Sarah Connor and the Strong Female Character

Terminator (1984)

Terminator (1984)

I had the opportunity to rewatch the original Terminator (1984) with my son last night on Netflix. He’s getting to that age where he’s mature enough and patient enough to sit through “classic” grown-up films that I enjoyed and form part of my pop culture DNA.

The point of my post, was not so much my son’s reaction to the movie (which was interesting in itself), but rather my own thoughts about  Sarah Connor and the role of the strong female character.

OLD MAN ALERT: I first saw Terminator in probably the summer of 1985 or 86 when I was a teenager. It was a year or two after it had been in theatres when it showed up on a FREE preview weekend of The First Choice movie network on pay-TV in Canada. I sat mesmerized watching it late one night, riveted by the action and Brad Fidel’s score. Since then I have probably watched it a dozen or more times and have probably owned it on everything except LaserDisc and Betamax(Yes it was released on both those formats.)

We’ve all come to view Sarah Connor in general, and Linda Hamilton’s version in particular as the definition of a strong female lead. There is no denying that she’s all that, but oddly I think that when you ask most people about Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor they picture this:

Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor in Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)

Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor in Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)

And not this version below:

Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor in Terminator (1984)

Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor in Terminator (1984)

Obviously the first one looks more “badass” than the other, but the second one is no less strong a female lead than the other.

In the original film, Sarah is a young waitress working a thankless job at a local family diner and sharing an apartment with her friend Ginger. Just a girl in her 20s trying to figure out her place in life. She’s caught up in this unbelievable and traumatic experience  as she targeted by the Terminator that will stop at nothing to kill her. (Spoiler Alert!) Sure she triumphs in the end , but through it all she reacts as many of us might; with disbelief, shock, tears, fear, and anger. You know normal human emotions given the circumstances.

Sadly, it’s not just Sarah’s reaction in the circumstances that makes her a “strong” female character, but rather our own low expectations of female characters in similar circumstances. The fact that she perseveres and goads on a critically injured Kyle Reese in the final battle is due to the fact that the director and writer Cameron has allowed her character to go through those events and survive.

Having all the answers and being tough as nails is one way to have a “strong character”. Another more realistic way is to allow them to be human, show emotion, and have weaknesses, and STILL triumph. This applies to both male and female characters.

Not to steal away from Sarah’s character, but take a moment to contrast the two male lease, the Terminator and Kyle Reese. While the Terminator can rely on his virtually indestructible nature to survive, emphasized by Arnold’s hyper-masculine body builder physique,  Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn) and his “average” male physique by contrast  must rely on the strength of his wit and loyalty to John Connor to survive. Even though human and weaker physically, Reese is a stronger and well rounded character as we learn what motivates him and his passion to save Sarah.

Cameron has been held up as one of those pioneering writer/directors in Hollywood that instead of trying to turn women into male action heroes, wrote women characters that were true to themselves and their femininity and still saved the day. Thankfully we’ve had more creative people, both male and female come up through the ranks in the last 30 or so years that also believe in creating believable female characters that carry the story on their own.

In Equality Now speech, May 15, 2006 Joss Whedon related a story where he was asked “So, why do you write these strong female characters?” again and again by reporters during press junkets.  His variety of responses were thoughtful and revealing, but he ended the story in frustration and his final response was “Because you’re still asking me that question.”

I try to write strong characters in my own stories regardless of whether they’re male or female. In my story “Second Harvest”, Charlotte is young nurse serving with the Canadian Army in World War I and has seen a lot of horrible things. Not just the horrors of war, but also what the doctors and scientists have done with the bodies of the dead in the name of science and winning the war. She’s basically had a mental breakdown and has been discharged and returns home, where she has to confront her role in the war. I think through it all her humanity is what carries her forward. She has a compassion for those that have suffered at the hands of others during the war and eventually wants to balance the injustice.

Maybe, it was seeing characters such as Sarah Connor as an impressionable teen that helped shaped my views in some small way. I just hope I can continue to carry the torch forward in my own writing when it comes to writing believable and strong female characters.

I leave you with a quote from J.J. Abrams another director/writer from my generation that sums up what I’m trying to say.

I don’t try and write strong female characters or strong male characters, I just try and write, hopefully, strong characters and sometimes they happen to be female.

J. J. Abrams

Writer: Level Up!

Writing is a long journey and as a writer it helps to stop and get the lay of the land every once in a while. To pause and look back and to see how far you’ve come, but also l to look ahead at that next summit, catch your breath and say”Let’s do this”.

Portrait of the writer as a young man.

Portrait of the writer as a young man.

I’ve been writing all my life. Most of it spent wandering aimlessly hoping I would hit upon some magic formula for success. (What can I say I was young and naive)  I wasted much of my youth thinking I had all the time in the world to write and that someday I would REALLY crack down and take it seriously. It wasn’t until my wife and I were expecting our first child 12 years ago that I committed myself to this path that I am on now.

I realized then that if I didn’t double down and make an effort that I risked losing my writing to the demands of parenthood and family life. It would be far too easy to say – “I’ll pick it up again when my kids are older and I have more time.” Of course there never is enough time. You have to carve that time out of everything.

I became active in writing groups, both while I was living in Toronto and now here in Sudbury. I attended workshops, read books about writing, and most of all took the time to write. Ever so slowly, its been paying off. My writing has steadily improved and just last year I sold my first short story, Second Harvest to Fictionvale.com.

Back in 2011 one of my writing buddies – Stephanie Charette applied to and attended a workshop called Viable Paradise at Martha’s Vineyard. The workshop is a week long intense session with professional writers and editors in science fiction and fantasy. Here’s how they describe the workshop:

Viable Paradise is a unique one-week residential workshop in writing and selling commercial science fiction and fantasy. The workshop is intimate, intense, and features extensive time spent with best-selling and award-winning authors and professional editors currently working in the field. VP concentrates on the art of writing fiction people want to read, and this concentration is reflected in post-workshop professional sales by our alumni. ~From Viable Paradise website.

Stephanie came back from that workshop a changed person.  She encouraged me to apply practically the minute she stepped off the plane in 2011. I wanted to attend, but I somehow had excuses for not applying each year. Too busy with work. Too busy with family commitments. I can’t afford the money this year. I can’t get the time off work. “Next year I’ll apply” I said. For three years. 

Then 2015 came around and I looked up at that next summit and said “Let’s do this!” My family was on board and I was finally in a position at work where I could manage the time off. I enlisted the help of my writing circle of friends both to be my cheer leading squad and to help me whip my application into shape.

I submitted my application a few weeks before the application period closed and waited – until yesterday when I got the word.

I have been accepted! Look out VP19 here I come! (Well, in 4 months anyhow)

Scott Pilgrim Levels Up

Scott Pilgrim Levels Up

I suddenly feel like I have levelled up as a writer. Ready to take on this challenge. (Okay maybe the true Level Up won’t come until AFTER the workshop, but you know what I mean.)

Thanks to everyone who has supported me along the way on this journey, I couldn’t have done it with out you. I’m looking forward to this next chapter in my writing life and more than just the new skills I will add to my tool kit, I am looking forward to the new friendships and personal connections that will flow from it.

 

Supporting Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy

The Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association (CSFFA) held their AGM yesterday in Vancouver and in addition to the business aspects of the association, the nomination list for the 2015 Aurora Prize were announced.

You can check out the full list here – 2015 Aurora Awards Nominees

As you may recall my short story “Second Harvest” was eligible to be nominated and I wanted to thank everyone who took the time to consider it. Even though my story did not make the final ballot, I can’t be disappointed.  There are so many fabulous authors and short stories that did make the final ballot. We are fortunate to have so much talent writing in Canada and from a Canadian perspective.

While the Aurora Awards are given “to honour the best Canadian science fiction and fantasy literary works, artwork, and fan activities from the previous year” that is only part of the mission in my mind. The larger purpose is to bring recognition to the work that is being created by Canadians in the field of Science Fiction and Fantasy.

If your a long time member of the CSSFA, or just signed up for the first time this year as I did, make sure you take time read what you can of the nominated work (A Voter Package of stories should be available in the coming weeks here Aurora Award Voter Package). Voting runs from June 1st 2015 and will close at Midnight (end of day) EDT on October 17th, 2015.

You can support Canadian science fiction and fantasy, by reading it, writing it, and talking about the stories that move  you with your friends and family. We need to encourage and support both the next generation of creators and fans.

Good Luck to all the nominees.

Canada’s Prix Aurora Awards

In case you didn’t know Canada has it’s own Science Fiction and Fantasy Awards called the Auroras. The Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association (CSFFA) administers the awards which are awarded in a number of categories including Best Novel, Best YA Novel, Best Short Fiction, Best Graphic Novel, Best Poem/Song, Best Related Work, and Best Artist, as well as a number of Fan related categories.

Canadians who have produced work in those categories are eligible to be nominated each year for work produced in the previous year. Nominations are made by members of the CSFFA and once nominations have been closed online voting takes place for several months by the members again to decide on winners.

The reason I am telling you all this is because I only just recently learned that my short story Second Harvest that was published in May 2014 by Fictionvale is eligible to be nominated for the Short Fiction award.

The problem is I just found out that nominations close on April 25th, 2015 for this years awards. That’s this Saturday at midnight!

Now I realize that Fictionvale may not have the readership of other more traditional publications and the fact that even fewer of the readers of the magazine are probably Canadian and eligible to vote in the Aurora Awards, so that’s why I am putting this post together and letting you know.

If you’ve read my story and enjoyed it and would like to support it by nominating it for the Short Fiction award, I would be very grateful. There is a lot of great short fiction being produced by Canadians right now and it would be an honour just to be nominated amongst them.

If you’re interested in nominating my story or someone else’s work head on over to Aurora Awards site (Link: – http://www.prixaurorawards.ca/) and click on Join/Nominate/Vote button on the top menu. There’s one catch and that you have to become a member of the CSFFA to be able to nominate and vote, but its a simple process and only costs $10 for the year. Yes, I realize $10 is a princely sum when you’ve got better things to be spending it on, but by becoming a member you are eligible to receive FREE copies of nominated stories/novels to vote on as part of the voters package. So don’t think of it as a membership fee, think of it as a donation for all the free reading material you are about to receive once nominations close.

Voting begins June 1st and closes Oct 17th, 2015. Plenty of time to read through the nominations and vote on your favourites.

The Aurora awards will be present during SFContario 6 / Canvention 35 on the weekend of November 20-22, 2015 in Toronto.

Thanks for your time and consideration and please take a moment to support Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy. I know I will be nominating/voting for some of the favourites I’ve read this year.

 

Welcome 2015

Chalk up another successful spin around the sun. No earth destroying asteroids. Check. No, global nuclear annihilation. Check. No zombie hordes. (Looks around carefully) Check. So here I sit with the shiny opportunity of another 365 days ahead of me. (Less the 22 1/2 hours eaten up already out of today).

Before I get to plans for 2015, a little retrospective of 2014 is in order. Besides avoiding those world altering catastrophes mentioned above, I did have some highlights worth mentioning.

  • Last Stop PosterIn January 2014 I finished my Playwrights’ Junction Workshop with a public reading of a scene from my WIP by professional actors. You can read more about my experience here: Last Stop with the Playwrights’ Junction
  • IMG_2439In May 2014 I attended a writing workshop with the fabulous Chuck Wendig that was hosted by the Toronto Romance Writers  where Chuck discussed at length his own journey as a writer and helped walk us through some of the things he learned along the way. Great teacher, funny guy, and actually doesn’t swear as much as you would think based on his blog posts at Terribleminds.com. (Fanboy aside: It wasn’t the first time I met Chuck in person, but I did get a great Selfie with him and got to go out to dinner with him and some of the writers from the Toronto Romance Writers so it was an extra special workshop for me.)
  • Fiction Vale - Episode 3 Cover RevealIn May 2014 my short story Second Harvest was published in Fictionvale.com’s Episode 3: A Different Outcome. It’s my first professional sale and a story I’m very proud of. You can get a copy of it here: Fictionvale Store

 

While I’m proud of all I accomplished this past year, I have to admit two of those things – the Playwrights’ Workshop and the publication of my short story – were set in motion in 2013. Not that the lead time diminished the accomplishments, just highlighting the fact that some accomplishments are not finite acts that fit nicely in a calendar year.

So where does that leave us heading into 2015. Well for starters you’ll notice there was no mention of my current novel that I am working on. Let’s just say 2014 may not have seen my best effort on that front. I made some fits and starts on it, but to borrow a phrase Chuck Wendig used during his workshop I kind of felt like I was an old man at the mall, not sure what I had come for when I was working on it this year.

So for 2015 in lieu of specific line item resolutions I am going to pledge one thing to myself:

To Do Better. In All Things.

This includes my writing, relationships with family and friends, health and fitness, my reading habits, and pretty much anything else I can think of. I will strive to do better than last year and not get hung up on what I did or didn’t do previously.

I have big plans for 2015 more of which I hope I can share with you as the year progresses.

I hope 2015 is a good and productive year for all the writers I know out there and whatever your passion is don’t let this precious time slip by. You never know when that next asteroid/zombie horde is due.

 

 

From Hell (2001)

From Hell Poster 2001 From Hell (2001) features Johnny Depp as Inspector Frederick Abberline who becomes involved in the Jack The Ripper case in London in 1888. The film is loosely based on the comic book series by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell that ran from 1989 to 1996 and focuses on one theory that the murders were part of a larger conspiracy to cover up the birth of an illegitimate heir to the British throne.

Released in 2001 the film also features Robbie Coltrane as Abberline’s right hand man Sergeant Peter Godley, Heather Graham as Mary Kelly, and Ian Holm as Sir William Gull a physician to the Royal family. I originally saw this film in 2001 at the Toronto International Film Festival on the morning of September 11th as the tragic events of that day were unfolding. I always wondered if my feeling of detachment from the film was in part due to the events of that day and my inability to focus on the film. After that screening the Festival annouced they were suspending screenings for the remainder of the day to allow people to deal with the repercussions of the attack and out of respect for the dead and missing.

Re-watching it 13 years later, I found that I still did not connect with the film or its content in a way that I would have expected. The Hughes Brothers (Menace II Society, Dead Presidents) do an admirable job directing and the film is stylish and lush to look at, but something is lost in the delivery. The immediacy of the story and the personal stakes of the characters involved never draw me in to the point that I get caught up in the story and forget I am watching a movie. There’s a certain detachment for me that is cross between watching a police drama and a horror story that is focused on the gruesome nature of the crimes.

Johnny’s Depp performance is solid in this movie despite the questionable cockney accent that he employs. Depp’s character Inspector Abberline has visions of the murders that lead him deeper into the conspiracy. Personally I didn’t feel that the visions added anything to the plot and would have been more impressed if it Abberline’s obsession and determination to do the hard detective work was what drove him to solve the case.

I generally like Depp in period pieces such as Dead Man, Sleepy Hollow, and Sweeny Todd to name a few, but for some reason From Hell didn’t click with me and sadly falls fairly far down my list of Depp films.

Blow (2001)

Blow (2001) with Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, and Franka Potente, Rachel Griffiths, Paul Reubens, and Ray Liotta

Blow (2001) with Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, and Franka Potente, Rachel Griffiths, Paul Reubens, and Ray Liotta


Blow (2001) features Johnny Depp as George Jung, a hustler and drug dealer who ultimately became responsible for most of the cocaine flowing into America in the late ’70s and early ’80s from Columbia.

The film boasts a great cast with Ray Liotta and Rachel Griffiths as George’s parents, Franka Potente and Penlope Cruz as his love interests, and Paul Ruebens and Jordi Mollà as his drug dealing partners to name but a few of the players.

TRIVIA Even though they were cast as George’s parents, Ray Liotta is only 9 years older than Johnny Depp while Rachel Griffiths is actually 5 years younger than Depp.

The story is told from George’s point-of-view and we quickly learn that he doesn’t want to live the boom and bust cycle that his father, Fred, lived during the 50s. Fred explains his life philosophy to a young George as “Sometimes you’re flush and sometimes you’re bust, and when you’re up, it’s never as good as it seems, and when you’re down, you never think you’ll be up again, but life goes on.” For George this isn’t good enough and that he’s driven to succeed where his father failed.

A young 20-something George and his best friend Tuna (Ethan Suplee) migrate to California in the late 60s intent on putting distance between him and his middle-class up bringing and to live the easy life of a beach bum. It’s there that George gets a taste for imported weed and soon hits upon a scheme to become drug dealers and middle men.

The business quickly grows exponentially and “Boston George” is soon transporting drugs from the West Coast back to Boston via his stewardess girlfriend. While doing time for transporting drugs across state lines he encounters Diego Delgado (Jordi Mollà) a car thief with important Columbian connections. It’s through Diego that eventually meets Medellín Cartel kingpin Pablo Escobar, who entrusts George and Diego to begin transporting cocaine to the US for distribution.

Once George’s rise to fame in the drug world reaches it climax, the tables begin to turn. The once shiny life of a drug dealer begins to sour as everyone he once loved turns against him.

Depp brings to George the prerequisite amount of swagger and confidence benefiting a hustler of George’s nature and Depp immerses himself in the role as only he can. Ray Liotta and Rachel Griffiths almost match Depp with their ability to age with the characters of George’s parents and only being minimally affected by George’s bullshit and lies. During this re-watch of Blow I found myself imagining George’s story told solely from his parent’s perspective and what a different and interesting story that would be.

As with all films “based on a true story” you have to wonder how much liberty was taken with the facts for dramatic purposes. More so in this case since the source material is based on George Jung’s autobiography and he tends to paint himself in a favourable light compared to some of the other characters. As George’s world collapses and he becomes increasingly disillusioned with the life he’s built for himself, he tends to paint himself as the innocent, injured party and all his ills are caused by others.

Johnny Depp as George Jung in Blow (2001)

Johnny Depp as George Jung in Blow (2001)


I enjoyed Depp’s performance in this film. His ability to get inside the head of the character and embody that person while he is on the screen is something to behold. For the role of George Jung, Depp reportedly met with him in prison and interviewed him. Below is a quote from Depp that highlights his process of understanding the character’s he portrays.

“George Jung is a lot of things. He’s a complicated guy. But first and foremost – what I was really happy to find out – was he is just as human as can be. There is no evil. There is no malice in him. He’s not greedy. He’s just a good man who recognized his mistakes and has to live with his sort of devastation every day. I saw a strong guy when I met him. He’s very strong, kind of ironic, funny, broken man. My opinion is that George Jung has served his time and paid his debt to society. He’s not doing anyone any good rotting away in a prison cell. The guy is rehabilitated. And I’m not sure the system rehabilitated him. I think he rehabilitated himself based on the hideous thoughts he’s had to live with and realities he has had to deal with. I think he has paid his debt to society. I think he could do much more good on the outside. He’s doing work with the DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program right now. He could, potentially, go on the road with DARE and teach kids the dangers of drugs. And he could also pay his debt to his daughter and try to give her a father.”
–Johnny Depp (Reel.com)

While Blow is a solid film with great visuals, storytelling and compelling acting, I found I was more critical of it on this re-watch. I found the veneer of false nostalgia wore on me more this outing than the first time I saw it. Compare it to a similar period piece like Donnie Brasco, where the time period seems ingrained in the characters and the story whereas in Blow I felt it was more for show. That the choice of wardrobe, set dressing, cars, and especially music were all done with careful deliberation to illicit the most nostalgia out of the audience whether or not they have any first hand experience with the given time periods. The other thing that bothered me more on this outing was the selling of George’s story as some corrupt version of the American Dream. George’s story never feels like a cautionary tale to me (whether it should or not is another debate). The first 2/3 of the movie feels like the director wants us to cheer for George as the underdog and the guy who’s exploiting the system and making good. The final 1/3 of the film film feels like its George’s “woe is me” tale where he rages against the injustices of the system and the harshness he is treated with by his friends and family. While I am not expecting Blow to be some documentary on the horrors of the drug trade in America while, all I am saying is that I was more critical of the glossing over of such issues this time.

Mostly Harmless

The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (1979)
The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (1979)

I rarely go back and re-read books. There are just too many books in this world I haven’t read yet to spend time re-reading the ones that I have. Having said that, there are a few I make an exception for.

Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide tot he Galaxy is one of those books. (The fact that it clocks in under 200 pages doesn’t hurt either)

There are those books in my life that have touched me as a great work of art might make an imprint on you the first time seeing it in all its glory hanging on a gallery wall and you just can’t shake the image that it leaves you with. Or there are those books that you read at a critical stage in your life where they just connected with you at that moment and it becomes part of you. And of course there are those stories that are so beautifully woven that you can spend hours (and maybe this is the writer talking) admiring the craftsmanship and editing that went into pulling it off.

For me Hitchhiker’s has a bit off all of that going for it.

Before I get ahead of myself, perhaps a bit of an overview for those of you who might not be familiar with the author Douglas Adams or his great works of art that is the Hitchhiker’s Trilogy*

In a nutshell Douglas Adams cut his teeth writing sketch comedy and radio plays in the UK in the 1970s and came up with the idea for the story while he lay drunk in a field starring up at the night sky while in Austria. He was reportedly carrying a copy of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Europe, and he had the epiphany that somebody should write a “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”. He ended up pitching the idea to the BBC as a radio series that debuted in 1978 and second series ran in 1980. During which time the story had been turned into a book and then developed as a mini-series that aired on TV in 1981. It would eventually get the Hollywood treatment in 2005. I first discovered it via the BBC mini-series when it aired on PBS in North America in the early to mid-1980s.

The story involves a hapless 30-something Arthur Dent, who discovers that his friend Ford Prefect is an alien stranded on earth doing freelance work for the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Ford reveals his true identity to Arthur moments before Arthur’s home is demolished by the town council to make way for an express way, which – coincidentally -is also what the Vogons are about to do to Earth. Ford rescues Arthur and thus they begin their adventures as stowaways on the Vogon ships sent to vaporize earth.

Adams keen sense of humour and biting satire is something to behold. It’s also one of the reasons it’s probably quoted and revered by geeks the world round. I could probably write a graduate thesis on the comedic brilliance of this novel and I’m sure more than one person already has. I most recently re-read the novel this past spring (It took me more than a month because I was SAVOURING IT, not because I’m a slow reader.)

It’s nearly impossible to single out any one line or verbal exchange to sell someone unfamiliar with Adams’ work to sell them on the novel, but Arthur’s reaction to learning what the Hitchhikers’ Guide had to say about Earth is priceless.

Aboard the Vogon ship, not long after the Earth has been vaporized, Arthur has a bit of an existential crisis as he realizes all that he knows is gone and that he is the only known survivor of an entire planet. Arthur demands that Ford show him the entry in the guide on Earth and what it has to say.

‘It doesn’t have an entry!’ He burst out.

Ford looked over his shoulder.

‘Yes it does,’ he said, ‘Down there, see at the bottom of the screen, just under Eccentrica Gallumbits, the triple breasted whore of Eroticon Six.’

Arthur followed Ford’s finger, and saw where it was pointing. For a moment it didn’t register, then his mind nearly blew up.

‘What? Harmless! Is that all it’s got to say? Harmless! One word!’

Ford shrugged.

‘Well there are a hundred billion stars in the Galaxy and only a limited amount of space in the books’ microprocessors,’ he said, ‘and no one knew much about the Earth, of course.’

‘Well for God’s sake, I hope you managed to rectify that a bit.’

‘Oh yes, I managed to transmit a new entry off to the editor. He had to trim it a bit, but i’ts still an improvement.’

‘And what does it say now?’ asked Arthur.

Mostly harmless,’ admitted Ford with a slightly embarrassed cough.

Mostly harmless,‘ shouted Arthur

Adams level of absurd humour and comedic timing are impeccable, not to mention his turn of phrase. Adams, during his lifetime** was a notoriously slow writer and had to be locked in hotel rooms by his editor to get him to finish works and as a result we have only a handful of written novels to appreciate his talent.

One of the lines I rediscovered from the novel during my re-read this year was toward the end of the novel when Arthur is learning about the original purpose of Earth from an alien named Slartibartfast.

He gestured Arthur towards a chair which looked as if it had been made out of the ribcage of a  stegosaurus.

Of course most writers would have been content to leave this bit of imagery and move on, but Adams follows it up with a one-two comedic punch. Here’s the whole passage.

He gestured Arthur towards a chair which looked as if it had been made out of the ribcage of a stegosaurus.
 
‘It was made out of the ribcage of a stegosaurus’, explained the old man as he pottered about fishing bits of wire out from under tottering piles of paper and drawing instruments.

I’d be curious to know what novels other people re-read and what they rediscover when they read them.

Do you have perennial favourites that you keep returning to for a fix? Share in the comments.

*The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Trilogy actually consists of five books.
**Douglas Adams sadly passed away in 2001 at the age of 49 from a heart attack.

A Voice Silenced – Jay Lake 1964 – 2014

Joseph E. Lake, Jr. / CC BY-NC-SA 3.0Photo Credit: Joseph E. Lake, Jr. / CC BY-NC-SA 3.0

I never met Jay Lake, the closest I came was spying him across the lobby at Worldcon in Chicago in 2012. (His Hawaiian shirts are hard to miss). I can’t even say I’ve read his work extensively. Despite having several of his novels lined up on my to-be-read shelf, I’ve only ever read two of his 300+ short stories.

I stumbled upon his story “The Righteous Path” one day in 2009 while reading an SF anthology called Time After Time – Edited by Denise Little. It was one of those stories that make you sit up and take notice. The prose was sparkling, the premise unique and I was just floored. I immediately took to my computer to look him up and write him an email. From that day forward I became a fan of Jay’s and not just for his writing.

On his blog he talked openly of his ongoing battle with cancer (He was diagnosed in 2008) and his writing. He was a generous and giving individual and judging from the outpouring of tributes to him today you know he touched a lot of people over the course of his life.

Jay’s work ethic was something to behold. Even in the face of ongoing treatment he was prolific. It was hard to whine about your own “bad day” when here was this guy dealing with all of this and still making time to write.

Unfortunately Jay wasn’t able to overcome his illness. Toward the end, his updates on his blog became less frequent as the disease and treatments escalated leaving him with little energy to function. When word came last week that he had entered hospice care, we all knew the end was finally near.

It’s always sad when someone so young passes – Jay would have turned 50 later this week. Not only was his life with his family and friends cut short, his voice has also been silenced. I’m thankful for the legacy he has left us and I’m confident that people will continue to discover his writing in the years to come.

When writers die in their prime, I can’t help but wonder what might have been. What else might have they gone on to write? On one hand it’s me being selfish as a reader. Wishing I could spend more time listening to their unique voice, their vision, their dreams/nightmares. On the other hand, it’s me as a writer facing my own fear of not getting an opportunity to share my visions with readers. Jay was only 4 years older than me and much further along in his career. How much time does any of us have in this world to make our mark?

A couple of years ago I saw Canadian musician Rich Aucoin in concert and he performed a song called “It”. One line repeated in the chorus is “We won’t leave it all in our heads”. It made me think that as a writer the challenge is always to get your own thoughts on “paper” and out into the world. It became a bit of a mantra for me. When we die the unfinished stories, the fragments, the works in progress die with us. Our voices are silenced.

Today we mourn the passing of Jay Lake and the loss of his voice and vision.

Some Other Tributes to Jay Lake around the Net:

Countdown to “Second Harvest” Release

In just three days my short story Second Harvest will finally see the light of day. To quote Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead – “What a long, strange trip it’s been.”

As my first publication, it’s a memorable occasion. My first draft for Second Harvest was completed back in the summer of 2010 and after a few critiquing sessions it was ready for submission. It took eight rejections over the course of nearly 3 years and lots of polishing in between before it found a home with fledgling magazine Fictionvale. Initially submitted for their inaugural issue, that was published in November 2013, I was asked if I would consider waiting until Spring 2014 and their 3rd episode for it to be published. They felt it would be a good fit with their alternate history / far future theme they had planned for the episode and I agreed.

Second Harvest is one of those stories that doesn’t fit in a tidy little box. It’s got horror elements, historical elements, and yes – elements of alternate history. Traditional alternate history often concerns its self with critical turning points in history and focusing on the “what if” things had turned out differently. My story takes place in a world where some elements of World War I are playing out differently than we know to be historical true but it also includes some “fantastical” elements. All of which is played out on a rural farm in Northern Ontario far from the world stage.

Having read the first two episodes released from Fictionvale, I’m confident it will be a good fit with the rich variety of stories they publish. There is definitely something for everyone in each episode.

I want to thank Fictionvale editor Vennesa G. for helping make my story the best it can be. The time and care she has taken to help me polish the story one more time before it reaches your hands was a rewarding and humbling experience. I truly believe its the best thing I’ve written to date, but have been trying hard to repeat the feat.

I hope you will join me this Thursday May 15th in buying and reading the 3rd Episode of Fictionvale and celebrating my story and that of the other 9 authors that appear in the issue. You can check out the Fictionvale store by clicking here. By supporting the magazine you make it possible for Fictionvale to continue to publish stories of new and established authors.

The cover art for episode 3 was designed by AngstyG and I think it does an amazing job of capturing the theme of alternate history and far future.

Fiction Vale - Episode 3 Cover Reveal

Fiction Vale – Episode 3 Cover Reveal