Aurora Eligible Works

I’ve  been adding works to the Aurora Award Eligibility lists as I do most years if I can find the time. This year I have added stories and poems from They Have To Take You In. The Hidden Brook Press CMHA fundraiser anthology I edited last year includes original speculative stories and poems including Robert Runte’s The Missing Elephant, Tapanga Koe’s Orange and Amber, Michael Matheson’s Zhezhi, Robert Priest’s About the Creation of Life on Earth, Colleen Anderson’s Family Tree and Donna Langevin’s Lethe. The last three are eligible in the poem/song category. Please consider nominating these worthy writers before the deadline at the end of April.

Around the Gyre, my full length essay on Ruth Ozeki’s novel A Tale For The Time Being, appeared in The New York Review of Science Fiction in September 2014. It is eligible under Best Related Work. The writing of this essay was funded by the Ontario Arts Council and you can read it here.

Here’a an excerpt:

“In Japan there is a mythical being, the jishin namazu, or Earthquake Catfish. He punishes human transgressors to his realm by causing earthquakes and is only held in check by a large stone wielded by a minor deity, who pins the kanmae-ishi or stone to the catfish’s head. Following this thread of story, we might surmise that the earthquake which caused the March 2011 disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi plant happened because the caretaker deity of the shrine had taken a nap or left for a meeting. The meltdown occurred because the stone was understaffed.

The catfish has a relative or alter ego or some such, the way these things go in myth, called the yobaoshi namazu or World Rectifying Catfish. Ozeki tells us that

belief in the world rectifying catfish was especially prevalent during the early nineteenth century, a period characterized by a weak, ineffective government and a powerful business class, as well as extreme and anomalous weather patterns, crop failures, famine, hoarding, urban riots, and mass religious pilgrimages, which often ended in mob violence. The world rectifying catfish targeted the business class, the 1 percent, whose rampant practices of price-fixing, hoarding, and graft had led to economic stagnation and political corruption. The angry catfish would cause an earthquake, wreaking havoc and destruction, and in order to rebuild, the wealthy would have to let go their assets, which would create jobs in salvage, rubble clearing, and construction.

Which catfish caused the accident, the “jishin namazu” or the “yobaoshi namazu? Is it true, as a December 2013 Reuters article tells us, that homeless men in Sendai are being “recruited” off the streets by yakuza gangsters and coerced to work for minimum wage, on the largest nuclear cleanup in history?

The World Rectifying Catfish, seemingly, would have something to say about that, as it can hardly be described as an improvement to an already dire situation.

In August 2012, I traveled to Japan with my older sister and my niece, 15 years old, close to Nao’s age. It was over a year after the Fukishima disaster, and we wouldn’t go north of Tokyo, we promised our nearest and dearest, not even to take a quick look around before we headed back south where, allegedly, the fruits and vegetables were still safe to eat. Unfortunately, the numbers depend, as is always the case in these matters, on whose readings you believe, and what their vested interests are.

My niece is one of the many Japanophiles of her generation, having grown up like my own kids watching Ultraman and Sailor Moon and, later on, Neon Genesis Evangelion. She read stacks of manga to the exclusion of much else and eventually pursued this interest into a study of the language. I learned that she knew more than she was giving away when, standing in Tokyo Station one afternoon trying to decipher the way to our bullet train, she removed her ear-buds and said “That way,” calmly pointing to one of the many tentacle-like corridors.

“But how do you know?” I asked. For all I could tell a little map-fairy had whispered the answer in her ear.

“Because it says so.”

“Where does it say so?”

She pointed to one of the countless signs encrusting the overhead beams.

“Right there.”

“You can read kanji?”

My niece nodded. “Some.”

Before we went to Kyoto, we visited the old capital of Kamakura, a town south of Tokyo boasting both a large, hollow Buddha (you can get inside its head) and the important Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gū shrine (鶴岡八幡). We visited a man, a friend of my aunt’s, who has been living in Japan for almost 20 years and has learned basic kanji, which encompasses over a thousand characters even though it is the short version taught to children prior to middle school. As with cursive in North America, the longer versions are not taught as much as previously, hence Ruth-in-the-book, Nao and her parents spend a fair bit of time researching the meaning of some of the rarer characters.

A Tale for the Time Being includes footnotes, (some of them in kanji) and as such resembles another of my favorite novels of recent years, Roberto Bolaño’s Los Detectives Salvajes.

As I get older, I find myself lamenting, books that knock my socks off become rarer. We have just read too many books; it is harder to impress us, and so, a little disconsolately, we head back to some “classics,” read or reread a Russian or two, Moby Dick orMiddlemarch if we never got around to them. But the contemporary world is reflected by contemporary authors: that, arguably, is what novels are for and what they do best. They do it better than television or film. It’s the way they can get inside things: a character’s head, the time in the world which the characters are inhabiting (the time that the time beings are inhabiting, as Ozeki would have it).

The footnotes in Bolaño’s book tell us wonderful things, such as which characters in Los Detectives Salvajes are stand-ins for which real-life poets in the Mexican infra-realism literary movement, called Visceral Realism in the book. Another thing the novels share (aside from being immersively rich, dense, and layered) is that both boast a main character, also a writer, who is barely distinguishable from the author. In both cases the writer has the same name as the book’s author, although Bolaño’s poet protagonist has a different first name. Bolaño’s trick was also employed by Bret Easton Ellis in Lunar Park, which was nominated for the World Fantasy Award in 2006. As writers we exist, of course, both within and without our work, and blurring and/or exploring this line can be delicious for the author and intriguing for the reader.”

The rest is available at the link above.

Additionally, my 2014 single author collection, Harvesting the Moon, is eligible in the Best Related Work category. H the M was published by the rightly acclaimed British genre press PS and illustrated by award winning Quebec illustrator Francois Thisdale. Thisdale’s gorgeous cover art is eligible in the Artist category. It was a dream come true to have an illustrator of Thisdale’s calibre for my book; please support this incredible artist and vote for him. Below is a lovely image about writing from his website.

Thanks so much and happy voting!


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