A Flood of Fiction

Well, a flood of two parts in any case. But we are not bound by convention – nor, generally painstaking exactitude – in this shadowed realm of expressive freedom and dadaist verbiage, are we?

Of course not!

And so, without further ado, I give you parts 1 and 2.

And … oh dear, a rhyme. How, unexpected.

Well, moving on …

Part the First

(In Which We Do Contest Yea Mightily)

Oh, Mr. Pun, you are so funny. And so ubiquitous. Who indeed can stay mad at you?

Ahem, yes. To the point:

The Friends of the Merril Collection, those delightful people with whom I work as you may recall, are holding a Speculative Fiction Contest. Callooh! callay! O frabjous day!

(Yes, I know the Carroll quote is out of sequence)

The contest, ever so cleverly titled The Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest opens its doors to the wide world of fiction on November 15th of this year, and the reading period will run until February 15th, 2012. Indeed, you have three whole months in which to make a submission. Yes, it’s true. Three. Whole. Months. Glorious isn’t it?

If it hasn’t struck you by now, I’m feeling more than a little loopy. This is largely because I have been building the contest website over the last several days, as well as getting everything else in order for it. Yes, I’m a judge for it. Yes, I’m building and maintaining the contest website. Yes, I’m still doing my regular work with/for the Merril relating to  Sol Rising. And, yes, I’m still completing my contracted freelance editing projects.

My wrists are very tired.

As you would expect.

Now, speaking to the contest again, the Friends of the Meril Short Story Contest is a pay per entry contest (asking all of $5 CDN per submission). “Why?” you ask? Because not only are the Friends trying to raise awareness of the Merril itself, we’re also trying to raise funds for the Friends of the Merril so that we can a) pay the cash prizes we’re offering (three of them, no less), and b) collect funds to use to aid the Merril as we continuously strive to do. And there’s a reason we do this normally, but right now we’re going all out. Why?

– And here we break for a lengthy interlude in which the author vents his frustration, and expletes as necessary –

Because, for those of you who don’t know, Toronto’s “mayor” (I suppose we do, technically, have to call him that, despite the fact that he refuses to act the role) has enacted a program of brutal “budget cuts” wherein vital city services – like, oh, I don’t know, the Library? – have been asked to cut 10% from their operating budgets. For the TPL that’s $17 million dollars annually. Yes, you read that right. Now, Torontonians have been promised by the newly appointed (guess by who) TPL board members that no closures will occur, and a number of undisclosed “cost saving” measures (it might be nice to actually know what these are) have been enacted to bring the budget down. But there’s still about $7 million or so that the board is trying to figure out how to cut.

Now, here the TPL board has followed their feckless leader’s example. We speak, of course, of the titular mayor who hired KPMG (which is a company with roots in the Nederlands, Britain, Scotland, Germany and the U.S. – every country but Canada really) using taxpayer money to conduct a survey asking Toronto citizens what they would like to cut and how following Ford’s proposed extreme and ludicrous cuts to numerous vital city services (EMS, police and fire services among them). In effect, he asked the citiznery of Toronto to decide where the axe should fall the hardest instead of shouldering that burden himself. But hey, that’s Rob Ford for you – if somebody else can do it he’ll let them, usually for double, triple or quadruple the price, thank you very much private fucking interests. And yes, I too have seen the media release from Rob Ford’s office stating that that little business with the business cards? The one where he hired out a family (his family) owned firm to produce them instead of the city? At four times the price? Using taxpayer money? Oh, he’s paying for that out of his own pocket now. Yes, now. After being caught with his hand in the cookie jar. And would he have offered to pay for this personally had no one noticed? Of course not.

But, back to the new TPL board. They, like Ford, have elected to let the citizenry decide how to do the board’s job for them. There is now a survey up on the TPL website asking people to choose answers from some very badly worded questions  (using multiple choice answers – a format which has a history of proving discriminatory toward people taking tests or surveys whose first language is not the one the test/survey is in), regarding how and what matters to them most, and conversely what they wouldn’t really mind seeing cut.

Now, I’ve seen it stressed here and there by members of this new board that they don’t want to cut jobs, but that doesn’t mesh when you have one of the members of the new board (his name escapes me right now, though I think he’s the youngest member of the newly elected individuals – at all of 30) stating to the press that (and here I’m going to paraphrase because I don’t have the quote in front of me) “if the TPL were to fully automate their system – using the auto checkin/checkout system that has been installed in some branches already – the TPL could function with a quarter of its current staff”.

My first response is “oh, could it now?” My second is “so, we’re not talking about cutting jobs except when we’re talking about cutting jobs, then?” And my last response is a good old fashioned “are you fucking kidding me?”

It is staggering to think on what these people do not know. And from the credentials I’ve seen, not one of them has experience with this kind of archival/cutsomer service system. Oh, sure, one of them sat on the board of a condo library once. Which, you know, totally compares with a system that houses 12 million items.

I … yeah … I just … No. There is no way to properly put into words the absolute blasphemy being committed here against the written word, ideas, and the sanctity of knowledge. It should be said that I am equally upset about all the city services that are being affected by these bullshit cuts. I feel for the people who are going  to lose their livelihoods over this debacle. I’ve been “downsized” before, so I can relate. But never like this.

And yet, for all the things being affected, for me the Library holds a special place in my heart. As an author, as an editor, as a reader, there are acts that tear at the very fabric of the things I hold dear occuring now in my city. And if any of you reading this are Torontonians who voted for Rob Ford, I have  six words for you from the rest of us:

We told you this would happen.

No, really. We warned you. But you just had to protect your cars (thanks, by the way, for helping put someone in office who has been systematically erasing bicycle lanes), and wipe out the public services you only think you don’t use (never really thought you’d need that EMS vehicle until it takes forever to get to you because there are fewer staff and vehicles and they’re now stretched so much thinner, did you? Ditto the police and fire services). All for what, the promise of lower taxes? Did you not think that through? Did you not understand that the taxes you pay directly correlate to the services you receive from your place of residence? No, some slick hick porker tells you he can “save you money” (p.s. this’ll cost you a hell of a lot more in the long run when the next mayor has to repair all the damage done to the city’s services) and you bend over and take it from him.

Shame on you. But hey, maybe you’ll listen to the rest of us next time round.

And now back to our regularly scheduled programming

So, about that contest.

The Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest was supposed to be the subject of this first section, but by sheer tonnage of text it’s been rather massively overshadowed. So I will simply say this:

There is a gorgeous website up for the contest at http://friendsmerrilcontest.com. Avail yourself of it. Look over the prizes. If you write Spec Fic, or have always wanted to try writing Spec Fic, then enter. If you know someone else who you would like to share this kind of thing with, tell them. Spread the word through Facebook, through Twitter, though a blog. Whatever you can do to help, we appreciate it.

And hey, if you’ve got questions, ask me here or on the contest website. Send an e-mail. Leave a comment with a request for a reply. Do whatever works best for you and I’ll do my best to answer in short order.

Part the Second

(Wherein We Find Out That Michael is Currently Out of Ready Puns)

Yeah, it’s true. I’m all punned out for the moment.

But not to fear. There is more news to be had. And this item comes without a long ramble in the middle – I think.

Every December, on the first Saturday of the month, the Friends of the Merril hold a Christmas Cream Tea. This year the date falls on December 3rd, and because the Friends invite a guest or guests each year – last year the Friends had several authors, and both co-editors, from Tesseracts 14 in attendance – this year the Friends are putting on a launch for Innsmouth Free PressFuture Lovecraft anthology.

For those of you for whom the connection is not immediately obvious: I’m in that one.

I, Helen Marshall, and Ada Hoffman will all be in attendance for the launch party. We’ll be doing readings and hawking books. Also signing copies, because, you know, it’s a launch. The Christmas Cream Tea is already a good natured party wherein the Friends sing the H.P Lovecraft Society versions of popular Christmas carols, so we were already kind of heading that way anyway …

In any case, because the Cream Tea involves scones, and whipped cream, and jam, and cookies of all stripe and hue, and tea, and coffee, and now Mythos madness and delicious author readings and good, thoroughly unwholesome conversation, anyone out there reading this who is in the Toronto area and would like to join in the madness/revelry should swing by.

The Friends of the Merril Christmas Cream Tea is held in the basement (totally a misnomer, it’s an auditorium) of the Lillian H. Smith branch of the Toronto Public Library, located at 239 College St. (one block East of the corner of College and Spadina). The Cream Tea starts at 1:30 p.m. and tends to end at about 4:30 p.m.

So, show if you can. If not, wish us well and luck, and many, many book sales.

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