Derek Newman-Stille Interviews Marie Bilodeau

SF Canada is pleased to share a new interview from Derek Newman-Stille. They chatted with fellow SF Canada member Marie Bilodeau to find out what it’s like to write horror, as well as multiple speculative genres.


Interview with Marie Bilodeau on Writing Horror and Loving She-Ra

By Derek Newman-Stille


Derek Newman-Stille: “To start out our interview, can you tell readers a little bit about yourself?”


Marie Bilodeau: “I like to dabble in various genres of writing – I write science-fiction, fantasy, and horror, in both long and short forms. I’m also a professional storyteller, which means I stand up in front of audiences and tell either old tales, adapted ones, or some original works. Aside from that, I’m an event manager, a cupcake-lover, have many fluffy cats and love She-Ra. Perhaps am *in* love with She-Ra. …I think that pretty much covers it all.”


Derek: “Can you tell us a little bit about what it’s like to write across so many genres?”


Marie: “Certainly! It’s amazing! So, each genre is very firmly speculative fiction, meaning that there’s an element in it (usually in the world) that’s not quite of our world. It’s that worldbuilding aspect that I thoroughly love. In fantasy, you get to hurl fireballs. In science fiction, you can have space ships! In horror, monsters lurk in the shadows. And, best of all, you can have all of those things in the story and let the market figure it out!”


Derek: “Your science fiction often takes on horror elements as does your fantasy (I’m thinking specifically about your fairy tale work) – what generated your interest in horror and do you notice elements of it in your other work?”


Marie: “Horror is an amazing tool, because it’s so versatile. It can frighten, shock, repulse…it doesn’t matter, as long as it draws a reaction, often a visceral one. In my fairy tale inspired serialized novel, Nigh, I used horror in the tradition of fairy tales, often to warn, or correct behaviour. Which meant it also took on tones of existential horror, which you get at the heart of some stories, like Sleeping Beauty. Sure, she gets woken up. But, wait, she’s been sleeping for how long? Her world is gone? Not to mention all the other stuff that happens, depending on the version. That thread of horror isn’t often outright stated, but the reader often experiences it on an existential level. I have a short story coming in Jennifer’s Brozek’s 99 Tiny Terrors this year. It’s purely existential. Nothing happens except making tea and chatting with an old friend. But it’s visceral in what the reader knows, regardless of how the characters deal with it. That’s what makes horror so wonderful. It’s visceral, and often relies on universal experiences and archetypes to hit its target: the human heart.”


Derek: I can’t wait to read it!! I love existential horror! Horror has this amazing ability to unsettle the ordinary. Do you tend to use it to unsettle things and open unquestioned things up to questions?


Marie: “Definitely! With horror, as with any genre, you can get your reader to really question their own worldview (or find it reinforced!) But, to make it successful, the trick (which isn’t always easy to pull off), is not to outright state what you’re questioning. You have to craft the story in such a way that the reader ends up asking the question. That’s when you know you’ve hit home. The reader incorporated the story enough, lived in it, even in a brief piece of flash fiction, to inhabit it and see what was provided and, more importantly, what wasn’t mentioned at all. It means the story is now part of the reader, in the questions you’ve forced them to face. It’s one of the genres that benefits the most from a fine glitter dust highlighting just the right details.”


Derek: Relatedly, one of the things that I love about your sci fi is that no matter how alien your aliens are, they fundamentally say something about what it is like to be human. Can you tell us a bit about how you use the alien to comment on human experiences?


Marie: “That’s one of my favorite things! First, aliens are super fun to build! Like, how will you work? What culture propels you? What part of history got you to this point? How do you eat your food? DO YOU EVEN EAT! OMG you like music? But only as it shifts the tectonic plates of your volcanic world? BE MY VALENTINE, you amazing alien you!

…But I digress. Aliens and different societies allow us freedom from current political, cultural and religious human realities and offers a blank canvas upon which to draw our tale. I especially love using them in my short stories. For example, my “Out-of-Worlds-Planet-Cessation Extravaganza” story in Amazing Stories is funny with cool aliens and solid event management techniques, but it’s all about how the “bling” of things can get in the way of basic humanity. In my Analog short story “Molecular Rage,” I wanted to show how someone not fitting in due to random (and cruel) determinations can hurt not just the ostracized individual, but their entire family and culture. Also, how it’s generally a shitty thing to do.

Both those things could have been done in our world, with plenty of examples to (sadly) go around, but often I find the reader to be more receptive to something when they don’t start putting up personal listening walls because of their own set of beliefs.

It’s a flip from horror, in a way. In horror, you want to use the visceral common experience to strike home. Whereas in this case, striking home means taking them out of a common experience by placing them amongst aliens, and using shadows of our world to keep the darkest places familiar. The reader can then cast their own light there, and come to their own conclusions.”


Derek: Do you find that your stories are influenced by current issues and events? What are some events that have inspired you to fictionalize them and imagine their possibilities in other worlds?


Marie: “Definitely! Okay, so there are the Big Ideas and Big Events, which I think lots of people tackle super well and because they’re big ideas, lots of people use them in their fiction. They’re thematic, and often should be!

What I love best, however, are small ideas. I love taking things that amuse me, fascinate me, just make me damn curious, and writing about those.

For example, the Fyre Festival was an amazing failure of event management. I watched it go down live, glued to my screen in fascination. When the two documentaries came out, we invited friends over, made tiny cheese and arugula open-faced sandwiches for snacks, and watched them back-to-back. They created a fuller picture which was amazingly bad. I laughed, and flinched, so much. Anyway, out of that came the idea for “Out-of-Most-Worlds Planet Cessation Extravaganza.” It wasn’t a retelling of the Fyre Festival (nothing could top the original!), but it was inspired by it. A small idea, about bling blinding event managers to the impact of their vision (in this case, how it affected the island inhabitants).

It’s a small thread in a giant messy ball of crazy yarn that I pulled out of that story, but it worked for my writing voice.”


Derek: “What are some of the other small ideas that have influenced some of your work?”


Marie: “I lump family stories into small ideas (because they have a more personal reach, I suppose?), and have used quite a few in my works! Nigh is a bit of a retelling of one of my family legends, for example. My Irish great grandmother, Mary Grant, had a sister named Alexandrine (or cousin? Some close relative, anyway). My dad gave me Alexandrine’s old pocket watch a few years back, along with its mystery. We know she was engaged to the gentleman who gave her this watch, but they were never married. And we have no idea why. She kept this watch to her dying day (after a long life) and passed it down the family line until it became mine. Why would she keep it? Did the young man die? Did he vanish? What happened?

Out of that family legend I imagined Hector Henry Featherson, a World War I soldier in the throes of PTSD who steps into a fairy circle a hundred years ago only to step back out now, finding his world and love gone, but still able to make a difference…

I see those little ideas as more personal, I suppose, and more unique to each individual.”


Derek: I love the way an object can inspire a story. I know that Ray Bradbury used to use objects around his office to inspire stories. Do you find that you often use objects as inspiration for new narratives?


Marie: “I love ephemeral objects as part of my writing process. Things that are here for the duration of the story. A marked change in my writing space, welcoming the new story to tea. For the Destiny series, my main character was a florist, and I’d get flowers for my writing room. For some stories, I just change the lights on my keyboard to a specific pattern (I have a fast and fancy gaming keyboard). I used to switch locations completely at times, like going to a convent to write (when leaving the house was a thing). Failing that, I now cater my little writing space for each story. So, I guess it’s not so much as items necessarily inspiriting the tale, but more items helping to create the right atmosphere for the story.”


Derek: You mentioned that you also do storytelling work. How has the current pandemic climate changed that kind of work for you?


Marie: It’s honestly blown it completely up! There are online storytelling gigs, but love having the audience in the room with me. They’re a part of the story. Their reactions inform how I tell the story. Their energy feeds me. I’d prefer waiting for those moments of magic to be possible again then try to capture a fraction of it online. Some people pull it off spectacularly well! But it’s not the teller I am. I’m hoping that vaccinations will make spooky tellings possible this fall. It’s my favourite telling time of the year!


Derek: You know I have to ask about your love of She-Ra. What inspired your adoration of her and has she inspired any characters in your own stories?


Marie: “I loved watching She-Ra as a teen. She was kickass, wore heels and a cape, was kind and a healer, fought an evil empire, rode a magical flying unicorn…what more could I ask for??? I loved that she represented strength, while still being feminine. That she wielded a sword and still healed. It was an example I desperately needed and craved as a kid. And I was just as inspired by the new She-Ra!

I haven’t based a character on her per say, but she inspires that dichotomy, that contrast in characters. No one is all good or all bad. Even warriors can have a soft touch. And everyone deserves a winged unicorn (though I’ve yet to write one in a story).


Derek: As we finish up our interview, is there anything you want to add or tell readers about yourself? Are there any current projects you are working on that you can tell us about?


Marie: The third book in The Guild of Shadows series, Hell Bound, is currently available for preorder, and it’s going to be another crazy fun adventure. With lots of death, but lots of giggles, too! I’ve also got another project I love, Wishstamp, which I invite you all to check out (


Marie Bilodeau is an Ottawa-based author and storyteller, with eight published books to her name. Her speculative fiction has won several awards and has been translated into French (Les Éditions Alire) and Chinese (SF World). Her short stories have also appeared in various anthologies. In a past life not-so-long ago, she was Deputy Publisher for The Ed Greenwood Group (TEGG). Marie is also a storyteller and has told stories across Canada in theatres, tea shops, at festivals and under disco balls. She’s won story slams with personal stories, has participated in epic tellings at the National Arts Centre, and has adapted classical material.


Derek Newman-Stille, MA, PhD ABD (They/Them) is a Disabled, Queer, Nonbinary activist, author, artist, academic, and editor. They edited the anthologies Over the Rainbow: Folk and Fairy Tales from the Margins (Exile) and We Shall Be Monsters (Renaissance Press) and are the 8 time Prix Aurora Award-winning creator of the digital humanities hub Speculating Canada. Derek has published in fora such as Uncanny Magazine, The Playground of Lost Toys, Quill & Quire, Fireside Magazine, Diamond Book Shelf, The Town Crier, Exile Quarterly, and Nothing Without Us. Derek’s art work has been published in fora such as Feminist Space Camp, Lackington’s, Postscripts to Darkness, and Aging Activisms.

Derek Newman-Stille Interviews Nathan Caro Fréchette

Derek Newman-Stille

Writing and publishing during a pandemic has been challenging to say the least. Small presses are closing. Conferences are going online. And yet, opportunities still exist.

So, we’re excited to both introduce SF Canada’s newest member, Derek Newman-Stille, and to share their latest interview. In the Q&A below, Derek talks with Renaissance publisher Nathan Caro Fréchette to explore the origin and development of a small press.

Keep reading for a fascinating and very personal perspective on creating and promoting work by and for marginalized authors. Including Nothing Without Us, an anthology co-edited by Talia C. Johnson and SF Canada member Cait Gordon.

You may recognize Derek as the author of the Aurora-winning blog Speculating Canada, as well as numerous short stories and anthologies. Both Derek and Nathan’s bios are included at the bottom of the interview.


Interview with Nathan Caro Fréchette About Small Presses and Canadian SF Publishing

By Derek Newman-Stille


Nathan Caro Fréchette

Derek: Welcome to another interview Nathan. I am looking forward to catching up and seeing how you are coping with the COVID world. To start our interview, could you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Nathan: Sure! I’m a queer, transgender dad, and I’m also an artist, a writer, a publisher and one of the people in charge at Renaissance Press.

Derek: I’m glad that you mentioned Renaissance Press. I was wondering if you could share a little bit about how Renaissance Press started?

Nathan: Absolutely! So what seems like another lifetime ago, I used to teach creative writing. I did this for a few years, and a couple of my former students and I formed a critique circle when I stopped teaching. A year or two into this critique group, two of our members got publishing contracts – one with a really big publisher. They brought the contracts for me to look over, and they were terrible contracts: the publishers wanted things like lifetime of copyright without any possibility of reverting the rights back, wanted print and audio rights even though they explicitly only wanted to publish an ebook version, things like that. The contracts were so terrible that I had to recommend they pass on the opportunity, which broke their hearts – and mine.

I ranted to a friend about this, saying I didn’t understand why publishers weren’t friendlier to their authors, because I saw it as a partnership, and my friend just looked at me and said, “Why don’t you start your own company?”

So with the help of a few friends, I did.

Derek: Wow! That must have been tough to see. And I have to say, terrible contracts seem to be pretty regular in the publishing industry. I’m so glad that you created a press that would better represent authors and support them.

Nathan: Thanks! It was really the primary goals of Renaissance – we wanted a place where authors would be truly supported and understood, and be able to have some creative control even though they would be traditionally published.

Derek: Small publishers play and important role in Canadian SF publishing. What do you feel are some of the benefits of being a small publisher, especially in the Canadian SF market?

Nathan: One of the benefits is definitely the very personal relationship we have with our authors. We can have honest discussions about what they want, and because there aren’t a whole huge team working on the book, every step can be personalized to reflect what the authors really want. I wouldn’t want to give up that close relationship for the world; there’s just something magical about being the person who gets to be there when they see their cover for the first time and see their reaction when you’ve done it just right.

As for other advantages, it allows us to publish more hybrid titles, or titles that don’t fit neatly in one genre, because we don’t have a huge catalog of titles to market, we can really focus on each book’s possibilities instead of only worrying about which book shelf it’s going to be on, if that makes sense.

Derek: That personal touch is so important!!

What are some of the hybrid titles that Renaissance has published?

Nathan: For example, one of our most recent titles, Murder At The World’s Fair, is a young adult steampunk murder mystery set in an alternate past. Or, one of our upcoming titles, Cypher, is a sci-fi mystery, and because of its preoccupation with puzzles, the book itself is filled with actual puzzles to solve, so it’s a book, but also kind of a game.

Our anthologies also tend not to be limited in genre, but are multi-genre, such as Nothing Without Us, which is centred on positive disability representation, but has everything to humour, to hard sci-fi, to slice of life.

Derek: I really like that space for writing innovation and imagining new possibilities.

Nothing Without Us actually brings me to my next question. Originally Renaissance Press billed itself as a small Ottawa publisher, but a few years ago the press changed to highlight the fact that you publish marginalized authors. What inspired the change in focus or perhaps change in how the press was represented?

Nathan: Well, after a few years of publishing books, we sat down and tried to narrow down our editorial policy so that we could make more informed decisions about what we published. So far, the only criteria was books we fell in love with, but we started falling in love with too many of our submissions to publish them all. So we took an actual look at what really drew us in most of the time, and what really made us excited to publish a book, and we realized we were naturally drawn to stories that were by and about marginalized people, which at that point had mostly been disabled and LGBTQIA2P+ people. We were also noticing that a lot of the complaints from authors around us included the fact that there was a lot of gatekeeping in the publishing industry preventing marginalized authors from publishing, and since Renaissance was made to elevate the voices of those who were often left behind by the industry, it seemed like a natural conclusion that we would focus on marginalized authors.

Derek: Often the larger presses tend to be more conservative and are reluctant to adopt books about marginalized people that are written by marginalized people. Do you feel like small presses have a stronger ability to do this and how so?

Nathan: I’m not sure I would say a stronger ability, because the truth is these are choices that we make as a business and any business can make that choice. But I think that being a smaller business perhaps helps us do it right, because the close personal relationships we can have with our authors helps us understand their goals a bit better, and the fact that we try to cultivate a close relationship with our audience helps us find the right public for the book, I think, because we market each book differently.

Derek: Well said. I think that close personal relationship is essential for supporting marginalized authors, particularly from groups that are often silenced.

Are there some examples of that personal touch that you are comfortable sharing?

Nathan: Well, I don’t want to get too much in the details because it can get quite personal, but for example I’ve had authors who have felt comfortable enough to come to me with questions and speculations about their gender and sexual orientation, about their mental health, and a lot of other things, and I think I can safely say I’ve developed a lot of close friendships with my authors. On top of that, I know of a few who have ended up finding support and a community in their audiences, as well as other Renaissance authors. Our author community is very tightly knit, and I think each Renaissance author has made friends and grown not only their audiences but their communities by publishing books with us.

Derek: What does it mean to you, as a marginalized person yourself, to be able to provide this space for other marginalized people? What is it like to elevate voices and do social justice work while also entertaining people with great books?

Nathan: It means more than I have the ability to say. It’s so special to me to be able to transform these incredible stories into beautiful books that the authors will be proud to hold, but also to be able to place them in front of readers, and top off all that joy with actual money for the authors. There are few things that thrill me more than seeing a picture of a happy author holding their new book for the first time, or sending nice royalty payments when a book is doing really well.

Derek: You and I are both Queer and Disabled, so this may seem like a question with an obvious answer to both of us, but, why do you feel it is so important that we have marginalized representation, especially in Canadian SF?

Nathan: So often, our stories are told by people who’ve never even met a person like us. It’s not just a question of it being annoying or disappointing: it can be downright dangerous for us to be misrepresented. Mentally ill people like myself are often depicted as serial killers; it’s actually hard to find a depiction of someone like me in fiction that ISN’T a serial killer. This makes people afraid of me, and I’m much more likely to be harmed because of that fear because people might attack me thinking they are defending themselves. The same can be said of transgender people, people of colour, and most marginalized communities. A lot of hate crimes stem from fear, and that fear is often born from and stoked by misrepresentation in fiction.

Derek: I often feel like marginalized people have a unique ability to write speculative fiction, especially since so many of us are already alienated from the very straight, cis, ableist, racist society that surrounds us. Do you feel like we have insights that we can provide to society through our marginalization?

Nathan: Absolutely. As marginalized people, we tend to come up against huge and frequent barriers in everyday life that prevent us from doing a lot of things, or even existing in some spaces. Because of that, we tend to spend a lot of time thinking about solutions and possibilities that people who have fewer or no barriers would never think about, because those possibilities aren’t missing for them. So I think we have a natural ability to imagine worlds where these barriers are removed or worked around in original fashions.

Derek: I’ve been thinking a lot about COVID and its relationship to disability, especially since so many people are still saying “it’s ONLY disabled people who are dying from COVID” as though our lives matter less than others, and I can’t help but think about Renaissance Press’ book Nothing Without Us by Cait Gordon and Talia Johnson. It seems like a well-timed book to elevate disabled voices at a time when the mistreatment of disabled people is so visible in our world. What are your thoughts about COVID and Nothing Without Us? And especially about the need for disability representation?

Nathan: I think that good representation matters now more than ever. I’ve heard it so much, this “It’s only disabled people” and “It’s only old people” as if our lives were somehow disposable. People don’t think of us as people, because they are used to seeing us used as mere tropes with two-dimensional characters in fiction, which is where a lot of people are exposed to folks who might be different than themselves. I often wonder, if stories like the ones in Nothing Without Us were more commonplace, if most people would still see us as disposable or not human enough to be worthy of living.

Derek: Very well said!! Disability representation is so incredibly important!!As a way of creating community while we were all social isolating during COVID, you and Renaissance Press decided to hold a virtual convention. What inspired the convention and why are online conventions like this so important during COVID, but also in general for public access (especially accessibility for disabled folks)?

Nathan: The one comment we got the most often from our audience was “Thank you for doing this, I can never come/stay as long as I want to these conventions usually.” So many people were able to attend and stay longer just because it was online, and they didn’t have to spend spoons dressing, commuting, hire help or sit in uncomfortable (which can translate as painful for some disabled people) chairs in cold rooms with loud ventilation that prevented them from hearing, etc. We made this convention because of COVID, but it will be something we will continue to have for sure, just because so many people were thankful for the accessibility. And we are having our next edition of it this October, in partnership with SF Canada!

Derek: That is incredibly exciting. In addition to all of the horrors caused by COVID, it seems to have opened up some new opportunities for re-thinking things.

Nathan: Yes! I hope future events might take the opportunity to do hybrid events which are partly online partly not in the future

Derek: How do you see COVID changing small presses in Canada?

Nathan: There have definitely been challenges, that’s for sure. But one thing that’s been easier is organizing things with authors who live really far. We have an author in Vancouver, for example, and organizing launches was going to be difficult because we were looking at long travel times, but now with online events it makes everything smoother and easier to organize. I think it’s going to make us closer as a community of authors and presses.

Derek: That is fantastic!! I love the way that these new changes are bringing people together in unique and exciting ways!

Where do you see Renaissance Press going from here? What are some of the next steps for the press?

Nathan: We have our next big event in October, and after that, we will be having more online events twice a year. We have wonderful, amazing books that are coming out later this year which I’m very excited about, and in fact, our publishing calendar is full all the way to 2022, so we have lots of exciting things coming!

Derek: How about your own writing – are there any exciting new projects coming up?

Nathan: Well I have a book of queer fairy tale retellings coming out soon with an fellow author. We’re illustrating the book, and it’s going to be absolutely gorgeous. Other than that, I’ve been working on a graphic memoir of my transition and my relationship with my partner.

Derek: Your memoir sounds fascinating!! Can you tell us a little bit about it?

Nathan: Absolutely! So it talks about all the times in my life where I thought I might be transgender, starting from when I was five years old. It’s told in small vignettes, and it incorporates all of my 16-year relationship with my partner, since her own transition was hugely impactful on my transition.

Derek: That is incredibly powerful!! I look forward to reading it.

As we wrap up our interview, is there anything further you would like to mention or anything I missed talking about with you?

Nathan: I think that’s all I wanted to say!

Derek: Thank you Nathan. I really appreciate you taking the time to talk to me and share your insights.


Nathan Caro Fréchette is a queer transgender sequential artist, publisher, and author. He has published over a dozen short stories, both graphic and prose, as well as five novels, three graphic novels, and two works of nonfiction. He has taught creative writing over a decade, and has a degree in Film Studies and another in Sequential Art. He was the founder and director of the French Canadian literary magazine Histoires à Boire Debout, an editor for the French Canadian graphic novel publisher Premières Lignes, and is a co-founder of the Ottawa-based publisher Renaissance.


Derek Newman-Stille, MA, PhD ABD (They/Them) is a Disabled, Queer, Nonbinary activist, author, artist, academic, and editor. They edited the anthologies Over the Rainbow: Folk and Fairy Tales from the Margins (Exile) and We Shall Be Monsters (Renaissance Press) and are the 8 time Prix Aurora Award-winning creator of the digital humanities hub Speculating Canada. Derek has published in fora such as Uncanny Magazine, The Playground of Lost Toys, Quill & Quire, Fireside Magazine, Diamond Book Shelf, The Town Crier, Exile Quarterly, and Nothing Without Us. Derek’s art work has been published in fora such as Feminist Space Camp, Lackington’s, Postscripts to Darkness, and Aging Activisms.