carolyn Clink (ChiZine)
Lie-Father by Gemma Files (Strange Horizons)–it has Kennings!
A Man in his Car Beside his Beautiful Wife by Sandra Kasturi (Coffee House Poetry)
Skeleton Leaves by Helen Marshall (collection)
The Oak Girl by Helen Marshall (Tesseracts 15)

Graphic Novels:

Goblins by Tarol Hunt
Imagination Manifesto Vol. 3 by GMB Chomichuk
Sweet Tooth Vol. 3 by Jeff Lemire

Other Works: This category has always frustrated me, as it encompasses so many disparate things. I’ve separated my choices out by subcategories just for organization’s sake.

Magazines:

Neo-opsis Science Fiction Magazine, Karl Johaneson, ed.
ChiZine, Brett Alexander Savory, ed.
On Spec, Diane Walton, ed.

Anthologies:

Chilling Tales: Evil Did I Dwell, Lewd Did I Live, Michael Kelly, ed.
First Circle, Vol 1 of the 10th Circle Project, Eileen Bell & Ryan McFadden, eds.
Tesseracts 15: A Case of Quite Curious Tales, Julie E. Czerneda & Susan MacGregor, eds.

Essays:

Hiromi Goto, A Planet of One’s Own  (On Spec Summer 2011)

Artistic Achievement:
Erik Mohr, Chizine 2011 covers
Dan O’Driscoll, Cover for On Spec’s Summer 2011 issue (yeah, yeah, the issue my story appeared in. That’s not the point, it was a great cover.)

Fan Filk:
Uh….I run screaming from this stuff, so you’re on your own.

Fan Organizational:

Sandra Kasturi and Helen Marshall. Co-Chairs of the 2011 Toronto SpecFic Colloquium: Modern Mythologies (Toronto)
Fair disclosure, I was invited to participate in 2011’s Colloquium, marking my first ever out of town conference invite to be a guest. I was pretty chuffed about that, and Sandra and Helen put on an amazing event.
Sandra Kasturi and Helen Marshall. Co-Organizers of the Chiaroscuro Reading Series (Toronto)
Randy McCharles Chair of When Words Collide (Calgary)
WWC was one of my best Con experiences outside of a World Fantasy Con, ever.
Nancy Fetterman, Levi Labelle, LeAmber Kensley, Co-Chairs, KeyCon 28 (Winnipeg) This is my home con, and I enjoyed the hell out of last year.
Craig Dedrick, President,  PrairieCon 32 (Brandon) I’ve been going to PrairieCon semi-regularly since at least 1991 or 1992. Best pure gaming con I’ve attended.
Stanley Woo, President, Pure Speculation (Edmonton) Pure Spec was a last minute addition to 2011’s con schedule for me, and it was great to hang with the On Spec crew again. Deserves a nomination for guest of honour Jo Walton’s writing workshop alone.
Fan Other:
As Christopher Lambert said in Highlander: “There can be only one“, and that one needs to be team at The Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest who stepped up to post a thoroughly researched list of Canadian SF&F while the Eligible Works database was unable to be updated.

Appearances

So I’ve added an “Appearances” page to the site.

This is a huge step for me. Not because I actually have appearances, but because I’m telling potential strangers where I will be.

In university I played an odd avoid the assassin game. My roommate at the time insisted that no one was trying to kill me (or maybe it was that no one would bother to hire anyone to do the deed (after a jellybean incident, I became worried he was trying to lull me into a false sense of security, having taken on the job himself)). Nevertheless, I walked home a different way from class everyday just in case, never sat with my back to a window or towards the middle of a restaurant if I could help it, and avoided matched cutlery (could have been dusted with nefarious contact poisons that only worked when knife and fork combined to cut my meal)*.

If you’re not inclined to follow links, the details are below (that my friends, is how one pads a blog post before going to work):

Once Thunder Road has an official release date, this space should fill up some. If you’re reading this, I want to see you. Here’s where you can find me wearing my writer’s hat.

Keycon 29 (Winnipeg) My home con! I love Keycon and this year’s con is shaping up to be another good one. I’ll probably be doing some programming, maybe a reading or a panel or two.

When Words Collide 2012 (Calgary) I can’t wait to get back to Calgary and visit all my Alberta writing pals. The inaugural When Words Collide was one of the best convention experiences I’ve had.

World Fantasy Convention 2012 (Toronto) Many folks prefer Worldcon for the total fan experience. For myself, not being a costumer or huge into the media side of things, World Fantasy is the pinnacle of SF&F conventions, it’s all about the books and authors. I’ve made some great friends at WFCs past, and have no doubt WFC Toronto will be any different. Even better, Thunder Road will be out!

* Yes, I really did this. No, I didn’t believe it.

Short Stories

Short stories are what got me writing seriously. And yet until recently, I almost never wrote short stories.

My writing career started with the In Places Between: The Robyn Herrington Memorial Short Fiction Competition. A contest seemed like a good (and safe) place to try to actually write and finish something. And so instead of talking about writing (someday, when I had the time), I actually wrote. One day a week, I wrote for two hours or so before I had to go to work in the evening. It took me a month or two to finish that damned story. But I also noticed that each time I sat down, I put more words on the page than I did the time before. Each time I sat down, I spent less time staring at a blank screen wondering what I’d write next and more time actually writing. When I was done, I passed the story on to a couple people for feedback, and then sent it off.

My story didn’t win.

Didn’t even place.

I don’t know why I expected it would. I hardly even read short fiction back then, I was always a novel reader. It was incredibly vain of me to expect I knew how to write it. (Lesson One: You’re never as good a writer as you think you are (unless you’re Neil Gaiman (not that I think Neil is vain–what he is, is awesome).))

The feedback I received from the contest judges was hard to take (but in hindsight, very, very fair). What the story did, was help me create a routine, a routine that helped me to finish my first novel (set in the world of that short story). It hasn’t sold yet, and it may never sell. In a nice piece of symmetry, my first fiction sale (First Light, which appeared in On Spec’s Summer 2011 issue) was a short story also set in that same world. Seeing a story through to completion, even if it was only twenty pages, made the idea finishing a novel a little less scary. After drafting several novels, it was the short story that became scary. All of my ideas seemed so big, so impossible to squeeze into five thousand words.

There used to be only two anthologies I’d try for every year. Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing’s venerable Tesseracts (still trying to get in there) and Sword and Sorceress (ditto). It felt like there was cache to being in a book. So I’d write at best two stories a year and then after the rejections rolled in, send those off to whatever markets would read them and go back to working on my novel. I usually set these stories within the worlds of my novels, so they wouldn’t feel like wasted effort if the story didn’t sell.

But now, because I travel to more and more conferences, and meet more authors and editors, I find that I’d love to work with them. When someone like Hayden Trenholm is editing an anthology, I’m excited to try to get in. When an idea as deliciously weird as a collection of Fungi-based Fantasy comes along, I find a story I need to write. Oddly enough, it only took reading more short fiction to realize they can hold some pretty big ideas. Short stories allow me to stretch, to play with ideas, to cleanse my writerly palette before starting on a new novel, to find that next novel.

Short stories can be anything.

In the past two months I’ve already written a handful of stories, more than I have in entire years past. We’ll see how my efforts turn out, but hope abides.

Write on.

Author D&D

Gaming weighs heavy on my writing brain today because I have a D&D (Dungeons and Dragons, though chances are if you’re reading this, you’re already familiar with the term) game this afternoon. I have a great gaming group (two really, maybe three or four…players overlap so it’s hard to say) and we don’t play as often as I’d like.

Recently at a Michigan convention, Epic Confusion, Author D&D happened. Fantasy & science fiction authors Jay Lake, Saladin Ahmed, Myke Cole, John Scalzi, Joe Abercrombie, Jim C. Hines, Peter V. Brett, Patrick Rothfuss, Scott Lynch, Elizabeth Bear and Brent Weeks played a game of D&D together.

This. Is. Awesome. Read about the game in their own words. Don’t worry, I’ll wait. I’ll trust you’ll come back.

http://aidanmoher.com/blog/2012/01/articles/guest-post-geeks-come-home-10-sff-authors-play-dd-together-by-brent-weeks/
http://mykecole.com/blog/2012/01/author-dd-game
http://www.joeabercrombie.com/2012/01/24/confusion/

This is an event I’d love to see at more cons. So many of the regional genre conventions already have a gaming component, usually these two things are at odds for programming time, and don’t have much crossover. But how awesome would it be to cross the gaming and literary streams? Everything I’ve read about Epic Confusion’s event tells me it was a huge success (if success is measured by fun–and it should be, damn it). Granted, it would be hard to top that con’s star-studded panel of authors, but this needs to happen damn it! Who wouldn’t want to game with their favourite authors? It probably wouldn’t destroy the world. Almost certainly WOULD result in a giant barbecued marshmallow man.

So given the opportunity, here’s the authors I’d love to game with:
Dresden Files-Jim Butcher (was there any doubt?)
D&D-Don Bassingthwaite. Don writes some of the most believable and dynamic non-human cultures I’ve read, tie-in fiction or not. Also, he is a fun dude.
Call of Cthulhu-Brett Savory and Sandra Kasturi (I’m pretty sure I would actually go crazy, not my character)
Marvel Superheroes-Carrie Vaughn (have you read After the Golden Age?) or George R.R. Martin. Wild Cards, ’nuff said.
Vampire the Masquerade-Michael Rowe (because he would make it scary as FUCK)
Amber- A. Lee Martinez (honestly this would be the best game to play with ANY author. It’s all about storytelling over rules. And, it’s very nature allows it to be ANY game.) Every one of his books is different and I know the author of Divine Misfortune would never be hurting for new directions to take the game.
Top Secret-Duane Swierczynski. This guy’s books are like reading Die Hard. He knows thrillers. He knows noir. Also, he writes comics too. So super spy hijinks are a given.

The above hardly put a dent in the games I’ve played over the years (*), and maybe they aren’t your cup of tea, but imagine Boot Hill with Cherie Priest, Legend of the Five Rings, Cyberpunk with William Gibson, Mage: the Ascension with Neil Gaiman, Star Wars with an actual writer!

* Holy Crap, how do I find the time to write? (Actually if COMICS are responsible for me reading Gaming is responsible for me writing, more on that later (after my post on over using parentheses (I promise)).)

So what games are YOU playing?

Super Sunday

I hope everyone’s ready for some football!

At 5:30 PM Central, me and all my rowdy friends will be gathering to watch the Superbowl. Okay, to be fair I’m probably the only one interested in the game, but it’ll be good to see everyone over some beers. I’d feel a lot more intense about watching the game with my (admittedly small) group of actual football friends if either of my teams had made the big game this year. But alas, there will be no New Orleans Saints Baltimore Ravens Superbowl.

It used to be just the Saints that I cheered for, (it was a long 24 years until they won that first Superbowl) but this year I decided I needed an AFC team to root for, doubling my odds as it were. Why Baltimore?

I could mention their defense or any number of statistics, but nope. It was Edgar Allan Poe.  Whether it’s actually true or not, to me the Baltimore Ravens are named for Poe’s “The Raven”. Literary football for the win! Not good enough? Hugin and Munin–Thought and Memory in Norse Mythology–are characters in my debut novel.

Why New Orleans? Seemed like a fun city. A fleur de lis logo makes them feel almost Canadian (Quebec is still a part of Canada, right? I don’t follow politics).

Also, zombies.

Tonight’s game is pits the New York Giants versus the New England Patriots which means I don’t really have a dog in this hunt. Sigh. I must now choose between my dislike of Eli Manning, and my HATE of the Patriots. The power of the Dark Side is strong in this one, so if you know me, you know that hate of the Patriots will win out.

Also: GIANTS! I like giants (and jotun, and cyclops, and titans and…well, you get the idea)

Another advantage to a Giants victory is that they are one of George R.R. Martin’s teams. So I can at least pretend that the Giants Superbowl success will translate into me getting book 6 of A Song of Ice and Fire in my hands just a tad sooner. A loss to the Patriots could delay book 6 by YEARS.

Go Giants!

Comics!

Maybe because today is Wednesday, and for a certain subset of the populace (and yes I’m one of them) that means only one thing: New Comic Book Day, I’ve decided to write about comics.

I credit (or blame depending on the day; those days usually coincide with reorganizing my books) comic books for my love of reading. I’ve been buying them ever since I could string sentences together. Until I stopped. It was after University sometime, it’s hard to pinpoint when exactly (the brain she goes when one hits the sunset–post-twenty–years) or why (though the 90s boom and bust and multiple (and shiny) covers are likely suspects). I kept READING comics, either borrowed from friends or at work where they came bundled up in nice and tidy story arcs as “graphic novels”. I even got interviewed on radio station CJOB by Larry Updike about the topic of comics and graphic novels. I just didn’t collect them anymore.

Then DC Comics decided to relaunch their entire universe. 52 titles (why 52, there’s an arcane reason that probably won’t make any sense unless you already know the answer–like the rules of cricket). This New 52 got me back into comics in a big way. I never really went away, but I hovered around the edges of the party (hopping from one limited series to another, mostly), dipping in deeper every now and again to sample the spread.

And then showing up all in the span of one month were Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E., I, Vampire, a new Swamp Thing.  This new DCU was balls out full of weird (the really weird thing is I was ALWAYS a Marvel guy, maybe more on that in another blog) and I like weird. And just like that I was back in. I carefully chose my titles so that I have a reason to visit my local comic store every week. The last time I was this excited to hit the LCS was when Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon launched Preacher.

And yes, there were some atrocious books, (Hawk & Dove, Red Hood and the Outlaws, I’m looking at you…) but from the initial titles I picked, I wasn’t disappointed in any of them. It seems I’ve been adding, not dropping titles almost every week I roll in to pick up my pull list.

Freshly back from my neighbourhood shop with Swamp Thing issue #6, (among others) I can’t believe how long I have to wait until NEXT Wednesday…

(I think my next blog should be about parentheses (and their overuse).)