A few years back, I wrote The Warhol Gang, which featured gun theme parks, viral shooting videos and rampaging shooter drills – among other things. At the time, I worried that maybe I was overdoing it a little, that readers would find it unbelievable. I never truly imagined a world where we’d be watching livestreams of school massacres, a world where people argue it’s their human right to own weapons of war intended for no other purpose than killing large numbers of fellow human beings quickly. We now live in a strange, broken and disintegrating reality where school children go on nationally televised livestreams to beg for their right to live and their leaders refuse them that simple request – or attack them with bizarre conspiracy theories that the children are not really children, that they are crisis actors. Imagine being told that you do not exist because someone else has fantasies that they are some sort of weekend Rambo.
It’s mainly an American problem, but it’s not contained there. Madness, fear and anxiety know no borders. I recently asked my oldest son what he had done at school that day and he told me his class had a hiding drill, where he hid in his cubby in case a gunman attacked the school. A six-year-old boy learning how to hide from a gunman because people want to own weapons of war.
I wish it were fiction.
I wish people found this unbelievable instead of acceptable.
After each mass shooting happens, I usually find myself looking for solace in art. I look for creation in the world rather than destruction. I saw this in my feeds and it spoke to me, although I wouldn’t exactly call it solace:
Now we wait for the next one.
One of my favourite events from last year was the Vancouver Writers Festival (check out the Facebook Live I did), where I appeared with Lydia Kwa and Sean Cranbury to read from my new book, Has the World Ended Yet? Great festival, fascinating writers and thoughtful audiences!
Just because the festival is over doesn’t mean it has to end, though! Alli Vail is currently reading all the books from the 2017 Vancouver Writers Festival and posting thoughts about them at Reading Writers Fest. Of course, I am partial to the entry on my book.
This is wacky and weird and I kind of loved it. The answer to the question: Has the World Ended Yet (great question, aside from being the title of the book), is yes. We probably just haven’t figured it out. The ending is just out of sight, until it’s not.
It was a busy weekend of writing in old Apocalypse HQ! I finished the rough draft of a new Cross short story, and it was a fun ride. I’ve now got around 35,000 words in Cross stories – maybe the next book will be a story collection!
I also finished the rough draft of a new stand-alone holiday story. I’ll let you know more about that when it finds a home.
In other news, Google’s Arts and Culture app thinks I look like former president Gerald Ford. Which is interesting because I just listened to the Radiolab podcast about Oliver Sipple, who saved the life of Ford in an attempted assassination only to have his life ruined by his act of heroism.
Probably a story in there somewhere….
Things changed a couple of years ago, when I turned forty-three. I was well past cool by any stretch of the imagination. My wife and I had a ridiculous spread of four children between us, ranging in age from six to sixteen. Try finding a Friday night movie everyone can agree on. So I said, “What about a game?”
And suddenly, I was back. I unboxed my archives of maps and notes, all of it carefully annotated in a fourteen-year-old’s attempt at calligraphic hand. Drawings, stories, rules, maps; it was all there, waiting. And to my surprise, everyone loved it. Even my wife. The former track star was now an elven assassin. In fairness, she played mostly out of love for everyone at the table, but she played and had a great time. We all did.
Odd fact I just realized: when I play paper-and-pen RPGs I almost always play warriors, but when I play video games like World of Warcraft I almost always play mages or other ranged classes. I don’t really have an explanation for this other than maybe I’m antisocial and like to keep people at a distance?
Reading some of the stories, etc. I mentioned in my last On the Bookshelf post reminded me of a couple of Neil Gaiman short stories that are among my favourite tales of all time. So I went back and gave them a re-read this weekend. Check them out if you haven’t read them already:
- “I, Cthulhu, or, What’s A Tentacle-Faced Thing Like Me Doing In A Sunken City Like This (Latitude 47° 9′ S, Longitude 126° 43′ W)?” – It’s pretty much what the title says it is.
- “A Study in Emerald” – If you like the creepy, supernatural Royal Family in my Cross books, you’re going to like this. It may also appeal to Sherlock Holmes fans and other troubled sorts.
This seems like a good time to point out I have a Cthulhu story in Has the World Ended Yet?, my latest book. There are also a couple of demon investigator stories featuring Molox, a demonic processing clerk, and Malachi, his impetuous imp companion. I’d kind of like to turn those stories into a book at some point, but more Cross stories are calling first.
I’ve been reading a bunch of different things at once lately – a couple of print books, some ebooks, a short story online, an analysis of another story. It may be I have a short attention span, but I prefer to think of it as the life of a parent with a full-time job.
Anyway, this is what’s on my bookshelf right now:
When the crew of the Nightjar find a merman of the fleet wounded and stranded in the ocean, Gale’s sister, Beatrice, is forced to take a back seat while Gale and Parrish work to find out who would assault a member of the nation of Tallon’s intelligence service. They soon discover a plot that could shake the foundations of the fleet and Beatrice might be the key to preventing a catastrophic disaster.
Dellamonica has more tales more in this universe if you like this story.
Resistance is Futile: Peter Watts’s “The Things” – Tor
Peter Watts is one of my favourite writers, and his story “The Things” is one of my favourite stories – and fucking difficult in a way his works are always challenging. So I am pretty much the target audience for this Tor analysis of the story.
In Lovecraft—and in Carpenter—difference equals horror. For Watts, that works both ways. The singular Thing is shocked and frightened by our individual isolation, our inability to change, our inevitable mortality. Our brains are sapient tumors, our bodies haunted by invisible ghosts. We’re like nothing it’s ever encountered before, though its instinct in the face of that strangeness suggests we might have something in common after all.
For the human readers, the horror of Carpenter’s original shapeshifting identity thief is amped up to a universe in which our individuality is the aberration. We’re a fragile fluke amid worlds of communal entities engaged in an ecstasy of mutual assimilation. Resistance is futile—we survive only as long as we’re not noticed.
Rumi and the Red Handbag by Shawna Lemay
I never thought I’d be interested in the lives of a couple of women working in a second-hand clothing shop, but here I am, lingering on every beautiful sentence and thought. I’m not alone in loving this book.
See also Lemay’s wonderfully calming and meditative blog Transactions with Beauty.
Spellsinger by Sebastien De Castell
You already know I love Sebastien De Castell’s Greatcoats series. Now he’s got a new bunch of books for me to fawn over – the Spellsinger books, about a magical society where everyone is a gifted mage… except for the hero of the story. Sounds like my life, which may explain why I’m enjoying it so much.
All right, enough blogging – back to reading.
The Walrus has a good article about what sexual consent means in the age of #MeToo. It’s timely for the world of CanLit, too, given all the controversy over UBCAccountable and CanLitAccountable, which have torn Canada’s writing communities apart, if they ever truly existed in the first place.
The article is written by Sarah Barmak, who also wrote the book Closer: Notes From the Orgasmic Frontier of Female Sexuality – which should be a must-read for pretty much everyone who’s having sex. It makes a really good point about how we inherit culturally models of consent, which can lead to all sorts of confusion, assumptions and problems – but there are other models out there, as is evident in kink and other communities:
There’s also less of a culturally ordained script that dictates what sex is supposed to look like among lgbtq people, says Johnstone. “There’s the assumption [in conversations about heterosexual sex] that it’s the man who would ask consent, and that’s not the reality that a lot of queer and non-binary folks experience, where consent is negotiated between partners.” Traditional models of heterosexuality have a built-in narrative for how sex is supposed to go: first kissing, then touching and undressing, then oral sex, then vaginal intercourse. (It’s why someone knows what you mean if you talk about “going all the way.”) In a culture that takes that script for granted, it may be easy to assume that one act will lead to another and that when someone consents to one part, they are agreeing to that whole sequence. Absent these presumptions about who will do what to whom, says Johnstone, partners talk more about what will happen, before it happens and throughout a sexual encounter. “It’s not just about saying yes or no,” she says. “It’s yes to what? No to what?”
Many kink and polyamorous communities, by their very nature, also have more nuanced and clearly articulated practices for consent. Parties in which explicit sex takes place often have detailed consent guidelines—especially ones at which bondage takes place, where no doesn’t always mean no, but consent is still paramount. (Some hosts distribute consent menus for guests to fill out, asking them to circle the names of sex acts they’re open to that evening.) It is common at such gatherings to hear that “consent is sexy” and that whips-and-leather bondage in which consent is explicit is safer than “vanilla” sex in which it is assumed.
Check it out and remember: there’s never anything wrong with asking.
I’ve received a lot of compliments for the cover of my new book, Has the World Ended Yet?, which I’ve graciously accepted even though I had nothing to do with it. The beautiful cover was all the doing of artist Michel Vrana, working on what my editor, Paul Vermeersch, had told him about the book.
Writers actually have very little control over their covers – the art is usually ran past us for approval but that’s more of a courtesy than a requirement. Publishers know what covers sell, after all – except for when they don’t. It’s a tricky business to be in sometimes.
While I’ve heard many horror stories from writers about their covers, I’ve been lucky enough – blessed even! – to always have covers I have absolutely loved. The artists don’t always get the credit they deserve, so I thought I’d give them a shoutout here because book art is the best art of all!
If you need a cover for your new book, now you know where to start!
I’m delighted to see my new book, Has the World Ended Yet?, included in Corey Redekop’s list of books that he done got through in 2017. Some mighty fine company there – I’ve added some new books to my own reading list!
If you like my work, I think you’ll love Corey’s books. I’d suggest starting with Husk, a darkly comic zombie novel. That one is still messing with my head….