Issue 17 of Polar Borealis Available for Download

The latest issue of Polar Borealis, edited by SF Canada member R. Graeme Cameron, has just been published.

Discover poetry from SF Canada members Jean-Louis Trudel, Lisa Timpf, and Melanie Marttila along with fiction from Paula Johanson.

Both Polar Borealis and the new Polar Starlight are open to poetry and fiction submissions until February 28, 2021. The latter is a new Canadian poetry magazine edited by Rhea E. Rose.

Download Issue 17 for free. Visit polarborealis.ca to view back issues and find more information about this paying market.

New Interviews with Robert Runté and Lorina Stephens

Another two SF Canada members were recently interviewed online, Robert Runté and Lorina Stephens.

Robert spoke with Todd Sullivan and read his latest short story, “Inuksuk” from Issue #15 of Polar Borealis.

Watch (or listen) to the full interview here:

 

Lorina was interviewed by Gordon Gibb for his radio feature, The Bookshelf, on Kawartha Oldies. They chatted about her latest novel, The Rose Guardian, a story of grief and the power of forgiveness.

Listen to the full interview here:

https://fiveriverspublishing.com/?p=4529

There is a conversation that should have happened between Vi Cotter and her mother. Now it’s too late.

But sometimes the dead speak through the legacy they leave, and in this case Vi’s mother bequeaths her, among other things, her journals. Do we sometimes seek absolution from the grave? Do we seek reconciliation between the child, the woman, the crone?

In a story of unspoken truths and hidden fears, The Rose Guardian explores the cages we make when we fail to unlock our secrets.

 

Dr. Robert Runté is Senior Editor with EssentialEdits.ca, a retired professor (University of Lethbridge), and former Senior Editor for Five Rivers Publishing. As an academic, editor, reviewer, and organizer, Robert has been actively promoting Canadian SF for over forty years. He was a founding Director of NonCon, Context89, and SF Canada; and has served on the Boards of the Edmonton Science Fiction and Comic Arts Society, On Spec Magazine, Tesseract Books, and The Writers Guild of Alberta. In addition to dozens of conference papers, journal articles, book chapters, and a half dozen entries in the Encyclopedia of Literature in Canada , Robert has edited over 150 issues of various SF newsletters.

Lorina Stephens has worked all sides of the publishing desk: writer, editor, publisher. From freelance journalist for regional and national periodicals, to editor of a regional lifestyle magazine and then her own publishing house, she has been in the industry since 1980. Lorina has witnessed publishing evolve into the dynamic form of self-expression which exists today. For 12 years she operated Five Rivers Publishing as a house which would give voice to Canadian authors. Her short fiction has appeared in literary and genre publications, novels under her own house, Five Rivers Publishing, non-fiction under Boston Mills Press and an anthology co-edited with Susan MacGregor, Tesseracts 22: Alchemy and Artifacts.

Writers’ Craft 6: Tense

What time is it?

Choosing a tense for your story usually isn’t a big deal. Most fiction and even nonfiction is told in past tense, as in: They went there, and then they travelled further.

Why writers do this is not entirely clear. Certainly the practice of writing in past tense has been around a very long time. Mallory wrote Le Morte d’Arthur in 1469, and it is in past tense. Homer’s epic poem, Odyssey, even in the original Greek, was written in past tense, and that dates back to around the 8th or 7th century BCE.

It would appear employing past tense in writing is simply a comfortable, accepted form, perhaps because it most emulates how we converse. Most of what we discuss among ourselves tends to be in past tense, unless we’re speaking regarding future events. But for the most part, we recount events when in conversation. It’s usually how we tell an anecdote, recount our days among friends and family. Not that we don’t speak in future tense; certainly we do. But it’s not the tense we so easily and customarily slip into.

So, it only follows we naturally gravitate to past tense when writing. And that’s perfectly fine.

Unless…

You want to wake up your reader

If it’s a shove-your-reader-off-the-chair effect you’re going for, then you may choose to write in present or future tense. Both are arresting. Both require a sensitive hand else your work will end up so unapproachable as to be unreadable. Certainly there are some novels out there which have effectively, even brilliantly employed both present and future tense.

Present tense

Writing in present tense is just that: all the action happens right now, i.e: She picks up the newspaper and scans the headlines, feels frustration with the barrage of sensationalism, and tosses it back to the table.

Present tense gives immediacy and urgency to your story. There is nothing passive about present tense. And in the right hands it can be astonishing and brilliant; in the wrong it can be outré and unreadable. Novelist Anthony Doerr employed present tense in his novel All the Light We Cannot Seewhich went on to win the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, and the 2015 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction.

Andre Dubus III employed the same technique in his widely popular novel, House of Sand and Fog. 

And the Angels Sang

When I wrote the cover story for my collection of short stories, And the Angels Sang, I chose to tell the story in present tense, because it is a deep character POV, that of Father Jean Brébeuf in his last moments of life. He is being tortured, horrifically, and I wanted to examine what he might have thought in those moments, how he might have slipped into hallucination as so often happens when we are thrust into extreme trauma. There is a sense of disconnect in those moments. And so the only way I could think to convey that sense of disconnect, was to write the story in present tense, because the story is happening right now. His pain is right now. And I wanted the sense of that to be right now for the reader. So, yes, present tense was chosen as much for shock effect as for a literary device.

Apparently it worked for one reviewer:

Lorina does a masterful job of summarising a lifetime of devotion to the cause in the final, frantic thoughts of Father Brébeuf. Delirious, near out of his mind with pain, he imagines the forest grove around him the pillars of a glorious cathedral. Similar fantasies transform his horrific death into a mystical rite of passage toward paradise. What strikes atheists like myself as an idiotic belief system here becomes very real, the key to salvation and transcendence, and his pity for his tormentors, utterly convincing. It takes exceptionally good writing to put you deep into the mind and thoughts of so alien a being.

R. Graeme Cameron

Amazing Stories

future tense

Even more difficult to write is a story told entirely in future tense. He will go down the road, meet a dog, and the dog will bark and then sniff his hand. He’s going to feel a pang of homesickness because of that filthy cur.

There is again a sense of disconnect and tension employing a tense other than past, in this case a feeling of inevitability, even futility, because the uncertainty and nebulous nature of the future now becomes a clear reality in the narrative. There is no ability to deviate from what is seemingly pre-ordained. And once again, this tense can be exhausting not only to write, but to read, so choose carefully.

Novelist Carlos Fuentes did so in his short novel, Aurawhich, by the way, is also told in second person.

There is a sense of the omniscient in a future tense story, perhaps because future tense, as Carlos Fuentes demonstrates, is most often told in second person.

What’s the correct thing to do?

Whatever suits you and your vision. That’s the correct thing to do. Sure, there are lots of people who are going to tell you to play it safe, to abide by some set of unwritten and uncanonized rules. But there are no rules. Not really. Art is subjective. Yes, you’ve heard me both say and write that previously. It’s true. Sure, you need to know the fundamental tenants of writing. But you also need to know how far you can bend them to create something astonishing, even transcendently memorable.

So, don’t be afraid to experiment. Write. And then write some more. Doesn’t matter if any of it is bin material or readable. Just write. Do like every other artist in every other discipline, and just create work. In the end that’s what it’s all about. Or should be. At least in my opinion.

You can follow me through my website: fiveriverspublishing.com

Nina Munteanu on Minddog TV

SF Canada member Nina Munteanu was recently interviewed by Matt Nappo on Minddog TV in New York, NY. Their conversation covered the science and magic of water, climate change and how to not become cynical, as well as the writing process and what makes for great storytelling.

Keep watching for the scoop on Nina’s eco-novel A Diary in the Age of Water published by Inanna Publications.

Watch the full interview here:

Nina Munteanu is a Canadian ecologist / limnologist and award-winning novelist and short story writer. She is co-editor of Europa SF and currently teaches writing courses at George Brown College and the University of Toronto. Nina has coached writers to publication for several decades using her Alien Guidebook Series writing guides.  Nina’s non-fiction book “Water Is…” by Pixl Press was selected by Margaret Atwood in the New York Times ‘Year in Reading’ and was chosen as the 2017 Summer Read by Water Canada.

Writers’ Craft 5: Point of View

Who is telling your story and why

Point of view is simply that: who is telling your story?

While that definition may be simple, sometimes choosing who is telling your story can present a conundrum to the author. Is the story better suited to first person or third person? Or is your story compelling enough it requires second person?

Perhaps a review of what those points of view actually mean, and why you might chose one, is called for.

First Person

First person point of view is easily identified as an story, meaning there is one point of view, told from the main character, or narrator’s, perspective. For example, the opening sentence of my novel, Shadow Song:

I remember the summer I met Shadow Song was so green it hurt my eyes.

Shadow Song

In this case, the story is told entirely from the perspective of Danielle Michelle Fleming. It is her story, and while the story she tells deeply revolves around the characters of an Anishnabe midewewin, and her uncle, Edgar Fleming, it still remains her story. We discover the world of the backwoods of 1830s Upper Canada from her perspective. We experience her adoption and inculcation into Anishnabe society, and that tight perspective very much conveys the sense of a stranger in a strange land.

Because of that point of view, the story becomes intimate, as though she were sitting across the fire relating to you her experiences.

Employing first person narrative does just that: creates intimacy. It also narrows the scope of the story because everything must be seen and experienced through the eyes of that one character. So, being able to jump into the head of a secondary character isn’t possible, which means you have to be sure your main character has a strong enough voice to carry the story.

However, it is also possible to tell your story from several points of view while still employing first person. I did just that in my novel The Rose Guardianin which there are three distinct characters, each with their own narrative, two of which are told from first person, and the third from third, person. I chose to tell the story in that fashion in order to create a very strong sense of time and voice. It’s tricky writing, and not for the faint of heart.

Second person

Second person perspective is a you story and requires a controlled, sure narrative. It can be clumsy and a bit outré if you’re not careful, and perhaps is better suited to short fiction than a novel, simply because it can be a bit demanding for your reader. It’s an arresting point of view. Very effective if handled well. Plain silly if it’s not.

Apparently the American novelist Jay McInerney wrote his acclaimed debut novel Bright Lights, Big City in second person. I haven’t read the novel, much less know the author, so I cannot speak to the efficacy of this point of view in his work. Of course, in the end, it’s just one person’s opinion of a piece of art, and art, as we all know, is subjective.

Still, if you’re going to use second person, be very sure of your story and narrative.

Third person limited

Third person limited is the most common point of view a writer can employ, a he/she/they story. It’s an easy point of view to write, let alone read, and allows for greater creative latitude, and breadth of story, because you can choose to tell the entire story from one character’s third person narrative, or many characters by way of alternating chapters or sections between characters. It is important when writing third person limited to be sure you’re writing from one character’s perspective, and only one, in each section of your story.

Unless….

Third person omniscient

Ewww.

Sorry, was that my out loud voice?

Dune

 

It’s unfair of me to make that statement, because, again, art is subjective. To my taste, third person omniscient is a lazy writer’s fallback. Frank Herbert used it extensively in his epic SF series Dune. Given the huge appeal of the series, my antipathy to the point of view will seem unwarranted. And certainly other genre writers have employed this literary device. There’s nothing really wrong with the point of view. It still employs the he/she/they perspective, but switches between characters within the narrative flow so that in one paragraph the reader is experiencing one character’s actions and thoughts, and further down the page the reader is now experiencing a different character’s actions and thoughts. Omniscient. Just like the definition states.

What I personally don’t like about this POV device is the lack of character depth which occurs. I always feel as though I’m skimming across the surface of the story, being kept at a distance. It leaves me hungry, like only being able to eat the crust of a pie and not the whole thing, filling and all.

But, again, that’s just one person’s opinion.

It’s your story

Whatever point of view you choose, stick to it. Make it your own. In the end it’s your story, and only you can really know how you’re going to tell it, and who is going to be your voice.

If you’re looking for a book on the subject, I do recommend an excellent primer by Orson Scott Card: Characters and Viewpoint.

And most of all, just write.

You can follow me at my website: fiveriverspublishing.com

Night, the Hardest Time to Be Alive by Melissa Yuan-Innes

SF Canada member Melissa Yuan-Innes, was recently published in Enchanted Conversation: A Fairytale Magazine.

Her fractured fairy tale “Night, the Hardest Time to Be Alive” is a re-imagining of the story of Ondine, but from the point of view of her child, and with a contemporary context.

“Editor’s Note: Love in its many forms can uplift or curse those that find themselves under its spell. It is a theme that resonates in fairy tales set in the past and the present. We hope you enjoy this unique tale as much as we did.”

Melissa writes speculative fiction as Melissa Yuan-Innes and medical thrillers as Melissa Yi. She is an emergency physician and award-winning writer. In her newest crime novel, SCORPION SCHEME, Hope Sze discovers a man with a nail through his skull shortly after she lands in Cairo, Egypt. This man could hold the key to millions of dollars in buried treasure. Previous Hope Sze volumes were recommended by the Globe and Mail and CBC Books as best suspense novels of the season.

Read “Night, the Hardest Time to Be Alive” at fairytalemagazine.com.