The Humanity of Monsters Partial ToC

Yes, I know. All I do these days is tease partial ToCs….

But it was pointed out to me yesterday that as I’m allowing the contributors to The Humanity of Monsters (ChiZine Publications, November 2015) who’ve completed their reprint contracts to share news of their sales, I could also post the names of those writers and their stories here as well (and figured I would also toss in anyone else who’s mentioned the sale on their end).

Which, actually, seems like a rather excellent idea. And, let’s be honest about this, I do love to tease where anthologies are concerned :)

Though I’ve not talked much about The Humanity of Monsters up until now, except to note occasionally in various places online that I was putting the book together, it’s been a long time coming. It’s a passion project, really. One that, as I have been saying to the contributors, is looking at humane monsters, monstrous humans, and the interstices where those states meet and blur, with an eye to gathering stories that intentionally refuse simple definition.

And of course it’s more than that: Any anthology is a conversation. A strictly themed anthology is often a single conversation had with the audience and internally.

This book is not a single conversation.

The Humanity of Monsters ranges all over the place in terms of genre, the discussions it is having with its audience, and the conversations the stories are having with each other. At the heart of it are discussions of perception and othering, but the stories I’ve been pulling together for this book are complicated conversations in and of themselves. Some of them outwardly straightforward, but all of them internally labyrinthine.

So basically I’ve been having an inordinate amount of fun putting this together and am delighted to finally be able to start sharing some of the stories that make up the book.

Now, while I am still actively soliciting more stories for the anthology and continuing to read widely to fill out the contents, the following is the list of authors contractually confirmed for the ToC of The Humanity of Monsters, representing a little more than half of the current stories (I should note that the list below is presented without order as I have no story order yet because the book’s not, you know, done):

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The Humanity of Monsters

(Partial ToC – updated for 10/22/14)

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“Six” by Leah Bobet
“Dead Sea Fruit” by Kaaron Warren
“Give Her Honey When You Hear Her Scream” by Maria Dahvana Headley
“If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love” by Rachel Swirsky
“Night They Missed the Horror Show” by Joe Lansdale
“muo-ka’s Child” by Indrapramit Das
“Boyfriend and Shark” by Berit Ellingsen
“The Things” by Peter Watts
“The Emperor’s Old Bones” by Gemma Files
“A Handful of Earth” by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
“How to Talk to Girls at Parties” by Neil Gaiman
“The Nazir” by Sofia Samatar
“Tasting Gomoa” by Chinelo Onwualu
“In Winter” by Sonya Taaffe
“Theories of Pain” by Rose Lemberg
“Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife” by A.C. Wise

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I’m waiting for contracts to come back on most of the other stories slated for inclusion and I’ll add those stories to the ToC here as those contracts come in. And yes, the other half (now slightly less than) of the book is as impressive as what’s already up :)

So, that said, updates will be forthcoming on the book in multiple respects, but by all means feel free to share this around in the meantime.

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This Patchwork Flesh (Partial) Table of Contents and Re-Opening the Submissions Call

So, had a couple of interesting things happen with This Patchwork Flesh. There had been talk of moving the release date for the anthology back to Spring 2016 (it being originally slated for release in Fall 2015) at my suggestion, for prior reasons, and that decision timed out really well.

Every once in a while you get a surprisingly small batch of submissions for an anthology in an open call. That kind of happened with Start a Revolution, but mostly worked out okay because of the solicitations. Then it happened again with This Patchwork Flesh, this time somewhat more noticeably. Let me put this in terms of numbers:

Start a Revolution had 97 submissions, including solicits.

This Patchwork Flesh had 69.

An ordinary anthology open call, for a semi-pro or pro-rate anthology receives anywhere from 150 to 400 submissions. (Some receive a hell of a lot more, depending on subject matter, theme, and editor. Fearful Symmetries, for example, had almost 1,100 responses, for a whole host of reasons, not the least of which was that it was an Ellen Datlow anthology with an open call – that rare and elusive beast.)

Now, at this point I have a partial Table of Contents for This Patchwork Flesh, and it looks a little something like this (in alphabetical order, by author, since I don’t have a finalized story order yet, obviously):

HORNETS by Charlene Challenger
TEETH, TAPESTRIES by Alex Dally MacFarlane
CALDERA by Helen Marshall
A HUMAN STAIN by Kelly Robson
AND THE WOODS ARE SILENT by Amber van Dyk
JUST A LITTLE SPICE WILL DO by Andrew Wilmot
A GUIDE TO BIRDS BY SONG (AFTER DEATH) by A.C. Wise

Their stories are fucking amazing by the way, so feel free to congratulate all of them on their inclusion in the book if and when you have a chance to do so.

Now, that list fills not quite half the book. And though I have two more writers who will be delivering stories for the book lined up, the fact that I do not have a complete ToC yet means that I am going to both solicit additional writers directly, and that I will be opening the submissions call again.

However, this is to be a limited submissions call. My allotments for non-Canadian content are filled (counting the one last non-Canadian author who will be providing a story, technically), so I can only look at Canadian-authored stories.

Also, I had originally thought to open the book back up to reprints only (I can take up to 8,000 words in reprint content for the book, and will be hunting reprints on my own, but will be happy to read same sent to me for consideration). But screw it, I’m open to reading new content again as well, noting that all submissions must be from Canadians currently paying taxes in Canada (the OMDC’s requirement for being considered Canadian in this context, and that is a firm consideration for what space remains in this anthology).

The revised deadline is March 31st. Same e-mail submission address as always for the QUILTBAG anthologies (adarkandterriblebeauty@gmail.com). Same rules as to content. See the This Patchwork Flesh guidelines page for full details.

I’ll be announcing new additions to the table of contents as I accept work.

In the meantime, feel free to query as necessary, and by all means please spread this update far and wide. I’m especially interested to see more submissions from PoCs. There were a few in the submissions pile, that was awesome, and I am soliciting for same, but I would definitely like to see more, because I’d be much happier with wider representation of PoC writers when the final book is pulled together.

With that said and done, much luck to everyone who is going to submit to the re-opened deadline. Oh, and no more Frankenstein, Frankenstein-pastiche, or Frankenstein-adjacent narratives, kids. I didn’t take any for the book the first time round, and I’ll not be taking any this time round either.

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This Patchwork Flesh: Update 1

Wow, I was not aware that this was the first time I’d actually created an update post containing information that was solely concerning the This Patchwork Flesh anthology until I was putting this together. (Which should tell you how hectic thing have been around here for the last few months.)

In any case, I’m actually creating this update because I’m in the middle of putting together a grant application, and there’s no way I’m finishing that off and getting through all the responses for This Patchwork Flesh in the same two days. So I’m moving the final response date for This Patchwork Flesh submissions to the end of the week: October 4th.

And then I’ve got a couple of announcements/updates to make re the anthology once that’s done.

Thanks for being patient, all. It’s very much appreciated :)

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Updates, and the Diversity in SF/F Roundtable at the Merril

Keep meaning to talk about things here, and always seem to be busier than I expect to during the course of a week. Wouldn’t mind being able to do that once a week blogging thing, but things are a little more erratic around here than that :)

Anyway, various updates:

On Saturday, September 27th, at 7:00 pm, in the basement auditorium of the Lillian H. Smith branch of the Toronto Public Library, the Friends of the Merril Collection will be hosting the Diversity in SF/F roundtable. The event is a wide-ranging roundtable about diversity in the Canadian and North American literary and speculative fiction field, inclusiveness, their various forms, and what works and what doesn’t.

The roundtable will be moderated by Léonicka Valcius, and the finalized list of panelists includes Charlotte Ashley, Leah Bobet, E.L. Chen, Malon Edwards, and Tonya Liburd.

The discussion is expected to range for up to two hours. The Friends had intended to have someone record the panel (ideally audio recording), but I’m not honestly sure we ever got that lined up. So if you’re attending and have the capacity to record the event, please get in touch with me here, or via e-mail (mathesonfreelancing@gmail.com).

Also, please note that the event is free, and all are welcome.

And in completely other news:

The results for the Toronto Arts Council Writers Grants have been released, and though my application was not approved, a number of people whose work I quite like and respect did have their applications approved, which is always cause to celebrate.

This is also where I get to pause and note that Judy Fong Bates was apparently one of the Level Two judges. So Judy Fong Bates read my sample material :D

About this I am also happy. As you may have noticed.

Still, I was hoping to potentially get some funds out of that so I could scale back the hours I work: been working eighteen hour days to make ends meet for … well, for ages, really. Which isn’t really a sustainable state of affairs, but you do what you have to do.

Still, the point of this digression is that much as I would like to be able to scale things back for the moment, I actually need to pick up more freelance editing work. I’ve got available slots in the queue, and I do fiction and non-fiction, so by all means either hop on over to the Editing page, or just feel free to spread the word that I’m available to take on additional clients.

Beyond that, there are other updates coming. At least one publication coming up shortly, which I will link to and blog about when it goes live. An update (possibly several) about This Patchwork Flesh (and Start a Revolution as well, actually) quite soon. And other things still in the works.

So there may well be quite a flurry of updates coming in the near future.

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This Thing You Are Saying My City Looks Like is Not What My City Looks Like

So I might be feeling a little touchy today, for a couple of reasons. And that may in part have led me to post a, well, more or less of a rant on Facebook after discovering a video (via a BlogTO article, “How to Fall in Love With Toronto from 50 Storeys High,” which is the one I quote from below) which is meant to be a love letter to Toronto (“City Rising”), and which kind of entirely misses the point of the city.

But instead of carrying on further here, I’m just going to crosspost my Facebook update on the matter, with the video in question posted below the quoted text. Thought about cleaning it up a little before putting it on here, but fuck it:

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Sharing this not because I agree with the assertion that this is “Toronto at its prettiest” as the article states, or, really, even representative of Toronto at all. This video completely misses the feeling of Toronto.

For all that the city is, in parts, a thing of towers and structures creeping skyward, that is the artificial Toronto. The Toronto in lived spaces is small and quiet, possessed of vast spaces, and at times no room to breathe at all. Even when full to bursting with people it is so much emptier than more populous cities. It is a sprawl measured in shifting landscapes between boroughs, the kind of change you can see walking ten minutes down any street as one neighbourhood yields to another and so on in tripping reel. As greenery becomes desolate piss-poor creep, and back again — in back alleys and graffiti and the rundown at war with the new. In the way the subways flow and connect and divide the city, inadequate and half-measured though they are. It is a city of disconnects, and of variations. Of how things fit together in jigsaw frame, radiating out from the lake in radial pattern northward. As towers and the flash of money gives way to lower and lower skylines, until you have only vast swaths of green broken by sparse structures, and homes, and interstitial landscapes in the northern, western, and eastern corridors outside of the downtown core which we spend so much time focusing on.

The homogeneous landscapes and swirl of lights presented in this video offend me. This is an imposition of a false city, the fable we use to sell our city to the world, over the reality on the ground. This is the tarted up heart of the city, sheened in chrome and steel. It belies the city built of homes and storefronts and towers and ravines and gullies and spillways and patchwork parklands. Of bridges and overpasses and long stretches of highway and small businesses that turn over within a couple of years. Of empty wounds where institutions long in memory and tooth stood, and the gaping wounds felt but not yet made where still more institutions of the city will be ripped up in short measure. It fails to address how Yonge Street splits the city like a backbone, barely holding together its too-heavy halves on either side.

It is a city of crushing poverty and rampant homelessness crashing up against the tidal breaks of money and obliviousness everywhere. Perhaps most noticeably in the Financial District, down along Bay and Front and elsewhere, where it’s not just the men in three-piece suits that actively ignore the homeless begging change from doorways and sidewalks or over grates shedding heat from the subway vents.

This is not a slick city. It is a contradiction. Always under construction, always rebuilding and reshaping itself. Condo towers rising in skeleton arc from the bones of the pavement. It is *ugly* in its revision of itself, in its willingness to forget and pave over. And beautiful still for its denials and its truths, and for its constant seeking to re-engage with the past it is actively denying. History is a complicated thing here. A political statement as much as an actual act of preservation.

I have lived all my life thus far in this city. I can find no measure of familiarity in a video like the one linked below. I can come closer to seeing the city I know in another video mentioned in this article, “Toronto Tempo.” But still, they are both of them spending too much time looking down at the city. The only way to see Toronto for its beautfiul, ugly, conflicted self is to look up, feet planted on the ground, and to walk its contours, with the weight of the city folding in over one with every step.

Apparently it was a day for a rant. Who knew?

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And the video in question, “City Rising” (created by Tom Ryaboi – http://vimeo.com/51137834 for more information):

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Bumping Up My Freelance Editing Rates

Hey all, just a quick note that I am bumping up the freelance editorial rates listed on the website. Been doing the equivalent of just above starvation wages for a while now in order to give people a break, but this is my primary income (along with government grants for the writing), so I can’t really do that anymore.

I’ve evened out the fiction and non-fiction rates (non-fiction was previously more expensive), and I’ve gone back to charging a per page (manuscript usage, so 250 words per page) rate for the editing, with most work costing $2/page, and proofreading at $1/page. The full rate structure (seriously, it’s not complicated) can be found on the Rates page of the Editing section.

Any agreements made at the old rates stand. But the new rates will be applied going forward.

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Review: Acceptance (Book 3 of the Southern Reach Trilogy) by Jeff VanderMeer

Acceptance CoverAcceptance by Jeff VanderMeer
ISBN: 9781443428439
Harper Collins (US: Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
September 2014

As I suspect the following may be unintentionally spoilery, if you are merely here trying to figure out if I am going to offer a recommendation for Acceptance, I am. Strongly. Indeed, the entire trilogy is absolutely worth purchasing, and has been doing some absolutely fascinating things as it’s progressed.

 

You can find discussions of what the prior two books in The Southern Reach trilogy have been doing here (for Annihilation), and here (for Authority).

For those of you who are looking to continue wandering down the proverbial and decidedly cavernous rabbit hole I’ve been spelunking in reviewing these books, by all means continue reading:

For those who have been following along as I’ve talked here, and elsewhere, about the first two books of Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy (Annihilation and Authority), you’ll be aware of just how different each book is from the next. They certainly bear the signs of their connective tissue, but each is a different beast entire.

That being true because though each book examines the push/pull of connection and distance, identity as both a static and shifting function, and transformation and transmutation both in personal and much broader terms, as I stated in my review of Annihilation VanderMeer’s work focuses primarily on three things: perception, transmutation, and revelation. And specifically, though those elements have been present in varying combinations and interactions across the trilogy, it is fair to say that in each step of the trilogy one of those elements has been more dominant than the others, this division of metaphorical labour shifting with each book in the series.

Annihilation’s primary overtone was that of transformation. It was a fast, spare, heady meditation on disassociative identity and how change is, like its affect, a fluid function. That book gave us the first threads of the tapestry that VanderMeer’s trilogy has grown into, set up an initial range of characters for us to work with, and gave us the bare bones of the worldbuilding, despite its extraordinarily rich layering (because the world of the trilogy itself is simply so massive in scope, despite the relatively small stage on which many of its component sequences play out).

Now, when Authority landed, it slowed down the pace of the narrative and forced us to do so as well, to pace ourselves along with the complicated, vast office politics at work in that narrative structure in what was in many ways more of a spy vs. spy thriller replete with espionage and counterespionage, albeit largely in a corporate and laboratory setting. And the book did something else very specific, something most trilogies don’t do: It pulled back and opened up the view of the world we thought we had seen, not redirecting the narrative of the first book, but casting it in new light and changing our perception thereof. Giving us a book focused entirely on how revelation is at once an act of understanding and of obfuscation – of how understanding does not always lead to clarity, nor to perception, for the tools with which we would understand what is being revealed do not themselves always come with the act of revelation.

Given that, the entire effect of Authority was, again, a duality: the novel created a sense of being ripped out of place and presented us with a much wider canvas to observe and (potentially) understand, while managing to immerse us far more deeply in the intricate subtext and undercurrents of the narrative at work. And in my review of Authority I cited the book’s focus on two key elements: immersion, and terroir. Both of which, as foci (as well as functions of the three concepts with which VanderMeer’s work generally concerns itself, as I noted in that last review), serve similar, though distinct purposes: one to engage and subsume; one to ground and create further threads to set up the still wider pattern of the final component of the trilogy.

And it is that final stage of the trilogy, Acceptance, that shows us how little we truly knew of the trilogy at all.

The third book is focused, primarily, on perception. But it is a measured understanding of perception, and a presentation and employment thereof keen to address the idea that perception is absolutely an individual function. And even as that perception acts as a tool with which to decipher the revelations that have been presented throughout this series, and though Acceptance has the most to tell us directly about what is actually going on in the trilogy, the book as presented is not a set of blanket answers. And those looking for absolute revelation would do well to be forewarned that that was never the focus of this trilogy – something which was quite apparent from the first book, but it feels only fair to mention it all the same.

Acceptance is about how the characters present in current predicament (in narrative sections stemming from the events in Authority) and those present at the events leading up to and involved in the creation of Area X (Acceptance jumps around between viewpoints in non-linear fashion), as well as those involved in the fallout from and response thereto, interact with the events themselves, and conduct their lives in light of transformation.

The entire trilogy has, ultimately, though there is a rather specific narrative progression at work, been a look at how people respond and react in the face of change. How they fight, mediate, and acquiesce in the face of irrevocable transmutation, both literal and metaphoric. And in Acceptance, much moreso than the other books of the trilogy, VanderMeer has done that by, again, pulling up and out in order to give us a much wider, much more far-ranging sense of scope, and also by giving us multiple streams of perception, all of them operating at various levels and in very different understandings.

It is again, a recasting of the events of the prior two books. Each of which seemed to present a slate of answers or possibilities, but which were, ultimately, still engaged in fairly narrow focus. And even the third book is still a function of particular perception; of a focus relegated to the individuals and protagonists who we follow through different periods and who stand on different sides of the events unfolding.

But there is in Acceptance finally a sense of having the veil torn away entirely. Even though we are only given conjecture (and variable conjecture, as each character deals vastly differently with Area X’s affect and effect) as to the causation behind Area X, the fact of its being and expansion simply an irrevocable given, even as the characters, and we the readers, strive to understand the why of it. Even though the why really isn’t the point of the trilogy.

The act of reading it is, instead, much more about being immersed in sensoria; of being required to engage with the text (and decidedly with the subtext) on an almost instinctual level. Much as is demanded of the characters. For their attempts to understand Area X in human context has always been a fallacy. Area X is not relatable in human terms. There is a gap to be bridged, and the narrative would suggest that it is one meant to be bridged, but not in terms we are, by nature, willing to engage.

And that has in many ways always been the strongest facet of The Southern Reach trilogy: that the books present us with a world so utterly alien that our understanding of it falters when run through human terms and definitions.

The characters and protagonists have been, in all but literal sense, our guides through the untranslatably alien nature of that world. And here again in Acceptance characters from prior books are there for us to engage through and relate to: Ghost Bird, Control, Grace, and others in smaller turn. (Also the Biologist, though I will not spoil the exquisite beauty of one of my favourite passages in the book by discussing that directly here.) But there are other voices given room to work in Acceptance as well: Gloria, Director of the Southern Reach and ill-fated psychologist of the 12th expedition, and Saul, the lighthouse keeper whose role is so much more central than we had previously realized. It is those two characters, specifically, far above and beyond Ghost Bird, Control, and Grace, who form the emotional as well as the logistical grounding of the book. Their relationships and transformations (across multiple strata of the trilogy’s fairly complex layering, and in very personal context as well) render them exquisitely human, even as they stop being so and become things entirely other – that understanding ranging from literal othering to something far more figurative.

Their characterizations are so deeply appealing, and so well-cast that they in some ways come to overshadow Ghost Bird and Control, who were in their own rights extremely strong characters, with a great deal of presence on the page. And that, too, is a strength of the books: we experience the world in, around, and in conflict with Area X through a variety of perspectives grounded in fully fleshed out characters, all of them with their own flaws, and needs, and wants. And those do not have to be the same characters from book to book. As our perceptions of the narrative change, so too do the protagonists we are given to follow.

It is the rare trilogy where I actively give a shit about the entirety of the cast of protagonists. And here I do find myself investing time, thought, and study into the craftsmanship of each of those individuals, and all the myriad components that form them. And through those characters am invested in the discoveries and patient peeling back of layers relating to Area X itself.

That because the novels are, like Area X itself, a form of ecosystem. With Acceptance their heart – a masterful stroke since Acceptance is the macro view of that trilogy, and I suspect most writers would have tunnelled in and down with a concept like this, rather than gyring out as The Southern Reach books have done – the entire trilogy becomes about the concept that fuels that final book: perception. It becomes a discursus on how being able to perceive, and not being able to perceive, sometimes subtly, sometimes radically, changes the world in turn, and people as individuals more particularly.

And a part of that conversation, too, is a byproduct of the position given to Area X in Acceptance’s structure, in that Area X is allowed directly to be a much more natural function of the narrative here, even while it is given full character and understanding (again, a term applied in multiple contexts) in light of the narrative’s throughline. Though that, again, is a matter of perception, potential anthropomorphization of something more abstract and conceptual (or, at least, more a function of something not human, if not truly conceptually based), and the overlaying of terrestrial understanding on something which is only partially to be understood.

It is specifically because of that willingness to step back from explaining everything to us in broad or refined detail that Acceptance is such a powerful conclusion to the trilogy. At its close, the trilogy leaves us with the understanding that everything is rooted in very personal terms, no matter how human or not those may remain to be. It is the maintenance of that small and personal scope in the face of world-shaping change that will stand this trilogy in excellent stead in years to come.

At this point it’s too early to tell the book’s full impact on the literary and thematic landscape into which it has been thrust, but The Southern Reach trilogy as a whole feels like a touchstone work; the kind of thing to which others (writers, and readers) will turn and return to, mine and build on. A thing which takes on a life of its own and informs, if not becomes directly part of, a larger canon.

And in that context, as well as all the others I have covered in these three reviews of its component parts, as a whole The Southern Reach trilogy really is quite an extraordinary achievement.

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