Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Ep 18 - John Jantunen


We're joined by author John Jantunen in this episode. John starts off by telling us about his early influences, including David Gerrold's War Against the Chtorr series, Stephen King, old Hammer horror vampire films starring Peter Cushing, and post-apocalyptic movies like The Road Warrior, Escape from New York, A Boy and His Dog, The Quiet Earth, and Night of the Comet.

We also talk extensively about John's love for the works of Philip K Dick, especially Counter-Clock World; Valis; A Scanner Darkly; Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said; and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? He also discusses watching Bladerunner when it first hit the theatres, what it's like rewatching it now versus his experience as a kid, and how it compares with 'Androids. While John talks about how Dick's weird ideas and the fundamental desperation of his writing were the biggest influence on his own development as a writer, he also discusses the slippery slope of reading too much PKD.

And we go into detail about John's love of the post-apocalypse as subject matter, and specifically the question he continuously asked himself as a kid in the shadow of the Cold War in the 70s and 80s: what would a Canadian apocalypse look like? These thoughts fed into his eventual development of his short story "The Body Politic", and most especially his novel A Desolate Splendor, which we examine.

Our interview took place in December 2016 via a Skype connection between John's home in Guelph, Ontario, and my location in the Lair of bloginhood, located in a cave beneath a hill fort in Kent.

Look for John Jantunen's books in your nearest bookstore or online.

Visit iTunes to subscribe to Invaders From Planet 3 and download episodes, and be sure to rate the show while you're there!


Let the invasion begin!

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Ep 17 - Alyx Dellamonica


Author Alyx Dellamonica joins us in this episode of the podcast. She tells us about her first loves in the genre, including Spider-Man comics, Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time, and Ray Bradbury's The Illustrated Man. We'll also talk about how she grew up in a home where, from a very young age, she was free to read anything, from children's books like Island of the Blue Dolphins, to more adult fare like Jaws.

We'll also talk about her development as a writer, starting with her first attempts at "Dr. Seuss-inspired doggerel" during childhood, to submitting stories to magazines at 16, and her eventual success in getting published. Alyx tells us about how being steeped in the world of theatre helped her writing, and what other writers can learn from the dramatic arts. She also talks about why she feels most at home writing speculative fiction, and we discuss some of her work, including her Hidden Sea Tales trilogy, and her contribution to the 007-inspired anthology License Expired: The Unauthorized James Bond.

And Alyx tells us about some of her latest stories. Those include the short story "Tribes" in the anthology Strangers Among Us: Tales of the Underdogs and Outcasts and "Bottleneck" in The Sum of Us: Tales of the Bonded and Bound — both collections published by Laksa Media as  a benefit for people with mental health challenges. She's also working on a novella, "Of Things" and a novel, Win Conditions — both set in a world of resource scarcity where popularity is like currency.

Our interview took place in December 2016 via a Skype connection between Alyx's home in Toronto, and my studio in the Lair of bloginhood, located on a house-sized chunk of ice in the rings of Neptune.

Find out more about Alyx Dellamonica on her website:
alyxdellamonica.com

Visit iTunes to subscribe to Invaders From Planet 3 and download episodes, and be sure to rate the show while you're there!


Let the invasion begin!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Goodbye and Thank You, Kit Reed

Sometimes life pounces on you like an automatic tiger.

On Sunday, I'd just finished writing something for a client and decided to catch up on gossip on Facebook. A minute after logging in, it felt like I'd been kicked. My wife, hearing me say "Oh no", came in, and asked what was wrong. Kit Reed had died.

The news, posted to her feed by her son Mack, was that she'd gone in her sleep, at 85, after a battle with brain cancer.

Kit was one of my favourite authors. There are a lot of writers whose work I like. There are a few I absolutely love. Beyond that, there is a select core of absolute favourites — the ones whose work penetrates the deepest, and resonates once it gets down there so hard that it rewires my brain. Authors whose books are so damn good that I'm willing to push just about everything else on the to-be-read pile out of the way so I can crack them open as soon as they're available. Kit was one of those.

My first encounter with her work was her novel Thinner Than Thou, probably back in 2006. I don't recall whether I read about it online, or if it just caught my eye on a shelf at the bookstore, but the title just grabbed me, and after devouring the first page, I had to have it. The frankness, the cynical humour, the unflinching examination of what makes people tick and the hypocrisy of society and its portrayals of — and judgements of — weight and body image, the intelligence of the book, and its ability to be deeply dark while still allowing the possibility of hope and redemption were all served up masterfully. The descriptions of a landscape overrun by suburbs and identical mini-malls conjured up the Pretenders' song "My City Was Gone" as the relentless soundtrack to the Abercrombie family's trek to rescue Annie. William Gibson may have talked about the post-industrial tech midden of the east coast sprawl in his cyberpunk novels, but Kit's endless strip malls, though more tame in appearance, were more apocalyptic for their visceral, banal realness and inevitability.

After that, I snapped up every Kit Reed book that I could find.

It would be easy to talk about Kit as an author in comparison with literary giants of the past. She was as incisive as Thackeray, with her surgical dissection of American upper-middle-class individuals in their suburban community in Son of Destruction being as keen as the examination of its Victorian England counterparts in Vanity Fair. Their masks, self-delusions, hypocrisies, crimes, weaknesses and flaws laid bare and catalogued, the characters are then probed deeper for possible (but not guaranteed) signs of hidden strengths or redemption. In her collections The Dogs of Truth and The Story Until Now, she sometimes conjured images as soulful and melancholy as anything from Poe or Hardy. And, in everything she wrote, Kit had the ferocious, merciless wit of Twain. But her voice was all her own. Even when she played with different styles of writing, skipping gleefully and unpredictably between subjects as varied as rampaging giant babies, nocturnal visits from zombie princes, the hunts of feral girl scouts, and the hijackings of entire towns to pale alternate dimensions, you always knew you were reading a Kit Reed story.

There were two tropes in particular that were hallmarks of her stories: the transformation of banal settings into the surreal; and the notion that it's inherently dangerous for an individual to be completely isolated from a group, even if that group is itself in a dangerous situation or place, or making questionable choices. We see these tropes come up again and again in her work, especially her novels, from the theme park secretly doubling as a reality show in Magic Time, to the disease outbreak at the private school/mountaintop prison in Enclave, to the various types of hauntings taking place at the family home/trap in Mormama. Each time, Kit would pick up these tropes and re-examine them from different angles in an attempt to reveal something new and interesting about human beings, and how they behave and see the world — and each other — from within and outside of groups.

Over the years, I had the pleasure of getting to know Kit a little beyond her stories. It started when Mack came across an online review I'd written for one of her books, got in touch, and connected me to her via Facebook. She was warm, sharp, funny, and genuine, and I always enjoyed chatting with her about her stories (I still remember one day when she mentioned someone was trying to get Thinner Than Thou banned from some school somewhere in America, and I replied that it should be required reading — especially at the high school level) or what made a con just the right size to attend, or reading her posts about everyday life — from heading out to the matinee to catch some over-the-top popcorn flick, to baking for company, to the continuing adventures of her little dog, Killer.

It was also an honour and a real pleasure when I had the chance to interview her for an episode of my podcast, Invaders From Planet 3. We talked about a lot of things — the stories that were early influences, her career as a journalist, her own writing — but I think my favourite part of our conversation came near the end when we talked about comics. I listened that episode again the other day when I was in the car, and you can hear her just light up and get so excited talking about Preacher and other comics. Those are the kinds of moments that turn an interview into a delight.

And then the news came down that she was gone. No more new Kit Reed stories to challenge and entertain us. No more warm, thoughtful personality for the rest of us to orbit, whether at the distance of the internet, or — for those luckier than I, who knew her as a friend, family member, or mentor — more closely in person at her home, the university, or cons. Sure, there are other intelligent, entertaining authors who are great people to get to know, but the speculative fiction community is still diminished because she is gone. But then I look over at my bookshelf, at all of her wonderful stories waiting patiently to be revisited, and I think how lucky we all were to experience her work, and to get to know her as a person, if only for a while. And I'm grateful for that.

Thanks, Kit.

Monday, September 04, 2017

Invaders From Planet 3 - Ep 16 - Kelly Robson


In this episode, we're joined by author Kelly Robson. We talk about her first love in the genre, Star Wars — how it was big, exciting and sexy, but also an escape from family drama at home; and what it's like to look back on the movie now as an adult and a professional speculative fiction writer. We talk about other early sf pleasures, like the original Battlestar Galactica; books by Piers Anthony, Anne McCaffrey, Elizabeth Ann Scarborough, and others; and the genre magazines of the 70s and 80s. Along the way, we also discuss the early superhero Zorro (and specifically the George Hamilton movie Zorro — The Gay Blade), and why you may have to read Heinlein before a certain age in order to enjoy his stories.

Turning to her own career, Kelly tells us how the Connie Willis story "Blued Moon" reprogrammed her brain and made her want to become a writer. She talks about the positive aspects of starting her career in middle age, and how, despite writing being a selfish line of work, she's still able to be happy as an author married to another author. We also talk about how growing up on a farm in a small town in rural Alberta has influenced her work.

As well, we discuss Kelly's unique suggestion to resolve the Sad/Rabid Puppies controversy that wracked the Hugo Awards in 2015 and 2016.

And Kelly tells us about some of her recent stories, including "A Human Stain" on Tor.com, and her contribution to the Kickstarter project NASTY — Fetish Erotica for a Good Cause.

Our interview took place in December 2016 via a Skype connection between Kelly's home in Toronto, and my studio in the Lair of bloginhood, located in the rafters of an abandoned whisky distillery in the Highlands of Scotland.

Find out more about Kelly Robson on her website:
kellyrobson.com

Visit iTunes to subscribe to Invaders From Planet 3 and download episodes, and be sure to rate the show while you're there!


Let the invasion begin!

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Farewell to Brian Aldiss

It's a strange feeling being a middle-aged fan these days. When I first started reading adult-level science fiction and fantasy back in the 80s, the giants of the Golden Age and New Wave still walked the Earth, and more importantly, were still publishing. One by one, over the years, the stories stopped, and their lives came to a close. A week ago, Time claimed another: Brian Aldiss.

My first encounter with Aldiss' work was as a teenager in 1989, when I read "Let's be Frank" in the anthology Isaac Asimov Presents the Great SF Stories: 19 (1957), edited by Asimov and Martin H. Greenberg. The short story chronicles the life/lives of Frank, a minor noble born at the time of King Henry VIII, who passes a genetic mutation down to some of his descendants, causing them to become new vessels of his consciousness. They are not clones/separate versions of Frank; rather, a single mind existing simultaneously throughout every member of the family who shares this gene (like a fully biological version of The Borg from Star Trek: The Next Generation). This allows Frank to live forever, gain wealth and power, and eventually spread his mind across the world until, through his many descendants, he constitutes about half to two-thirds of the Earth's population. It was a clever little story, and a bit funny, but there was something sad (though this isn't reflected in the story's tone — it's just my impression) and disturbing about it too, with all those new humans being born, but more and more of them just being more and more of the same old Frank, rather than unique individuals.

Over the years, I read other Aldiss short stories and novels from time to time. Some, like Super-State, were okay reads, but didn't leave much of an impression, while others, like Frankenstein Unbound, were absorbing, unsettling and left a permanent mark (the protagonist desperately treading existential water as realities shift around him with increasing frequency; the mating dance of the monsters). On the shelf right now, Harm and the Helliconia trilogy are still waiting for me to crack them open. There were also movies based on his work: Roger Corman's version of Frankenstein Unbound wasn't very good, but Spielberg and Kubrick's A.I. — Artificial Intelligence (based on "Super-Toys Last All Summer Long") was deeply affecting in places (Teddy settling resignedly back as David leans forward against the windscreen of the submerged copter, desperately praying to the Blue Fairy statue in the murky distance for ages until their power cells run out gets me every time).

One afternoon at Worldcon 2014 in London, I was trying to choose between a number of program options. One of them was a session with Brian Aldiss. While the other panels, presentations, etc looked interesting, I thought there aren't many chances to sit and listen to one of the giants of the field reminisce, and (yeah, I know, this was a bit morbid) Aldiss wasn't getting any younger, so there might not be many more to come. I met up with my buddy Geordie (who has some nice stories about meeting Aldiss at conventions throughout the years) outside, and, along with way too many other fans, we jammed ourselves into a room that was much too small and listened to Brian talk about his life and his work. Sure it was uncomfortable seating, and yeah, the AC just couldn't keep up with the heat generated by all those bodies, but it was worth every minute. Brian was funny, charming, and interesting. At the end, the con organizers wrapped up the session by leading us all in a rousing chorus of "Happy Birthday". I'm glad I had the chance to be part of it.

Brian Aldiss died on August 19, 2017 at the age of 92.


What are your memories of Brian Aldiss and his work? Share them in the Comments section below.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Invaders From Planet 3 - Ep 15 - David Nickle


Author and editor David Nickle joins us for this episode. He tells us about works of speculative fiction that influenced him early on, including the TV series Lost in Space (and what it has in common with Larry Niven's Ringworld), Lester del Rey's novel The Runaway Robot, and the stories of Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Richard Matheson, Shirley Jackson, Harlan Ellison, and Stephen King. On the subject of enjoying King, David talks about how he and his wife, author and editor Madeline Ashby, read a chapter of Salem's Lot out loud every night before bed. But also in our discussion of the giants of the genre, he also explains why Robert A. Heinlein isn't among his favourites.

On the subject of being an author, David recounts the tale of his first stab at writing: dictating Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons fanfic to his mother for transcription when he was four. He talks about how being a journalist has helped his writing. And David shares his thoughts on whether national identity plays a role in writing Canadian sf these days. He also discusses the challenges he and Ashby faced as co-editors wrangling the legal ins-and-outs of the anthology License Expired: The Unauthorized James Bond, which was released only in Canada due to copyright laws.

And David tells us about his new book, VOLK: A Novel of Radiant Abomination.

Our interview took place in December 2016 via a Skype connection between David's home in Toronto and my studio in the Lair of bloginhood, located in a bunker beneath a picnic table at Long Beach near Tofino.

Find out more about David Nickle on his website:
davidnickle.blogspot.ca (a.k.a The Devil's Exercise Yard)


Visit iTunes to subscribe to Invaders From Planet 3 and download episodes, and be sure to rate the show while you're there!


Let the invasion begin!

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Winners of the Dark Tower Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the Dark Tower Giveaway, Geordie Howe and Carol Williams!

Carol and Geordie have each won a copy of Stephen King's The Gunslinger (the first book in his The Dark Tower series), courtesy of Simon & Schuster Canada.

Enjoy!