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September 14, 2016
Guest Post By Jack Hostrawser
This year, The Word On The Street is embarking on a mission to spotlight the best in Canadian writing (and drawing!) that ventures into the unknown. Hosted by Lesley Livingston and Leah Bobet, the Genre Zone Stage will present diverse anthologies, beautiful graphic novels, and nail-biting mysteries that all, in their own way, turn our everyday world on its head. You’ll be treated to readings by the authors and discussions of their methods, inspirations, and future projects.
Years and years ago, I took a class in university to fulfill a “Humanities” requirement. I chose a course on science-fiction, thinking that it would at least be less dull than “Wallpaper Patterns in 19th Century Fiction.” To my happy surprise, the sci-fi course wound up being one of my favourites. Some of the most challenging, most lingering, most inspiring ideas I encountered in my whole undergrad confronted me in that lecture hall. The Genre Zone Stage at The Word On The Street promises to be a launch pad for the best that genre writing can offer—taking us where realist writers may not dare to go. Below, I’ve pulled together a selection of some of the showcases I’m looking forward to on the Genre Zone Stage this year at The Word On The Street.
ChiZine Magazine has been publishing the best of the strange since 1997. In 2009, they expanded their operations with ChiZine Publications, which publishes whole books of, as their website puts it, “the same kind of weird, subtle, surreal, disturbing dark fiction, and fantasy that Chizine has become known for…” I really like getting surprised by the ideas that show up in ChiZine stories, so this is a showcase I definitely won’t miss. On the Genre Zone Stage, three authors will present their latest publications.
The Role of Lightning in Evolution is a book of speculative poetry by Aurora prize winner David Clink that contains many award winning poems. Ian Keeling brings a witty sense of humour to the fast-paced world of The Skids, which imagines a violent world of robots called Skids built for battle. Another very proper book of poems that well-adjusted adults will enjoy rounds out the Chizine presentation. Very Sensible Stories and Poems for Grown Persons by Jason Taniguchi is in all ways acceptable and certainly has no secret intentions to play with your mind.
Chester Brown builds upon the startling re-evaluation of society’s relationship with prostitution that he began in Paying For It with a new graphic novel that explores the place of “the world’s oldest profession” amongst early Christians. Mary Wept Over the Feet of Jesus adapts and investigates several biblical stories in the light of Brown’s own research, which suggests that early Christians were pro-prostitution and that Mary herself may have been a prostitute. Brown won the Harvey award for his deeply researched graphic novel Louis Riel, and once again brings a vivid, relevant, and challenging vision of history to modern readers. This is fascinating territory sure to ruffle a few feathers, and that’s exactly why I’m so interested in hearing what Brown has to say.
More exciting comics cross the stage with The 6ix In Four Colours, which gathers three fascinating new comic books from Toronto artists in one place! Ever since I stumbled onto a collection of thought-provoking comics based on The Matrix as a kid, I’ve had a secret love affair with the comics form. It will be great to discover a handful of great new work from local artists.
Jason Loo will read from The Pitiful Human Lizard, the story of a struggling Canadian superhero trying to balance newfound powers with a tight budget. A cast of vibrant, multicultural characters and loving but cheeky attention to detail in its Toronto setting make this series shine with a distinct flavour and strong human interest.
In Nathan Page and Drew Shannon‘s Hardy Boys-inspired new comic series, a pleasant day in the last summer of the sixties goes quickly south for The Montague Twins. The creators will discuss Book One of the series, The Mystery of the Bony Fingers.
#PROJECTSOLACE, by Leisha Riddel, imagines a world where millions of women and nonbinary people suddenly find themselves developing strange powers. Alex Wolfe is one of those women, and she is brought to Project Solace, a government project designed to “deal with” the influx of new superhumans.
The final presentation on the Genre Stage rounds out the day with a powerhouse anthology of non-fiction stories told in prose and comic form by authors like Margaret Atwood (The Heart Goes Last), Mariko Tamaki (This One Summer), Noelle Stevenson (Ramona), and over 50 more creators. The showcase for this collection, The Secret Loves Of Geek Girls, features editors (Stephanie Cooke, Erin Cossar, J.M. Frey, and Cherelle Higgins). They’ll share their stories about assembling an anthology that targets the intersection of love, dating, geek culture, and sex. Geek culture needs to work through some serious issues it has with female representation, and the editors of this new collection will undoubtedly have some very insightful things to discuss after working with so many visionary female writers.
Jack Hostrawser likes old motorcycles, tornadoes, and outer space. And portage trips. And shiny rocks. Read some of his writing in The Dalhousie Review, Existere, The Fieldstone Review, and In The Hills.