Nominations, Readings & Conventions, Oh My!

Much life stuff has happened and I’ll either write about it in another post or I won’t, but for now, this is what’s coming up:

First, I’ve been meaning to post about this for a while because it’s super-exciting.

Two of my recent story publications are eligible to be nominated for the Aurora Awards this year!

“A Winter’s Tale”
The Shadow Over
Portage & Main


Tomorrow’s Cthulhu

Both can be nominated by anyone with a CSFFA (Canadian Science Fiction & Fantasy Association) membership.

CSFFA memberships are only $10, are available to all Canadians, and allow you to decide what gets picked for best Canadian SF&F for the year.

Right now, the stories are only in the eligibility stage. Nominations close May 6. (Which is a little under two weeks!  Eeek!) I of course would love it if you’d nominate my stories, but you should nominate whoever you think is best, regardless of whether or not I’m among them.

The nice thing about being nominated for the Auroras is that even if you don’t win, your story gets read by a large number of people.  For me, that’s almost better than being picked for an award.  So I’m super excited at being eligible and hoping beyond hope that at least one of my stories can get the 5 votes needed to be fully nominated.

I’m also the current volunteer webmaster for so if you do have trouble navigating through the website or otherwise need help voting, give me a shout and I can help.

In other news…

The Shadow Over Portage & Main was nominated for a Manitoba Book Award.

We didn’t win, but it was still a huge honour to be considered in the same category as the other titles we were up against. Everyone involved was super delighted about it.

I’m going to be doing a short reading this Monday

One of the Shadow Over Portage & Main authors, Jeremy Strong, is having a book launch at 7pm, this coming Monday at McNally’s and asked me to read something of mine briefly at the start.

So I’m going to be the opening act for this awesome event.

I’m going to be teaching 3 seminars in the next few months for the MEA.

I still need to write up the details but two will be creative writing workshops and one will be a technical information session on how websites work. They will take place on Saturday afternoons at the Millennium library on May 27, July 15 and August 19.

And finally,

Keycon invited me to come as an also-attending author!

I’m participating on seven writing panels (and running a couple of them) and in addition to all the fancy writing guests of honour, I’ll be hanging out with the likes of Lindsay Kitson and Timothy Gwyn. If you are coming to Keycon, please do come say hi.

Lindsay and I are notorious for disagreeing with each other about damn near everything to do with writing, and having both of us on so many of the same panels is bound to be the cause of a great deal of amusement for everyone involved.

Do you have a moment to talk about our lord and savior?

So… Here’s something you need to understand about Cthulhu: Everyone’s favourite Great Old One was a personification of everything H. P. Lovecraft hated and feared.

stuffed cthulhu

Now, I love Lovecraftian Weird fiction as much as anyone… possibly a bit more than most.  I own a dead tree copy of every story and poem the man wrote and I’ve read them all.  I wouldn’t say I’m an expert, but I’ve got an MA in English and I’ve done some pretty darn extensive hitting of the books on this.

So I’m speaking from an educated position when I  tell you:  Lovecraft was an artist of the written word and he made some cool art.  You might find it a little purple, but hey, I can appreciate purple.   Lovecraft was also a human and had human failings, one of the more egregious of which was that he was a racist asshat. And not just mildly racist.  Really racist. We’re talking wildly unacceptable foaming-at-the-mouth racist.  I direct any incredulous confused individuals to his extensive collected letters if they need any proof of this historical fact.sketch of Cthulhu by LovecraftThematically, in his writing, Lovecraft was especially obsessed with the concept of biological and cultural contagion: of the dreaded mingling of races.  His horror is based on pure unadulterated xenophobia.  Lovecraft was repulsed by the idea of people of different racial and cultural backgrounds living peacefully together.  Diversity, inclusion, respect for all people, and especially, immigration, refugees, and the idea of helping people who need it, welcoming them for the simple fact that they need somewhere to stay and we have room… these were things Lovecraft felt were a threat to everything that was good and right (and white) in the world.

And the cosmic horror he imagined to embody the stuff he felt threatened by:





This guy:






So yeah, I’m pretty fond of Cthulhu.  I dig me some Lovecraftian narratives.  I even write me some Lovecraftian stories from time to time.  Damn right I do.

cthulhu chick tractBecause I want to summon Cthulhu.

No seriously.  I mean it.

I want to summon Cthulhu all over the earth.

If inclusion and human rights and helping people is the bad guy, then put me in line to be eaten first.

Ia! Ia! Cthulhu Fthagn!


Here’s some links I found where you can donate to help summon His Squidliness, if, like me, the recent news has made you feel like the world needs more assistance:



In addition, I did some web-digging and this is the website for the mosque that was attacked tonight in Quebec:

Yes, the website is in French.  (Two official languages, yo!) All you need to know is “Faites un Don” means “Make a donation” and if you’re wanting to do so with your credit card, “Faites un don et recevez votre réçu d’impôt.” is what you need to click on.   If you put a note that you want your gift to go to those who were harmed, I am certain that, whatever language you use, they will be able to figure it out.

If you find any other links which provide concrete ways of helping humans currently affected by the current political shittiness going on in the world, please feel free to stick them in the comments.

Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn!

Creative Writing Class… Taught by me!

From my event posting at

In the frozen wastes in the howling winds of the North, there is a city known as Winnipeg. Writers live here. Some of them don’t even know that they are writers. Some of them only suspect it. Some of them know, but do not often have time to write, or need inspiration, or find hope and encouragement in gathering together.

It is cold here, in the frozen wastes in the howling winds of the North. But there is magic and beauty here.  There is hope and conflict and sorrow.  There are humans (and sometimes non-humans) here with stories that need to be told.

And only you can tell them.

Come, storytellers, whether this is your first story, or your hundredth.  Come through the frigid tundra to the library.  Come sit, surrounded by books, in the centre of a labyrinth composed of shelves upon shelves of narratives and knowledge. 

The cold is not a deterrent to us.  It is a crystallization of purpose.

In the centre of the city in the frozen wastes in the howling winds of the North we will assemble and, together, we will write.

The workshop will be on January 28, 2017 at the Millennium Library from 1-4PM.  There is a registration fee, and it does cost more for non-Members of the MEA (although you can always buy a membership if you’d like).

For more information, please visit the MEA Website.

Thin Air International Writer’s Festival – Shadow Over Portage & Main – Weird Winnipeg Reading

So, I’m reading at this event on Sunday:

Now, there’s a few reasons why this is cool:

  1.  It’s the Winnipeg International Writer’s Festival
  2.  Because I’m reading for the festival, I get to go to the rest of the festival
  3.  It’s not during the day during the week, but at night, in a cool venue, and they’re serving alcohol!

I’ll be reading with someone else who is awesome, and it’s in celebration of The Shadow Over Portage & Main anthology we’re both in.

I’m terribly excited.  🙂

Shadow Over Portage & Main Book Launch – April 20, 7pm, Mcnally’s

The Shadow Over Portage & Main, an anthology of Weird fiction inspired by Winnipeg, is being launched at McNally’s at 7pm on Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Here’s a link to the launch event on the McNally’s website:—-Book-Launch#.Vu7yHfkrKUm

The anthology has a website:

One of my stories, “A Winter’s Tale” is in it.  The title of the story used to be “Memento Mori” but then I realized I could reference Shakespeare and Greek mythology at the same time and that was just too perfect not to go with.

While the book isn’t out yet, you can buy presale copies here:

And there will be copies available at the book launch in case you’d like to get them signed by some of the authors.

Hope to see you there!

RIP Jojo


Jojo died last night.

She was elderly and pretty much hated everyone in that adorable grumpy-old-lady way some cats have.

I will miss her complaints regarding my existence in her space.

She accompanied me through all manner of life difficulties and I lovingly killed her off in fiction quite a few times.  It is very strange to me for her to be gone.

She died loved.  Her last breaths were taken with her head in the palm of my hand.  It is not a bad way to go, dying while being held by someone who loves you.  It’s certainly not something I’d object to for myself.

Story Birthday! Tomorrow’s Cthulhu

Tomorrow’s Cthulhu is out today!

You can get it from the Broken Eye Books website, and

You might notice something when you go to the publisher’s website:  There’s a quote from the book at the top of the page.  That quote is from my story.

There’s also something you might not notice until you buy the book (in any format) and it’s had me jumping about in glee:

“Tangles,” my story, is the first one in the anthology.

Please note: any story that gets into an anthology like this is pretty damn fantastic.  They paid me professional rates and it’s available on Amazon as well as in both hard and soft cover dead tree (paper!) formats.  But in addition to that, “Tangles” was chosen to open the whole book.  When I asked if the order was going to stay that way, Scott Gable (the editor I was working most with) said: “We loved your story and thought it really set the tone for the anthology” which is just about the most ego-inflating thing one can really say to a writer.

I have a special fondness for this story.  I wrote it quite a while ago and I’ve worked on it for a very long time to make it shiny.  I’ve read it at several events over the years and each time I’ve done so, there’s a point near the end where someone in the audience either gasps or says “oh shit” or otherwise has a reaction when they connect the dots just slightly before everyone else, and that always fills me with glee because it means I did my job right.   I’ve wanted to see this particular little monster find a home for so very long and it’s finally got one.

I figure that on the birth day of the story, it’s appropriate to tell the story-behind-the story.  So I direct your eyes and clicky fingers to this math-game-thing: which I will warn you is disturbingly addictive.  It’s an illustration/example/mental instantiation of this math here:

This is a fast play video of someone doing level 20:

I was shown this particular flavour of madness by my friend Dan, back in our days working in the call centre together and I dove into it with my usual level of obsession when I find something especially shiny.

Sleep deprivation plus sideways mental stimulation does indeed result in an altered state of consciousness (at least for someone as able to hyperfocus as effectively as I sometimes can).  And there is a point described in the story where one turns away from the tangle and starts seeing the world differently.  That totally happened.  It’s true. I got high on math.

I didn’t speak to any Great Old Ones, though.  And no dogs or humans were murdered/dismembered/dissolved as research for this story.

Well… not that I remember…

One of the things I’m especially curious about is to find out if people reading the story gender the narrator.  I always envisioned the narrator as masculine/not-gendered, yet every time I’ve done a reading someone has mentioned they figured the narrator was feminine (and/or simply just an extension of me – which is even more disconcerting, considering what happens in the plot).   I’m intensely curious to find out if the printed text removes that assumption.

I was also told people might review the anthology.  I hope they are not horrible, but even if they are, feedback is important and I want to receive it.  It’s hard to track down these things though, so if you know of anywhere with a review of Tomorrow’s Cthulhu (or if you have posted a review up somewhere yourself) please let me know so I can link to it.

I’m tempted to bake my story a birthday cake, but I’m also far too lazy so I’ll just link to a picture of a cool one here:



Do you know what your fake cats are doing?

One of the things I’m interested in, and this tends to fall under the general umbrella of “media theory” is the intersection between narratives, interactive fiction, and games.

Stories are powerful things. Whole religions are based around them. One of the main goals in advertising is to tap into people’s self-narratives. We buy, vote, and make almost all of our life decisions based upon choices we compare to either stories we’ve encountered, or to the internal story we’ve (often unconsciously) created for ourselves.  These interactions between external and internal stories tell us who we are.

That we can be changed by the stories we encounter is a well known idea. What is especially intriguing to me is when stories allow some amount of freedom (real or imagined) in the participants. This is where Interactive Fiction comes in.

I’m very drawn to Interactive fiction and how it can be used to tell (and create) stories. Interactive fiction and choose your own adventure stories are also the roots of electronic gaming as we know it today. While there are non-narrative video games, most of them incorporate some form of narrative structure, even if it is just tacked on at the end after everything else is done to add cosmetic appeal. But the reason that even completely non-narrative gaming often has a narrative skin added on to it is because it increases people’s attraction dramatically. We want stories, even shitty ones, even if they have nothing to do with the game mechanics or the actions users take within the interactive experience, because stories keep us interested.

I find this fascinating and the idea of what a game is, versus what a story is, is equally intriguing to me. In many ways stories keep us going through all manner of ridiculous activities just because we want to find out what happens next, even if “what happens next” is something we get to choose. (The same could be said about life, no?)  And we are even more attracted to games where we can influence the outcome of the narrative in some way.

That’s why one of the most recent apps on my phone confuses the hell out of me: Neko Atsume (also known as ‘the stupid cat game’). The basic concept is to attract stray cats to your back yard, which you fill with food and toys to please them.

But the part that fascinates me utterly is this: You don’t actually play this game. You make changes to the settings and then you have to turn the game off (or at least pause it so the app is not running on your phone) in order for the game to progress. In essence, this is a game the user cannot play. The game plays itself.  The user is just along for the ride.

When you are running the app you can move things around your yard, photograph any cats which might be there when you opened the game, and buy things with the fish your cat visitors have left for you as gifts in exchange for their enjoyment. But the actual part of the game, the narrative aspect, where cats come and go from your yard, gift you things, play with toys, etc. doesn’t happen while you’re playing the game.  (In fact, it doesn’t happen at all.  This “game” is just  a series of random number generators which create statistics based upon what you’ve left in your yard and how long it’s been since you last opened the app.)

The only way anything happens in the game is if you close it. (This is not unlike certain felines who only play with toys when humans are not looking.)

I’m utterly baffled by the logistics of this setup (that you play the game by not playing the game), that the “narrative” of the game is purely something you construct outside of the actual “game play” and by the fact that it is notoriously addictive.

Neko Atsume has it’s own subreddit.  Any time I mention it to someone they go “oh yes, I’ve heard of that, the stupid cat game” or they tell me they’re already playing it.  And while this is normal considering I pretty much live under a rock and never know what all the cool kids are doing, it speaks to the vast level of appeal this app has to people. The volume of players this game has is enormous.

I’m sure part of the attraction people have toward Neko Atsume is the visuals. They’re cute, they deal with subject matter that is cute, and everything about the app is geared toward the “d’awww” effect. But cute alone doesn’t explain the mass appeal. Otherwise you could make a ton of money by writing an app that just does a Google image search for “cat” and shuffles photos. There’s a lot more going on that just cute, and I think that what is going on is narrative, or possibly the denial of it, which has the effect of creating a narrative gap, which the players then mentally fill.

Part of what’s going on in the game is an interaction with the self-narratives of the people who are playing it. This would be the simple “I like cats, cats please me, I will play with this thing that has to do with cats.” But again, that’s not enough to explain the app’s mass appeal. What I think is happening, and what fuels the engines of desire people have for playing this game, is the idea of being attractive to cats (which are themselves attractive) while simultaneously not being able to interact with them. It’s the dangling carrot of wanting something you cannot have, which therefore makes you want it more.

It is also called “kitty collector” (which may or may not be a translation – I don’t know).  This appeals to the inner OCD within many people. “Catching” all the potential cat personalities within the game is one of the goals.

There’s two levels of collecting cats in this game. The first is having them visit your yard when you aren’t there. You are left a note with the cat’s name, what they played with, and a gift from them in thanks (silver or gold fish). The second level of collecting is when you log in and snap a photo of the cat enjoying something in your yard. To do this second type of collecting you need to check in semi-frequently on the hopes of pausing the game play at the appropriate time – which is such a random and strange game mechanic to me.

I suspect it’s not unlike the psychology behind scratch and win tickets. Each one could be a winner until you look. And people do look, often (at least according to the Internet, which is as reliable as it ever is). They make up stories about their fake cats, they tell stories to each other about their experiences with their fake cats, and they definitely incorporate their game play into their own self-narratives. (One image posted to Reddit showed someone looking at their Neko Atsume app in the foreground, with a bunch of people dancing in the background at the nightclub they were obviously in. This was a statement of nerdiness, as well as social isolation and companionship with others who also would prefer to play a phone app than interact with other partying drunk humans in that situation.)

I guess I’m just baffled by the inverse logic which, contrary to my intuition anyway, is so powerfully effective. It’s a game you play by not playing the game. I don’t know how you’d write a story like that: a book you read by not reading the book? How would I make people addicted to that? By making it cute? I’m pretty sure children’s literature has that covered and you don’t see the entire internet diving into that with intensity. Maybe a children’s book you can’t open? I have no idea.

I wonder what my fake cats are doing now…

Beware of Turtle