True North Strong And Free: The Canadian Corps, An Interview With Andrew Lorenz

I love me a good Kickstarter campaign and the Canadian Corps is one I’ve been following with interest.

I’ve been reading comics as long as I’ve been reading, and have had a soft spot for another group of Canadian heroes named Alpha Flight for a lot of that time. Which meant I am stoked to see what Canadian Corps does with our national archetypes.

Big thanks to Andrew Lorenz, writer of Canadian Corps for agreeing to answer a few questions.

CG: What’s the first comic you remember buying?

AL: The first comic book I remember buying is Web of Spider-Man #4. Picked it up from the campground shop at White Lake in the Whiteshell. I recall it very clearly because I had to make a choice between that or a Batman/Superman Brave and the Bold issue. Spider-Man was always my first choice back then because of the 60s cartoon I used to watch reruns of on TV as a kid. Superman was runner-up.

CG: When did you decide you wanted to make comics?

AL: I think pretty much anyone who’s ever read comics has at one point thought about making them. I remember coming up with stories when I was in elementary school and writing some short stories in junior high that were comic book-like. For so long though it never seemed a viable option- you really only had DC and Marvel until the last 15 years and getting into those companies pretty much required knowing someone or living where they were located.

The Internet changed all that.

Suddenly you were able to talk to other creators from all over the world. You were able to find different avenues to showcase and sell and distribute your work. You could self-publish. That was something I had never even considered until I saw the work done by people like A.P Fuchs, a local writer whose Axiom-man books were a big influence on me. As was Charlie McElvy’s WatchGuard Sourcebook- in him I saw another creator who’d come up with a bunch of characters and stories that finally took the step and did something with them.

But really it was running into some super supportive co-workers when I’d picked up a part time gas jockey job to help out the manager (who’s a friend of mine) that needed some reliable help and a chance at some easy extra money. Somehow or another it came out that I had come up with these characters and had these stories and the three of them- Michael, Mike T. and Cassandra (who is now my lovely lady friend) were ridiculously encouraging and excited about the ideas I had. To the point that they would let me work on developing characters and storylines while on-shift and they’d pick up the bulk of the work if I was “in the zone”. I can’t thank them enough for their support and nagging at me until I did something with it. Michael was actually the one who put us over the funded amount for the Canadian Corps Kickstarter; that’s how awesome they are.

CG: What is the appeal of superhero comics for you?

AL: What ISN’T the appeal? Action, adventure, drama, quiet character moments, cool costumes, evil villains, awesome powers and the fact that you can tell ANY genre of story WITH superheroes! You can tell horror stories, sci fi, set stuff in the 1930s, whenever wherever.

A lot of people have knocked superhero comics over the years but I just point out the success of TV shows like Flash or cartoons like Batman: The Animated Series as proof that you can tell a great superhero story and people will love it.

CG: How’d you assemble the creative team for the book?

AL: Magic.

Hahaha! Sometimes it certainly feels that way, anyhow. I’ve said it several times but I really could not have asked fro a better group to work with on this book. I met Justin at Winnipeg’s C4 Comic Con- I was familiar with his work doing the covers of Axiom-man and when I saw some more of his work I knew I wanted to work with him. The plan had always been to do an all-Canadian superhero book with all-Canadian creators.

There are a TON of talented Canadian comic book creators out there but you never really hear of their citizenship; which is sort of how Canadians are in general- we don’t advertise it unless we’re talking hockey. I wanted something that embraced that. We’re awesome people, we’ve got a cool country- you can go all over the world and find people that think well of us, so why can’t we buy into that ourselves? But I digress.

I’d met Rod the following spring after running across HIS Kickstarter for Death At Your Door, an awesome web-comic and got the chance to meet him at a small con not long after. Rod was a super great guy but at the time I hadn’t thought about working with him on anything- he had his stuff and I had mine.

Donovan was someone who Justin introduced me to- they’d known each other for some time and Justin was convinced he was the guy who should colour the book. It took me probably about 5 minutes of finally sitting down for some one-on-one with Donovan to know he was the guy.

So we had pencils, inks and colour down. Only lettering was left and I KNEW it had to be Rod. I didn’t even know if he’d be interested in doing that kind of work, or even if his services were for hire, but I’d made up my mind. Luckily, Rod, like Justin and Donovan, was too nice to say no.

CG: What’s the secret origin of the Canadian Corps? Why this book, and why now?

AL: I’ve always wanted to do a Canada-based comic book and I’m a big fan of team books as a reader. Also as a writer- it’s much easier having a group of characters to riff of each other than a solo book. I’ve been working on LEGACY for a couple years and last year I introduced a second S17 title, New Guard. My plan when I started was to bring in a new title every year- this is Canadian Corps’ year.

When I did my first Free Comic Book Day tabling, I realized that I really needed to get out something that would appeal to the varied groups that were coming in and checking out the comics. Before it became a bandwagon thing, I really believed that comics should be for everyone- I don’t understand how people DON’T like comics but I can see how it can be hard for everyone to find something they like. Hopefully this will fill that spot for some people.

Originally it wasn’t going to be an all-ages sort of book but with all of the creative team having kids, I understood how much it meant to them to have something they could show and share with them. To that end I tried to tone down the language without dumbing it down- not that my books have a bunch of swearing but I always believed that dialogue should reflect how people really talk. And not dumbing it down was important to me- I’ve never talked down to my kids and I honestly believe that if you talk to kids like they’re just short adults, you get further and they respect that. No one wants to be looked down on. Not to mention I wanted it to be fun for adults to read.

CG: What aspect of the book are you most proud of?

AL: The response from people. From the creative team to the people who have checked out the Facebook page or stopped by our tables at the various cons we’ve previewed stuff at. And we haven’t really showed that much but the response has been hands-down the best I’ve ever had for a book. Justin and Donovan have said the same. People are thrilled about the characters- from Warrant’s mustache to their being a First Nations/Native American member to how cool and powerful Shieldmaiden looks. When I got together with Donovan and Justin a month or so back they all said the same thing I had been thinking- Why didn’t we do this book sooner?

CG: Is Canadian Corps part of a larger, shared universe?

AL: It is indeed. All of the September17 Productions (S17) books take place in a shared universe- LEGACY, New Guard or the up-coming Troubleshooters (with Eryck Webb) or The Sentries (with Andre Siregar of LEGACY #2-4), they’re all in the same world. That being said, you do not NEED to read all the books (but you should! they’re great!) to follow what’s going on but if you DO, they are some neat Easter Eggs that carry through them; guest appearances too! I’ve always enjoyed stuff that was linked together despite separate stories- whether Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series of novels or the shared univereses of DC and Marvel.

CG: What makes a Canadian superhero different from the superheroes south of the border?

AL: They fight cybernetically enhanced polar bears armed with hockey sticks and fueled by double doubles from Tim Hortons?

Traditionally Canadian heroes in comics have been kind of a joke compared to American superheroes, or at least have generally been perceived as such. With Canadian Corps I wanted to change that.

It might sound kind of weird, because I SHOULD say they’re COMPLETELY different but at the end of the day they kind of are NOT. Which was one of things I wanted to go for. Don’t get me wrong- there’s TONS of Canadian flavor in here (because I want to celebrate what makes Canada great) but I wanted to make them just as good as any other heroes from anywhere else. Too often Canadian superheroes end up being the butt of a lot of jokes (What do you fight cyber-polar bears with hockey sticks or something? Seriously I may write this now…) and I wanted to make it clear that Canadians kick ass as much as any other country, if not more.

Having a Canadian flavor was something that was important though- the first book takes us from the streets of Calgary to the far north of Nunavut. Further volumes will have stories involving Canadian cities and ideas that reflect the various cultures and histories that make up our fine country.

CG: What’s next for September17 Productions?

AL: Some days it feels like what ISN’T next for us! Haha!

Canadian Corps #2 (the second half of the collected edition) is up next for the art crew when they wrap up a couple of their own projects. New Guard #2 has been completed for pencils, inks and lettering- colouring is 2/3 done. After that Kenan will be heading straight into LEGACY #7 (#6 comes out at the end of this month!) after he’s done.

The Sentries (#1-3) is my big summer blockbuster story that will really open up the universe of S17 and introduce even more aspects of the world that we are creating through the books. Sentries #1 comes straight out of LEGACY #6 but, as with all the other books, it has a story that is its own thing. The high concept might be something like Avengers meets Pacific Rim meets Star Wars. But different. And better.

Troubleshooters is a book I’m doing with Eryck Webb, an artist I’ve been wanting to work with for a couple years now- I had originally approached HIM to do New Guard but luckily he was too busy at the time and I found Kenan. If he’d been able to do the book I would’ve missed out on working with Kenan and that would’ve sucked because he’s a great collaborator.  That being said, I wasn’t about to give up on doing a book with Eryck and I’m stoked to have him on Troubleshooters. Much like The Sentries, Troubleshooters will open up more aspects of the S17 Universe while still being its own creature. If you liked the TV show Fringe or the comic book series The Authority/Stormwatch, this book will be your kind of thing.

Character handbooks are slowly in the works- I had wanted to do something along the lines of Marvel’s Handbooks but I’ve started leaning towards a complete S17 Universe Encyclopedia, but we’ll see. Still plenty of work to be done there- over 300 characters to write-up. Also we’re looking at turning those write-ups into a role-playing game sourcebook so there will be that to do as well. Luckily I have a gaming expert to help me out there in the form of DT Butchino who regularly releases his own wicked characters in a series called Acts of Villainy for the Mutants and Masterminds system. There are few, if any, systems he isn’t familiar with though- like I said, he’s an expert.

Besides all the comic book stuff I’m also working on a few novels in my spare time and will be looking to put in a bunch of time on those in the new year. My game plan is to write the next year’s worth of S17 comic book scripts by December so I can concentrate on the novels next year. The novels I’m working on are: Return to Grenfell (my first stab at a Fantasy novel), Formerly Known As the Indestructible Kid (about a former teen superhero sidekick turned private detective) and Innocents Lost (planned to be the first of the Steven Kincaid mystery series). At some point I’ll be doing a novel adaptation of the LEGACY #10-12 story arc and that will be called LEGACY: The Storm.

I’ve got a few other things that I’d like to do as well but it’s a matter of fleshing the ideas out a bit more and finding the time.

And that’s that! Thanks again for doing this, sir!

CG: You’re very welcome, good luck with the rest of your Kickstarter!

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A Few Things Make A Blog Post

I meant to have at least a couple of other posts up by now, but I’ve been fighting the cold from hell (Hmmm, hell or Hel?) the last week. Here’s a few things that haven’t turned up on the blog yet:

A little while back I was interviewed by Jonathan Ball about writing process and why I choose to make my writing goals public.

On Monday, I received my contributor copy of The Exile Book of New Canadian Noir!

New Canadian Noir Comp Copy

The Last Good Look Title Page

It is a beautiful book. I haven’t read every story yet, but really enjoyed the tales by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Corey Redekop, Keith Cadieux, Kelly Robson, and Alex C. Renwick.

Corey Redekop is kindly collecting short interviews about our stories on his website. My answers should be up some time next week.

And finally, there was a very cool review of my Thunder Road ‘verse story “Runt of the Litter” over at Speculating Canada. “Runt of the Litter” originally appeared in the Spring 2014 issue of On Spec Magazine. Thanks for the continued support Derek Newman-Stille!

Write on!

Interviewed And Profiled On ShawTV!

So this happened:

ShawTV interviewed and profiled me as a part of “I Love to Read Month”.  Cross one more terrifying experience off of the bucket list. Big thanks to everyone at Shaw for supporting Manitoba authors, and thanks to the anonymous bookseller at McNally Robinson who put my name forward as one of their favourite authors.

Write on!

An Interview With Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Silvia Moreno-Garcia bought one of my short stories for the Fungi anthology she edited with Orrin Grey, and so it was an absolute pleasure to meet her at Keycon 30. I’m very excited about her latest project, Young Blood, a YA vampire novel set in Mexico. She’s currently crowdfunding the book on Indiegogo. I hope you’ll consider donating, there’s still ten days left to make this book happen and I really want to read it.

CG: Young Blood started out as a short story. Why did you decide to expand it into a novel?

SMG: I worked on two previous novels that didn’t pan out and I wanted to try something different, something that was short and had more clear-cut fantastic elements. I decided “A Puddle of Blood” could be extended and work as a YA, and it had been well received, so it seemed like a natural fit and I didn’t think there was anything like it around, so it might have some potential to attract readers.

CG: What appeals to you most about vampires as a monster in general, and your vampires in particular?

SMG: I think vampires are creepy fuckers. Nowadays they are popular romantic heroes, but if you look at legends and folklore, they are scary things. Emblems of the plague. You watch Nosferatu, the black and white version or the colour remake, and even though the vampire seems to desire the leading lady, it is NOT the kind of relationship you’d like to be in. It is deadly. Nosferatu is a horrid-looking thing. Those vampires appeal to me more than the romantic ones.

Even with the romantic ones, there are details that are ignored which I find disturbing. Why would a 100 year-old creature want to spend his life in high school, meeting teenagers? There’s a disturbing thing there. Predator double time.

As for my vampires, Atl is inspired by Caribbean and Latin American folklore. I like having a vampire that is a bit different and isn’t romantic. Some of the other vampires in the book take after European vampires, but they are not romantic, either. It was fun having these creatures going around Mexico City and fighting each other.

CG: Why do you feel it’s important to set fiction outside of the big US cities where we commonly see it?

SMG: I just think it’s odd that everything happens in the US. Every single time an alien ship it lands it’s in New York or Washington. Let’s shuffle it around, no? Also, the reactions of the people in a different cultural setting can be very interesting. If you have aliens walking through the slums of Mexico, I think you’d get a very different reaction. I imagine that if they tried to make it into Tepito, a famous low-class, tough neighborhoud (since the time of the Aztecs), they’d come out dead. There are many untapped possibilities when you go for someone who is not the usual protagonist or you transport the action to a setting you normally don’t see.

That’s why Domingo collects garbage. I wanted to have a protagonist who was not upper class or white or emo. Someone who isn’t heroic in the oh-you-are-the-chosen-one kind of way, but still has street smarts and is brave in his own way. And I wanted to put him against Atl, who is older, more sophisticated, more sure of herself, so that we don’t have the older suave male and the younger naive woman.

CG: I’ve only read the sample chapters so far, but I love your portrayal of Mexico City. How did you capture its flavour?

SMG: Thanks. Mexico City is an awesome city. It’s huge. You can find anything in the world there. It’s also ugly as hell. It’s also beautiful. You can walk into 18th century houses and brand new highrises. It’s a labyrinth. It’s a great monster. I love and hate it. I hope some of those feelings come through in the text: what it’s like taking the subway, walking through some of the streets and the like.

CG: What was the most interesting piece of research you found while working on Young Blood?

SMG: I read a lot about the current crime troubles in Mexico, the narco stuff. It’s quite disturbing. If you think fiction is bad, try browsing through some newspaper articles. In a way, writing about these kind of crimes is a bit cathartic because it’s just so freaking scary knowing what’s going on in the place where I was born. I can process the horrors better this way, if it makes any sense.

Anyway, the most interesting factoid is how the narco system began. It started in the 1940s. Farmers in Sinaloa started growing opium poppies. The government of the United States needed an alternate supply of morphine during World War II. They couldn’t get it from Asia due to the war. So they encouraged farmers to grow it for them. They planted the seeds of the cartels. Though the United States loves to talk about the War on Drugs, they got us started on this path.

CG: Do you have any further plans for Atl, Domingo, and Rodrigo if Young Blood gets funded?

SMG: I don’t like doing multi-series books, so this will be the end of them. Unless someone wants a graphic novel. Then GMB Chomichuk can draw it.

CG: I’d definitely buy that! Thanks, Silvia, and good luck with Young Blood!

You can read Chapter 1, 2, and 3 on Silvia’s website. Here’s the trailer for Young Blood:

Mexican by birth, Canadian by inclination. Silvia lives in beautiful British Columbia with her family and two cats. She writes speculative fiction (from magic realism to horror). Her short stories have appeared in places such as Fantasy Magazine, The Book of Cthulhu, Imaginarium 2012The Best Canadian Speculative Writing and Shine: An Anthology of Optimistic Science Fiction. Her first collection, This Strange Way of Dying, is out in 2013.

Silvia is the publisher of Innsmouth Free Press, a Canadian micro-publishing venture specializing in horror and dark speculative fiction. The Innsmouth Free Press website features daily non-fiction and tri-annual fiction issues. Innsmouth Free Press publishes several  high-quality anthologies and novels during the year.

She has co-edited the anthologies Historical LovecraftFuture LovecraftCandle in the Attic Windowand Fungi. The upcoming Dead North will be the first anthology she edited solo.

In 2011, Silvia won the Carter V. Cooper Memorial Prize (in the Emerging Writer category), sponsored by Gloria Vanderbilt and Exile Quarterly. She was also a finalist for the Manchester Fiction Prize.

To contact Silvia e-mail her at silvia AT silviamoreno-garcia DOT com. You can also find her on Twitterand Google+.

Strange Bedfellows

Regular readers here know I’m quite fond of Kickstarter and Indiegogo as a means for creative types to get their projects off the ground.

The current Indiegogo campaign I’m really excited about is for Strange Bedfellows. Author, editor (and now publisher at Bundoran Press) Hayden Trenholm is very close to getting his second anthology of political science fiction tales funded. I’ve chipped in to make this project happen because while I want to sell a story to Hayden, I also really want to read this anthology.

Strange Bedfellows — as in ‘politics makes strange bedfellows’ — will seek short fiction from the best writers in the field: writers who are passionate about the importance of ideology and political action as a source of solutions as well as problems.

As a long-time political analyst and advisor and an award winning SF writer and editor, Hayden Trenholm is perfectly placed to edit this 80,000-word anthology.

Hayden is also a familiar face at KeyCon, Winnipeg’s science fiction and fantasy convention and is planning on attending this year, so if you’re a science fiction writer in Winnipeg, this is the perfect chance to talk to an editor before you write your story and submit.

Below is an interview I did with Hayden about his writing and his then latest novel, Steel Whispers.

CG: Why Calgary? What made that city the perfect home for Frank Steele and the SDU?

HT: I lived in Calgary for over ten years so I knew it pretty well physically. A number of the locales — such as the Garry Theatre and Kaos Jazz bar were places I actually worked in when I was living as an artist. That made writing about it quite easy in the write what you know sense. But Calgary also has this wild west quality — as much imagined as real — and an admiration for corporations and right wing politics that made it perfect as a place that would somehow survive and even, for some at least, thrive in a world gone to hell. They say Calgary has more churches per capita than any city in Canada, but it also has more liquor stores and porn shops. Projecting that sense of anarchy and entitled class inequality — combined with the really fundamental goodness of many of the people who live there — into the future seemed natural.

CG: You make use of the first person point of view for the character of Frank Steele, the quintessential hard-boiled detective, but the remainder of your characters are presented in the third person. Why did you decide to alternate back and forth in this manner?

HT: There were several reasons to do this. First, Frank to work as a noir character had to be in the first person but the story I was writing was bigger than he could encompass by himself. Second, thematically Defining Diana was about the self, Steel Whispers about the family so using multiple points of view allowed me to explore how slippery both those concepts are. A first person narrator is always assumed to be reliable — and Frank is reliable as far as that goes. But he is also biased and sees the world through a very particular lens. By contrasting his views and values with those of other characters I got to show that all narrative — especially our narrative about our selves and our families — is essentially suspect. Third, people kept telling me it couldn’t be done. i can be a little stubborn that way.

CG: The Singularity, the analogy between the breakdown of modern physics near a gravitational singularity and the drastic change in society thought would occur following an intelligence explosion has been a trope of recent science fiction since it was popularized by Vernor Vinge in 1993. You name one of your corporations — a company that has seemingly done the impossible– for it in Steel Whispers. Do you worry that technology will advance beyond our ability to understand it? Is it something you considered in building your world of 2044?

HT: There are huge pieces of technology that most people don’t understand NOW and yet most people muddle along quite well. Take an MRI or any number of other scanning devices. We happily slide into them and let the technicians take their pictures but have no idea what the images actually show. Even the technicians aren’t always sure. Consider for a moment a peasant in rural Nepal or central Africa who has never used a telephone let alone a computer. Hasn’t the Singularity already happened for them? Or how about the 15% of Americans who don’t know that telephones run on electricity? I generally take the view that we, as individuals, learn exactly as much technology as we need to fulfill our desires. My 84-year old mother-in-law uses e-mail and Excel and is on Facebook because it keeps her from being isolated. My boss refuses to learn how to retrieve his cell phone messages because he sees his cell as being for his convenience not that of those who want to call him. Oddly enough, despite the dystopic nature of my novels, I’m generally an optimist — up to a point. The future will be better than the past but the benefits of that future may not benefit everyone equally — unless we make it so.

CG: You name drop Robert J. Sawyer — even having Frank Steele reading one of his novels. Sawyer is known in fandom circles not only for his passion for good science fiction but also for his mentorship of other writers. What has Rob meant to your career?

HT: First and foremost, Rob is a great friend. It’s true that he has been very supportive of me and a lot of other writers but he’s also been a friend to many of us in the truest sense of the word — someone whose company you value for its own sake rather than for the help it might be to you. But Rob deserves all the credit and accolades he gets — both for his work and for his mentoring and supporting other writers. And I will say I’ve learned almost everything I know about being a ‘professional writer’ in all senses of the term.

CG: You are a winner of Anvil Press’ 3-Day novel contest. What kind of madness does it take to attempt this, let alone to win?

HT: That was the first long piece of fiction I ever wrote so maybe it requires an absolute lack of knowledge about how impossible a task it is. I wrote A Circle of Birds in 1992, just after i moved to Calgary to become a writer. I had a couple of plays under my belt and a few short stories — none of them really good. I decided to try the contest as a way of kick starting my learning process. I was running a lot those days and actually composed the story during long runs along the Bow River. Big chunks of the story are sort of magic realist interpretations of episodes in my own and my father’s life — plus a big dollop of sex and violence that came out of wherever those things come. So, when I sat down to write it — with nothing more than a two page outline in front of me — the first 10000 words came pretty easy. After that I kept writing until I was finished the chapters I had outlined. I guess it worked.

CG: Do you have a favourite fictional detective?

HT: Lots. I’m a big Sherlock Holmes fan (I have a Holmes story in the new Gaslight Grotesque collection coming out from EDGE this fall) but I’m also fond of Poirot and Nick Charles from The Thin Man — though I’m not sure if I like the light hearted film version or the darker literary version better. And lets not forget Phillip Marlowe and Joe Leaphorn.

CG: If you could have any piece of tech from one of your novels, what would it be?

HT: One of the cars owned by the Singh Wannamaker Detective Agency.

CG: You won the Aurora for your short story “Like Water in the Desert“, and Defining Diana was shortlisted for the award as well. How important is it in your mind to celebrate Canadian science fiction and fantasy? What do you think would mean more to you, the Aurora, chosen largely by fans, or the Sunburst, which is a juried prize chosen by your peers?

HT: Can’t I have both? Juried awards have more prestige but it still comes down to the opinion of the people on the jury — a voting block of five. Fans have a special place in SF and F — unlike any other genre — so I think getting an award from them does mean a bit more to me. But I’d still like both.

CG: You have one more novel planned in The Steele Chronicles, after that, what’s next?

HT: As I answer these questions I’m about 15000 words in Stealing Home, so it is hard to think about the next thing. However, I just finished the first draft of a young adult SF novel so I’ll probably go back to that once Stealing Home is done. Then I have this big environmental collapse and recovery book I’ve been making notes on — something set about two hundred years in the future.

Chilling Tales And Apparitions Too…err 2

I just donated to Michael Kelly’s Apparitions 2 on Indiegogo.

Much like with my Kickstarter addiction, I am quite fond of this, the Canadian equivalent, and am hopeful that my streak of endorsing winners continues. I had a chance to interview Michael a while back, in fact, it was my first ever story for Prairie Books Now (it was also a lot of fun). I finally had a chance to Meet Michael in November during the 2012 World Fantasy Con. We also shared a table of contents in Tesseracts 16, and I can tell you, Michael is one hell of an author–and one hell of an editor.

Chilling Tales, also edited by Michael, was in my mind the strongest Canadian anthology of speculative fiction to come be released in 2011, and any number of its stories deserved a place on a year’s best list. If you’re into horror and crowdsourcing, Michael Kelly’s new anthology is definitely worth funding.

This interview originally appeared in the Spring 2011 issue of Prairie books NOW.

chilling-tales

Chilling Tales Evil Did I Dwell; Lewd Did I Live

Michael Kelly, Editor

Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy

$14.95 pb, 224 pages

ISBN: 978-1-894063-52-4

Underneath that cool Canadian reserve, a dark heart beats, believes Michael Kelly, editor of Chilling Tales: Evil Did I Dwell; Lewd I Did Live.

Chilling Tales features stories from Canadian horror fiction mainstays Brett Alexander Savory, Sandra Kasturi, and Nancy Kilpatrick, as well as some of the nation’s brightest (or should that be darkest) up and comers such as Gemma Files. Robert J. Wiersema, best known for his literary fiction, leads off the collection with a honky-tonk infused ghost story.

Kelly sensed a distinctly Canadian worldview, a “tangible loneliness” and “disquieting solitude” permeating the stories of his collection. But he feels Canadian writers are “merely doing what comes naturally—in this vast, sprawling land of ice and prairies, of wind and rock and water, of major urban centres encroaching on the barrens with spreading tendrils—exploring the other, that vastness.”

Anthologies such as Chilling Tales have been something of a rarity, although Don Hutchinson’s Northern Frights series left “an indelible impression” upon Kelly.

“There’s no easy answer,” he says, of the dearth of all-Canadian horror collections. “Part of it, I surmise, might be that Canadian genre writing is somewhat marginalized by the bigger publishing houses.”

It’s no surprise to Kelly that the two most recent such volumes were published by Chilling Tales’s publisher, Brian Hades at Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy. “It is the smaller houses with an indie spirit that will take a chance on a project like this.”

Kelly felt it was time to showcase Canada’s dark heart. There was no open call for submissions; instead he went hunting for authors that “shared that strange dark worldview” he was conjuring.

“I also mentioned that they could recommend some authors to me, as well. It was a bit of word-of-mouth and also me soliciting authors I admired.”

A writer himself, the Pickering, Ontario-based, Shirley Jackson Award-nominated Kelly enjoyed the challenge of editing the collection.

“There’s a certain order to the stories, a flow, whether you’re moving from something short and shocking, to something literary and poetic, to something prosaic. It’s a balancing act,” he says. “When I’m writing fiction, I just want to tell a story. I’m writing for me, though, no one else. When I’m editing a commercial anthology, I’m cognizant of the reader.”

The result? An eminently readable, page turning collection, tales that leap from the page, burrowing into you. It is as if the authors are kids around a campfire, each trying to one up the other with the imaginatively macabre. From ghosts, to issues of faith, to the very unusual skin condition in David Nickle’s “Looker”, Chilling Tales has a velocity that keeps its reader huddled up for just one more story.

“I’m hoping this first volume will act as a benchmark for future volumes,” says Kelly. “I wanted to show that Canadian writers can be as literate, entertaining, edifying, and as scary as their contemporaries. Of course, I already knew that. Now, everyone will know.”

My World Fantasy Convention Roundup

Another World Fantasy Convention has come and gone, and as my blog readers seem to enjoy these reports (if my site stats are to be believed) here’s the WFC2012 report.

Better late than never, right?

World Fantasy is my favourite convention, hands down. Maybe I imprinted on it somehow, World Fantasy 2008 in Calgary was the first away from home conference I ever attended. I talked comic books with Tad Williams, football with George R.R. Martin and Hemingway with Joe Haldeman. I met tons of people who became good friends. That is bound to make an impression on a guy.

This year’s convention was also held in Canada, so I knew I’d also have a lot of friends to meet up with. It was an early start for me, as I flew off Thursday morning with friend and fellow Turnstone Press author, Karen Dudley. We’d hoped to meet up with another Manitoba writer, Shen Braun, who was arriving at the same time as us, but on a different flight, and split a cab from Pearson airport to the conference hotel (it was quite the jaunt as World Fantasy Toronto was actually in Richmond Hill, or so I kept being told). Unfortunately, Shen didn’t get in on time, but Karen and I did share the plane with Winnipeg writer Gerald Brandt. Even more luck, our mutual friends Eileen Bell and Ryan McFadden were on route to the conference and near the airport, so they swung by to pick us all up. It was a tight squeeze with five writers and their luggage in a Toyota Corolla, but we made it work.

Arriving at the hotel was a homecoming of sorts. Every time I turned around, there was someone else I knew. A great feeling. Over the weekend, I not only connected with friends who are scattered across the continent, but met many new friends.

After ditching our bags, we had to hustle to get through registration and grab our swag bags (the swag at WFC is truly epic, this is only what I could fit in my luggage, I left at least this much behind on the trade table.)

We had to hustle because Thursday night, Turnstone was sponsoring the Ravenstone Books Launch Party for Thunder Road and Food for the Gods. I’m glad the party was Thursday, it meant I didn’t have it hanging over my head for the entire weekend. I know the way I roll, and there was no way I’d have been able to relax and enjoy the convention until the launch was over. Marie Bilodeau from Ottawa served as our host and Bakka Phoenix was there to sell copies of our novels. We managed to get the room set up, and just finish having a bite to eat before it was time to open the doors and the worrying began. What if no one shows up? What if everyone shows up? Fortunately, we had just the right mix, the room was full, but not so packed that we couldn’t move about and mingle. I had a great time, signed a bunch of books, and met a few people I’d only know through Twitter or Facebook. It was over too soon, but it did teach me how stressful organizing an event can be. My hats off to people who do it all the time.

Friday:

I took in Julie Czerneda’s reading from her forthcoming fantasy novel, A Turn of Light. I’ve been curious about this one for a long time, as I’ve always had my feet deeper in fantasy than in science fiction, looking forward to reading the whole book. The samples Julie read were enough to entice me to read the book when it releases.

At my very first World Fantasy Con, I met Chandra Rooney. She was on a panel about writing tie-in fiction. I read her Tarot Cafe novel, The Wild Hunt, and interviewed her here. It was great to be able to chat for a bit after her reading. The samples Chandra read are unpublished right now, but you’re in for a treat when they do see the inside of bookstores.

I think the only panel I took in this year was Sandra Kasturi’s interviewing World Fantasy special guest, Tanya Huff. Sandra’s a riot and Tanya is also funny as hell, and a consummate pro to boot. She shared some great stories from her career with a packed and eager room. Good times.

Every World Fantasy Convention also includes a mass signing, putting every author in one big banquet room for two hours, and lets the signature hounds go wild. It was a better experience than I was expecting. I did actually sign some copies of Thunder Road, despite Fantasy giants like Brandon Sanderson and Patrick Rothfuss being in the same room. I handed out a bunch of my temporary tattoos and had fun chatting with Neil Godbout from Prince George (who’s debut YA novel, Disintegrate, is well worth checking out) and Robert Sawyer.

After the signing had concluded I made my way up to the hospitality suites and flitted between the EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Fall launch, the Tor Books party and the Con Suite. I happened to be around when it was announced that James A. Moore had wrote a story about Dr. Doom and Barbie. There was a bet of some kind involved, I never did suss out all the details, something about 55$ and popcorn. James joked it was the best per word rate he’d received to date. Christopher Golden read the story aloud to a dozen or more listeners. The story, about 1200 words, complete with a beginning, middle, and end, was evidently written in about 45 minutes. It was amazing. James promised to put it up on his blog at some point. As soon as it surfaces, I’ll link to it, because it’s too good not to read.

I picked up a copy of Shanghai Steam (complete with an awesome story by my bud, Shen) and read the first five minutes of “Back in Black” from Tesseracts 16, joined by fellow contributors Michael Kelly, Sandra Kasturi, Adria Laycraft and Randy McCharles.

Saturday was mostly spent taking in readings:

James L. Sutter, author of Death’s Heretic and fiction editor at Paizo did a short reading, and then led a fun Q&A about writing and gaming with his audience. I’m still holding out hope that Paizo will let him write a novel set in his Distant Worlds Pathfinder Campaign setting. It’s may be a bit of a fringe product, but it was one of the coolest game accessories I’ve seen in years, and it was obvious James had a real passion for it.

Another Paizo author, Dave Gross, had the room next. Dave read from Queen of Thorns. It was a saucy reading for 9:30 in the morning. Man, I love the character of Radovan! I picked up Dave’s previous book, Master of Devils after Dave’s reading at When Words Collide 2011 in Calgary, and have been looking forward to his next book ever since.

Suzanne Church won the Aurora Award for her short story “The Needle’s Eye” so I wanted to check out her reading (also, she promised candy). Suzanne read snippets from a few different stories (bought her issue of Clarkesworld while I was picking up my “rejected by Clarkesworld card), all very different, but all excellent.

I had to run to make Helen Marshall’s reading from her new collection, Hair Side, Flesh Side, but it was worth it. A very intriguing story, and perfect delivery in the reading.

I made it back from supper in time for the epic ChiZine party. I’ve met so many of the ChiZine authors, and they’re all awesome people in addition to being great writers, but the gravitational pull of that much awesome in one room made for a very crowded party. So I wandered the halls roaming between the consuite party, ChiZine party, and the hotel bar.

It sounds bad, but I mostly behaved (mostly). I had to be up at 5 to get ready for my flight home.

I survived the weekend on two hours of sleep a night and managed not to pick up any con crud despite seemingly being surrounded by coughers and flu carriers (Looking at you, Mrs. Dudley). It was also quite the change of gears to go from drinking bourbon with friends for four days and being on no one’s schedule but my own to plunging back to the incessant ringing of telephones and vague requests for “that blue book, you know the one.”

Next week the western leg of the tour starts! Saskatoon, Edmonton, Calgary, I am coming for you…

Write on.