Friday, September 26, 2014

Spoiler Space: "Long Pig"

Yes, I ate this
This story started as a pretty simple technical challenge: I had always wanted to write a story in the form of a restaurant review. As is typical with these things, that idea floated around in my head for a few years beforemy wife and I ate at a restaurant where the service was so solicitous that it led me to wonder, in that way SF writers do, just how far it could go. Like a lot of stories in this book, it started out as a joke and turned into something rather more serious -- in this case through exploring the reasons behind the main character's actions -- which, if it works, pulls off a double-fakeout and goes from humour to horror to something... else, I guess. I was never really sure how well it worked, but several people I know told me that I had to include it in the book, so for once there's something here I don't have to take the blame for.

The Canadian reference in this one is to Spadina Avenue, a street in Toronto that is, indeed, famous for its Chinese restaurants (though many locals will tell you all the good ones have moved out to the suburbs, I remain devoted to New Sky and Mother's Dumplings.) On a somewhat more obscure level, the story was written in my best imitation of Joanne Kates, who was for many years the restaurant reviewer for the Toronto Globe and Mail.


Monday, September 22, 2014

My Can-Con schedule, and other bits of news

Hey, where did that month go?

Anyway -- I have a few writing-related appearances coming up in the next couple of months. First is Can-Con, Ottawa's own SF/F convention, which is being held this year from October 3rd to 5th. Here's my (probably) final schedule:

Friday, Oct 3

7PM: Be It Resolved: “StopWriting Novels – Write Short Fiction” - The Live Debate! -- with Geoff Gander and presumably at least one other person.

8PM: How to get traditionally published -- with Max Turner, Matt Moore, Alison Sinclair, and Julie Czerneda.

Saturday, Oct 4

9AM: SFWA Regional meeting

10AM: Reading with Robin Riopelle, author of Deadroads. I'll be reading either "Irregular Verbs" or part of "Public Safety," depending on who's in the audience.

2PM: Fantasy Literature: I Can't Believe You Haven't Read That! with Kathryn Cramer, Peter Halasz, Jo Walton, and Yves Menard. I'm moderating, which relieves me of the pressure to add anything to what these clever and well-read people have to say.

3PM: Space Opera – Its History and Its Place Today with Peter Atwood, Kathryn Cramer, and Alison Sinclair.

5PM: Law and Crime and Punishment in Medieval Times with Ariella Elema, Ranylt Richildis, and Kate Heartfield.  

What else? Well, I'm going to be at WFC in Washington DC in November -- no word yet if I'll be doing any programming, but I'll be around -- and I'll also be manning the SFWA table at the inaugural Toronto International Book Fair. The TIBF people have worked with us to set up some great SF/F programming: more details shortly.


Thursday, August 21, 2014

Tales from the Trunk: That is the Law

I had completely forgotten that I ever wrote this story until I read this item in the news this morning. I don't remember if I ever submitted it anywhere -- maybe one or two places -- but I think it's kind of fun.

But hey, what do I know? Judge for yourself:



              The old bear grunted and hummed as he worked, his broad bottom spread wide across the damp cave floor. His claws held a stick of ocher which twitched spastically against the rock, trying to capture what he had seen.
             It had puzzled him for a long time after he saw it, its meaning unclear: finally he had repaired to the cave to consult with his fathers, their heads all in a row from youngest to eldest in the innermost chamber.
             Now he painted what he had seen: the buffalo, the Men who hunted them -- and, drawn with the most fervid strokes, the Man who had carried the stick. He bore horns on his head like those of the buffalo, and each time he pointed his stick at one of the buffalo the other Men would converge on it. This man had magic.
             Every bear knew something about Men. They knew that they came in two kinds, the Big-nosed and the Small-nosed, or as some bears had it the Heavy-browed and the Light-browed. They knew, too, that Men could walk and talk as bears did, but that both kinds were much the lesser in craft and in wisdom. No bear had ever feared a man, not even when they had taken up sticks and rocks and begun to hunt prey much larger than themselves. No bear would ever let himself be trapped like a buffalo, or driven off a cliff as they were.
             Still, something about the horned man had disturbed the old bear, and when the Men were done with the buffalo he had followed them. Instead of bringing the meat to their camp the horned Man had led the others to carry it to the camp of the Heavy-browned Men. Then, when those had fallen hungrily on the gift, he had pointed his stick again -- and the heavy-browed Men, every last one, had been killed.
             The old bear had waited a long time after that, anxiously licking at the greasy fur of his belly. He did not understand why the Men had killed their cousins; they had not taken their bodies for food, but had left them to rot. And so the old bear had gone back to the cave, to hear the wisdom of his fathers.
             Now he drew on the cave wall, trying to capture that wisdom so all bears could see it. Scenes of Men and beasts covered the rock, telling the story that they had to hear. He heard the first of them arriving at the mouth of the cave, tried to organize his thoughts.
             It was wisdom, more than anything else, that Men hated and feared; it was craft they could not suffer to live. That was why they hunted their cousins and left the bodies uneaten -- and, the old bear knew, they would do it to him if they knew.
             All bears had to be told. Men could not be allowed to suspect -- had to think they were only beasts, like the buffalo. Only if a bear was sure to die, or to kill all those that saw him, could the truth be shown.
             Would Men remember? Would they tell, around the fires of their camps, tales of the days when bears had spoken and walked as they did? Or, when they saw the paintings and the homes that the bears had made, would they ascribe them to their own fathers? The old bear worried on that question for a while, let it go. So long as all bears bound themselves to the rules he gave, they would survive.
             One by one the bears came into the cave, drawn from all the corners from which he had called them. The old bear uttered a prayer to his fathers and turned to speak.
             Not to go on two legs. That is the law.


Monday, August 18, 2014

Another link masquerading as actual content

I'm still neck-deep in audio files, but fortunately I have another guest item on another blog, answering three questions for Maggie Slater about "The Afflicted," which is the first story in the upcoming anthology Zombies: More Recent Dead as well as being in Irregular Verbs. Maggie kindly says "There’s a definite reason Johnson’s story was chosen to kick off the collection."


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Guest blog up at Novelocity: What fictional creature would you most like as a pet?

No time for a Spoiler Space this week because I've been in the recording studio (don't worry, I'm not starting a singing career; I'm recording audio for an educational computer game we're doing at the day job.) Luckily, my guest blog at Novelocity has been posted: I'm in fine company among Leslie Williams, Lawrence M. Schoen, Beth Cato, Ken Liu, Steve Bein, Fran Wilde, Tina Connolly and Michael R. Underwood as we all talk about what fictional animal we'd most like to have as a pet (hint: I get to use the phrase "two tons of psychic warmoose.")


Thursday, August 07, 2014

Video: "Irregular Verbs" reading from the CZP summer book launch

A couple of Fridays ago ChiZine held a launch for their summer books (Kenneth Mark Hoover's Haxan, Brent Hayward's Head Full of Mountains, and of course Irregular Verbs) at Maxwell's here in Ottawa. The crowd wasn't too bad for summertime and they seemed to enjoy the readings a lot. Luckily for me Rob Olsen, of Geek Inked magazine, was there to film it. Enjoy!

Part one

Part two


Monday, August 04, 2014

Unwise Speculation: Funding cut for On Spec magazine

I've just read that the Canada Council for the Arts has decided not to provide funding to On Spec, saying that "the quality of the writing remained low." (Diane Walton, On Spec's managing editor, excerpts some of the letter here.) Apparently for the last several years the Council has been moving towards judging On Spec by the standards of Canadian literary writing (suggesting that they publish "a higher quality of fiction" and publish "better-known" Canadian writers) and the axe has finally dropped.

The timing of this is particularly stinging considering that this year sees the publication of the 25th anniversary collection of stories from On Spec, which is being launched next weekend at When Words Collide. I'm honoured to say that this collection includes "Closing Time," my first published story, and I'm far from the only Canadian SF/F writer to have got my start there. On Spec has been a central part of the Canadian SF community for a quarter century and has played a major role in the growth of Canadian SF in that time.

Here's Diane's summary of the situation: "After twenty-five years, we should know what our own readers want and like. It is painfully apparent the juries at Canada Council do not. But who are we publishing On Spec for? While it has been suggested that perhaps it is time we begin to kowtow to the tastes of these gatekeepers of Canadian literary culture, we simply cannot do this."

The Council's decision is final, but there are things we can do to help On Spec: getting a subscription or buying individual issues or donating money through Patreon. Just as importantly, you can help to show that speculative fiction is an important part of Canadian literature by writing to and expressing your opinion to the Grants for Magazines staff. (I'll be posting mine as an open letter when I'm done writing it.)

Musical bonus: to explain the situation to non-Canadian readers, here's Kari Maaren performing "Can Lit":