Canadian Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror: Bridging the Solitudes [1st ed.] 978-3-030-15684-8;978-3-030-15685-5

Canadian Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror: Bridging the Solitudes exposes the limitations of the solitudes concept s

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Canadian Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror: Bridging the Solitudes [1st ed.]

Table of contents :
Front Matter ....Pages i-xii
Introduction: Bridging the Solitudes as a Critical Metaphor (Amy J. Ransom, Dominick Grace)....Pages 1-28
Front Matter ....Pages 29-29
Colonial Visions: The British Empire in Early Anglophone and Francophone Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy (Allan Weiss)....Pages 31-48
Front Matter ....Pages 49-49
Nevermind the Gap: Judith Merril Challenges the Status Quo (Ritch Calvin)....Pages 51-66
Two Solitudes, Two Cultures: Building and Burning Bridges in Peter Watts’s Novels (Michele Braun)....Pages 67-82
The Affinity for Utopia: Erecting Walls and Building Bridges in Robert Charles Wilson’s The Affinities (Graham J. Murphy)....Pages 83-100
The Art of Not Dying: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel and Oscar De Profundis by Catherine Mavrikakis (Patrick Bergeron)....Pages 101-116
Front Matter ....Pages 117-117
When Are We Ever at Home? Exile and Nostalgia in the Work of Guy Gavriel Kay (Susan Johnston)....Pages 119-133
Reconciliation, Resistance, and Biskaabiiyang: Re-imagining Canadian Residential Schools in Indigenous Speculative Fictions (Judith Leggatt)....Pages 135-149
Indigenous Futurist Film: Speculation and Resistance in Jeff Barnaby’s Rhymes for Young Ghouls and File Under Miscellaneous (Kristina Baudemann)....Pages 151-165
Front Matter ....Pages 167-167
Building Hope Through Community in Élisabeth Vonarburg’s The Maerlande Chronicles (Caroline Mosser)....Pages 169-183
Cruising Canadian SF’s Queer Futurity: Hiromi Goto’s The Kappa Child and Larissa Lai’s Salt Fish Girl (Wendy Gay Pearson)....Pages 185-201
Crossing the (Trans)Gender Bridge: Exploring Intersex and Trans Bodies in Canadian Speculative Fiction (Evelyn Deshane)....Pages 203-218
Front Matter ....Pages 219-219
A Maelstrom of Replication: Peter Watts’s Glitching Textual Source Codes (Ben Eldridge)....Pages 221-237
The Missing Link: Bridging the Species Divide in Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam Trilogy (Dunja M. Mohr)....Pages 239-256
“I Can’t Believe This Is Happening!”: Bear Horror, the Species Divide, and the Canadian Fight for Survival in a Time of Climate Change (Michael Fuchs)....Pages 257-273
Interacting with Humans, Aliens, and Others in Science Fiction from Québec (Isabelle Fournier)....Pages 275-290
Front Matter ....Pages 291-291
Holes Within and Bridges Beyond: The Transfictions of Élisabeth Vonarburg and Michel Tremblay (Sylvie Bérard)....Pages 293-309
Tropes Crossing: On Some Québec SF Writers from the Mainstream (Sophie Beaulé)....Pages 311-326
Transculture, Transgenre: Stanley Péan’s Fantastic Detective Fiction (Kathleen Kellett)....Pages 327-342
Front Matter ....Pages 343-343
Excerpts from A Glossary of Non-essential Forms and Genres in English-Canadian Literature (Jordan Bolay)....Pages 345-361
Back Matter ....Pages 363-380

Citation preview


Canadian Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Bridging the Solitudes Edited by Amy J. Ransom · Dominick Grace

Studies in Global Science Fiction Series Editors Anindita Banerjee Department of Comparative Literature Cornell University Ithaca, NY, USA Rachel Haywood Ferreira Department of World Languages and Cultures Iowa State University Ames, IA, USA Mark Bould Department of Film and Literature University of the West of England Bristol, UK

Studies in Global Science Fiction (edited by Anindita Banerjee, Rachel Haywood Ferreira, and Mark Bould) is a brand-new and first-of-its-kind series that opens up a space for Science Fiction scholars across the globe, inviting fresh and cutting-edge studies of both non-Anglo-American and Anglo-American SF literature. Books in this series will put SF in conversation with postcolonial studies, critical race studies, comparative literature, transnational literary and cultural studies, among others, contributing to ongoing debates about the expanding global compass of the genre and the emergence of a more diverse, multinational, and multi-ethnic sense of SF’s past, present, and future. Topics may include comparative studies of selected (trans)national traditions, SF of the African or Hispanic Diasporas, Indigenous SF, issues of translation and distribution of non-Anglophone SF, SF of the global south, SF and geographic/cultural borderlands, and how neglected traditions have developed in dialogue and disputation with the traditional SF canon. Editors Anindita Banerjee, Cornell University Rachel Haywood Ferreira, Iowa State University Mark Bould, University of the West of England Advisory Board Aimee Bahng, Dartmouth College Ian Campbell, Georgia State University Grace Dillon (Anishinaabe), Portland State University Rob Latham, Independent Scholar Andrew Milner, Monash University Pablo Mukherjee, University of Warwick Stephen Hong Sohn, University of California, Riverside Mingwei Song, Wellesley College More information about this series at

Amy J. Ransom · Dominick Grace Editors

Canadian Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Bridging the Solitudes

Editors Amy J. Ransom Department of World Languages and Cultures Central Michigan University Mount Pleasant, MI, USA

Dominick Grace Brescia University College London, ON, Canada

ISSN 2569-8826 ISSN 2569-8834  (electronic) Studies in Global Science Fiction ISBN 978-3-030-15684-8 ISBN 978-3-030-15685-5  (eBook) Library of Congress Control Number: 2019935561 © The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019 This work is subject to copyright. All rights are solely and exclusively licensed by the Publisher, whether the whole or part of the material is concerned, specifically the rights of translation, reprinting, reuse of illustrations, recitation, broadcasting, reproduction on microfilms or in any other physical way, and transmission or information storage and retrieval, electronic adaptation, computer software, or by similar or dissimilar methodology now known or hereafter developed. The use of general descriptive names, registered names, trademarks, service marks, etc. in this publication does not imply, even in the absence of a specific statement, that such names are exempt from the relevant protective laws and regulations and therefore free for general use. The publisher, the authors and the editors are safe to assume that the advice and information in this book are believed to be true and accurate at the date of publication. Neither the publisher nor the authors or the editors give a warranty, expressed or implied, with respect to the material contained herein or for any errors or omissions that may have been made. The publisher remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations. Cover credit: oxygen/Getty Images This Palgrave Macmillan imprint is published by the registered company Springer Nature Switzerland AG The registered company address is: Gewerbestrasse 11, 6330 Cham, Switzerland



Introduction: Bridging the Solitudes as a Critical Metaphor 1 Amy J. Ransom and Dominick Grace

Part I  Prologue 2

Colonial Visions: The British Empire in Early Anglophone and Francophone Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy 31 Allan Weiss

Part II Bridging Borders: Transnationalism and Postcolonialism in Canadian Speculative Fiction 3

Nevermind the Gap: Judith Merril Challenges the Status Quo 51 Ritch Calvin


Two Solitudes, Two Cultures: Building and Burning Bridges in Peter Watts’s Novels 67 Michele Braun v




The Affinity for Utopia: Erecting Walls and Building Bridges in Robert Charles Wilson’s The Affinities 83 Graham J. Murphy


The Art of Not Dying: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel and Oscar De Profundis by Catherine Mavrikakis 101 Patrick Bergeron

Part III Building Bridges: Constructing and Deconstructing Myths of the Canadian Nation 7

When Are We Ever at Home? Exile and Nostalgia in the Work of Guy Gavriel Kay 119 Susan Johnston


Reconciliation, Resistance, and Biskaabiiyang: Re-imagining Canadian Residential Schools in Indigenous Speculative Fictions 135 Judith Leggatt


Indigenous Futurist Film: Speculation and Resistance in Jeff Barnaby’s Rhymes for Young Ghouls and File Under Miscellaneous 151 Kristina Baudemann

Part IV Bridging the Gender Gap: Transnational and Transsexual Identities in Canadian SF 10 Building Hope Through Community in Élisabeth Vonarburg’s The Maerlande Chronicles 169 Caroline Mosser 11 Cruising Canadian SF’s Queer Futurity: Hiromi Goto’s The Kappa Child and Larissa Lai’s Salt Fish Girl 185 Wendy Gay Pearson



12 Crossing the (Trans)Gender Bridge: Exploring Intersex and Trans Bodies in Canadian Speculative Fiction 203 Evelyn Deshane Part V Bridging the Species Divide: Technological, Animal, Extraterrestrial, and Posthuman Sentience 13 A Maelstrom of Replication: Peter Watts’s Glitching Textual Source Codes 221 Ben Eldridge 14 The Missing Link: Bridging the Species Divide in Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam Trilogy 239 Dunja M. Mohr 15 “I Can’t Believe This Is Happening!”: Bear Horror, the Species Divide, and the Canadian Fight for Survival in a Time of Climate Change 257 Michael Fuchs 16 Interacting with Humans, Aliens, and Others in Science Fiction from Québec 275 Isabelle Fournier Part VI Bridging the Slipstream: Generic Fluidity in Canadian Speculative Fiction 17 Holes Within and Bridges Beyond: The Transfictions of Élisabeth Vonarburg and Michel Tremblay 293 Sylvie Bérard 18 Tropes Crossing: On Some Québec SF Writers from the Mainstream 311 Sophie Beaulé



19 Transculture, Transgenre: Stanley Péan’s Fantastic Detective Fiction 327 Kathleen Kellett Part VII  Epilogue 20 Excerpts from A Glossary of Non-essential Forms and Genres in English-Canadian Literature 345 Jordan Bolay Index 363




Kristina Baudemann  is an instructor and Ph.D. student at the EuropaUniversität, Flensburg (Germany). Her award-winning dissertation deals with futures and futurity in contemporary North American Indigenous arts and literatures. She has contributed to Extrapolation’s special issue on Indigenous Futurism and The Fictions of Stephen Graham Jones (2016). Sophie Beaulé  is professor of French at Saint Mary’s University, Halifax (Canada). Her research deals with Québécois popular genre literature and the slipstream. She is the author of Jean-Louis Trudel (2008) and has contributed to Recherches féministes and @nalyses. Sylvie Bérard is chair of Modern Languages and Literatures at Trent University (Canada), where her research and teaching address French Canadian and Québécois literature, gender and queer studies, and Indigenous literatures. She is also an award-winning creative writer, the author of three novels, a poetry collection, and short fiction. Patrick Bergeron is professor of French at the University of New Brunswick (Canada). He is the author of Nécrophilie (2013), Décadence et mort chez Barrès et Hofmannsthal, and has coedited a volume of essays on French sf (2014).



Notes on Contributors

Jordan Bolay is a Ph.D. candidate in English at the University of Calgary (Canada). He studies questions of trace—the politics of presence in the archive—through the archival fonds of Guy Vanderhaeghe, Katherine Govier, and Robert Kroetsch. Michele Braun teaches English at Mount Royal University in Calgary (Canada). Her doctoral research explored the effects of genetic discourses on the production of posthuman identity in late twentieth and early twenty-first-century British literature. Ritch Calvin is associate professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at SUNY—Stony Brook (USA). He has published work in Extrapolation, Femspec, Science Fiction Studies, and Utopian Studies, and is the author of Feminist Epistemology and Feminist Science Fiction (2016). Evelyn Deshane  is a Ph.D. candidate at Waterloo University (Canada). Evelyn’s work has appeared in Plenitude Magazine, Postscript to Darkness, Strange Horizons, and Tesseracts 19: Superhero Universe. Ben Eldridge  is a postgraduate student in the Department of English at the University of Sydney (Australia). He organized the first academic symposium on the work of Peter Watts at the University of Toronto in 2017. Isabelle Fournier completed her Ph.D. in French at SUNY—Buffalo in 2016 and is visiting assistant professor at Trent University (Canada). Her fields of interest include ecocriticism, the posthuman, and bioethics, which she applied to science fiction from Québec (sfq) in her dissertation. She worked as a medical translator for over a decade. Michael Fuchs  is assistant professor of American Studies at the University of Graz (Austria). He has coedited three books and (co-)authored more than two dozen articles and chapters on American popular culture and contemporary literature. Dominick Grace  is professor of English at Brescia University (Canada). He is the author of The Science Fiction of Phyllis Gotlieb (2015) and over a dozen articles on Canadian literature of the fantastic. He is co-editor of The Canadian Alternative: Cartoonists, Comics, and Graphic Novels (2017) and several other books.

Notes on Contributors   


Susan Johnston is associate professor of English at the University of Regina (Canada), specializing in the novel, popular culture, literary historiography, and adaptation. She has published articles on Harry Potter, A Song of Ice and Fire, and Breaking Bad, among other topics. Kathleen Kellett is associate professor of French and Québécois literature at Ryerson University (Canada). Her research focuses on FrancoCanadian minority literatures, women writers, and detective fiction. She has published essays on Anne Hébert, Jean-Pierre April, Antonine Maillet, Chrystine Brouillet, and Thuong Vuong-Riddick. Judith Leggatt  is associate professor of English at Lakehead University (Canada), teaching Indigenous Literature and science fiction. She has published and forthcoming articles on Indigenous comics, science fiction, and gothic novels. Dunja M. Mohr is assistant professor of English and Cultural Studies at the Unviersity of Erfurt (Germany). She is the author of the awardwinning Worlds Apart? Dualism and Transgression in Contemporary Female Dystopias (2005), and (co-)editor of volumes on xenophobia and 9/11 in American and British culture. Caroline Mosser  is an independent scholar living in Mulhouse, France. She completed her dissertation in comparative literature at the University of South Carolina; her research concerned bioethics and (post)humanity, and she is now applying those theoretical frameworks to the work of Alain Damasio. Graham J. Murphy  is professor of English at Seneca College (Canada). He has published articles in Science Fiction Studies, Extrapolation, and Foundation, and he has contributed to a number of edited volumes. He has coedited two volumes on cyberpunk, as well as Ursula K. Le Guin: A Critical Companion (2006). Wendy Gay Pearson is Undergraduate Chair of Women’s Studies and Feminist Research at the University of Western Ontario (Canada). She is a pioneering scholar of queer theory’s application to sf studies, coediting Queer Universes: Sexualities in Science Fiction (2008).


Notes on Contributors

Amy J. Ransom is professor of French and chair of World Languages and Cultures at Central Michigan University (USA). She has published over two dozen articles on Québécois popular genre literatures and film and is the author of Science Fiction from Québec (2009) and Hockey PQ (2014), as well as editor of the scholarly journal Quebec Studies. Allan Weiss  teaches English and Humanities at York University (Canada). He has published over two dozen short stories in Fiddlehead, Prairie Fire, Windsor Review, On Spec, and Tesseracts anthologies. He is the Chair of the biannual Academic Conference on Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy held in Toronto.


Introduction: Bridging the Solitudes as a Critical Metaphor Amy J. Ransom and Dominick Grace

Canada as a nation owes its roots to twin European colonizing powers, Great Britain and France. Unsurprisingly, Canadian literature generally addresses, with varying degrees of anxiety, these colonial roots, but more increasingly it also writes back to the empire, questioning imperial prerogatives, deconstructing foundational myths, and asserting the ongoing presence of aboriginal communities and the arrival of new ones. The subtitle of this collection deliberately echoes Hugh MacLennan’s classic attempt to describe Canada’s original conception as a nation formed by “two founding peoples.” His novel Two Solitudes (1945) coined the now-familiar eponymous phrase to describe Canada as a nation divided between its French and English heritages. Such a divisive, binary conception is, of course, limited, first and foremost because it erases the priority of the Indigenous peoples already present on what became Canadian soil. Yet, the metaphor continues to inform much thinking about Canada as a nation, both in nonfiction and in fiction—and in fiction of A. J. Ransom (*)  Central Michigan University, Mount Pleasant, MI, USA D. Grace  Brescia University, London, ON, Canada © The Author(s) 2019 A. J. Ransom and D. Grace (eds.), Canadian Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror, Studies in Global Science Fiction,



the fantastic as much as in realist fiction. Much early Canadian sf is concerned with the Anglophone and Francophone cultures of Canada, and how they might develop in the future. However, Canadian literature of the fantastic, perhaps even more so than work in the realist tradition, exposes the limitations of the solitudes concept so often applied uncritically to the Canadian experience. Canada is not two solitudes, internally. Another standard metaphor for Canada is the mosaic, reflecting Canada’s official commitment to multiculturalism and representing the nation not as one thing or even two things (Québec and The Rest of Canada, or TROC, as MacLennan’s paradigm often gets rephrased) but as a glittering array of different things that make up a whole by juxtaposing and contrasting very diverse cultures and perspectives. One of the most explicit invocations of this idea is Guy Gavriel Kay’s The Sarantine Mosaic (1998), which features as protagonist a mosaicist, Crispin, in a book that speaks repeatedly of how mosaic works through a complex interplay of factors: “When you set a tessera by hand into a surface you position it. You angle it, turn it. You adjust it in relation to the piece beside it, and the one beside that and beyond it, towards or away from the light entering through windows or rising from below” (Kay 1998, 283). Though a static form made up of discrete pieces, mosaic transforms those individual pieces into “a dazzling myriad of contrasting colours for a woven texture” (181), “to partake, however slightly, of the qualities of movement that [God] gave his mortal children and the world” (281). From many small, uniform pieces grows a complex and variegated whole. And of course absent from MacLennan’s construction but very much a reality is that Canada as a nation was settled not only by English- and French-speaking peoples but also by emigrants from other nations and cultures (e.g. the heavy Germanic presence in Ontario, Doukhobors in the West, the Chinese in every major urban center, Haitians in Montréal), all of whom came to a country in which Indigenous peoples already existed and who subsequently experienced profound displacement. Indigenous Canada is perhaps the most obviously overlooked aspect of Canada in the “two solitudes” model, Truth and Reconciliation efforts notwithstanding. Indigenous Futurism has become one way of dealing with the Indigenous experience but remains relatively new, both as an artistic phenomenon and as the subject of critical study (see Dillon 2012). The power of the bridge metaphor has not, of course, gone unnoticed by Canadian writers of sf and f. Élisabeth Vonarburg, in particular,



constructs an entire cycle of novellas in which Voyageurs use a machine referred to as the Bridge to move from one universe to another, their adventures mirroring the very act of reading science fiction. With each Voyage they discover an alternative universe to explore and learn from, but, as Vonarburg writes: “Nul ne sait ce qu’on va découvrir de l’autre côté d’un Pont” (Vonarburg 2009, 338; No one knows what one will find on the other side of a Bridge). The essays in this collection analyze how works of Canadian science fiction, fantasy, and horror represent beams in a bridge attempting to bring together Canada’s various solitudes, but sometimes their conclusions are unexpected. From revisioning the historical trauma of residential schools, to rewriting the story of contact onto distant planets in the distant future, to imagining the consequences of the very real problems that divide us, the texts analyzed by our contributors offer critical, frequently dystopian visions of Canada’s future and past. These are largely in the interest of some utopian hope that these imaginary worlds and alternate histories might lead to real change for the better, but sometimes they reveal that crossing the bridge can be dangerous. For the most part, our contributors have chosen to analyze texts that, themselves, cross the many divides that separate Canadians from each other, but also from the rest of the world, applying critical frameworks to texts which, themselves, represent alternate universes for readers to explore, and from which they can develop new perspectives on the shared consensus we call the “real world.” For, as is daily more evident, the contemporary world is increasingly one in which the global rather than the national context is central to an understanding of self and place; the fantastic (especially sf, but other genres, as well) is ready-made for exploring in nonliteral terms the complex and problematic nature of intercultural engagement. The contemporary world is also one in which disturbing trends in current politics are working to build walls rather than bridges and therefore threaten the very idea of bridging cultural, political, and ideological differences. Hence, our focus is not on the antiquated notion of Canada as two (or more) solitudes, but rather on the more productive attitude toward nationhood and cultural engagement suggested by bridging the gaps (perceived or otherwise) between superficially separate groups, regions, and ideologies. At the same time, we and our contributors acknowledge ongoing resistance to a certain globalism fueled by neoliberal capitalist ideology. Thus, the insistence in many of the texts analyzed here on the need for difference to persist in a manner that also fosters the


harmonious coexistence of diverse groups, and even species, on a commonly held globe. The Canadian fantastic, indeed, has been understood as itself forming a kind of bridge between different generic traditions. Early scholars of the Canadian fantastic such as John Robert Colombo sought to identify what was unique about the Canadian fantastic (see Colombo et al. 1979; Colombo 1995; Weiss 2005b). By contrast, David Ketterer (1992), in the first monograph study of the Canadian fantastic, worked to define the Canadian fantastic by locating it between—or perhaps as a hybrid of— the American and the British traditions. Although he does not invoke the bridge metaphor, he in effect implies it, and at the same time, he acknowledges the French presence on the Canadian fantastic landscape. The transnational biographies of many of Canada’s best-known sf writers seem to confirm Ketterer’s notion. A. E. van Vogt, for example, was born in Canada and wrote much of his work there but was published in the US, his Canadian identity elided by the economic factors that made US publication his only viable option and eventually by his emigration to the US. As a dual citizen, Robert J. Sawyer is literally both Canadian and American. William Gibson was born and raised in the US but has had his entire career as a writer in Canada and is—like Vonarburg—one of the major figures to have explicitly used bridging as a key concept in his work, the Bridge Trilogy. However, he links himself with the literary traditions of the American South when discussing his development as a writer. For instance, in a 1999 interview he speculated that his writing “probably had something to do with being southern […] my friend Jack Womack has this thesis that he and I write the way we do because we’re southern” (Doctorow 1999), and he later told Noel Murray that his southern roots “contributed a lot to my worldview and the way I look at things as a writer” (Murray 2007; see also Womack 2000). Transnationalism has also informed the development of science fiction in Québec (sfq) since its earliest days. Although the first Canadian sf narrative was Napoléon Aubin’s “Un voyage à la lune” (1839), another speculative pioneer, Jules-Paul Tardivel, was a Franco-American born of French-Canadian stock in Massachusetts. The development of contemporary sfq in the late 1970s and early 1980s was largely due to the intervention of two French-born immigrants to Québec, Norbert Spehner and Élisabeth Vonarburg, and definitions of what should be considered “sfq” divided the milieu. The divisions between the province’s rival specialized magazines, Solaris and imagine…, could be attributed, in part,



to disagreements about style and influence, with the former looking more to the US tradition of storytelling and the latter looking more to a European experimental slipstream (see Ransom 2011a). Conscious efforts at building bridges between the Franco-/Anglo-solitudes, however, have been part of the movement’s agenda, as sfq writers like Élisabeth Vonarburg, Jean-Louis Trudel, and Yves Meynard attended Cons in the US and the Rest of Canada, published English translations of their works, and even composed in English (see Ransom 2011b, 2018). While it may be true that many authors of Anglo-Canadian sf do occupy a medial space between American and British traditions, or blur the line between being Canadian and non-Canadian, there is far more to the Canadian fantastic than Ketterer’s paradigm. In addition to the relatively long tradition of French-language science-fictional, utopian, and fantastic writing in Canada, more recent years have seen Canadian writers pushing out of the solitudes and bridging the numerous gaps between them. Among the most prominent Canadian fabulists emerging in recent years, to whom a significant body of critical scholarship has already been dedicated (hence their partial absence here), we find Nalo Hopkinson, Tomson Highway, Eden Robinson, Hiromi Goto, and Larissa Lai. Indeed, Hopkinson was on the cutting edge of the movement toward identifying a “postcolonial science fiction,” editing the anthology So Long Been Dreaming (2004) with Uppinder Mehan. Before introducing the essays collected here, it might be useful to situate them within the broader context of scholarly writing on the Canadian fantastic.

The Development of Scholarly Writing on Canadian SF, Fantasy, and Horror Literatures At first glance, it might appear that the study of Canadian literature of the fantastic as a distinct literary body and as a distinct category of scholarship has been a relatively recent development. When we contextualize its development in the late 1970s and early 1980s, however, we realize that it occurred not long after the rise of mainstream “CanLit” studies and in tandem with sustained academic interest in science fiction studies in the US and UK. Northrop Frye’s influence on Anglo-Canadian literary criticism began to be felt as early as the 1940s and 1950s (Gorjup 2009, 3), but his 1971 study, The Bush Garden: Essays on the Canadian Imagination, pointed the way toward theorizing the Canadian fantastic. Of course, it was Margaret Atwood’s Survival: A Thematic Guide


to Canadian Literature (1972) that moved fantastic themes to the forefront of Canadian literary studies, paving the way for more distinctly “genre” approaches to it, including those of David Ketterer and John Robert Colombo later in the decade. Judith Merill, who was not only an acute critic herself but also a seminal figure in establishing the importance of sf collections for libraries, also made significant contributions early on. She founded the Spaced Out Library (now the Merril Collection and part of the Toronto Public Library), with a donation of her own collection of “over 5,000 SF books and magazines” (Ketterer 1992, 78), which has been expanded significantly in the subsequent decades and remains one of the most important library collections of literature of the fantastic. But Merril’s criticism influenced the study of sf per se more than it did the study of the Canadian fantastic specifically (see Ritch Calvin’s chapter in this volume). In Québec, not only had the premier Anglo-American scholarly journal Science Fiction Studies, founded in the US by R. D. Mullen in 1973, moved to Montréal in 1978, French-language academic criticism of the fantastic was also developing. As we shall see, border crossing and building bridges between the Anglo/Franco divide typifies Canadian scholarship on sf and the fantastic from its earliest development. Pioneer scholar David Ketterer stakes a claim for the earliest attempt at a historical overview of Canadian literature of the fantastic in the late 1970s (1979, 99). First published in Canadian Children’s Literature (Ketterer 1977, 78),1 it was revised for John Robert Colombo’s early (although not yet scholarly) volume, Other Canadas: An Anthology of Science Fiction and Fantasy (1979). Ketterer’s “Canadian Science Fiction” lays the initial groundwork for tracing the history of Canadian sf, a topic to which he returned in an expanded and more detailed scholarly article for Science Fiction Studies. “A Historical Survey of Canadian Science Fiction” traces the genre’s origins to a French-language text, Napoléon Aubin’s 1839 “Un voyage à la lune” (Ketterer 1983, 87). Ketterer then argues that James De Mille’s 1888 A Strange Manuscript Found in a Copper Cylinder “comes close to inaugurating what might retrospectively be regarded as a Canadian tradition in SF” (Ketterer 1983, 87). Before the late 1970s, scholarly analyses of this and other early works of the Canadian fantastic tended to be included in mainstream literary studies. Nevertheless, efforts by figures such as Colombo and Ketterer to identify the Canadian fantastic as a distinct genre with its own conventions were only the beginning in establishing a critical



tradition. Colombo’s first attempt to assign characteristic themes to the Canadian fantastic—the polar world, the national disaster scenario, the alienated outsider, and the prevalence of fantasy over science fiction (1979, 2–3)—was quickly challenged (e.g. Runté and Kulyk 1995, discussed below). But although a scholarly tradition devoted to enumerating Canadian works of the fantastic and theorizing their unique features began to emerge the late 1970s, no academic journal devoted to such literature was housed in Canada. Just as Canadian authors of the fantastic generally published outside Canada’s borders, so academic work on Canadian sf tended to appear in non-Canadian publications such as Science Fiction Studies, Foundation, or Extrapolation. Indeed, a major step in legitimating the study of the Canadian fantastic occurred via the publication of articles in Science Fiction Studies, including Ketterer’s previously mentioned survey in 1983. In addition to histories published in two French-language specialized magazines (e.g. Champetier 2004; Janelle 1983; Sernine 1988), as early as 1980, sf’s presence in Québec was documented in the pages of Science Fiction Studies (Vonarburg and Spehner 1980; Gouanvic 1980, 1988), now shepherded by Darko Suvin, then teaching at Montréal’s McGill University. Internal debates over definitions of “sfq” appeared in that signal journal’s pages before the end of the decade (Spehner and Gouanvic 1988). Because academics were largely implicated in the development of the sf and fantasy/fantastique milieu in Québec, soon referred to as sffq or simply sfq, genre fiction developed hand in hand with critical, semi-scholarly, and scholarly discourses surrounding it.2 Québec’s first and longest running fanzine, Solaris, was founded by professor Norbert Spehner at a cégep (Québec’s preuniversity two-year college system) in 1974. First titled Requiem, its initial links to horror are clear, and H. P. Lovecraft remains a touchstone influence in the French-speaking province (see Ransom 2015). In 1979, Requiem changed its name to Solaris, reflecting the growing significance of sf for its contributors and readers. Jean-Marc Gouanvic, then a professor at l’Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières and later at Montréal’s prestigious Concordia University, cofounded its rival imagine…. From very early on, these magazines included articles that went beyond the book review, many of which reflect the scholarly discourses about sf that were simultaneously developing in the US and UK. Drawing on a French scholarly tradition that had already legitimized the study of the nineteenth-century conte fantastique as practiced by


such canonical writers as Balzac, Mérimée, and Maupassant, Québécois academics Aurélien Boivin, Maurice Émond, and Michel Lord founded the Groupe de Recherche Interdisciplinaire sur les Littératures fantastiques dans l’imaginaire québécois (GRILFIQ) in 1985. They were responsible for the publication of an annotated, classificatory Bibliographie analytique de la science-fiction et du fantastique québécois, 1960–1985 (1992), and they formally linked the study of the fantastic in Québec to that of the rising genre of science fiction. Their bibliographical efforts were seconded by Claude Janelle, and the various teams assembled to produce the Année de la science-fiction et du fantastique québécois, a bibliographical guidebook published (almost) yearly from 1984 to 2000. By the early 1990s, Boivin, Émond, and Lord, whose edited volume Les ailleurs imaginaires: les rapports entre le fantastique et la science-fiction (1993) represents a touchstone work including essays by French scholars like Roger Bozzetto and the Québécois utopian specialist Guy Bouchard, continued to foster the development of a scholarly discourse about sffq. Though occasional critical and historical surveys followed the early work by Colombo and Ketterer, there was little in the way of sustained development in the study of the history of English-language literature of the fantastic, or theorizing of it, through the 1980s, barring occasional pieces such as Valerie Broege’s “War with the United States in Canadian Literature and Visual Arts” (1986) or Sam Moskowitz’s “Canada’s Pioneer Science-Fantasy Magazine” (1990), which explores how Canadian policy in World War II briefly encouraged the domestic production of genre materials in the form of pulp magazines and ­comics (for a useful history of Canadian World War II comics, see Kocmarek 2014). A key subsequent development in the study of Canadian literature of the fantastic—in French and in English—emerged from the 1995 National Library of Canada exhibition Out of This World: Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy, curated by Allan Weiss and Hugh Spencer. This event generated not only an exhibit catalogue researched by Weiss and Spencer, but it also gestured toward identifying what is distinctive about the Canadian fantastic: “the question of national identity—long a Canadian preoccupation—has been a focus of Canadian fantastic fiction since its beginnings” (Weiss and Spencer 1995, 9). More significantly, it generated not only an edited collection of essays but also an ongoing series of conferences focusing on Canadian science fiction, fantasy, and horror.



Another outcome of the exhibit, the bilingual essay collection, Visions d’autres mondes: La littérature fantastique et de science-fiction canadienne/Out of This World: Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature (Paradis 1995), follows Ketterer’s landmark monograph, Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy (1992), as an effort to define the parameters of the Canadian fantastic. Colombo’s historical essay “400 Years of Fantastic Literature in Canada” provides an overview and reiterates some of his claims from Other Canadas, but essays from other contributors challenge Colombo’s categories and offer alternative suggestions for what is significant in the Canadian fantastic. Picking up on Ketterer’s consideration of van Vogt as Canadian primarily for geographical reasons, John Clute instead argues for van Vogt’s paradigmatic Canadianness as residing in how “un-American” (Clute 1995, 25) his works are. Clute in effect makes an argument for the Canadian fantastic in terms of what it is not, as much as in terms of what it is: Canadian SF – in the hands of someone like Van Vogt – is certainly not much like American SF. It is not community based; it is not about the penetration of frontiers; it is not triumphalist about the nation state; it ignores the culture heroes who marshall the folk or who save the world; and it ignores the details of the science and technology which are used by culture heroes to weld the community together and arm it for conquest. (Clute 1995, 26)

He concludes that Canadian SF can “be defined as a genre which translates the fable of survival so central to the Canadian psyche into a fable of lonely transcendence” (Clute 1995, 26). By contrast, Robert Runté and Christine Kulyk attempt to come up with positive defining features, explicitly challenging Colombo’s earlier themes and arguing that only the theme of the alienated outsider continued to be viewed as valid. Twenty years later, Runté revisited these arguments, enumerating seven “Post-Colombian Themes” in the Canadian fantastic: “focus on the environment/man subordinate to nature;” “distrust of technology and progress;” “the alienated outsider/uninvolved observer;” “the average citizen as (bungling) protagonist/protagonist as ‘nice guy;’” “ambiguous endings;” “tendency to more ‘literary’ SF;” and “less rigid genre boundaries” (Runté 2015, 21). While more detailed and specific than Colombo’s categories, that the items on this list remain clearly contestable as distinctively Canadian preoccupations speaks to the


ongoing difficulty in bridging the gaps between the multiple and intersecting categories of the Canadian fantastic. Arguably, the most concerted ongoing exercise in engaging critically with English-language Canadian fantastic was also born of the Out of This World exhibit. As part of that event, Jim Botte and Síân Reid organized a small academic conference on Canadian speculative literature. Under the leadership of Allan Weiss (who has organized most of its iterations since the first), it has evolved into the Academic Conference on Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy (ACCSFF), now held biennially and hosted at the Merril Collection. There have been fourteen of these conferences to date, with a fifteenth scheduled for 2019 (“The History of ACCSFF” 2018; Weiss 2015b). It has also generated four sets of proceedings, three of which are edited by Weiss: Perspectives on the Canadian Fantastic (1998), Further Perspectives on the Canadian Fantastic (2005a), and The Canadian Fantastic in Focus: New Perspectives (Weiss 2015a). In addition, Foundation 81 (2001), coedited by Nancy Johnston and Jennifer Burwell, serves as a proceedings volume for the 1999 conference, which they cochaired. Weiss’s introduction to The Canadian Fantastic in Focus offers another useful attempt to identify what is unique about the Canadian fantastic (see Weiss 2015b). While occasional other conferences, such as the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Symposium, held at the University of Ottawa in 2001 (see Leroux and La Bossière 2004) or “Science Fiction: The Interdisciplinary Genre,” held in 2013 at McMaster University in Hamilton, to commemorate Robert J. Sawyer’s donation of his papers to the university, have focused on the Canadian fantastic, ACCSFF has been the primary venue for scholars to present new work on the Canadian fantastic. In Québec, the first annual Congrès Boréal was held in Chicoutimi in 1979; the brainchild of Élisabeth Vonarburg with Jean-Louis Trudel frequently at the organizational helm, Boréal is modeled on the AngloAmerican phenomenon of the “con,” bringing fans and writers together. Again, though, because of the number of academics implicated in the sffq milieu, discussion panels over the years have included academics like Richard Saint-Gelais, Amy J. Ransom, Sophie Beaulé, and others. Since the year 2000, however, organizers have included a “volet savant,” a scholarly track organized on the model of the academic conference, inviting established scholars and graduate students alike to present their research on French-Canadian and Québécois sf and f. In the new millennium, a handful of doctoral dissertations (e.g. Taylor 2002; Serruys 2010), a growing



body of articles in scholarly journals (e.g. Baker 2001, 2004; Santoro 1997) and edited volumes (e.g. Leroux and LaBossière 2004), and the first monographs specifically on science fiction in Québec reveal the growing legitimacy of science fiction studies in Québec. The year 2000 also marked the publication of two signal reference works. The first, a volume of the Dictionary of Literary Biography on Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers edited by Douglas Ivison in 2000, bridges the solitudes and establishes a Canadian canon with articles on thirty-eight writers, including Candas Jane Dorsey, Nalo Hopkinson, Guy Gavriel Kay, William Gibson, Élisabeth Vonarburg, Esther Rochon, and Daniel Sernine. The same year, Jean-Louis Trudel’s contribution to another reference work, French Science-Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, and Pulp Fiction (Lofficier and Lofficier 2000), further codified the status of sfq. Later in that decade, the first book-length studies devoted uniquely to sfq,3 Amy J. Ransom’s Science Fiction from Québec: A Postcolonial Study (2009) and Sophie Beaulé’s Jean-Louis Trudel (2009), revealed the genre’s ability to sustain extended scrutiny. The publication of Nicholas Serruys’s Progrès, dérives et autres sens du véhicule dans la science-fiction québécoise contemporaine (2017) in France marks Canadian sf’s trans-Atlantic recognition as an object of scholarly endeavor, as does a recent special issue on Margaret Atwood of the French journal Otrante (Bergeron and Huftier 2018). Setting aside the massive body of scholarship devoted to the work of Margaret Atwood, including several monographs and edited volumes focusing specifically on the utopian and apocalyptic aspects of her work (e.g. Banerjee 2014; Bouson 2010; Waltonen 2015), extended single-author studies of Anglo-Canadian sf writers remain rare. Apart from works on transnational phenom William Gibson, Canadian by adoption but not by birth or publication, Dominick Grace’s The Science Fiction of Phyllis Gotlieb: A Critical Reading (2015) stands nearly alone. In contrast, several high quality edited volumes of essays on Canadian sf and f have begun to appear, often in combination with a broader geographical framework, such as the North American focus of editors Bret Grubisic, Gisèle Baxter, and Tara Lee’s Blast, Corrupt, Dismantle, Erase: Contemporary North American Dystopian Literature (2014). Whereas in Québec, academics have blurred the line between science fiction and the fantastic, in English-Canada there is something of a separate tradition in dealing with horror. As it links readily with the rather more respectable literary genre of the Gothic in Anglo-American


academe, there are more studies of the supernatural generally and Gothic specifically in Canadian literature than there are of the more overtly popular culture genres of sf and fantasy. Gothic tropes prevail in Canada’s earliest fiction, including John Richardson’s novel Wacousta (1832) and Philippe Aubert de Gaspé, fils’s L’influence d’un livre (1837). Margot Northey claimed this territory in 1976, with The Haunted Wilderness, followed by Gaile McGregor’s The Wacousta Syndrome (1985), unfortunately flawed by its reliance on an abridged text of the novel, and Michael Hurley’s The Borders of Nightmare: The Fiction of John Richardson (1992). Studies of the “Canadian Gothic” have proliferated, including monographs and edited volumes by Justin Edwards (2005), Cynthia Sugars and Gerry Turcotte (2009), Marlene Goldman (2012), and Cynthia Sugars (2014), who traces the history of Gothic readings of Canadian literature in Canadian Gothic: Literature, History and the Spectre of Self-Invention (2014, 6–11). There are even ­single-author studies in this area, such as Tatiani G. Rapatzikou’s gothic reading of William Gibson (2004), though Gibson’s Canadianness is absent from her study. Canadian horror films similarly have been linked to the Canadian preoccupations that inform the Gothic literary tradition. Gina Freitag and André Loiselle, for instance, note the numerous films that “explicitly evoke Frye’s idea of the ‘garrison mentality’ by depicting the frightful experience of early European settlers in Canada, huddling in small isolated communities, threatened by the metaphorical lycanthropes that roamed the dark, uncharted forests of the far-flung colonies” (Freitag and Loiselle 2015, 5)—that is, the fear of the gap between self and other being bridged, with the annihilation of the self as the inevitable outcome. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, they identify David Cronenberg as the paradigmatic Canadian master of cinematic horror, seeing in his work a “surprisingly consistent reliance on the conventional tropes of Canadian horror,” including “a deep-seated anxiety about rampant technological progress;” “a pathological fixation on emasculation;” “a paralyzing insecurity before creativity and innovation;” and “a ridiculous need to hide violence and perversion behind the veil of good conduct and respectability” (Freitag and Loiselle 2015, 5–6). Indeed, Cronenberg is the only major Canadian horror filmmaker to receive significant critical attention, as evidenced by the abundance of work devoted to his oeuvre (e.g. Handling 1983; Grant 2000; Beard 2001; Browning 2007; Beaty 2008; Wilson 2011; Riches 2012).



Horror remains a small portion of the popular fiction published today in Québec, and the province’s French-language film industry has produced only a handful of bona fide horror films.4 Nonetheless, scholarly discourses about what would become horror developed early in Québec because of the contemporary genre’s development out of the Gothic novel and the conte fantastique (fantastic story, akin to Poe’s tales of terror or Lovecraft’s supernatural horror). In the 1980s, academics Aurélien Boivin, Maurice Émond, and Michel Lord pioneered in bringing to the surface Québec’s fantastic tradition via critical anthologies, bibliographical work, essays, and monographs. Begun as his dissertation, Lord’s En quête du roman gothique québécois (1837–1860) (1985) links Aubert de Gaspé, fils’s L’influence d’un livre (1837) to the Gothic tradition. Boivin, a respected nineteenth-century specialist, edited the landmark anthology Le conte fantastique québécois au XIXe siècle (1987), as well as critical editions of the nationalist writers who transformed French-Canadian folk traditions into literary fantastic tales at the turn of that century, including Louis Fréchette, Honoré Beaugrand, and Pamphile LeMay. Furthermore, Émond edited an essay collection, Les voies du fantastique québécois (1990). As academics, they trained the next phase of critics; Lise Pelletier’s Le récit fantastique féminin (1990) and Lise Morin’s La nouvelle fantastique québécoise de 1960 à 1985 (1996) turn the lens of fantastic theory onto a more recent generation of writers. Michel Lord’s theoretical study of contemporary fantastic writing in Québec— which had evolved away from the Todorovian frameworks of the earlier conte fantastique and turned more toward the absurd and enigmatic à la Kafka—La logique de l’impossible: Aspects du discours fantastique québécois (1997) remains a touchstone work in the field. As the essays in this volume by Patrick Bergeron, Sophie Beaulé, and Sylvie Bérard show, elements of the fantastic have infused Québec’s literary fiction since the 1960s, a phenomenon that continues today. A growing body of scholarly literature exists, which sometimes approaches the work of significant writers like Jacques Ferron (Ross 1989), Michel Tremblay (Walsh Matthews 2012), and Gaétan Brulotte (Morin 1993), among others, through the lens of fantastic theory. Popular genre forms of the fantastic, including supernatural horror and the psychological horror novel, have also developed in Québec, most prominently in the fiction of Patrick Senécal, described as the “Québécois Stephen King” (Loiselle 2015, 26; Ransom 2009, 44); adaptations of his work to the big screen account for several of the province’s small body of


French-language horror films. In addition, the late Joël Champetier, Stanley Péan, Claude Bolduc, Natacha Beaulieu, Éric Gauthier, and François Lévesque, among others, have produced highly effective short stories and novels using the tropes of fantastic horror, urban fantasy, and related genres. Whereas a growing body of scholarship addresses the work of media powerhouse Senécal (e.g. Loiselle 2015; Landais 2008, 2016), the scholarship on other popular horror writers remains scarce. As in English-language popular fiction, the boundary between crime fiction and horror fiction remains porous in Québec; Kellett’s essay on Stanley Péan in the present volume shows this. Regardless of such selective deep dives into the work of a particular creator, though, much work remains to be done. Apart from Atwood and Cronenberg, and despite the burgeoning scholarship on Canadian sf, fantasy, and horror, most authors of the Canadian fantastic have received little study. However, the gap between scholarship and the Canadian fantastic continues to be bridged, not only because more scholars are delving into the subject but also because more venues are opening up to such scholarship. As of this writing, the Canadian Review of Comparative Literature has recently published an issue on Canadian comics (43.1, 2016), the Dalhousie Review has just published a special issue on comics (98.2, 2018), and another of the premier Canadian scholarly journals, Canadian Literature, is working on a special issue on “Decolonial (Re) Visions of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror.” Our aim with this project is to encourage such forward momentum.

Part I, Prologue The essays collected in this volume, then, examine an array of Canadian sf and f texts, explicitly addressing the metaphor of the bridge, exploring how these texts variously approach the problems of nationalism and post-nationalism, the human and the post-human, and/or gender’s relationship to these. As Canada is a settler colony nation, colonialism and postcolonialism preoccupy much of Canadian literature, mainstream and genre alike. Our first contributor’s essay serves as a prologue, introducing the theme of the colonial in early Canadian sf. Chapter 2, Allan Weiss’s (York University) “Colonial Visions: The British Empire in Early Anglophone and Francophone Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy,” provides an historical overview and engages the question of postcolonial theory’s applicability to the Canadian context that helps to frame the essays that follow. In particular, he explores the roles that early



authors of Canadian sf imagined for the imperial powers that founded Canada in Canada’s future, focusing on early colonialist sf in both the Anglophone and Francophone traditions in key early texts. Despite the apparent divide between English and French, Weiss demonstrates that there were bridges between English and French views of the colonial roots and potential postcolonial futures even in early Francophone and Anglophone texts that imagined colonial futures.

Part II, Bridging Borders: Transnationalism and Postcolonialism in Canadian Speculative Fiction As a nation of nations, in its ideal self-conception, anyway, Canada imagines itself as a mosaic in which peoples from different cultural roots can build a tolerant multicultural society. Canadian literature of the fantastic is itself a congeries of diverse influences and practices. Indeed, its Canadianness is highly contingent. For instance, Phyllis Gotlieb, one of the seminal early Canadian sf authors, described herself as a Canadian poet and an American sf writer, wittily noting the general absence of space in Canada for genre writing (most of Gotlieb’s genre work was originally published in American markets; see Grace 2015). Judith Merril, by contrast, was an American expatriate who was instrumental in legitimizing a Canadian literature of the fantastic, as an advocate of the genre generally and as the editor of the first volume of the ongoing Tesseracts series of anthologies of Canadian speculative literature. Chapters in this section view the Canadian fantastic from perspectives that foreground the transnational and global contexts of literature of the Canadian fantastic. In Chapter 3, “Nevermind the Gap: Judith Merril Challenges the Status Quo,” Ritch Calvin (SUNY—Stony Brook) explores the work of a key figure in the development of contemporary science fiction in North America as a whole. Judith Merril’s life and work bridged several divides, as an American who moved to Canada, as a genre sf writer who championed closing the gap between “genre” and “literature,” as a writer who used fiction to imagine postcolonial possibilities for humanity by imagining post-national futures, and as a woman who worked to bridge the gender gap in a traditionally masculinist genre by pioneering the treatment of the lives and concerns of women in sf. Focusing primarily on Merril’s short fiction, but also referencing her critical work, this chapter explores in detail Calvin’s central claim about Merril: “She saw herself as building a bridge.”


“Two Solitudes, Two Cultures: Building and Burning Bridges in Peter Watts’s Novels” by Michele Braun (Mount Royal University), Chapter 4, invokes Hugh MacLennan’s myth of the two solitudes and C. P. Snow’s 1959 Rede lecture, “The Two Cultures,” as lenses through which to view the work of Peter Watts, which reimagines the solitudes in a postcolonial global context. This chapter surveys Watts’s major works through 2015, investigating how characters build or destroy bridges in the context of twenty-first-century biotechnology and the corporations that own those technologies to determine how MacLennan’s original treatise on the two solitudes can be understood seventy years later in the context of dissolving national boundaries. Watts’s work recognizes the shift from the local to the global and updates the challenge of building bridges between two solitudes that span across the globe rather than across the landscape of the original Canada of 1867. In Chapter 5, “The Affinity for Utopia: Erecting Walls and Building Bridges in Robert Charles Wilson’s The Affinities,” Graham J. Murphy (Seneca College), addresses the work of one of Canada’s premier writers of sf on the international market, a Hugo Award-winning trans­ national writer with dual US-Canadian citizenship. Wilson’s seventeenth novel, The Affinities (2015), is arguably his least and most “grounded” sf novel, set in a largely contemporary Toronto whose setting is familiar to anyone living in Canada’s most populous city. It nonetheless exploits a key novum that extrapolates technological advances and their impact on the sociopolitical present: the emergence of “Affinities,” social groups organized around genetic markers that provide their members with an almost immediate intimacy and sense of connection with otherwise perfect (non-)strangers. Murphy’s essay examines both the utopian and dystopian potential of a social structure offered as an alternative to the contemporary nation-state, as well as Wilson’s transnational approach to his protagonist’s developing sense of identity within and without his “Affinity.” Patrick Bergeron (University of New Brunswick) closes the section with Chapter 6, “The Art of Not Dying: Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven and Catherine Mavrikakis’s Oscar De Profundis,” which takes a comparative approach to two postapocalyptic novels authored by transnational writers with strong Canadian ties but with reverse biographical trajectories. Both authors deploy the metaphor of the bridge in the postapocalyptic setting, featuring devastated worlds, in which most of the bridges allowing people to reach out to each other have



collapsed. But, their respective novels also focus on a handful of characters using memory and art to build new bridges. In Oscar de Profundis, Mavrikakis’s eponymous hero is a world-famous singer who creates museums and mausoleums to the glory of endangered communities (particularly Francophone ones) threatened by engulfment in “global culture.” Similarly, in Station Eleven Mandel presents a troupe of itinerant actors who roam the Great Lakes region to perform Shakespeare and music, thus acting to preserve a culture threatened with loss.

Part III, Building Bridges: Constructing Myths of the Canadian Nation To define what is Canadian often devolves into a definition of what is not Canadian; being Canadian is often understood as an absence, rather than a presence: Canadians are not American, not European, and so on. What is identity, and what does it mean to have one? Many Canadian works of the fantastic are especially concerned with such questions. Identity as absence is key to Susan Johnston’s (University of Regina) thesis in Chapter 7, “When Are We Ever at Home?: Exile and Nostalgia in the Work of Guy Gavriel Kay,” which examines Kay’s historical fantasy novels as sites of exploration for the construction of nationhood. Johnston argues that, for Kay, the history of nation building and identity building has been one of conquest and colonization, of departure and displacement, of homesteading and of rehoming. Kay creates myths of nationhood and nationalism, seeing the exile and expatriate figures who mark them as icons both of an idea of nation that is always being imagined even as it is always being lost. He does so in novels that reimagine world history in alternate versions of ancient and medieval Europe and Asia, estranging the familiar, rendering it unheimlich: both home and not home at once. Indigenous Futurism and its deployment as a means of processing the collective traumas of the Indian Act and residential schools are the focus of two chapters in the volume, offering critical deconstructions of Canada’s self-image as a nation. In Chapter 8, “Reconciliation, Resistance, and Biskaabiiyang: Re-Imagining Canadian Residential Schools in Indigenous Speculative Fictions,” Judith Leggatt (Lakehead University) reads Gerry William’s The Back Ship (1994), the first Indigenous science fiction novel published in Canada, as an allegory for the residential school experience.


She also considers Lisa Jackson’s “Savage” (2009), a short zombie musical film that riffs on Michael Jackson’s Thriller (1982) video and the residential school setting, and Jeff Barnaby’s film Rhymes for Young Ghouls (2013), identifying the latter as a residential school revenge fantasy. Chapter 9, Kristina Baudemann’s (Europa-Universität, Flensburg) “Indigenous Futurist Film: Speculation and Resistance in Jeff Barnaby’s Rhymes for Young Ghouls and File Under Miscellaneous,” also analyzes the work of Mi’gMaw filmmaker Jeff Barnaby. Set in 1976, Rhymes for Young Ghouls depicts its heroine’s creation of an alternate historical time line in order to overthrow the Indian Agent regime. Baudemann teases out the resistant practices in Barnaby’s work; like Leggatt, she invokes the concept of biskaabiiyang, a form of creative decolonization and an Indigenous “returning to ourselves” (Dillon 2012, 10).

Part IV, Bridging the Gender Gap: Transnational and Transsexual Identities in Canadian SF Contemporary global science fictions owe a certain debt to the feminist sf renaissance of the 1970s, which—according to conventional genre histories— revolutionized the genre through both formal experimentation and radical social critique. Knowing that national identities are most frequently gendered identities, the speculative writers examined in this section of the volume use sf to explore alternate constructions of identity and community by rethinking the current heteronormative nationbased models. Opening the section, Chapter 10, Caroline Mosser’s (Independent Scholar) “Building Hope through Community in Élisabeth Vonarburg’s The Maerlande Chronicles” analyzes an iconic Québécois sf novel through the lens of feminist theory. Contextualizing Vonarburg’s work within the development of science fiction in Québec and Margaret Atwood’s problematic relationship with the genre, Mosser identifies the work of both writers as “meta-utopian.” She argues that Vonarburg’s novel, originally published in French in 1984, presents two major narratives, both of which reflect a need for the “bridging of solitudes” as this involves a form of inclusion and collaboration between gendered individuals that accepts and celebrates differences rather than erasing them through enforced normativity. Wendy Gay Pearson (University of Western Ontario), in Chapter 11, “Cruising Canadian SF’s Queer Futurity: Hiromi Goto’s The Kappa Child and Larissa Lai’s Salt Fish Girl,” examines the work of Hiromi



Goto and Larissa Lai, well-known figures linked to Asian-Canadian and lesbian/queer Canadian writing who are both seriously invested in sf as a genre. Pearson explores how their respective novels, The Kappa Child (2001) and Salt Fish Girl (2002), rework Japanese and Chinese mythology in an explicitly Asian-Canadian manner, using speculative fiction to experiment with what it means to be produced as a gendered, racialized, and sexualized human being. She argues that both Goto and Lai use the tropes of sf generally, and the legacy of feminist sf in particular, to raise the question of what it means to be human, and why, historically, the attribution of humanity has been so unevenly allocated, thus addressing a central question of global sf today. In Chapter 12, “Rethinking Gender Metaphors in Canadian Speculative Fiction,” Evelyn Deshane (University of Waterloo) analyzes two novels that explore the metaphor of the (trans)gender bridge, Kathleen Winter’s Annabel (2010) and Sybil Lamb’s I’ve Got a Time Bomb (2014). Deshane argues that trans and intersex people become the bridge, both in literary works and speculative fiction, as a way to anchor the transgender body to physical geography and national identity. These authors use the image of the bridge—more or less successfully—to bridge communities, be it cis and trans, intersex, other queer, or geopolitical identities.

Part V, Bridging the Species Divide: Technological, Animal, Extraterrestrial, and Post-human Sentience Post-humanism and Animal Studies represent two of the newer critical approaches to develop in the analysis of science fiction (see Nayar 2014; Vint 2013). These theories take the precepts of feminist and postcolonial theory a step further, critiquing the limited definitions that Western liberal thought has outlined for humanity, calling for new ways to conceptualize the human that are more inclusive and to recognize the injustices perpetrated in the name of instrumental reason, not just on other genders and races, but on other species. The essays in this section apply notions central to critical race theory and postcolonial theory to works of Canadian science fiction that explore—for better or for worse—the boundaries and bridges that create divides between humans and technology, humans and animals, humans and extraterrestrial races. Chapter 13, Ben Eldridge’s (University of Sydney) “A Maelstrom of Replication: Peter Watts’s Glitching Textual Source Codes” analyzes


Watts’s problematizing of the human and the sentient. Watts’s not merely postcolonial but, indeed, post-human world challenges human dominance, as prehistoric and technologically based lifeforms compete with humans, blurring the lines between the biological and the technological, the physical and the virtual, the literal and the figurative. Divisions, Eldridge asserts, are artificially imposed, and Watts ruptures the biocentric fallacy that life will be forever confined to elements arising from organic chemistry: life, the text stresses, is nothing more than an expression of code. Dunja Mohr (University of Erfurt) addresses what she calls a postanthropocentric perspective in Chapter 14, “The Missing Link: Bridging the Species Divide in Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam Trilogy.” Addressing Atwood’s earlier role in the construction of the myth of Canadian identity in Survival (1972), she sees the writer’s postapocalyptic cycle as reworking the binarism of the “two founding nations” to move beyond both the two solitudes and the mosaic metaphors, extending survival to interspeciesism on a planetary level. In the trilogy, Atwood expands the notion of multiculturalism to that of multispeciesism, arguing for the construction of bridges between species in order to create a form of multispecies justice and suggesting multiple interdependencies. In Chapter 15, “‘I can’t believe this is happening!’: Bear Horror, the Species Divide, and the Canadian Fight for Survival,” Michael Fuchs (University of Graz) also invokes Atwood’s vision of Canada as a Gothic space, examining how contemporary texts continue to invoke imagery of human and animal as antagonists competing for the same space. Fuchs analyzes a corpus of three “bear horror” fictions, the horror film Backcountry (2014) and two novels, The Bear (2014) by Claire Cameron and Susan J. Crockford’s near-future polar bear themed Eaten (2015). He argues that animal predation on humans actually provides a powerful symbolic vehicle for bridging the human–animal divide as it overrides the theory of human exceptionalism, offering a critical view of the entanglement of humans and nonhumans in the Anthropocene era. Isabelle Fournier (Trent University) addresses the more traditionally science-fictional trope of human contact with extraterrestrials and sf’s usefulness as a metaphor for critical narratives of colonization in Chapter 16, “Interacting and Cohabiting with Humans, Earthlings, and Others in SFQ.” She reads Sylvie Bérard’s novel Terre des Autres (2004; Of Wind and Sand, 2008) and Francine Pelletier’s trilogy Le sable et l’acier (1997–1998; Sand and Steel) as depicting the oppression and inequality inherent in any form of colonization. At the same time, the novels offer



a parcel of hope as they depict small groups of people working together to bridge the gap between different groups and species who come into contact with each other in the colonial setting.

Part VI, Bridging the Slipstream: Generic Fluidity in Canadian Speculative Fiction A frequently cited trait of Canadian sf and fantastic writing is its generic fluidity. Although developed in another context, Judith Merril’s reinterpretation of the initials “sf” as “speculative fiction” suits the genre-bending approach of many Anglo- and French-Canadian sf writers. Indeed, the nation’s best-known writer, Margaret Atwood, whose conflicted relationship with the genre has been well documented (see Casali 2012), prefers “speculative” to “science” fiction. Its inclusiveness is also well-suited to contemporary reinterpretations of the genre by writers from Canada’s “cultural communities,” and it can even encompass what is now being called “Indigenous Futurism” by Grace Dillon (2012) and others to describe First Nations Canadian and aboriginal sf from around the world. A good number of the essays already described address how Canadian writers who openly associate themselves with genre writing blur the boundaries between science fiction, the fantastic, detective, and horror fictions, but in this section analyzing this type of genre-bridging comes to the forefront. Chapter 17, Sylvie Bérard’s (Trent University) “Holes Within and Bridges Beyond: The Transfictions of Élisabeth Vonarburg and Michel Tremblay,” examines the question of seriality and the notion of the writer building bridges between discrete texts through the genre convention of the “cycle.” Vonarburg, a leading figure in Québec’s science fiction milieu since its constellation in the late 1970s and early 1980s, explicitly features a bridge in her “Bridge Cycle” that allows her protagonists to travel between parallel worlds. Bérard examines her work in tandem with that of one of Québec’s best-known “mainstream” writers, Michel Tremblay. Best known for his pathbreaking theatrical works set in Montréal’s gay community, in his earliest fiction Tremblay was heavily influenced by H. P. Lovecraft, and he consistently invokes the fantastical. Admitting that these writers’ corpuses are quite different, Bérard nonetheless teases out how they create fictional worlds that traverse the boundaries of the text.


Sophie Beaulé (St. Mary’s University) also examines how a number of contemporary Québécois writers have appropriated the science-fictional tropes of dystopia and apocalypse in Chapter 18, “Tropes Crossing: On Some Québec SF Writers from the Mainstream.” Beaulé analyzes how tropes and structures taken from genres ranging from detective stories to horror novels are woven into the aesthetics of Matthieu Blais and Joël Casséus, Jean-Simon Desrochers, Alain Farah, Karoline Georges, Serge Lamothe, and Catherine Mavrikakis. She demonstrates how a number of Francophone Canadian novels published since 2010 deploy various forms of genre bridging to develop a hybrid esthetic linked to developments in the province’s genre milieu, its publishing industry, and a restructuring of its mainstream literary milieu. Kathleen Kellett (Ryerson University) examines how one HaitianCanadian writer uses his genre-blurring writing to explore the contradictions of minority existence in a nation that flaunts its official multiculturalism against the context of the two solitudes. In Chapter 19, “Stanley Péan’s Fantastic Detective Fiction: Bridging Genres and Cultural Divides,” Kellett argues that the author blithely ignores the traditional rules of the detective genre, infusing them with a deep sense of the “fantastique maléfique” (malevolent fantastic). The image of the zombie, taken from Haitian folklore, is key to Péan’s social critique of injustice and his detective characters’ search for justice. In the end, Péan blends the fantastic and the crime narrative in an attempt to bridge the cultural divisions between members of Montréal’s ethnic communities.

Part VII, Epilogue Finally, in a work that itself bridges many gaps, including those between critical and creative writing, we offer Chapter 20, Jordan Bolay’s (University of Calgary) “Excerpts from A Glossary of Non-Essential Forms and Genres in English-Canadian Literature.” Bolay’s creative critical chapter addresses the relationship between academia and popular culture in Canada through the medium of a fictional glossary of literary terms. Its focus is a cheeky interrogation of the tendency toward hierarchized binaries in constructs of literary power. Bolay uses post-structural thought to strip the canon slightly of hierarchism and, to use Raymond Williams’s terminology, to introduce emergent culture into a dominant ideology, thus bridging the gap between literary studies and the popular forms and genres of comics, concept albums, science fiction, and videogames.



Notes 1. The initial venue of Ketterer’s history, a scholarly journal devoted to the study of children’s and young adult literature, is nonetheless revelatory of the still marginal status of the fantastic and science fiction in Canada and elsewhere. 2. For a more complete account of the history of popular genre literatures in Québec see Lord (1997); Ransom (2009, 2011a, 2013, 2016); Ransom and Beaulé (2013); Trudel (2000). 3. Previous studies, like Richard Saint-Gelais’s L’empire du pseudo: modernités de la science-fiction (1999), included examinations of sfq texts along with works from the Anglo-American or French sf canons. 4.  The conditions of filmmaking in Québec, including the “Hollywood North” phenomenon in Montréal, have led to a relatively large body of low-budget English-language horror films made in Québec. In addition, many of David Cronenberg’s horror films have been made in the Francophone province.

References Atwood, Margaret. 1972. Survival: A Thematic Guide to Canadian Literature. Toronto: House of Anansi. Baker, Neal. 2001. “Syncretism: A Federalist Approach to Canadian Science Fiction.” Extrapolation 42 (3): 218–31. ———. 2004. “The Politics of Language in Science Fiction from Québec.” Contemporary French Civilization 28 (1): 33–53. Banerjee, Suparna. 2014. Science, Gender, and History: The Fantastic in Mary Shelley and Margaret Atwood. Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Cambridge Scholars. Beard, William. 2001. The Artist as Monster: The Cinema of David Cronenberg. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. Beaty, Bart. 2008. David Cronenberg: A History of Violence. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. Beaulé, Sophie. 2009. Jean-Louis Trudel. Ottawa: David. Bergeron, Patrick, and Arnaud Huftier, eds. 2018. Otrante: Arts et littératures fantastiques 44 (Fall). Special Issue on Margaret Atwood. Boivin, Aurélien. 1987. Le conte fantastique québécois au XIXe siècle. Montréal: Fides. Boivin, Aurélien, Maurice Émond, and Michel Lord, eds. 1992. Bibliographie analytique de la science-fiction et du fantastique québécois, 1960–1985. Québec: Nuit blanche. ———. 1993. Les ailleurs imaginaires: les rapports entre le fantastique et la science-fiction. Québec: Nuit blanche.

24  A. J. RANSOM AND D. GRACE Bouson, J. Brooks, ed. 2010. Margaret Atwood: The Robber Bride, the Blind Assassin, Oryx and Crake. London: Continuum. Broege, Valerie. 1986. “War with the United States in Canadian Literature and Visual Art.” Journal of American Culture 9 (Spring): 31–36. Browning, Mark. 2007. David Cronenberg: Author or Filmmaker? Bristol: Intellect. Casali, Ariana. 2012. “Facing the End of the World: Margaret Atwood’s PostApocalyptic Science Fiction.” In Collision of Realities: Establishing Research on the Fantastic in Europe, edited by Lars Schmeink, Astrid Böger, and HansHarald Müller, 295–310. Berlin: de Gruyter. Champetier, Joël. 2004. “Une histoire des trente premières années de Solaris.” Solaris 150 (Summer): 5–56. Clute, John. 1995. “Fables of Transcendence: The Challenge of Canadian Science Fiction.” In Out of This World: Canadian Science Fiction & Fantasy Literature, edited by Andrea Paradis, 20–27. Ottawa: Quarry Press/National Library of Canada. Colombo, John Robert. 1979. “Preface.” In Other Canadas: An Anthology of Science Fiction and Fantasy, edited by John Robert Colombo, 1–6. Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson. ———. 1995. “Four Hundred Years of Fantastic Literature in Canada.” In Out of This World: Canadian Science Fiction & Fantasy Literature, edited by Andrea Paradis, 28–40. Ottawa: Quarry Press/National Library of Canada. Colombo, John Robert, Michael Richardson, John Bell, and Alexandre Amprimoz. 1979. CDN SF & F. Toronto: Hounslow Press. Dillon, Grace, ed. 2012. Walking the Clouds: An Anthology of Indigenous Science Fiction. Tucson: University of Arizona Press. Doctorow, Cory. 1999. “William Gibson Globe and Mail Story.” Craphound. com. Edwards, Justin. 2005. Gothic Canada: Reading the Spectre of a National Literature. Edmonton: University of Alberta Press. Émond, Maurice, ed. 1990. Les voies du fantastique québécois. Québec: Nuit blanche. Freitag, Gina, and André Loiselle. 2015. “Terror of the Soul: An Introduction.” In The Canadian Horror Film: Terror of the Soul, edited by Gina Freitag and André Loiselle, 3–17. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. Frye, Northrop. 1971. The Bush Garden: Essays on the Canadian Imagination. Toronto: House of Anansi. Goldman, Marlene. 2012. DisPossession: Haunting in Canadian Fiction. Montréal: McGill-Queen’s University Press. Gorjup, Branko. 2009. “Incorporating Legacies: Decolonizing the Garrison.” In Northrop Frye’s Canadian Literary Criticism and Its Influence, edited by Branko Gorjup, 3–28. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.



Gouanvic, Jean-Marc. 1980. “SF in Québec.” Science Fiction Studies 7: 348–49. ———. 1988. “Rational Speculations in French Canada, 1839–1974.” Science Fiction Studies 44: 71–81. Grace, Dominick. 2015. The Science Fiction of Phyllis Gotlieb: A Critical Reading. Jefferson: McFarland. Grant, Michael, ed. 2000. The Modern Fantastic: The Films of David Cronenberg. Westport: Praeger. Grubisic, Bret, Gisèle Baxter, and Tara Lee, eds. 2014. Blast, Corrupt, Dismantle, Erase: Contemporary North American Dystopian Literature. Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press. Handling, Piers, ed. 1983. The Shape of Rage: The Films of David Cronenberg. Toronto: General Publishing. Hopkinson, Nalo, and Uppinder Mehan, eds. 2004. So Long Been Dreaming: Postcolonial Science Fiction and Fantasy. Vancouver: Arsenal Pulp Press. Hurley, Michael. 1992. The Borders of Nightmare: The Fiction of John Richardson. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. Ivison, Douglas, ed. 2000. Dictionary of Literary Biography 251. Canadian Writers of Fantasy and Science Fiction. Westport: Greenwood Press. Janelle, Claude. 1983. “La SF québécoise: historique et perspectives d’avenir.” Solaris 50 (March–April): 6–10. ———. 1997. L’année de la science-fiction et du fantastique québécois, 1992. Québec: Alire. ———. 1999. Le XIXe siècle fantastique en Amérique française. Beauport: Alire. Kay, Guy Gavriel. 1998. Sailing to Sarantium. Toronto: Viking. Ketterer, David. 1977–1978. “Canadian Science Fiction: A Survey.” Canadian Children’s Literature 10. ———. 1979. “Canadian Science Fiction: A Survey.” In Other Canadas, edited by John Robert Colombo, 326–33. Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson. ———. 1983. “A Historical Survey of Canadian Science Fiction.” Science Fiction Studies 19: 87–100. ———. 1992. Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Kocmarek, Ivan. 2014. “WECA Comics: Canada’s Golden First Age of Comics.” In The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide. 44th ed., edited by Robert M. Overstreet, 1160–77. Cockeysville: Gemstone. Landais, Clotilde. 2008. “Aliss de Patrick Senécal: Le corps violenté comme représentation métatextuelle.” @nalyses: revue de critique et théorie littérature 3 (1): n.p. revue-analyses/index. ———. 2016. “Challenges and Strategies for Analysing the Translation of Fear in Horror Fiction.” Literary Imagination 18 (3): 242–54.

26  A. J. RANSOM AND D. GRACE Leroux, Jean-François, and Camille R. La Bossière, eds. 2004. Worlds of Wonder: Readings in Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature. Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press. Loiselle, André. 2015. “Pure Laine Evil: The Horrifying Normality of Québec’s Ordinary Hell in the Film Adaptations of Patrick Senécal’s ‘romans d’épouvante.’” In The Canadian Horror Film: Terror of the Soul, edited by André Loiselle and Gina Freitag, 67–90. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. Lord, Michel. 1985. En quête du roman gothique Québécois (1837–1860). Québec: Presses de l’Université Laval. ———. 1997. La logique de l’impossible: Aspects du discours fantastique québécois. Québec: Nuit blanche. MacLennan, Hugh. 1945. Two Solitudes. Toronto: Collins. McGregor, Gaile. 1985. The Wacousta Syndrome: Explorations in the Canadian Landscape. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. Morin, Lise. 1993. “Quelques rouages dans la machine fantastique dans ‘Les messagers de l’ascenseur.’” Voix et images 19 (1): 132–50. ———. 1996. La nouvelle fantastique québécoise de 1960 à 1985: Entre le hasard et la fatalité. Montréal: Nuit blanche. Moskowitz, Sam. 1990. “Canada’s Pioneer Science-Fantasy Magazine.” Science Fiction Studies 17: 84–92. Murray, Noel. 2007. “Interview: William Gibson.” AV Club. https://www. Nayar, Pramod K. 2014. Posthumanism. London: Polity. Northey, Margot. 1976. The Haunted Wilderness: The Gothic and Grotesque in Canadian Fiction. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. Paradis, Andrea, ed. 1995. Visions d’autres mondes: La littérature fantastique et de science-fiction canadienne/Out of this World: Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature. Ottawa: Quarry/National Library of Canada. Pelletier, Lise. 1990. Le récit fantastique féminin. Laval: Presses de l’Université Laval. Ransom, Amy J. 2009. Science Fiction from Québec: A Postcolonial Study. Jefferson: McFarland. ———. 2011a. “History Making and Canon Fodder: The Battle of SFQ.” Foundation 112: 7–26. ———. 2011b. “Queen of Memory: Introduction.” Femspec 11 (2): 9–28. Special Issue on Élisabeth Vonarburg. ———, ed. 2011c. Femspec 11 (2). Special Issue on Élisabeth Vonarburg. ———. 2013. “Parabolas of SFQ: Canadian SF in French and the Making of a ‘National’ Sub-Genre.” In Parabolas of Science Fiction, edited by Brian Attebery and Veronica Hollinger, 89–105, 265–67. Middlebury: Wesleyan University Press.



———. 2015. “Lovecraft in Quebec: Transcultural Fertilization and Esther Rochon’s Reevaluation of the Powers of Horror.” Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts 26 (3): 452–70. Special Issue on H. P. Lovecraft, edited by Carl Sederholm and Jeffrey A. Weinstock. ———. 2016. “Popular Fiction in Québec: National Identity and ‘American’ Genres.” In Popular Fiction: Genre, Distribution, Reproduction/Palgrave Handbook of Popular Literature, edited by Ken Gelder, 239–60. London: Palgrave. ———. 2018. “Laurent McAllister (Yves Meynard & Jean-Louis Trudel).” In Lingua Cosmica: Science Fiction from Around the World, edited by Dale Knickerbocker, 129–50. Champaign: University of Illinois Press. Ransom, Amy J., and Sophie Beaulé, eds. 2013. “Présentation du dossier.” @nalyses: revue de critique et de théorie littéraire 8 (2) (Spring–Summer). Special Issue on Nouvelles perspectives sur le polar et les genres de l’imaginaire du Canada d’expression française. index.php/revue-analyses/index. Rapatzikou, Tatiani G. 2004. Gothic Motifs in the Fiction of William Gibson. Amsterdam: Rodopi. Riches, Simon, ed. 2012. The Philosophy of David Cronenberg. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky. Ross, Mary Ellen. 1989. “Aspects du réalisme merveilleux de Jacques Ferron.” PhD dissertation, University of Toronto. Runté, Robert. 2015. “Why I Read Canadian Speculative Fiction: The Social Dimensions of Reading.” In The Canadian Fantastic in Focus: New Perspectives, edited by Allan Weiss, 14–33. Jefferson: McFarland. Saint-Gelais, Richard. 1999. L’empire du pseudo: modernités de la science-fiction. Québec: Nota bene. Santoro, Miléna. 1997. “L’Autre millénaire d’Esther Rochon.” Women in French Studies 5: 97–105. Sernine, Daniel. 1988. “Historique de la SFQ.” Solaris 79: 41–47. Serruys, Nicholas. 2010. “Utopie et idéologie dans la science-fiction canadienne-française et québécoise.” PhD dissertation, University of Toronto. ———. 2017. Progrès, dérives et autres sens du véhicule dans la science-fiction québécoise contemporaine. Collection spéciale “Transports et mobilité,” edited by Arnaud Huftier. Valenciennes: Presses Universitaires de Valenciennes. Spehner, Norbert, and Jean-Marc Gouanvic. 1988. “In Dispute.” Science Fiction Studies 15 (2): 254–56. Sugars, Cynthia. 2014. Canadian Gothic: Literature, History and the Spectre of Self-Invention. Cardiff: University of Wales Press. Sugars, Cynthia, and Gerry Turcotte, eds. 2009. Unsettled Remains: Canadian Literature and the Postcolonial Gothic. Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier Press.

28  A. J. RANSOM AND D. GRACE Taylor, Sharon. 2002. “Dystopies et eutopies féminines: L. Bersianik, E. Vonarburg, E. Rochon.” PhD dissertation, McGill University. “The History of ACCSFF.” Academic Conference on Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy. Accessed November 26, 2018. Index.htm. Trudel, Jean-Louis. 2000. “French-Canadian Science Fiction & Fantastique.” In French Science-Fiction, Fantasy, Horror and Pulp Fiction, edited by Jean-Marc Lofficier and Randy Lofficier. Jefferson: McFarland. Vint, Sherryl. 2013. Animal Alterity: Science Fiction and the Question of the Animal. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press. Vonarburg, Élisabeth, and Norbert Spehner. 1980. “Science Fiction in Québec: A Survey.” Science Fiction Studies 21: 191–99. Vonarburg, Élisabeth. 2009. Sang de pierre. Lévis: Alire. Walsh Matthews, Stephanie. 2012. “Le réalisme magique dans la littérature québécoise contemporaine.” PhD dissertation, University of Toronto. Waltonen, Karma, ed. 2015. Margaret Atwood’s Apocalypses. Newcastle-uponTyne: Cambridge Scholars. Weiss, Allan, ed. 1998. Perspectives on the Canadian Fantastic: Proceedings of the 1997 Academic Conference on Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy. Toronto: ACCSFF. ———. 2005a. Further Perspectives on the Canadian Fantastic: Proceedings of the 2003 Academic Conference on Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy. Toronto: ACCSFF. ———. 2005b. “The Question of Genre.” In Further Perspectives on the Canadian Fantastic: Proceedings of the 2003 Academic Conference on Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy, edited by Allan Weiss, 47–54. Toronto: ACCSFF. ———. 2015a. The Canadian Fantastic in Focus: New Perspectives. Jefferson: McFarland. ———. 2015b. “Introduction.” In The Canadian Fantastic in Focus: New Perspectives, edited by Allan Weiss, 1–12. Jefferson: McFarland. Weiss, Allan, and Hugh Spencer. 1995. Destination: Out of This World. Ottawa: National Library of Canada. Wilson, Scott W. 2011. The Politics of Insects: David Cronenberg’s Cinema of Confrontation. New York: Continuum. Womack, Jack. 2000. “Some Dark Holler.” In Neuromancer by William Gibson, 355–71. New York: Ace.




Colonial Visions: The British Empire in Early Anglophone and Francophone Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Allan Weiss

Like Canada itself, Canadian fantastic literature was born during the height of the British Empire’s reach and power. Unsurprisingly, the science fiction and fantasy written during this early period, in both English and French Canada, strongly reflect Britain’s imperial dominance. Images of the British Empire in the fantastic literatures of the two linguistic groups differ in some ways, yet there are also remarkable similarities in how English- and French-Canadian writers portray the Empire and its role in Canada’s future, notably in offering military and legal protections for individuals, groups, and the Dominion. This chapter examines representations of the British Empire in the early sf works “The Dominion in 1983” (1883) by Ralph Centennius, A Strange Manuscript Found in a Copper Cylinder (1888) by James De Mille, The Storm of ’92 (1889) by W. H. C. Lawrence, Pour la patrie (1895) by Jules-Paul Tardivel, Similia similibus (1916) by Ulric Barthe, and La cité dans les fers (1925) by Ubald Paquin.

A. Weiss (*)  York University, Toronto, ON, Canada © The Author(s) 2019 A. J. Ransom and D. Grace (eds.), Canadian Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror, Studies in Global Science Fiction,


32  A. WEISS

Analysis of portrayals of the colonial center by authors of a settler colony like Canada necessarily involves consideration of postcolonialism as a theoretical ground. Yet those who study postcolonialism disagree profoundly about the meaning and applicability of the term in the Canadian context. Postcolonialism as a concept and critical tool was originally applied mainly to nations like India and Nigeria that remained predominantly Indigenous and were taken over and governed by European colonizers. Settler colonies like Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, by contrast, were first populated largely by people from the “mother countries,” who were thus both colonized and colonizers; other immigrants arrived, adding diversity to the non-Indigenous populations. A touchstone work, The Empire Writes Back, for example, attempts to mix consideration of African, Asian, and Caribbean ex-colonies with analyses of Canadian, Australian, and New Zealand’s literatures (Ashcroft et al. 1989). Canadianists have since had to adopt a more complex and nuanced approach. Donna Bennett’s 1993 paper, “English Canada’s Postcolonial Complexities,” challenged the standard postcolonial model as it applies to Canada, and later texts, notably essays by Linda Hutcheon ([1989] 2004), Diana Brydon ([1990] 2004), Stephen Slemon ([1990] 2004), Georgiana Banita (2008), and Gilles Dupuis (2008), carried the debate forward (see also Kamboureli 2000; Lee [1973] 2004). The title of Laura Moss’s essay collection, Is Canada Postcolonial? (2003), speaks volumes about the difficulty of simple strategies for dealing with the relationships among First Nations, British and French settler communities, and immigrants from around the globe. Kit Dobson has raised important questions in Transnational Canadas (2009) about the nation’s meaning in an age of globalization. Here, however, we are considering colonial rather than postcolonial relationships; the authors came from the two major settler groups, Anglophone and Francophone, the so-called “charter groups” (Craig 1987, 13), and the texts were written while Canada was still a member of the Empire. Nevertheless, it is worth noting that concepts of nationhood and race play an important part in Canada’s early literature (see Berger 1970; Coleman 2006; Craig 1987; Weiss 2015). It would therefore be useful to review some historical details. After years of conflict between the two European empires, Great Britain captured France’s last North American colonies during the Seven Years’ War (1756–1763), including New France, which it renamed Québec. Britain was then faced with the problem of governing a colony with a



different language and religion from its own; colonial officials would have preferred full assimilation of the French Canadians. However, they lacked the power to achieve that goal due to “the relative weakness of British colonial institutions, the largely autonomous French-Canadian Church, and the limited immigration of English speakers to the new areas” (Coates 2008, 184). For various reasons, including economic ties and the cooperation of the Catholic Church, Britain did not interfere in French Canadians’ daily lives and was able to maintain control without imposing draconian measures. Nevertheless, the position of the French (and Catholic) population remained an open question. Due to immigration from the British Isles and Loyalists moving north during and after the American War of Independence, the English (and Protestant) population in western Québec grew, and Québec was divided in 1791 into Upper Canada west of the Ottawa River and Lower Canada to the east. Resistance to British colonial and oligarchic rule in both colonies simmered for some time, until rebellions broke out in 1837 and 1838. In the aftermath, Lord Durham investigated the situation, and his 1839 report called for the assimilation, including religious conversion, of French Canadians. To that end, he proposed uniting Lower and Upper Canada into one colony. This union proved politically unworkable, and Durham’s implausible dreams of assimilation could not be realized. In 1867, the Dominion of Canada was formed out of a redivided Canada, now the provinces of Québec and Ontario, along with Nova Scotia and New Brunswick; other provinces joined in subsequent decades. Confederation was the product of many factors, both internal and external. Among the most important internal factors was the need for a more feasible way of governing the very different populations east and west of the Ottawa River. The greatest external pressure came from the United States, a country whose imperial ambitions had long been clear, which had just concluded a civil war that left it with a powerful army. Britain’s main concern was to retain its possessions in British North America, particularly in the west, in the face of American expansion; it hoped to do so by establishing a single colonial entity stretching from Atlantic to Pacific that would eventually be connected by settlements and a railroad. Canadian officials, led by John A. Macdonald, sought to maintain imperial ties while developing their own semiautonomous Dominion. Under Imperial policy, Canada’s domestic matters were its own affair, but its foreign policy remained largely controlled by Britain until 1931.

34  A. WEISS

Canada remained a part of the Empire until the latter’s dissolution after World War II and has continued to be a member of the Commonwealth that replaced it. Thus, Great Britain’s long-standing role in Canada’s development created equally long-lasting echoes, and Canadian authors on both sides of the linguistic divide have engaged with the presence of the British Empire and its successor institutions in various ways since the eighteenth century. Canada’s early literature, including its first works of fantastic literature, reflects the pervasive role of the Empire in the life of the country. Both English and French nationalist authors wrote explicitly about the colonial relationship, although with quite different agendas. The English–French political problem in the Dominion and the external threat of the United States figure prominently in the science fiction and fantasy written by both linguistic groups. Elsewhere, I have discussed how Anglophone nationalists used fantastic literature to promote their vision of a future Canada; in most cases, Canada would still be part of, although a more equal partner in, the British Empire (Weiss 2015). Unsurprisingly, the image of the Empire in French-Canadian fiction is somewhat different, but generally speaking authors from both groups see the Empire as a source of protection from outside threats. Among the earliest works of speculative fiction in English Canada is “The Dominion in 1983” (1883) by the pseudonymous Ralph Centennius. Centennius’s future history portrays an ever-expanding British Empire, the threat posed by America, and the importance of the Empire in helping Canadians resist invasion and annexation. Wars and revolutions have spread throughout Europe and diverted Britain’s strength and attention from North America; meanwhile, poor harvests, Fenian infiltration, and American and some (Liberal) Canadian politicians seeking annexation conspire to bring Canada to the brink of doom (Centennius [1883] 1979, 300). Thus, the country must be saved both from foreign invaders and domestic fifth columnists. English and French Canadians unite to defend the Dominion, and even Canadians living in the United States return to help. Fortunately, on the eve of the Canadian election, the United States experiences a series of stereotypically American disasters: the President is shot, labor strife breaks out, and financial and natural crises erupt (301). Meanwhile, Britain’s European troubles are solved, the Conservatives secure the election, and all talk of annexation dissipates: “Men who had remained loyal to Canada all through quickly seized the occasion and appealed to the people to



stand firm to the Dominion, pointing out the uncertainty of affairs in the States and contrasting them with the vitality and power of the Old Country” (302). The two political parties merge into one “with but one object in view – the welfare of the Dominion” (303). In Centennius’s speculative fiction, some Americans nevertheless continue to plan their invasion of Canada, but Britain sends 12,000 troops to Canada (303). Britain persuades the Americans to stop the invasion. Britain’s military might and moral authority thus save Canada from attack, although Centennius asserts that the Canadians, even without the help of their Imperial friends, “would have held their own gallantly and have come off victorious” (303). When a European war wipes out a number of the continent’s crowned heads (311), war is eliminated, as too dangerous to wage. The Americans remain an annexation threat, but the superiority of the British constitution must be obvious even to them: “The only sort of union that is quite likely to come about is the joining by the Americans of the United Empire, or Confederation of all English-speaking nations, with which we have been connected for some years” (312). Such an alliance of AngloSaxon nations would lead to a utopia of interracial, interdenominational peace, a true Pax Britannica, in Centennius’s imaginary world. The British Empire, bringing with it the Anglo-Saxon “race,” the English language, and Western technology, is portrayed as a global civilizing force: Anglo-Saxon institutions have been gaining ground from the Nile to the Euphrates, and from the Euphrates to the Indus […]. The pent-up riches of the fertile Euphrates valley thenceforth began to find channels of commerce, and to be distributed through less fertile regions […]. Jerusalem, as soon as the Turk departed and the Anglo-Saxon entered, was purified, cleansed, and finally rebuilt. Great numbers of Jews from all parts of the world then returned and gave the city the benefit of their wealth, but all the commerce of the East keeps in the hands of Britons and Americans. English is, therefore, the chief language spoken from Beyrout to Bombay. (312)

Centennius here describes a kind of future Crusade in which Jerusalem is “cleansed” of Muslims and Islam; the city is revived by an Anglo-Saxon (and Jewish) takeover. Only Anglo-Saxons can truly release the “pent-up riches” of the region, not to the benefit of the locals but primarily to that of the apparently racially superior capitalists from the British Empire and the United States. Africa, meanwhile, witnesses similar “advancements” thanks to Anglo-Saxon—that is, British Imperial—domination:

36  A. WEISS Civilization has long penetrated to the upper waters of the Nile […] and highways now exist stretching from Alexandria through these magnificent regions to the Transvaal and the Cape. Madagascar, fair, fertile and wealthy, has developed, under Anglo-Saxon influence, her wonderful latent resources for all men’s good. (313)

The British Empire is, for Centennius, a force for material wealth and (white and Christian) civilization. A similar portrait of the Empire as a bulwark against American expansionism appears in W. H. C. Lawrence’s The Storm of ’92 (1889).1 The novella is the narrator’s account of an attempted invasion by the United States assisted, once more, by Fenians and Canadian traitors. Like Centennius, Lawrence criticizes the Americans’ loose immigration policies; Lawrence conflates race and class, considering those of certain national and class origins to be inherently superior or inferior: Our population was of two pure races, British and French, and we had escaped contamination from that stream of pauper immigration, the scum of Europe, which swept, in ever increasing volume, towards shores to the south of us and was in time the cause of so much perplexity and disaster to our American neighbours. [Hostility to Britain] was the feeling of ignorant and dangerous classes in the Republic, whose ranks had been swollen by the hordes brought in through twenty years of indiscriminate immigration, unfit for self-government, rebellious against all laws, with nothing to lose themselves, plotting always to possess others’ property. (Lawrence 1889, 8–9)

Poor immigrants carry the “disease” of socialism and anarchism with them, especially if they come from places (Eastern Europe in particular) where such ideas have flourished. The American masses are easily swayed because they are ignorant of the enlightened way the Empire treats its colonial subjects: A persistently untruthful press had for years […] sought to make Americans believe that as a power [Britain] was selfish, calculating, and grasping. We knew that while possessing the power to tax her colonies, and sometimes provoked by their adoption of tariffs hostile to her interests, she never exacted a farthing from them, left them free to govern themselves in their own way, and was always ready to protect them with fleets and armies, to the support of which they contributed nothing […]. (11)



War breaks out over what was a real issue during the 1870s and 1880s: the fisheries dispute. Lawrence extrapolates this history in relation to a serious incident in 1892 involving a fishing vessel called the James G. Blaine (named after the American Secretary of State during the time of the dispute). American complaints over British boarding of the ship and rabble-rousing by the bellicose American press and politicians seeking the Irish vote are met in his fiction with a “courteous and temperate reply” from Britain, which does not satisfy Congress, so “immediate action was taken upon it and we in Canada awoke to find ourselves at WAR” (22). The passage hints at the disadvantage of being a colony in such matters: Canada has no independent foreign policy and therefore no say in this war. As had been the case in the War of 1812, when Britain and the United States are at war, Canada is at war, whether it chooses to be or not. Thousands enlist in Canada’s militia. Meanwhile, the British Navy bombards New York City (32), thousands of Imperial soldiers arrive in Halifax and British Columbia—the latter made up of Indian soldiers— and Australia sends 20,000 men (33). Canadians react with pride: “that we would fight side by side with the historic regiments of the Imperial Army made the younger men almost exult that war had come” (33). The Americans invade the Niagara region as they had during the War of 1812, and Lawrence echoes that earlier conflict throughout his account of the battles there. Lawrence worries that Canada will be conquered, but his friend Waller reassures him: The war will build up Canada. There is no bond between human hearts like that brought about by a common danger and a common grief – and our Provinces, but lately such strangers to one another, now face the one, and will shortly, God help us, share the other. So with ourselves, England and the Empire. (42)

The hardships of war and the solidarity shown by the Empire will strengthen Canada’s internal bonds and the nation as a whole. Waller then compares the strength and fighting spirits of the United States and Britain, and by extension a republic and a monarchy: “We command the services of the most superb fleet in the world, of unlimited money and unlimited men. A republic never fights as a monarchy does; it lacks the sentiment of loyalty to one idea” (43). Canada thus benefits not just from the military power of the Empire but also its political system.

38  A. WEISS

The Canadians fight a second Battle of Queenston Heights in the shadow of the Brock Monument, assisted by the 42nd Highland Regiment—the famous Black Watch (57). Thanks to their help and the Canadians’ gallantry, the Americans are defeated. The Americans eventually capture the Niagara peninsula, but the British send thousands of soldiers, including “eighty thousand East Indians, Sikhs and Ghoorkas [sic]” (53). The British navy bombards and blockades American cities, and the United States has no choice to but give up its expansionist ambitions concerning Canada. After the war, soldiers gather in London to honor Queen Victoria in a scene depicting a unified and proud Empire: These were her stalwart and loyal knights whose lances had flashed beneath her guerdon: from the sunburnt plains of Hindoostan, and from the snows of Canada, from Africa, from Australasia, and the islands of the Southern seas, brothers all, shoulder to shoulder, for the Power that gave the dream had fashioned their hearts alike. (68)

Some voices in Canada still cry out for independence from the British Empire and even annexation by the United States. Lawrence’s response reveals that for him, the Empire is more than a force for civilization and good; it is the first step in a universal brotherhood of the human race as part of “the great family of British nations”: Parrot tongues proclaimed the great Brotherhood longed for by these patient and loyal patriots, a dream. So of old did Joseph dream. So Columbus, Galileo, Clarkson, Wilberforce, and all the leaders in the advancement of mankind, back to the days of barbarism – undaunted spirits – dreamers all: dreamers of empire then unknown, of progress then unimagined, of thoughts then uncomprehended. Dreamers of a time to come when this strange dreamer we call man, taught through succeeding generations, in the slow march of the centuries, wandering for cycles of painful years in the wilderness of ignorance and waywardness and misdoing, should gain at last the shining tablelands where all is Light. (67)

The Empire, then, is the political expression not merely of British power and moral greatness, but also of Anglo-Saxon racial superiority. Centennius and Lawrence accept the notion of the “white man’s burden” and the need to bring the “light” of British civilization to the world. Both authors draw implied parallels to the Pax Romana,



suggesting that peace will come to the world when the Anglo-Saxon nations join together to bring civilization and enlightenment to the ignorant hordes of Eastern Europe, Asia, and Africa. The British Empire will build the literal and figurative bridges connecting the globe and establishing a human family rightfully headed by the British monarch. It is unsurprising that such images of the moral and racial superiority of the Anglo-Saxon race and the greatness of the Empire it created are rare in French-Canadian sf. Yet some Francophone authors do promote the Empire as a shield against forces hostile to the national survival of French Canada. In Similia similibus, ou, la guerre au Canada (1916; More of the Same, or, The War in Canada), Ulric Barthe portrays a drug-induced vision of a German invasion of Québec—yet again aided and abetted by immigrants and treacherous locals. Before the Quiet Revolution of 1960, conservative nationalist thought in Québec equated the preservation of the French-Canadian “race” with the preservation of the land and the agricultural way of life. The literary expression of that view was the roman de la terre or roman du terroir: the “novel of the land.” In Barthe’s novel, a German company buys land near Québec City, and people’s willingness to sell their land to foreigners at all, but especially to Germans, is an unforgivable betrayal of the nation. The German army smuggles artillery in to shell Québec, and troops enter the city and issue proclamations in scenes designed to parallel the British Conquest of 1760 with the German takeover of French towns in the Franco-Prussian War and World War I (Barthe 1916, 61–63; 68–69). Interestingly, some of the Germans who participated in the infiltration and invasion are German-Americans who crossed the border to take up residence and prepare the way for their compatriots (80–81): another criticism of the United States for its lax immigration policies. As the Germans implement their rule over Québec City, they raise their flag over the Citadel, and Barthe’s description of the scene makes his own sympathies clear: Not everyone goes to bed a loyal subject of the King of Great Britain and Ireland, and wakes up at dawn under the iron yoke of the German Emperor. That is the abrupt change that proclaimed itself to view, at the rising sun, the day after the scenes that we have just narrated, the sinister emblem that replaced the British flag on the large pole of the citadel, visible from

40  A. WEISS far away on its aerial post three hundred feet above the river: three large horizontal stripes, black, white, and red, at the centre of which cruelly stood out the silhouette of a gigantic soot-coloured bird, more vulture than eagle, an object of terror with its open claws, its hooked beak, and its apocalyptic wings. (65)2

Until the epilogue, there is little mention of the British Empire in the novel; most of its action involves spies and the efforts of two Canadian journalist friends, one English and one French, to fight the occupiers. Paul Belmont and Jimmy Smythe represent the two “founding races” of Canada whose cooperation symbolizes the need for English- and French Canadians to bridge the linguistic divide and fight side-by-side against the Germans. The Germans assumed that the French Canadians would accept, and perhaps even assist, the offensive against their British imperial masters, but instead English- and French Canadians work together to defend their country, particularly as the Germans engage in the sorts of atrocities they were accused of committing in Belgium. The novel is a cautionary tale warning French Canadians not to be complacent, or what happened to the Belgians could happen to them (242). The British are mentioned in the context of their inability to help now that the Germans have attacked England and will, commander General von Goelinger claims, soon overwhelm the British Navy (191). The Premier replies defiantly to von Goelinger’s demands that the Canadians submit to German rule: Canada has tasted a little of this iron rule that you are preaching; but it has been a long time since then, and no one wants to return to that. Your political system, built on autocracy, oligarchy, Praetorian Guard, is an old machine; the centuries have worn it down. Why have six and a half million of your fellow citizens exiled themselves in America during the last century, if not because they were thirsty for freedom? (107)3

British colonial rule is therefore equated with freedom, while the Germans represent the kind of autocratic and oligarchic rule that provoked the Patriots’ Rebellions of 1837 and 1838. In refusing to accede to von Goelinger’s demands, the Premier reaffirms the nation’s allegiance to the British Crown (107). In the epilogue, Paul awakens from his fever-dream, and a discussion ensues among those who have been watching over him about the war raging in Europe; someone asks about the truth of reports that England



is committed to defending its colonies, and Smythe confirms that Britain would come to Canada’s aid. He points out that the British Navy had already rendered its German counterpart incapable of threatening North America; by bottling up Von Tirpitz’s squadrons in the North Sea, the British navy thereby prevented them from sailing up the Saint Lawrence, and committing a massacre, “beginning with the priests, for which the Prussian has a weakness, you know” (247).4 All that stands between a German invasion is the British Navy. French Canadians are urged to join the Canadian army to support their English brethren and their linguistic cousins in Belgium and France (243–51). There is much talk about the difficult relationship between French and English in Canada. The Curé points out that the British government seems to be more tolerant of the French language than English Canadians are; in 1910, Ontario had passed Regulation 17, which restricted French-language education: “Why this stubbornness to achieve absolute unity of language here, when you know perfectly well that those who govern this vast Empire never imagined forcing that on the 400 million souls who inhabit it?” (248).5 The Dominion’s own linguistic intolerance threatens Canada’s unity. The priest cites Britain’s treatment of other colonies to support his positive opinion of the Empire, lauding its granting of self-government to former colonies such as South Africa and Canada while arguing for a comparable fraternity between language groups within Canada: See, my dear Smythe, in good conscience, do you think this is the right moment to impose on our compatriots in other provinces vexatious rules and laws regarding schools, at the same time as the sons of France and England generously spill their blood side-by-side on the same battlefields? (250)6

The British Empire favors greater economic freedom than does the Canadian government, as the Curé raises the issue of free trade, claiming that French Canadians are even better subjects of the Empire than English Canadians (252). In all matters, for the sake of the war effort and the good of the country, Canada ought to follow the enlightened lead of the British Empire. Francophone fantastic texts that promote French-Canadian, as opposed to pan-Canadian, nationalism portray the Empire in both similar and different ways. Maurice Lemire describes two kinds of nationalism that emerged in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries: liberal and “ethnico-racial” or Romantic (Lemire 1970, 2). Based on national identities

42  A. WEISS

defined by “racial” heritage and historical links, the latter arose among nations seeking to throw off imperial masters. Authors writing from an ethnico-racial nationalist perspective, like James Fenimore Cooper, Sir Walter Scott, and Honoré de Balzac, often wrote historical fiction to portray the glories of their “race”’s past, providing readers with a sense of national identity based on that supposedly heroic history (Lemire 1970, 9–10). French-Canadian historical novelists sometimes wrote about events that involved resistance to British imperial rule, like the Conquest and the Rebellions, in their effort to teach readers about French Canada’s centuries-old heritage, and some speculative texts use narratives of the future to portray the risks and occasional triumphs of imagined efforts to assert French-Canadian identity in the face of Anglophone oppression. On the other hand, authors of both historical and speculative fiction occasionally portray the Empire as a bulwark against greater threats to Francophone and lower-class rights: for historical novelists, London appeared to be the protector of the interests of the people (Lemire 1970, 3). As we see in Similia similibus, some French-Canadian authors saw Imperial rule as light-handed, while French Canadians had far more to worry about from Anglophone Canadians and Americans. In Jules-Paul Tardivel’s Pour la patrie (1895; For My Country, 1975), for example, the image of the Empire is anything but hostile. In Tardivel’s future 1945 the Empire is in its death-throes. Canada is no longer a British colony due to a familiar source of interference in its affairs. As the journalist Laverdier tells a visiting Baron: the United States, whose president wanted to expand American influence as far as possible, took advantage of a diplomatic crisis in which England was apparently in the wrong, and decided to present the breaking of this last colonial bond as an ultimatum. […] England was completely powerless and so she ceded to the ultimatum. (Tardivel 1975, 37)

Laverdier is convinced that Washington seeks Canada’s annexation (38). Meanwhile, English Protestants, Freemasons, and capitalists are conspiring to destroy what limited autonomy Québec now possesses in the Confederation, as the government tries to reinstate the assimilationist political union that Lord Durham had briefly achieved. In his introduction to the English translation, I. A. Silver notes that for Tardivel, French-Canadian interests were in greater danger from a Canada that was no longer part of the Empire than from the Empire itself, which was a safeguard of Francophone and Catholic rights:



For in his view, Anglo-Saxon aggression was not to be feared in the form of British imperialism so much as in the form of English-Canadian nationalism […]. In fact, the imperial authorities could be seen as protectors of French-Canadian identity against the assimilating projects of the English Canadians. (1975, xxxiv–v)

Thus, Silver continues, Tardivel favored Québec separation from Canada but its continued membership in the Empire, as most “French Canadians agreed that the imperial power was necessary both to protect all Canadians against American annexationism and to act as a fair arbitrator in disputes against English-Canadian assimilationists” (1975, xxxv). The province is saved by a nationalist and devoutly Catholic politician, Dr. Joseph Lamirande, who is granted religious visions of the province’s and his own destiny, including prophetic words from St. Joseph (Tardivel 1975, 93) and comforting words from his dead daughter, who returns to life long enough to encourage him to continue his work (186–87). These miracles might not have been needed had Canada remained a part of the Empire; French Canadians could have appealed to Imperial authorities for aid against the evil forces besetting them, the Freemasons and Protestants, whom Britain would have held in check. Thanks to Lamirande’s leadership, the Canadian government votes down the constitutional proposal, and Québec achieves its independence. The image of the Empire in Ubald Paquin’s La cité dans les fers (1925; The City in Chains), by contrast, is thoroughly negative. A separatist revolution breaks out in Québec due to the actions of a staunchly imperialist prime minister who is also, again, a Freemason. Prime Minister MacEachran expects Québécois to contribute manpower and money to Imperial military needs, declares English the sole official language outside Québec, arrests nationalist leaders, and, in an act of anti-Catholic bigotry and astonishing political stupidity, seizes the assets of a convent for nonpayment of taxes. At one point, he makes a speech saying, “Soyons d’abord des Impériaux, ensuite des Canadiens” (Paquin 1925, 112; “Let us be first Imperials, and then Canadians”). Opposing him is a nationalist orator, André Bertrand, who calls upon the people of Québec to resist: “Will we allow them,” he cried, “to plunge the dagger of fanaticism into the breast of religion? Will we allow them in our country to rip out by force our ancestral language from the mouths of our compatriots? Will we

44  A. WEISS allow them to undermine the foundations of our nationality, so that one day they will sing over the corpse that was the Canadien race, by way of a Requiem, ‘Rule Britannia’?” (36)7

Bertrand becomes provisional president of a future separate Québec and arranges for arms to be imported from the United States (122–26). MacEachran declares martial law, summoning troops from Ontario to put down the rebellion (157). England sends warships to support the federal government’s efforts to crush the revolt (285), but Imperial troops are not needed in this case, perhaps because the menace the Canadian government faces is internal and relatively easy to handle compared to, say, a potential invasion from the United States. In addition, World War I has left Canada with a stronger, more self-sufficient militia. Thus, the threat to French-Canadian national aspirations comes once more from elsewhere in Canada, not overseas, although here the British Empire comes to the aid of its oppressive colonial officials (see also Weiss 1998). Finally, James De Mille’s A Strange Manuscript Found in a Copper Cylinder (1888) presents a somewhat indirect picture of the British Empire. Like many utopian writers, De Mille uses an imagined race to comment on British values and imperial behavior, creating a satire on colonialism (Milnes 1995, 88). Briton Adam More discovers the Kosekin, a lost tribe of Israel, living in the center of the Earth. Kosekin beliefs ostensibly run directly counter to traditional British ones: they value death over life and honor the poor and humble over the rich and powerful. However, as the conversations between More and the Kosekin representative, the Kohen, proceed, it becomes clear that the Kosekin are both an exaggeration and mirror image of Victorian England. For example, during one discussion, the Kohen acts as a classic satirical ingénu, turning the tables on his British visitor through revealing questions and comments about More’s own culture. More asks, “Then, with you, when a man procures the death of others he is honored?” and the Kohen replies by referring to “your system of honoring above all men those who procure the death of the largest number. You, with your pretended fear of death, wish to meet it in battle as eagerly as we do, and your most renowned men are those who have sent most to death.” More concludes: “To this strange remark I had no answer to make” (De Mille 1888, 171–72). According to Stephen Milnes, More’s triumph at the end thanks to his possession of a gun satirizes British imperial violence:



Through the timely discharge of his gun and his and Almah’s manipulation of existing power relations, More becomes the apotheosis of power, granting himself the authority to perpetually subordinate the Kosekin. In the process he gains immense riches for himself and Almah, wards off the possibility of miscegenation and wields immense power over the Kosekin, a power that operates within a colonialist dynamic. (Milnes 1995, 100)

For De Mille, Britannia rules the waves not through the force of its moral example, or its racial superiority, or its advanced civilization, but through the power of its weapons. These authors of fantastic fiction, both English and French, write with a nationalist agenda, as they seek to promote either Canada’s or Québec’s national evolution. They portray future—or, in the case of Barthe, alternate—Canadas that have largely benefited from the Imperial connection with Great Britain. The threat to national development is usually external to the country or province, and except for Paquin’s novel, these texts present the British Empire as a progressive and protective force. The greatest danger comes from the United States, whose economic, linguistic, military, and cultural power was to be feared; the Empire is the counterweight to that threat, and for some French-Canadian writers a counterweight to Anglo-Canadian power, too. Bridging the linguistic groups is the image of the Empire as an institution that offers Canada or Québec a strong defense against foreign invaders or domestic oppressors, a force that permits the country to fulfill its own destiny. For Anglophones, this destiny lies in the warm embrace of global Anglo-Saxon hegemony, and for Francophones it resides in a Confederation that grants a fair bit of autonomy for Québec. In some texts, even the Americans will finally recognize that their future will be far brighter, and indeed utopian, once they join the imperial family and thereby stand united with their Anglo-Saxon brothers and sisters against the political, military, economic, and racial enemies that abound. For English-Canadian writers, the Empire is a tolerant international community permitting national dreams to be realized within a protective shield; for French-Canadian writers, it is everything from a repressive, benign, or even positive force that must be reckoned with in the working out of Québec’s own destiny. For writers of fantastic fiction of both linguistic communities, the British Empire is portrayed as an inescapable part of what it will mean to be Canadian in the not-very-distant future.

46  A. WEISS

Notes 1. See my article (Weiss 2014) for more details on Lawrence’s handling of his future war. 2. This and subsequent translations in this chapter by Allan Weiss. “Il n’arrive pas à tout le monde de se coucher loyal sujet du roi de Grande-Bretagne et d’Irlande, et de se réveiller à l’aurore sous le joug de fer de l’Empereur des Allemands. C’est du moins ce brusque changement à vue que proclamait, au soleil levant, au lendemain des scènes que nous venons de raconter, le sinistre emblème qui avait remplacé le pavillon britannique au grand mat de la ­citadelle, visible de très loin de son poste aérien à trois cent pieds au-dessus du fleuve: trois larges bandes horizontales, noir, blanc et rouge, au centre desquelles se détachait crûment la silhouette d’un oiseau gigantesque couleur de suie, plutôt vautour qu’aigle, objet d’épouvante avec ses griffes écarquillées, son bec crochu et ses ailes d’apocalypse” (Barthe 1916, 65). 3. “Le Canada a gouté un peu de ce régime de fer que vous prônez; mais il y a longtemps de cela, et personne n’a envie d’y retourner. Votre organisme politique, fait d’autocratie, d’oligarchie, de garde prétorienne, est une vieille machine; les siècles l’ont usée. Pourquoi six millions et demi de vos concitoyens se sont-ils exilés en Amérique dans le cours du siècle dernier, si ce n’est parce qu’ils avaient soif de liberté?” (Barthe 1916, 107). 4. “[À] commencer par les curés, pour lesquels le Prussien a un faible tout particulier, vous savez” (Barthe 1916, 247). 5. “Pourquoi cet entêtement à exiger l’unité absolue de langue ici, quand vous savez parfaitement que ceux qui gouvernent ce vaste Empire n’ont jamais même songé à l’imposer aux 400 millions d’âmes qui l’habitent?” (Barthe 1916, 248). 6.  “Voyons, mon cher Smythe, la main sur la conscience, penses-tu le moment bien choisi pour imposer de force à nos compatriotes des autres provinces des règlements et des lois vexatoires à propos de petites écoles, dans le temps même où les fils de France et d’Angleterre versent généreusement leur sang côte à côte sur les mêmes champs de bataille?” (Barthe 1916, 250). 7.  “Permettrons-nous, s’écria-t-il, que l’on plonge au sein de la religion qui est nôtre le poignard du fanatisme? Permettrons-nous qu’en quelque coin du pays, l’on arrache de force, sur la bouche de nos compatriotes, les mots du parler ancestral? Permettrons-nous que l’on sape les fondements de notre nationalité, pour que, un jour, sur le cadavre de ce qui fut la race Canadienne, l’on chante, en guise de Requiem, le Rule Britannia?” (Paquin 1925, 36).



References Ashcroft, Bill, Gareth Griffiths, and Helen Tiffin. 1989. The Empire Writes Back: Theory and Practice in Post-colonial Literatures. London: Routledge. Banita, Georgiana. 2008. “Canons of Diversity in Contemporary EnglishCanadian Literature.” In History of Literature in Canada: English-Canadian and French-Canadian, edited by Reingard M. Nischik, 387–412. Rochester: Camden House. Barthe, Ulric. 1916. Similia similibus, ou, La Guerre au Canada: Essai romantique sur un sujet d’actualité. Québec: Imprimerie Cie. du “Telegraphe”. Bennett, Donna. [1993–1994] 2004. “English Canada’s Postcolonial Complexities.” In Unhomely States: Theorizing English-Canadian Postcolonialism, edited by Cynthia Sugars, 107–36. Peterborough: Broadview. Berger, Carl. 1970. The Sense of Power: Studies in the Ideas of Canadian Imperialism 1867–1914. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. Brydon, Diana. [1990] 2004. “The White Inuit Speaks: Contamination as Literary Strategy.” In Unhomely States: Theorizing English-Canadian Postcolonialism, edited by Cynthia Sugars, 94–106. Peterborough: Broadview. Centennius, Ralph. [1883] 1979. “The Dominion in 1983.” In Other Canadas: An Anthology of Science Fiction and Fantasy, edited by John Robert Colombo, 296–319. Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson. Coates, Colin M. 2008. “French Canadians’ Ambivalence to the British Empire.” In Canada and the British Empire, edited by Phillip Buckner, 181– 99. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Coleman, Daniel. 2006. White Civility: The Literary Project of English Canada. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. Craig, Terence. 1987. Racial Attitudes in English-Canadian Fiction, 1905–1980. Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press. De Mille, James. 1888. A Strange Manuscript Found in a Copper Cylinder. London: Chatto and Windus. Dobson, Kit. 2009. Transnational Canadas: Anglo-Canadian Literature and Globalization. Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press. Dupuis, Gilles. 2008. “Transculturalism and écritures migrantes.” In History of Literature in Canada: English-Canadian and French-Canadian, edited by Reingard M. Nischik, 497–508. Rochester: Camden House. Hutcheon, Linda. [1989] 2004. “‘Circling the Downspout of Empire’: Postcolonialism and Postmodernism.” In Unhomely States: Theorizing EnglishCanadian Postcolonialism, edited by Cynthia Sugars, 71–93. Peterborough: Broadview. Kamboureli, Smaro. 2000. Scandalous Bodies: Diasporic Literature in English Canada. Don Mills: Oxford University Press.

48  A. WEISS Lawrence, W. H. C. 1889. The Storm of ’92: A Grandfather’s Tale Told in 1932. Toronto: Sheppard. Lee, Dennis. [1973] 2004. “Cadence, Country, Silence: Writing in Colonial Space.” In Unhomely States: Theorizing English-Canadian Postcolonialism, edited by Cynthia Sugars, 43–60. Peterborough: Broadview. Lemire, Maurice. 1970. Les grands thèmes nationalistes du roman historique canadien-français. Laval: Presses de l’Université Laval. Milnes, Stephen. 1995. “Colonialist Discourse, Lord Featherstone’s Yawn and the Significance of the Denouement in A Strange Manuscript Found in a Copper Cylinder.” Canadian Literature 145: 86–104. Moss, Laura, ed. 2003. Is Canada Postcolonial?: Unsettling Canadian Literature. Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press. Paquin, Ubald. 1925. La cité dans les fers: Roman canadien inedit. Montréal: Garand. Silver, I. A. 1975. “Introduction.” In For My Country, edited by Jules-Paul Tardivel, vi–xl. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. Slemon, Stephen. [1990] 2004. “Unsettling the Empire: Resistance Theory for the Second World.” In Unhomely States: Theorizing English-Canadian Postcolonialism, edited by Cynthia Sugars, 139–50. Peterborough: Broadview. Tardivel, Jules-Paul. [1895] 1975. For My Country. Translated by Sheila Fischman. Introduction by I. A. Silver. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. Weiss, Allan. 1998. “Separations and Unities: Quebec Separatism in English- and French-Canadian Science Fiction.” Science Fiction Studies 74: 53–60. ———. 2014. “Baptisms by Fire: War in Early Canadian SF.” Studies in Canadian Literature 39 (2): 210–29. ———. 2015. “‘The True North Strong and Free’: National Evolution and Race in Early English-Canadian Utopian Fiction.” Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts 26 (2): 292–310.


Bridging Borders: Transnationalism and Postcolonialism in Canadian Speculative Fiction


Nevermind the Gap: Judith Merril Challenges the Status Quo Ritch Calvin

In many ways, Judith Merril was the quintessential New Yorker. She was brusque and charming; she was self-involved and selfless. She took part in the New York social and political life. She was politically engaged. She was part and parcel of the Futurians network of up-and-coming writers. She attended conventions and read and wrote. However, she found her left-leaning political stance was more and more uncomfortable during the conservative shift of the 1960s, and by the time of the Vietnam War and the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in 1968, she had had enough of US politics.1 She packed her bags and her daughter, Anne, and left for the “free” nation of Canada (Kidd 1974, 12). Nevertheless, she continued to hold out hope for the world and for humankind. One of the features of Merril’s short fiction is her commitment to challenge norms and divisions and to bridge any perceived gap among them. I will examine four areas or ways in which Merril builds her bridges: science, nation, gender, and literary form. Josephine Juliet Grossman was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1923. Her grandfather, Joseph Grossman, was a renowned rabbi and R. Calvin (*)  SUNY at Stony Brook, Stony Brook, NY, USA © The Author(s) 2019 A. J. Ransom and D. Grace (eds.), Canadian Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror, Studies in Global Science Fiction,



avid Zionist, and Judith shared both her grandfather’s name (Josephine) and his Zionist beliefs (until she was sixteen). Her father was expected also to be a rabbi but dropped out of seminary and became a writer and translator. Following a series of unfortunate events, her father committed suicide, and her mother relocated to the Bronx, NY. In high school, Merril was a self-described socialist. She writes that “[i]t is important to remember that the entire context of my high-school time was a political one” (Merril and Pohl-Weary 2002, 30). Later, Merril became an active member of the Young People’s Socialist League. Also in her autobiography, she writes: “My mother had raised me to be a man […]. She never trained me to hide my light. I was encouraged to argue analytically, to assert my opinions, to demonstrate in every possible way how smart I was” (Merril and Pohl-Weary 2002, 32). Later in high school, she identified politically as a Trotskyist, and she met her first husband, Danny Zissman, “at a Trotskyist Youth Fourth of July picnic in Central Park” (Merril and Pohl-Weary 2002, 34). They married shortly thereafter, and their first daughter, Merril Zissman, was born in 1942. Zissman was drafted and shifted around the country; Judith followed him and began to write while he was stationed in San Francisco. When Zissman was shipped overseas, she returned to New York, and there met the Futurians, “a group of determinedly rebellious, mostly left-wing, science fiction fans just in the process of becoming professionals” (Merril and Pohl-Weary 2002, 42). They included Isaac Asimov, Frederik Pohl, Virginia Kidd, Donald Wollheim, Cyril Kornbluth, James Blish, Johnny Michel, and Bob Lowndes. “Some of them were mild socialists and a couple were card-carrying Communists, but every single one of them engaged in major intellectual and ideological battles with fans who were not leftist – as well as with Trotskyists like myself” (Merril and PohlWeary 2002, 45–46). These young Futurians were overtly political, and they all saw science fiction as a necessary bridge to the future. Merril was always politically engaged, and her book reviews and Year’s Best SF anthology summations often reflected the political issues of the day. But the Vietnam War and the events in Chicago at the Democratic National Convention in the summer of 1968 profoundly disturbed her. In one of her final “Books” columns (January 1969), she laments that so many of the books seem so far removed from the pressing realities of the day (Merril 2016, 318–19). Shortly thereafter, she and her daughter Anne moved to Canada. Still, as Merril notes in her 1971 essay, “What Do You Mean? Science? Fiction?” she saw science fiction as “virtually the only



vehicle for political dissent” for Cold War era writers (Merril 2016, 401). Even after her disillusionment in Chicago, Merril still wanted to change the world, and science fiction was one pathway to do so.

Merril and Science In looking at Merril’s commentaries in her Year’s Best SF anthology series (1956–1968) and her book reviews in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (1965–1969), we see that Merril shared some of John W. Campbell’s scientific interests. Like Campbell, she firmly believed that science fiction should be grounded in science and technology. In her “Books” columns, she included reviews of books by Arthur C. Clarke, Fred Hoyle, Carl Sagan, Josef Shkovskii, Walter Sullivan, George Gamow, and many others. She offered effusive praise for the science writing of Isaac Asimov and disparaged that of John Rublowsky. In 1951, Merril published an essay in Marvel Science Fiction entitled “Where Will Our First Spaceship Go: Mars: New World Waiting,” in which she makes the case for the colonization of Mars over colonization of the moon (Merril 1951). In 1958, she included a short nonfiction section, with selections from Clarke’s The Making of a Moon (1957), essays by G. Harry Stine and Willy Ley, and her own essay, “How Near Is the Moon?” (Merril 1958). In her fourth annual anthology, Merril’s science essay “Rockets to Where?” summarizes some of the (then) current research on space travel (Merril 1959). These early nonfiction essays focused on the possibilities of space exploration and colonization of extraterrestrial planets or moons (a common theme in her fiction). In this manner, Merril’s editorial practices sought to bridge the gap between fiction and nonfiction, between science and science fiction. However, Merril was never solely interested in the “traditional” or “hard” sciences. Like Campbell, Merril wanted to stretch the reader’s notion of “science.” In her “Books” columns, she reviewed books on the occult, telepathy, and other “psi” phenomena. As she states in her third annual anthology for 1958, “You will find rocket ships and alien planets in these pages, as well as robots, mutated monsters, and strange inventions; but the science under examination here is not primarily physics or chemistry. It is biology, psychology, anthropology, sociology, politics, economics – people” (Merril 2016, 27). Merril bridges the connections between “science” and “psi.”2


The novella “Daughters of Earth” ([1952] 2005)3 recounts the lives and adventures of six generations of women, as they, as individuals, and we, as human beings, move farther and farther out into the universe. This novella appeared just a year after her essay on the colonization of Mars, and just before her essay on space travel. “Daughters” discusses space travel, fuel variations, terraforming techniques, materials supply, and so on, though all of this functions as background information for the story of the six women. While on Uller, humans encounter a silicon-based life form, the Ullern, described as a cross between a pig and a dachshund. While they initially think that the Ullern may communicate telepathically, they ultimately determine via testing that the Ullern communicate via radio waves. The 1952 short story “Whoever You Are” begins with two soldiers on a routine patrol of the Web that protects the “System” from intruders. A known ship returns to the System but sets off an alarm: “ALYN LIF ABORD” (Merril 2005, 125). The human crew had encountered aliens with “a fairly highly-developed technology, and quite obviously a very highly-­ developed psychology or mental science of some sort. They are telepaths, after all” (137). While the aliens telepathically control the four crew members, the Captain resolves to commit suicide rather than allow the aliens aboard. Four alien “scientists” (132) highjack the human ship in an attempt to return to the System. In this case, the telepathy of the aliens proves too frightening to the humans, and the aliens are destroyed. Merril presents the alien telepathy matter-offactly, yet represents human suspicion of it. Two years later, “Peeping Tom” ([1954] 2005) focuses on a GI, Tommy, stationed abroad. With the help of a local guru, he develops telepathic abilities, which although rare are again represented in a matter-of-fact manner. Initially, Tommy is appalled by what he hears in the minds of others, particularly the minds of women. He holds very t­raditional notions of femininity, and he expects his prospective wife not only to act but also to think like a “lady.” When he returns home after the war, he uses his newfound abilities to become a successful businessman. In the punch line of the story, he learns that his wife, Candace, has also developed her own telepathic abilities (more later). In the way that Merril includes the so-called “paranormal” and presents it as matter-of-fact, she bridges any perceived gap between science and nonscience.



Merril and Nation As evident in the previous section, Merril also challenges the notion of nation or nationality—of identity and belonging. She sets much of her short fiction in post-nation environments or within global (or galactic) societies. Arguably, Merril sees a global government as one way to transcend the politics of war (though she never eliminates conflict). Further, these two connections (science and nation) are linked for Merril. For example, telepathy serves as a means to bridge the gap between both individuals and groups (nations). Consider what was happening politically in the world in the early 1950s. The world had just come out of—and barely survived—the second war to end all wars. Merril had already written strongly and effectively about the dangers of nuclear war in “That Only a Mother” ([1948] 2005) and Shadow on the Hearth (1950). In the wake of WWII, the Marshall Plan sought (among many things) to reduce barriers and encourage cross-border trade. More significant for Merril, perhaps, was the creation of the United Nations in 1945 after the end of the war. While the stated goal was to ensure continued world peace, many critics saw the UN as a sort of unified or global government that ignored national sovereignty. Nevertheless, the UN offered a model for the sort of trans-global or trans-galactic government that Merril sometimes envisions. But already by 1950, another significant war had broken out when North Korea invaded its southern neighbor, drawing the world into another deadly conflict—another border war. In the 1950 story “Barrier of Dread,” Merril offers her first example of a trans-galactic government. In the future setting, humans have moved out from Earth and conquered new planets, both uninhabited and inhabited. Humans continue to expand outward until they colonize a seventh galaxy. All life is governed by rational, scientific principles. People are all “adjusted” (Merril 2005, 38) or “perfectly adjusted” (36) and act rationally according to scientific principles. Dangret serves as Managing Director of the entire system. When the poet Sarise produces a multisensory, multimedia poem intended to evince a feeling of fear in its viewers, Dangret forbids her. Dangret consults the trans-galactic Council of Physical Scientists and the Council of Social Scientists, who determine that all of humanity must alter its behavior because the current model will—eventually—fail. No system can expand indefinitely.


In “Whoever You Are,” humans have built a Web that protects the entire Solar System and allows only recognized and authorized ships and entities to enter the System. As aliens attempt entry into the Solar System, human officers debate their response to the intruding Others. One of them quotes (incorrectly—perhaps on purpose) Edwin Markham4: He drew a circle that shut me out – Heretic, a rebel, a thing to flout. But Love and I had the wit to win: We drew a circle that took him in! (Markham 1916, 1)

The officers struggle with an epistemological question of trust and an ontological question of identity. They do not want to let the Others across the border unless they can be certain of their intentions. Captain Malcolm, the man closest to the aliens, and the man the officers trust most, “didn’t even really believe the Marsmen were really human” (Merril 2005, 140). He believes that the aliens cannot be allowed into the System. In their deliberations, the Psychofficer notes that the human race is too afraid “of anything different, anything Outside, anything one degree more intense than the rules allow” (141). The debate over the “threat” of four unarmed aliens appalls him. In his view, such paranoia represents all that is sickest in our society. In the end, despite Markham’s admonition to bring the Outsider in and to love that person/thing, despite the elimination of national borders as sources of conflict, the story still posits an Outsider attempting to “invade” a border—and a tragic response to a perceived threat. Finally, in “Daughters of Earth,” the mission to Pluto is financed and organized by the “United Earth” (Merril 2005, 57). When humans settle on Uller, they quickly encounter the Ullern. One man’s immediate reaction is to raise his gun and shoot the Ullern. He is stopped, but once an Ullern damages a human dwelling, the chorus for the eradication of the Ullern gains volume. At each step, most humans simply want to kill off the Ullern, even devising a plan for their extermination. Humans divide over the issue, and a group of pacifists leaves Firstown and settles Josetown, named after the staunchest defender of the Ullern. The pattern here certainly seems familiar, and Merril was consciously critical of such colonial attitudes and practices. While the colonization of Uller resembles the European colonization of North America, the humans



in Firstown use the term “gooks” to refer to the Ullern, employing a derogatory term used by the US military during both the Korean and Vietnam wars. In these three examples, Merril demonstrates that the elimination of borders and identities may not be sufficient to bridge our differences.

Merril and Gender Third, Merril challenges the divisions of gender. Merril’s fiction often features female characters at a time in sf history when female characters tended to be secondary at best and props at worst (Sabella 2000, 195). In Merril’s work, by contrast, women are the leading figures, the actors, and the equals of men: astronauts, scientists, and colonists. Merril also shifts (in shades of Virginia Woolf) the kinds of stories and the kinds of activities represented within science fiction. She includes love stories, maternity and mothering, and (as Virginia Kidd points out) changing diapers (Kidd 1974, 9). In general, Merril presents this gender bridging matter-of-factly: if humans colonize new worlds, they will set up new families and new homes, they will produce, care for, and raise new colonists, and they will need diapers. And yet, the inclusion of “feminine” elements was not always welcome. For example, Damon Knight infamously characterized Merril’s fiction as the “[s]weat-andtears-and-baby-urine variety” and as “kitchen-sink” science fiction (qtd. in Newell and Lamont 2009, 62). In more positive responses, both Newell and Lamont (2009) and Yaszek (2008) have argued that Merril takes traditional narrative forms (both the frontier narrative of the Western and the pulp sf space story) and transforms them into something new. She feminizes the very form by shifting the focus and foregrounding both the perspective of and the effects upon women. In her autobiography, Merril writes that she identified as a feminist. She was a member of the Futurians, an almost entirely male fraternity. She participated in the New York science fiction community, also almost entirely male. She read and wrote about science and technology. Further, she was a fully sexual being. In her chapter entitled “What Kind of Feminist Am I?” she notes that, although she was a feminist, she did not follow a party line, largely because her own upbringing was so different from most other women’s and feminists’ of the time (Merril and PohlWeary 2002, 37).


Charlotte Hagood argues that by 1950 Merril had already identified the conflict that Betty Friedan later named and examined in The Feminine Mystique (1963). In particular “the profound links between the ostensibly private world of the American postwar home, the public world of industry, and the increasingly arcane realms of professional science and its cadre of influential ‘experts’” (Hagood 2011, 1007). Pre- and postWWII, women received a double message regarding their patriotic duty; first they were told “go out and help the war effort; you can do it,” and then they were told to go back into the home to do their patriotic duty. According to Yaszek (2004), Merril then takes two different approaches. One, from the home that she has been sent back into, she subtly (and sometimes not so subtly) challenges the gendered norms of society, and two, from the professional world she does the same—whether as scientist, as astronaut, or as colonist. Merril’s early story “Hero’s Way” ([1952] 2005) features neither female characters nor a feminine perspective. The women and men here play very stereotypical roles: 147 men graduate from the Space Academy, and women latch onto them for fame and money. Upon their graduation, however, the Brigadier delivers a speech about a former graduate who became a hero but ended up in jail. He also reminds them that what ruined the hero was that his trip into space had rendered him sterile. In other words, the very act of heroism emasculated him. Of course, not one of the graduates takes heed of his story; they all run to the table to sign up, hoping to be the next hero. In short, Merril satirizes the masculinity of space travel and of the hero drive.5 In a reverse strategy, “Woman’s Work Is Never Done” ([1951] 2005) satirizes femininity and women’s domestic roles. The story features a young woman, Leslie, in a fantastically futuristic and technological society, who returns home after a preliminary domestic exam. Her mother castigates her for not slicing the bread just the way her father likes it (Merril 2005, 53). The technology may change, but the roles and attitudes never do. In both of these examples, Merril bridges the gender gap by satirizing contemporary gendered attitudes and behaviors. Merril also employs a strategy of leveling gender roles. In “Peeping Tom,” Tommy preys on women with his telepathic abilities. He wants the “pure” Candace, but satisfies his urges with the local, dark, native woman. For him, Candace was unlike all the other “virgins” who were conniving and scheming. In his words, she “really lived up to his ideal of the American girl” (230). Furthermore, the language Tommy hears



in women’s minds shocks him. He discovers, much to his chagrin, that women and men are alike in their thoughts. After attaining his “ideal,” Tommy discovers that Candace also possesses telepathic abilities, putting her on a level field with him. Similarly, in a passage in “Whoever You Are,” the PR agent (Lucy) asks permission to change into more comfortable clothing. The men in command suggest her decision might be affected by her clothing. She quickly responds that they should find something more comfortable for the Doctor, saying, “I suspect a change of clothes might make him more decisive” (Merril 2005, 141). A bit later, the Psychofficer argues that the need for love makes us vulnerable, and so makes the aliens a real threat. Lucy counters him—maybe he needs love that badly, but she certainly doesn’t. In these two examples, Merril represents the chauvinistic attitudes prevalent in the 1950s and 60s, but also represents women’s rejection of those same stereotypes and roles. In a final example, “Daughters of Earth” offers a narrative gendered in multiple ways. For one, the novella focuses almost entirely on female characters. It relates the lives of six generations of women in one family, in particular as they relate to the exploration of space and colonization of new planets. “Writing in the immediate postwar period, in which the workplace was once more very much a male-dominated sphere, Merril envisions the co-ed workplace as one populated by professional couples with complementary skills” (Newell and Lamont 2009, 57). Even so, females take center stage throughout the narrative. Even when men achieve something (as when José figures out the code for communicating with the Ullern), it is in the background and/or through the lens of one of the female characters. For another, the story shifts the kinds of activities represented within science fiction. As Newell and Lamont note, Merril’s “spacetravel stories […] unabashedly [focus] on domestic themes, settings, and characters” (2009, 50). For Merril, the space ship literally becomes a domestic space. As Emma and the crew make their way to Uller, the ship becomes their living quarters with couples caring for their extended families. Once they land, they dismantle the ship and reconstruct it as living quarters. While Emma and Leah engage in scientific research on Uller, the narrative focuses equal amounts of energy on domestic matters, from mother–daughter relationships, to familial relationships, to child rearing, to education—the “dreaded” diaper-changing mode of sf.


Finally, “Daughters of Earth” transforms generic conventions and challenges the masculine traditions to offer feminized versions. For example, the novella begins: “Martha begat Joan and Joan begat Ariadne” (Merril 2005, 55). Here, Merril takes the biblical tradition of genealogy and centers it upon the women in the family. In addition, she takes the frontier narrative and rewrites it.6 Newell and Lamont note that “Daughters” is “critical of the colonial enterprise and in particular resists orientalizing its aliens” (2009, 59). The space flight and extraterrestrial colonization narrative transforms into a domestic and feminist narrative about the effects on people and their lives.

Merril and the New Wave Finally, Merril saw the gap between “science fiction” and “literature” as an artificial one, and one that needed bridging. Indeed, in 2016, Barry Malzberg (who had just served on a committee that granted Judith Merril the Cordwainer Smith Recovery Award), writes: “Judith Merril (1920-1997) had big ideas in the 1950s: she was going to take down all of the barriers between what she called the science fiction ‘ghetto’ and the ‘mainstream.’ She was going to prove that the barriers were artificially constructed and made no sense” (Malzberg 2016). And Malzberg means this in the worst way possible. For Malzberg, Merril represented the change that would obviate the genre he called home. For others, Merril was synonymous with the New Wave, though Merril herself was never comfortable with that connection, and, as Elizabeth Cummins points out, Merril almost never used the term “New Wave” at all (Cummins 1992, 208; 1995, 202). Actually, Merril takes pains not to use the term. Instead, she uses “the movement,” “The New Thing,” and, somewhat derisively, “TNT.” Nevertheless, the “little mother of science fiction” had become the champion of the New Wave.7 Merril knew, then, that the generic distinctions were arbitrary and in constant flux. In her understanding of sf, Merril drew heavily from Reginald Bretnor, who, in 1953, saw the emergence of an “integrated” literature that drew from mainstream and genre literature. In her 1966 essay in Extrapolation, Merril argues that the “viable” sf being produced at that time was “applying the traditions of the genre and the techniques of contemporary literature to the concepts of 20th century [sic] science” (Merril 2016, 306). For Merril, neither artistic nor literary movements



emerge from a vacuum, and she carefully traces the New Wave antecedents in sf history: Merril’s history of science fiction prior to the New Wave, from about 1920 to 1960, reveals that she saw the changes associated with editors like John W. Campbell, Horace Gold, Anthony Boucher, and Michael Moorcock occurring when different streams of “intellectual endeavor” flow together, when the editors encourage writers to re-vision both science and fiction. (Cummins 1995, 203)

Merril recognized that genres, including the New Wave, emerge from developments with literature and art, from sociopolitical changes in the world in which the art is being produced, from changes in our understanding of science and the technologies that emerge from them, and from the individuals who are the products of these times. Malzberg suggests that Merril’s ideas about changes in genre fiction date back to the 1950s (Malzberg 2016). Indeed, her anthology series began in 1956, and she fairly quickly began to draw from and include both science and mainstream texts. Her “Books” columns in Fantasy & Science Fiction take a similar trajectory, with her November 1967 column almost entirely dedicated to the question of the “TNT” (Merril 2016, 262–69). Those ideas culminated in 1968 in her anthology of New Wave writing, England Swings SF (1968), one of her last professional sf-related publications before relocating to Canada. Merril never offers a checklist of criteria; rather, she provides examples and reading guides. She notes, as Cummins paraphrases, that the British writers associated with the New Wave produced “the rather more subjective, perhaps more thoughtful, certainly more literary, direction of […] s-f in the mid-sixties” (Cummins 1995, 200). Given the above, it is surprising that Merril took a fairly traditional narrative approach to her fiction. However, much of her critical and historical writing about the New Wave took place in the mid- to latesixties, by which time she had largely quit writing fiction. Her first sf story appeared in 1948, and only one story appeared after 1963. As noted above, she argued that the New Wave emerged at a particular moment in history at the nexus of genre conventions, mainstream developments, scientific discoveries, and geopolitical events. Given that, it makes sense that her narratives did not yet demonstrate the characteristics of “the movement.” Nevertheless, Merril was well read, and she sometimes employed mainstream or literary narrative techniques.


For instance, as Lisa Yaszek notes, Merril uses “That Only a Mother” to “explore the consequences of nuclear war, combined with her desire to show how new sciences and technologies have an impact on women’s lives” (2004, 80). Merril draws on her knowledge of nuclear power and its effects, and she also draws on scientific and technological extrapolation regarding televisions, communications, and food preparation. Narratively, the story consists largely of letters from Margaret to her husband, Hank, as he is stationed in a nuclear test facility. The first-person POV of Margaret’s letters leaves the reader epistemologically dependent upon Margaret. Cummins argues that revealing Margaret’s inner thoughts via the epistolary form “draws the reader into a sympathetic relationship with the mother” (1992, 206). The second half of the narrative switches to “the third-person voice and Hank’s perspective” (Yaszek 2004, 81), and provides the reader with a different perspective on baby Henrietta’s ontological status. Even so, the narrative “withholds just enough crucial information and authorial judgment” (Cummins 1992, 207) that the ending remains open to interpretation. Cummins details the narrative experimentation Merril employs in “Survival Ship” ([1951] 2005), suggesting that Merril wrote the story without using personal pronouns but that experiment ultimately failed (1992). Instead, she ended up with a story containing “almost no gender pronouns” (Merril and Pohl-Weary 2002, 156). Second, Merril withheld crucial information—as in “That Only a Mother”—but here the effect is not an open ending, but rather, an overdetermined one. Arguably, the narrative and stylistic attempts here stem less from an interest in literary techniques than in the germ of an idea about gender. Merril intended “Survival Ship” as part of a proposed novel regarding the relationship between essential and socialized gender. She saw the novel as a thought experiment about the nature of gender—very much as Ursula K. Le Guin has said that The Left Hand of Darkness (1969) was a thought experiment, but anticipating that work by two decades. Of “Daughters of Earth,” Cummins argues that “Merril rejects the traditional, straightforward narrative and uses the personal narrative form,” including journals, letters, and asides (1992, 209). The story also contains several metafictional comments about the form itself: “I made up my mind that if I were to write the story at all, it would have to be done my own way, with whatever idiosyncratic eccentricities or godlike presumptions of comprehension might be involved” (Merril 2005, 58). Emma, representing the fourth generation of women in the story, constructs a



family history for Carla, the sixth generation of women. Carla is about to embark on a mission that will take her through space and time, and her fate is uncertain. Emma writes the history of women in the family for Carla to take with her. Even here, though, the conceit fails as some of the narrative takes place after Carla has departed. In order to construct her family history, Emma must imagine scenes between her grandmother (Joan) and great- grandmother (Martha). Furthermore, the narrative slips between first person and third, as Emma explains to Carla in an aside that she will sometimes write of herself as “Emma” and sometimes as “I,” because some of the events of the past seem immediate and personal, and some of them seem as though they had happened to someone else. Merril eschews a traditional sf narrative form in favor of a more personal and intimate form (and a gendered form); the novella has an overall chronological narrative arc, but is filled with parentheses, flashbacks, and other disruptions of its linearity. It ends (as do several other examples above) without any resolution. The epistemological mode of sf offers answers to questions, but in this novella, Merril leaves many questions unanswered. As Merril herself noted, the New Wave (like all other artistic developments) had deep antecedents and roots in many things, including stylistic and thematic changes in mainstream literature and cognitive and technical changes in the sciences. Merril tapped into both of these streams, and they were reflected in her work. The New Wave, as she said, was characterized by a shift from the technology to the people (Merril 2016, 263), and Merril’s short fiction almost always did that, as well, in particular expanding sf’s definition of “people” to include women. Even so, I would not call these works by Merril “New Wave.” Although Malzberg accuses Merril of trying to “destroy” sf through her strategy of breaking down the boundaries between “sf” and “the mainstream,” Merril certainly never saw it that way. Instead, she saw herself as making connections and building bridges between areas of thought and artistic modes of creation.

Conclusion Emily Pohl-Weary describes her grandmother as “rather ornery, and extremely stubborn” but also as an individual who loved with a “fire-like intensity” (Pohl-Weary 2002, 7). She loved reading and learning, she loved knowledge, she loved people (both in the abstract and in the particular), and she loved science fiction. She was committed to transforming


the world into what she thought of as a better place. She was an idealist with the courage of her convictions. When she left the US for Canada, exchanged New York for Toronto, she did so out of political conviction. In an interview published in The Best of Judith Merril, Merril describes the process of her shift from disillusion to action (1976, 11–12). Instead of going back to England (as she had originally planned), she thought that by going to Canada she could at least help those who were fleeing the US. Once living in Canada, she experienced a “thrilling awareness” at the freedom she had regained (Kidd 1974, 12). Even as she rejected the imperialism and nationalism of the US, she helped bridge differences within Canada, in part through the Tesseracts anthologies in which she drew from all areas and all language traditions within Canada. Judith Merril dedicated her life to education—in one form or another. As a sf writer, she encouraged readers to think about issues of gender and social conventions. As a sf editor, she cast her nets widely and brought her bounty to her readers. As an expatriate, she worked for the free university system and donated her extensive sf collection to the Toronto Public Library. Merril understood, at some level, change. On the one hand, Merril did advocate for change within sf. She demanded that women be included as full participants in the field, and she imagined futures in which they were. Further, she demanded that all kinds of activities long considered outside the realm of sf be included, from running a household to raising a child. On the other hand, she also understood that change was going to happen—that it was happening. Science fiction was changing in both style and content. In her nonfiction, Merril set out the history and the antecedents to change and identified the current agents of change—be they institutional or individual. The changes within sf were reflections of the changes happening outside genre fiction, and Merril was never afraid to let those changes in.

Notes 1. In a coincidence (?) that (a) illustrated the sort of conservative turn that Merril opposed, and (b) must have infuriated her, the March 1968 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction featured a full-page ad opposite Merril’s “Books” column. The ad copy reads: “We the undersigned believe the United States must remain in Vietnam to fulfill its responsibilities to the people of that country.” Seventy writers signed the statement, including Poul Anderson, Marion Zimmer Bradley, R[eginald] Bretnor,



Robert A. Heinlein, Sam Moskowitz, Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle, Jack Vance, and Jack Williamson (Advertisement 1968, 45). Merril strongly opposed the war. 2. In Better to Have Loved, Merril reprints her communications with Katherine Maclean regarding their ESP experiments (Merril and PohlWeary 2002, 118–28). 3.  This and other citations from stories are taken from Homecalling and Other Stories: The Complete Solo Short SF of Judith Merril (2005). 4.  Edwin Markham (1852–1940) was a US poet and Poet Laureate of Oregon (1923–1931). “Outwitted” was one of three four-line poems published as “Epigrams” (1915). 5. In the documentary on Merril, What If… (Klodawsky 2001), she suggests that, in the period in which she was writing sf, men were interested in rockets and space travel—primarily in order to fight. She states that women were interested in communication, and in particular the direct communication of telepathy. 6. For much more on Merril’s revisioning of the western/frontier tale, see Newell and Lamont (2009). 7. In The Futurians, Damon Knight recounts the lives and loves of the group. He relates an incident where Cyril Kornbluth, Merril’s sometime collaborator, derisively said, “There she is, the little mother of science fiction” (Knight 1977, 195).

References Advertisement. Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. 1968 (March): 45. Cummins, Elizabeth. 1992. “Short Fiction by Judith Merril.” Extrapolation 33 (3) (October): 202–14. ———. 1995. “Judith Merril: A Link with the New Wave—Then and Now.” Extrapolation 36 (3) (October): 198–209. Hagood, Charlotte Amanda. 2011. “Rethinking the Nuclear Family: Judith Merril’s Shadow on the Hearth and Domestic Science Fiction.” Women’s Studies 40: 1006–29. Kidd, Virginia. 1974. “Introduction.” In Survival Ship and Other Stories, edited by Judith Merril, 7–14. Toronto: Kakabeka. Klodawsky, Hélène. 2001. What If: A Film About Judith Merril. Montréal: Imageries P. B. Knight, Damon. 1977. The Futurians: The Story of the Science Fiction “Family” of the 30’s That Produced Today’s Top SF Writers and Editors. New York: John Day. Malzberg, Barry. 2016. “There Is No Defense.” Galaxy’s Edge. Accessed January 6, 2017.

66  R. CALVIN Markham, Edwin. 1916. The Shoes of Happiness and Other Poems. Garden City: Doubleday. Merril, Judith. 1951. “Where Will Our First Spaceship Go: Mars: New World Waiting.” Marvel Science Fiction (August): 107. ———. 1958. “How Near Is the Moon?” In The Year’s Greatest Science-Fiction and Fantasy: Third Annual Volume, edited by Judith Merril, 221–26. New York: Dell. ———. 1959. “Rockets to Where?” In The Year’s Greatest Science-Fiction and Fantasy: Fourth Annual Volume, edited by Judith Merril, 234–38. New York: Dell. ———, ed. 1968. England Swings SF. New York: Doubleday. ———. 1976. “Interview.” The Best of Judith Merril. Notes by Virginia Kidd. New York: Warner Books. ———. 2005. Homecalling and Other Stories: The Complete Solo Short SF of Judith Merril. Edited by Elisabeth Carey. Framingham: NEFSA Press. ———. 2016.“The Judith Merril Theory of Lit’ry Criticism”: Judith Merril’s Nonfiction. Edited by Ritch Calvin. Seattle: Aqueduct Press. Merril, Judith, and Emily Pohl-Weary. 2002. Better to Have Loved: The Life of Judith Merril. Toronto: Between the Lines. Newell, Dianne, and Victoria Lamont. 2009. “Daughter of Earth: Judith Merril and the Intersections of Gender, Science Fiction, and Frontier Mythology.” Science Fiction Studies 36 (1) (March): 48–66. Pohl-Weary, Emily. 2002. “Writing My Grandmother’s Autobiography.” In Better to Have Loved: The Life of Judith Merril, edited by Judith Merril and Emily Pohl-Weary, 1–7. Toronto: Between the Lines. Sabella, Robert. 2000. Who Shaped Science Fiction? Commack: Kroshka. Yaszek, Lisa. 2004. “Stories ‘That Only a Mother’ Could Write: Midcentury Peace Activism, Maternalist Politics, and Judith Merril’s Early Fiction.” NWSA Journal 16 (2) (Summer): 70–97. ———. 2008. “Not Lost in Space: Revising the Politics of Cold War Womanhood in Judith Merril’s Science Fiction.” In New Boundaries in Political Science Fiction, edited by Donald M. Hassler and Clyde Wilcox, 78–92. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press.


Two Solitudes, Two Cultures: Building and Burning Bridges in Peter Watts’s Novels Michele Braun

Imagine you are Siri Keeton. Imagine you are a prisoner of war. Imagine you are Amanda Bates. Imagine you’re a scrambler. You’ll just have to imagine you’re Siri Keeton. —Peter Watts, Blindsight (21; 182; 241; 323; 362)

The invitation to readers to imagine themselves as the characters in Peter Watts’s Blindsight (2006) pervades the novel and constitutes its first and last statement. This call to the reader to bridge the gap between words on a page and the understanding of the story within makes explicit the activity of reading itself. But it also identifies the central problem of the novel, that of bridging the gap between an alien species, which is intelligent yet not self-aware, and human beings, in all their variations, who are relentlessly self-aware. The story is premised on the hypothetical ­linguistic problem of communicating with a species that is nothing more than a Chinese room. It creates conditions that suggest that “even if we may not be alone in the Universe physically, we are alone conceptually, M. Braun (*)  Mount Royal University, Calgary, AB, Canada © The Author(s) 2019 A. J. Ransom and D. Grace (eds.), Canadian Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror, Studies in Global Science Fiction,


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as being encapsulated in our own human conditioning, incapable of crossing the line of understanding that goes beyond that conditioning” (Glaz 2014, 369). This includes a conditioning that requires we use language to communicate ideas with one another. The bleak prospect that humanity itself inhabits an unbridgeable solitude within the universe is echoed in Blindsight’s sidequel, Echopraxia (2014), as well as in the unbridgeable gaps in Watts’s other novels. The persistent attempts of his characters to bridge the solitudes in these stories can be understood through two lenses: that of the two solitudes of Canadian literary experience and the two cultures of science and literature. Hugh MacLennan’s 1945 novel, Two Solitudes, inspired a generation of Canadians to think about the rifts within the nation through the novel’s articulation of difference in French and English culture. It attempts to explain the split in Québec between the French and English through an individualized lens in its depiction of the Tallards and Methuens that not only represents the two families through their connection to domestic spaces, but also from a national perspective, as evidenced in the novel’s final observations about the impending second world war: Then, even as the two race-legends woke again remembering ancient enmities, there woke with them also the felt knowledge that together they had fought and survived one great war they had never made and that now they had entered another; that for nearly a hundred years the nation had been spread out on the top half of the continent over the powerhouse of the United States and still was there; that even if the legends were like oil and alcohol in the same bottle, the bottle had not been broken yet. And almost grudgingly, out of the instinct to do what was necessary, the country took the first irrevocable steps toward becoming herself, knowing against her will that she was not unique but like all the others, alone with history, with science, with the future. (MacLennan 1945, 370)

Ultimately, as this passage demonstrates, the gulf between French and English is diminished by the shared alien threat of war in Europe at the national level, as well as the personal level represented by its protagonists. As the child of a French father and English mother, Paul, and by extension the child he is expecting with Heather, represent the new Canada, the oil and alcohol in an intact bottle. And while the novel’s status as an accurate depiction of Canada may have been short-lived, its title spawned a concept that has persisted in Canadian culture.



Similarly, C. P. Snow’s Rede lecture, “The Two Cultures” (1959), was the culmination of decades of thinking and thus developed roughly contemporaneously with MacLennan’s concept of the Two Solitudes. While it is possible that the oppositional stance taken by both authors is coincidental, the growing polarities created by Allies/Central Powers and Allies/Axis in the two world wars and the increased specialization within the sciences and alienation of science and literature in the decades before the wars suggest a Zeitgeist is at play. Snow’s argument that literature and science comprise two distinct cultures is a specifically historical one, observing an increasing gulf between science and literature, which he identifies as a threat that must be overcome if the West is to maintain its status as technological and social innovation leader. Bridging solitudes, cultures, or experiences all require a deliberate attempt to span the gap, and there is an assumption in Watts’s call to the reader to imagine her or himself as a character that there is a chasm that must be bridged between the reader’s own experience and that of (an)other. Throughout Watts’s writing, his characters attempt to build bridges, but also sometimes to destroy those bridges when they become threatening for that character. The moments at which his characters choose to bridge those gaps or to destroy existing bridges suggest that unity has its place, but that sometimes bridging a culture or solitude is a dangerous act. MacLennan’s and Snow’s dual lenses call for cultural unity, one in the specifically Canadian and the other in the broader Western contexts, when placed beside Watts’s twenty-first century writing, suggest that those mid-twentieth century dichotomies may be redundant in light of the futility in both building and burning bridges that we see in Watts’s work.

Two Cultures We understand C. P. Snow’s “The Two Cultures” primarily through its title: the two cultures. Snow is clear to distinguish between literary intellectuals and physical scientists, two polar groups “comparable in intelligence, identical in race, not grossly different in social origin, earning about the same incomes, who had almost ceased to communicate at all” (Snow 1998, 2). He also characterizes the opposition between science and literature as a collective (and by implication, cultural) one, even when he identifies individuals who reinforce the line between the two disciplines. Snow’s characterization of the differences between the two

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groups identifies writers as those who recognize the solitariness of the human condition and accept it; he quotes Eliot’s “The Hollow Men” (1925): “This is the way the world ends / Not with a bang but a whimper” (Eliot 2015, 84), while scientists are impatient to address social ills (Snow 1998, 5–7). This impatience with social problems leads Snow to conclude that the progress initiated by the scientific revolution is “the only hope for the poor,” and that reform of the education system is needed to produce large scale solutions to those problems (what we would today call systems thinking as it applies to social justice issues). In proposing that technology will lead to social solutions for the world’s ills, Snow echoes and anticipates some of the grand narratives of mid-­ twentieth-century science fiction, such as Asimov’s Foundation (1942– 1993) novels or Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek (1966–1969) series. These kinds of sf texts, as well as Snow’s lecture, present a hypothesis that with enough technology and science in the right hands, the world will become a better place. Science, and by extension the technology it allows us to develop, will free humanity from menial labor, moving us collectively up the pyramid of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs so that self-actualization becomes a possibility for all. In contrast to the optimism of Roddenberry and Snow, the storyworld that Watts creates is not one in which science will be used to improve the world for all of humanity. Science is more neutral for Watts and is just one of many things that can be good or bad. This may be because, as Bruno Latour points out, our understanding of social issues is colored by the technology of the period we find ourselves in: America before electricity and America after are two different places; the social context of the nineteenth century is altered according to whether it is made up of wretched souls or poor people infected by microbes; as for the unconscious subjects stretched out on the analyst’s couch, we picture them differently depending on whether their dry brain is discharging neurotransmitters or their moist brain is secreting hormones. (1993, 4)

Latour’s point isn’t merely to observe that times change. In We Have Never Been Modern, he questions the feasibility of any anthropologically based study of our culture because the “fabric” of our culture is no longer seamless (Latour 1993, 7). Rather, Latour suggests that 1989 was a turning point after which “the repressed returns, and with a vengeance: the multitudes that were supposed to be saved from death fall back



into poverty by the hundreds of millions” (1993, 8). This is a collapse of the vision that Snow had of what science can do in society. Furthermore, Latour identifies capitalism as the force that overrides the imagined democratizing force of science. We see the triumph of capitalism and global transnational corporations in Watts’s Rifters trilogy, comprised of Starfish (1999), Maelstrom (2001), and ßehemoth, originally published in two volumes, ßehemoth: ß-Max and ßehemoth: Seppuku (2004). At minimum, contract work rather than salaried employment has become the norm (Watts 1999, 277), and in more extreme cases the Grid Authority (GA) harnesses science to adapt its employees to their workspaces. Rifters is about an environmentally devastated world in which the GA is harvesting geothermal energy from deep ocean vents, and to staff the underwater stations it recruits individuals who are “pre-adapted” to the stresses of dangerous work because of their histories as domestic violence victims or abusers. The GA further adapts these “rifters”—hence the trilogy’s collective title—by removing a lung and replacing it with machinery that can extract oxygen from the seawater itself. In order to keep their neurons firing at normal levels while under pressure, rifters are dosed with neuroinhibitors that can be tweaked to create a kind of Ganzfield effect, drawing the normally antisocial rifters together into a tight-knit family that reacts when the GA threatens to destroy them. The rifters, including the main character, Lenie Clarke, have volunteered to have a lung excised and replaced by machinery that removes “every pocket of internal gas” so that “a vacuum opens, somewhere in her chest, that swallows the air she holds […]. Her remaining lung shrivels in its cage, and her guts collapse […], myoelectric demons flood her sinuses and middle ears with isotonic saline” (Watts 1999, 21). Further, as Lenie discovers, it’s not just the rifters’ bodies that have been manipulated to make them better suited to their work environment. During a medical scan Lenie begins trying to understand why she keeps hallucinating a happy childhood rather than the one she remembers in which her father repeatedly rapes her; the scan reveals lesions in her brain, evidence of synaptic rewiring in her longterm memory (Watts 2001, 254). The GA took highly trained marine engineers and preadapted them for the stress of deep-sea work by rewiring their brains to induce memories of trauma so that “suddenly you can survive things that would leave the rest of us pissing in our boots” (Watts 2001, 335). Lenie may be willing to lose a lung for a paycheck, but the violation of her brain and erasure of

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her childhood memories is too much; Lenie seeks revenge on the GA for trying to kill her and her memories. In another example of science used to the detriment of humans, the GA relies on smart gels as decision makers. This arises because the humans in charge of deciding how to contain the ßehemoth virus, which threatens to render humanity extinct by outcompeting it and all other life on earth, cannot put their own interests aside to preserve as much human life as possible without damaging too much valuable property and equipment. Smart gels are “brains in boxes,” though these brains had “no hypothalamus, no pineal gland, no sheathing of mammal over reptile over fish. No instincts. No desires. Just a porridge of cultured neurons, really: four-digit IQs that didn’t give a rat’s ass whether they even lived or died” (Watts 2001, 89). It is precisely this dispassion that leads to a gel being responsible for the nuclear blast that almost kills Lenie Clarke, since “no one was going to trust anyone else to decide what cities should burn for the greater good, even in the face of a microbe that could end the world” (Watts 2001, 16). Furthermore, the series suggests that it is not just politics, but entropy itself that science needs to fight in the future. For example, when Lenie seeks to exact her revenge for what the GA did to her, one of her victims rants that “Things fall apart, Lenie my lass. The only way you can stop the slide is throw energy at it […] and of course now all the underlying infrastructure is breaking down, the weather and the biosphere are all fucked up, so […] we need oodles more energy to keep this huge wobbling gyro from crashing over on its side” (Watts 2001, 228–29). In the Rifters trilogy, science becomes a tool of large corporations, rather than the scientists themselves (who are remarkably absent from the novels). This reflects not only an extrapolation from our existing world, but a significant deviation from the vision of someone like C. P. Snow in the mid-twentieth century in which it is the ­scientists, not the businesspeople, who use science to solve problems.

Two Solitudes The title phrase from Hugh MacLennan’s 1945 novel, Two Solitudes, came to represent, in both the Canadian literary and political spheres, the perceived split between the English and French in Canada. It embodied an emerging national self-consciousness that focused on the internal divisions within the nation, with an idealistic merging of the



two solitudes into a single, Anglo-inflected bliss as a model of reconciled cultural difference (Gerson 1998, 891). However, as Jeffery Vacante notes, the novel’s role as an articulator of this notion of two solitudes was short-lived, overturned by the Quiet Revolution’s insistence that a non-Francophone cannot relay genuine French-Canadian experiences (2016, 44–45). While the author of the novel may no longer be understood to have the capacity to represent that divide, the idea it spawned— that the country was fundamentally divided as a result of the conditions of its founding—still resonates in Canadian culture.1 Since the publication of MacLennan’s novel, there continue to be tensions between the French and English in Canada. Furthermore, the increasing globalization that erodes national, not just cultural boundaries has come to dwarf the tension between two cultural groups. Instead, tensions and clashes between the lived human experiences of family and community and the transnational interests of global corporations, where decisions and actions that impact people in local communities are often made in the interests of shareholders living halfway across the globe looking for positive quarterly reports and healthy dividend checks, have come to the fore. In MacLennan’s novel, the reader understands the cultural clash as a personal one for the characters, and further, that individuals’ status in Québec will dictate whether they seek to bridge the gap between French and English. Contrast the working-class Captain Yardley’s willingness to cross borders (spatially and conceptually) to live in Saint Marc and befriend Paul Tallard with Janet Methuen’s fears about her daughter’s relationship with Paul regarding his class, unemployment, and his religion. MacLennan’s vision of solitude may be conceived as a gap between the French and English collectively in Québec, but his portrayal of that gap and the isolation it produces is highly individualized through his characters. Nowhere is this better represented than when Paul is abroad in Greece, contemplating the city that surrounds him as he reads weekold English and French papers: The afternoon wore on and the city surrounded him like a giant ­presence of loneliness. It was no new feeling; most of his life he had known it, and now it was recurring again like a periodic disease. This loneliness of all large cities, the solitary man reading his newsprint, the instinctive hope that there is new life just around the corner if you go to it, but around

74  M. BRAUN the corner always the same emptiness, the urgency which makes you want to prowl always a street further; and through everything, beating into the mind like a tom-tom, the shuffle of other people’s shoe-leather counterfeiting the motion of life. He wondered if Heather had ever felt as he did now. Two solitudes in the infinite waste of loneliness under the sun. (MacLennan 1945, 305)

This solitude can be treasured or rejected, and the characters of the novel alternately seek to reinforce divisions (Father Beaubien, Janet Methuen) or to bridge the gap (Paul, Heather, Captain Yardley). These individual acts of connection and reinforcement of isolation are extrapolated to a collective opposition that rang true for Canadians, characterizing the experience of living in Québec, and by extension, Canada. Further, in MacLennan’s novel, the two solitudes can also be understood spatially as the split between commerce and agriculture, with the English represented as those whose cultural foundation is in commerce while French culture is portrayed as rural and agriculturally based. Athanase Tallard’s proposed mill in Saint-Marc-des-Érables represents a bridging of the two modes of production as it acts as the lightning rod for the clash between the two cultures. There are those, like Father Beaubien, who actively resist the building of the factory and thus the bridge between commerce and land, and those who seek to build that bridge, either as an act of passion, as Athanase Tallard does, or as just another investment, as does Huntly McQueen, the English businessman with whom Tallard has allied. The gap between the pastoral, family-based culture of the French countryside and the capitalist English structure portrayed in ­ MacLennan’s novel is ultimately bridged by the violence of the external threat of war. Similarly, in Peter Watts’s Rifters series, the gap between the dysfunctional family of rifters and the Grid Authority that tried to wipe them out (albeit in order to stop ßehemoth) is bridged by the ­violence of Lenie as the Meltdown Madonna. Thus, it seems that the two solitudes and the two cultures are two complementary lenses at both the individual and societal level through which one might ­theorize how bridges might be built between the two cultural solitudes represented in Watts’s novels: those who have power and those who are powerless. The uniting force of adversity operates both at the level of the individual character and the society depicted in the novels, as explored below.



Conceptualizing Bridges In discussing two cultures and two solitudes, I have frequently referred to a gap between the two halves of the equation and indicated that characters in MacLennan’s novel (and Watts’s novels, as we shall see) bridge those gaps. But what does it mean to bridge a gap between two solitudes? Or between two cultures? To better understand the metaphor of the bridge implied by the dual binaries introduced, it is useful to turn to spatial theory and how it applies both experientially and metaphorically. To begin, in Metaphors We Live By, George Lakoff and Mark Johnson propose that metaphor is the primary conceptual framework of human thought. Furthermore, “If we are right in suggesting that our conceptual system is largely metaphorical, then the way we think, what we experience, and what we do every day is very much a matter of metaphor” (Lakoff and Johnson 2003, 3). One of the ways we experience the world is through space and spatial orientation, and our everyday spatial experience is reflected conceptually in our metaphors. To demonstrate, Lakoff and Johnson ask us to consider how a spherical being living in a gravity-free environment would conceptualize the world differently from us and how that experience would shape its conceptualization. Applied to our use of bridge as metaphor, this suggests that our use of bridging concepts arises from our understanding of the spaces, or gaps, that characterize our lived experience both as embodied beings and as members of a social species. The fundamentality of space to human understanding of self and society is a recurring Foucauldian theoretical stance. In “Of Other Spaces,” Michel Foucault explains that the space in which we live is not a void into which “we could place individuals and things,” but that “we live inside a set of relations that delineates sites which are irreducible to one another and absolutely not superimposable on one another” (1986, 23). Moreover, what Foucault calls heterotopias can be understood through a mirror analogy which shows us our position within the space while also locating it “in the mirror” (1986, 23), so outside of our position. While Foucault does not explicitly connect the two, these heterotopias require a kind of split perception in understanding both our position as subject in the world and the reflection of that world. The heterotopia thus shares in part a similarity to the Necker cube, an optical illusion in which a wireframe cube can appear in two different orientations within the same image by switching where one focuses on the cube. It hardly seems surprising, then, that the Necker Cube appears in

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Blindsight as a distinction between the resurrected vampires and baseline humans—vampires can keep both views of the cube in mind at the same time while humans have to switch between the views (Watts 2006, 60). The Foucauldian heterotopia is more like vampire vision than human in that both spaces exist simultaneously. In “Of Other Spaces” (1986), Foucault explains heterotopia through the example of children’s play forts built in living rooms and gardens; the forts are imaginary spaces that reflect the spaces around them (Johnson 2006, 76). The heterotopia is thus simultaneous (as in the Necker cube) and imaginative (as in children’s play spaces) in a way reminiscent of sf itself. Science fiction asks us to keep both storyworld and our own world in mind as we read, encouraging us to contrast the two and identify the cause of that contrast. Science fiction is also an imaginative genre. Carl Freedman takes Darko Suvin’s identification of sf as a genre of cognitive estrangement (Suvin 1972, 372) a step further. He argues that “science fiction is determined by the dialectic between estrangement and cognition” (Freedman 2000, 16) because alternate worlds of sf encourage critical interrogation of mundane space through the estrangement they create, and that critical engagement requires cognition common to the reading of all literature, including realist fiction. Henri Lefebvre, in The Production of Space, also identifies a double illusion in the social production of space, where “each side of which refers back to the other, reinforces the other, and hides behind the other” (1991, 27). This double illusion suggests that space is seen as transparent, a condition that has arisen from the privileging of language which assumes that communication reveals everything, and space is also seen as opaque because of the realist illusion that objects (physical) matter more than subjects (thought). Nonetheless, spatial theorists like Edward Soja and Yi-Fu Tuan agree that mental cognition produces space as a social construct, with Soja arguing for two kinds of space: physical and mental. The latter is differentiated by its reliance upon representation and cognition (Soja 1989, 120), while Tuan includes ­ ­emotional dimensions in the mental construction of space, particularly of our perceptions of spaciousness and proximity of other humans, identifying space as a psychological need that has different meanings in different cultures (Tuan 1977, 58). The implication for reading a sf text in order to understand how it might bridge cultures or solitudes is that the heterotopic nature of sf suggests that the space of the bridging between different perspectives might be better understood as an overlay or interlocking



interstitiality between perspectives, rather than as a gap that can be simply spanned by bridging. Cultural understanding of space can be both time and place specific as Lisa Chalykoff (1998) observes in her essay on the two solitudes. She suggests that the spatial turn of recent theoretical approaches is a result of postcolonialism’s fascination with the nation-state, which is specifically reflected in Canadian literature. For Chalykoff, the dual, mirrored relation between opaque and transparent conceptions of space is the same as MacLennan’s two solitudes in that the binary is a means of creating a possibility of unity through the positing of difference. But unity only emerges in MacLennan’s novel when characters encounter the other and set aside characterizations of difference that they may have grown up with in order to examine the other whom they meet independently of preconceived notions. To bridge difference through a spatial metaphor requires a cognitive estrangement of sorts, imagining what it is to be like the other while simultaneously occupying one’s own position as well. The implication is that the constructed space one then imagines is such that one can hold both binaries in mind simultaneously, without flip-flopping from one to the other, much like the vampires of Watts’s Blindsight who can hold both sides of the Necker cube in their mind at the same time. It is the meeting space that might be imagined as a giant bridge so wide that one cannot see the edges. The two solitudes of MacLennan’s novel and Snow’s two cultures emerge from an insistence on dividing the world into binaries, but Watts’s work provides a vision of bridging those binaries not by connecting them so much as by erasing the divide over which a bridge might span. His storyworld forms a palimpsest of sorts, layering connections upon each other much like the structure of the brain, or like GIS data, which does not distinguish between the first and third floor of a building. The occupants might walk up or down a flight of steps, but from the perspective of the mapmaker, their movements can seem to be all on one plane. Similarly, Watts’s bridges layer upon each other, sometimes augmenting and sometimes canceling each other out.

Bridging Solitudes in Watts’s Work Watts’s novels feature bridge burners and builders, some of whom specifically echo the concepts found in the two solitudes and two cultures. In the Rifters series, as previously mentioned, Lenie Clarke is a cybernetic

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employee of the Grid Authority, who has exchanged one of her lungs for an artificial one and a paycheck. She monitors a deep ocean power station that draws upon the geothermal energy of the Juan de Fuca strait. However, there is a prehistoric organism, ßehemoth, that hitches a ride on the humans working in the deep sea and that threatens to replace all life on earth if it comes to the surface, so Lenie and her peers are deemed expendable by the corporation. Through a clash between decisions made by an AI and humans, Lenie escapes the blast that is supposed to kill her and seeks revenge by spreading ßehemoth as far and wide as possible. Lenie Clarke’s retaliation against the Grid Authority draws upon anti-capitalist sentiments like Father Beaubien’s in Two Solitudes, yet Lenie’s compassion for Patricia Rowan, the novel’s sole representative of the corporation, suggests that to imagine the storyworld as one that opposes the individual with commerce is simplistic (as is Father Beaubien’s stance in Two Solitudes). Similarly, in Blindsight, synthesists like Siri Keeton and Lianna Lutterodt, both of whom translate the incomprehensible into everyday language (and crucially, patents written in that everyday language), span the gap Snow identifies in “Two Cultures” between the discoveries of science and the experience of every man who tries to understand those discoveries. The “hive” minds of the Bicamerals, as described in Echopraxia, are a deliberate attempt to eliminate a bridge in the brain in order to gain access to insights unavailable to the unmodified human. As the novel describes Lianna, she is one of the jargonauts, “glorified translators, charged with bringing esoteric transhuman tablets down from the mountain, carved in runes simple enough for pitiful baseline Humans to understand” (Watts 2014, 40). As such, her role, and the role of her counterpart Siri Keeton in Blindsight, is to span the gulf between inspiration and the language that might be used to describe that inspiration. As we shall see, though, language may be a poor tool with which to describe insight or inspiration.

The Weaponization of Language In Blindsight, the action of the novel is triggered by Firefall, an incident in which thousands of undetected objects arrange themselves in a grid around the world, emit a signal, and then burn up in earth’s atmosphere. For humanity, having its picture taken by aliens triggers an immediate fear response. Countries unite to send a series of probes first to investigate what appears to be a relay station for the objects, followed by the



launch of a manned ship, the Theseus. What the posthuman crew of the Theseus discover once they are awakened from their hibernation is that the ship has altered course after detecting a new signal far outside of the solar system. They awaken to find that they have been led to a giant planetary body around which a giant ship orbits. Their first attempts at contacting the vessel, Rorschach, begin an interchange in which the alien ship warns them to stay away. As Theseus ignores the warning and penetrates the ship, strange things happen to the crew because of the intense electromagnetic forces, but they succeed in kidnapping two of the creatures inside, dubbed “scramblers,” to study. The scramblers do not communicate through language like humans, and in a thought experiment inviting the reader to imagine she or he is a scrambler, we are told upon encountering human language “there are no meaningful translations for these terms. They are needlessly recursive. They contain no usable intelligence, yet they are structured intelligently” (Watts 2006, 324). Human language is like a virus, an attack. Language, for these aliens, is a weapon, and the crew, thinking it is making first contact with a potentially friendly species, discovers a battleground from which they must escape. Beyond this thought experiment of language as weapon, our humanness itself seems to persistently create problems for characters seeking to build bridges. The rifters in Starfish are able to transcend the limitations of language and the communication barriers that their dysfunctional backgrounds created only by changing their brain biochemistry. They become something other than baseline human by decreasing the neuroinhibitors that keep their neurons from firing too quickly in the high-pressure environment of the deep ocean. These neuroinhibitors are designed to make the rifters’ brains operate as they would on land, that is, like humans evolved to be, and tweaking them allows the rifters to “fine-tune” each other in ways that transcend ordinary human communication. The character Karl Acton speaks of feeling more awake or more alive (Watts 1999, 122), and other rifters echo that sentiment: Brander spoke of a heightened awareness of the presence of others; Caraco compared it to body language […]. No precise telepathic insights, no sudden betrayals. It’s more like the sensation from a ghost limb, the ancestral memory of a tail you can almost feel behind you. And Clarke knows now that Nakata was right. Outside, the feelings of the others trickle into her, masking, diluting. Sometimes she can even forget she has any of her own. (Watts 1999, 165)

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This ability to share information without using language relies in this case on becoming something more than/different from human, a theme that appears elsewhere in Watts’s work to a greater or lesser extent. For example, a similar neurochemical tweak, Guilt Trip, allows Achilles Desjardins to do his job making decisions about who lives and dies in order to contain environmental and epidemiological catastrophes (Watts 2004, 12). The chemical tweak exists because “Guilt was a neurotransmitter. Morality was a chemical. And the things that made nerves fire, muscles move, tongues wag – those were all chemical, too. It had only been a matter of time before someone figured out how to tie them all together” (Watts 2001, 122). When Achilles’s coworker Alice Jovellanos frees him from the neurochemicals that control his actions, her well-meaning effort builds a bridge where one had not existed before, and she brings about her own destruction as she creates the opportunity for Achilles’s psychopathology to bloom. What Alice does not know when she frees Achilles from the neurochemicals, which keep his own decision-making tied to that of the corporation he works for, is that Achilles has no real conscience to guide him in the absence of his doctored neurochemistry, and he delights in killing Alice. In Alice’s case, building a bridge can become a destructive force even as it was meant to be a positive one. Language, the ability of humans that is often pointed to as the thing that distinguishes us from animals, is a system that fails a great many times in Watts’s work to bridge gaps. There are other ways of communicating, from Blindsight’s scramblers codifying information within the body itself to the fine-tuning that the rifters experience in changing their neurochemistry. Both seem far superior, in their storyworlds, to mere language as a mode of communicating. So what’s a writer to do? After all, the way to tell a story in prose fiction is through language. This is the beauty and challenge of Watts’s books, but also one of the reasons that their dense, scientifically inflected philosophy can be off-putting to the casual reader. The thought experiment that language is a sub-par method of communicating means that bridging solitudes, or bridging cultures, by the use of language is then a suboptimal strategy for communication. Ultimately, in Watts’s novels, human beings are isolated from each other by their need to use language to communicate, and bridging the solitude of one’s own thoughts by sharing with another may be an exercise in futility. Imagining oneself as another may bridge the gap between oneself and another, but conveying



the nature of that bridge to another may be less successful than imagining it if one accepts Watts’s proposal that language is a poor means of communicating difference. We may inhabit two solitudes or two cultures, and our attempts to bridge them may be noble but prove ultimately fruitless in a world like one that Watts imagines.

Note 1. Heritage Minister Liza Frulla and Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe both took exception to Governor General Michelle Jean’s speech in 2005 in which Jean called for the elimination of solitudes and promotion of unity, stating that the two solitudes are alive and well in Canada (Tuck 2005).

References Chalykoff, Lisa. 1998. “Overcoming the Two Solitudes of Canadian Literary Regionalism.” Studies in Canadian Literature 23 (1): 160–77. Eliot, T. S. [1925] 2015. “The Hollow Men.” The Poems of T.S. Eliot, Vol. 1, 79–84. London: Faber & Faber. Foucault, Michel. 1986. “Of Other Spaces.” Translated by Jay Miskowiec. Diacritics 16 (1) (Spring): 22–27. Freedman, Carl. 2000. Critical Theory and Science Fiction. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press. Gerson, Carole. 1998. “The Changing Contours of a National Literature.” College English 50 (8): 888–95. Glaz, Adam. 2014. “Rorschach, We Have a Problem! The Linguistics of First Contact in Watts’s Blindsight and Lem’s His Master’s Voice.” Science Fiction Studies 41 (2): 364–91. Johnson, Peter. 2006. “Unravelling Foucault’s ‘Different Spaces’.” History of the Human Sciences 19 (4): 75–90. Lakoff, George, and Mark Johnson. 2003. Metaphors We Live By. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Latour, Bruno. 1993. We Have Never Been Modern. Translated by Catherine Porter. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Lefebvre, Henri. 1991. The Production of Space. Oxford: Blackwell. MacLennan, Hugh. 1945. Two Solitudes. Toronto: Collins. Snow, C. P. [1959] 1998. The Two Cultures. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

82  M. BRAUN Soja, Edward W. 1989. “Postmodern Geographies: The Reassertion of Space in Critical Social Theory.” In Postmodern Geographies: The Reassertion of Space in Critical Social Theory, 10–42. London and New York: Verso. Suvin, Darko. 1972. “On the Poetics of the Science Fiction Genre.” College English 34 (3): 372–82. Tuan, Yi-Fu. 1977. Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Tuck, Simon. 2005. “Era of Two Solitudes Remains, Frulla Says.” The Globe and Mail. October 3. era-of-two-solitudes-remains-frulla-says/article20426394/. Vacante, Jeffery. 2016. “The Decline of Hugh MacLennan.” University of Toronto Quarterly 85 (1): 43–68. Watts, Peter. 1999. Starfish. New York: Tor. ———. 2001. Maelstrom. New York: Tor. ———. 2004. ßehemoth: ß-Max. New York: Tor. ———. 2006. Blindsight. New York: Tor. ———. 2014. Echopraxia. New York: Tor.


The Affinity for Utopia: Erecting Walls and Building Bridges in Robert Charles Wilson’s The Affinities Graham J. Murphy

Veronica Hollinger writes about a recent trend in contemporary science fiction (sf) that shows “[t]here is not much distance anymore between the facticity of realism and the subjunctivity of science fiction” (2006, 452). Hollinger identifies a strain of sf—William Gibson’s Pattern Recognition (2003), Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake (2003), and Greg Egan’s Schild’s Ladder (2002)—that finds “sf and mainstream realism have become indistinguishable strategies for mimetically representing the ceaseless transformations of the future-present” (2006, 455). Hollinger goes on to remark that “[s]cience fiction’s founding assumption – that the future will be different from the present – has become outdated. Today the present is different from the present” (465). It is perhaps revealing that of the three authors Hollinger uses as the litmus test for her assertions about the future-present, two of them are Canadian (the third, Greg Egan, hails from Australia, a country with notable parallels to Canada). A recent entrant to the ranks of the

G. J. Murphy (*)  Seneca College, Toronto, ON, Canada © The Author(s) 2019 A. J. Ransom and D. Grace (eds.), Canadian Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror, Studies in Global Science Fiction,


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future-present is fellow Canadian Robert Charles Wilson and his novel The Affinities (2015).1 On the one hand, there is almost nothing science fictional about The Affinities: it is set primarily in modern-day Toronto, and the protagonist, who attends Sheridan College, struggles with such common worries as his family, his (ex-)lovers, and his self-identity. On the other hand, The Affinities is entirely science fictional as it extrapolates upon current trends in big data analytics and exhibits a utopian sentiment that has far-reaching implications for the characters and narrative setting. The Affinities is also a timely novel given America’s political theater and the ascendance of Donald J. Trump to the status of US President, making it easy to read Wilson’s novel and find striking parallels or affinities with key sociopolitical realities, even if The Affinities is not at all about Trump, his fluctuating politics, or his rise to power. In other words, The Affinities is a tale about the problematics of family, post-national communities, and utopian desire, but it is also relevant to this Age of Trump by warning us against isolationism and the erecting of walls that foster segregation and exclusion; instead, Wilson’s novel goes against the populist grain by celebrating the inclusive bridges that bring diverse communities together to collectively envision a better world for the future(present).

Another Brick in the Wall The Affinities is atypical of Wilson’s fiction because its focus on modern-day Toronto shuns the cosmological canvas in such offerings as Darwinia (1998) and the Spin trilogy—Spin (2005), Axis (2007), Vortex (2011)—or the temporal complications of A Bridge of Years (1991), The Chronoliths (2001), or Last Year (2016). Yet, it is distinctly Wilsonesque by virtue of its characters and narrative conflicts. As Wilson has explained, he is as much interested in exploring the grand ideas in his fictions as the intimacies of daily life: “To inhabit an idea,” he remarks, “is to put it in a human context, to place it side-by-side with human nature and discover its intimate perspective. Ultimately, rote characters and clichés won’t do. The apocalypse is meaningless if it’s experienced solely by Captain Future” (2005, 7). The focus on this intimate perspective in The Affinities is Adam Fisk, a protagonist largely estranged from his USbased biological family, notably a direct result of his father’s overbearing and judgemental attitudes and expectations, particularly evident in his disappointment that the more humanities-prone Adam seemingly lacks



the political or business acumen to get ahead in life. Adam’s only worthwhile familial connections are with his Grammy Fisk and his younger step-brother Geddy. In addition, a more permanent union with his on-again, off-again childhood sweetheart Jenny Symanski is encouraged by his family’s outdated notions of legacy: a Fisk-Symanski marriage is what both families fervently desire, except for Adam. His life is therefore defined by retreat, and—thanks to his grandmother’s financial support— he escapes the small town of Schuyler (New York) and flees to Toronto to study graphic design, much to the immense displeasure of his father. He also escapes any Fisk-Symanski dynastic entrapment by allowing his relationship to Jenny to atrophy, prompting her eventual marriage to Adam’s brother, Aaron, an American congressman who is a verbally and physically abusive younger version of the Fisk patriarch, going so far as to replicate the elder Fisk’s disdain for Adam’s life choices. Adam is ripe for a new family while he navigates Toronto’s urban landscape, and he finds true acceptance and comfort with the Affinities, which he learns more about when he first visits the InterAlia Corporation for testing to determine which, if any, Affinity group is an ideal fit. InterAlia’s testing is designed to “run deeper than superficial similarity” and flag compatibilities “beyond race, gender, sexual preference, age, or national origin” (Wilson 2015, 15). As the novel explains, the twenty-two Affinity groups are not a dating service or therapeutic selfhelp group: the Affinities are organized around poly-compatability, and if InterAlia’s testing shows that Adam is (poly)compatible with one of the twenty-two Affinities, he will be invited to join a local group. When he tests positive for Tau and has his first social event, Adam quickly feels “I had internalized the idea that I was among family – not the messy modus vivendi my Schuyler relations had arrived at, but family in a better and truer sense of the word” (59). Adam finds within Tau the acceptance that is denied him by his biological family and develops the social ties that come to define nearly every aspect of his life. In an author’s note for The Affinities, Wilson acknowledges that the Affinity testing process is founded in part upon Terrence W. Deacon’s teleodynamics, a hypothesis Deacon introduced in his book Incomplete Nature: How Mind Emerged from Matter (2011) (Wilson 2015, n.p.). Teleodynamics is a way of thinking about such notions as life, sentience, and mind, and part of Deacon’s argument is that the emergence of matter is founded upon the complex intersections of three nesting levels of material organization:

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1. homeopathic or thermodynamic, which essentially means matter dissipates order; 2.  morphodynamics, which describes the interaction of two thermodynamic processes that temporarily produces a level of self-organization, at least until it eventually dissipates when one (or both) of the founding thermodynamic processes runs its course; 3. teleodynamics, a description of a stable higher order which is able to self-sustain and function, whether knowingly or not, in its own interests (Deacon 2012). Robert K. Logan provides an encapsulation of Deacon’s principles: first, there is “thermodynamic dissipation of order as exemplified by an ideal gas;” second, there is “inanimate, non-self-maintaining self-organization (or morphodynamics) as exemplified by crystal formation and Bénard cells;” finally, there are “self-organizing and self-maintaining systems as exemplified by all living teleodynamic organisms” (Logan 2012, 298). Wilson also admits to being inspired by Deacon’s concepts and taking artistic license by presenting a futuristic vision of neurosocial teleodynamics that sorts “people with innate collaborative skills into heterogeneous groups in which these skills will be maximally deployed. It’s about a new science of cooperative behavior with roots in biology, neurology, and the heuristics of social interaction” (Ketchersid 2015). In the novel, Ruben Navarro, a sociology professor at the Université de Montréal, explains to Adam that neurosocial teleodynamics is “a technique for modeling human psychology and human social interactions with unprecedented accuracy […]. We can extrapolate from current events. We can run models based on our assumptions and see where they take us” (Wilson 2015, 139). This predictive modeling is comparable to big data analytics with its focus on pattern recognition and should therefore be familiar to the novel’s audience: “These are the algorithms,” Ryan Curlew writes, “that organize and structure how we use most social media applications. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Tinder utilize complex algorithms that mediate, and sometimes exert control, over our interactions with each other” (2016). The ties between neurosocial teleodynamics and social media are perhaps understandable even if Wilson rejects the explicit connection, a point he and I discussed (ironically enough) on Facebook (2016), although he has reiterated it elsewhere: “I have to insist that The Affinities isn’t about social media



(though everyone seems to want to draw the analogy, and there are certainly analogies to be drawn)” (Ketchersid 2015). While the poly-compatibilities may be an entirely new way to organize social groups, the more things change, the more they stay the same. For example, if members of Adam’s local Tau gathering, called a tranche, socialize with anyone outside their immediate poly-compatible family, it is increasingly only with fellow Tau members. When contacts are outside the Affinities altogether, these people are described as tethers, a “term of contempt, like shiksa or shegetz. As in, Don’t let that tether of yours drag you down” (Wilson 2015, 118). The Affinities increasingly erect walls that keep them inoculated from mainstream society, but they remain connected enough to increase their power. For example, the Tau network expands internationally under the counsel of Damian Levay, employing “a small army of accountants and financial experts (all Taus) to handle the huge volume of work. Out of that had emerged TauBourse, the first publicly-traded Affinity-based corporate entity” (96–97). Tau also develops T-Net, a “hidden webspace where [Tau] reps interacted with each other” (120), further cementing Tau as an elite (social) network increasingly immune from the mundane world while still exerting significant pressure upon it. The Affinities’ increased solipsism means they operate as a whole in their own best interests and on their own terms with little attention or care for anyone else. This solipsism leads to the two largest Affinity groups—Tau and Het—becoming combatants in an inter-Affinity conflict, and the tethers of the world are reduced to casualties of war. One such casualty is Geddy, who is kidnapped by Het as leverage to pressure Aaron, Adam’s Congressman brother, into voting in favor of the Griggs-Haskell regulatory bill that would hamper Affinity political sway and authority, except for Het, which would gain unprecedented oversight powers. This state of affairs particularly worries Geddy’s girlfriend Rebecca, who explains that Griggs-Haskell “would just give an authoritarian Affinity even more political clout than it already has” (214). In fact, Rebecca emerges in the novel as the voice of reason because she can plainly see what is entirely missing from Adam’s myopic view of the Affinities, a view seemingly shared by Tau, Het, and the rest. The Affinities may be novel social communities that are wonderful, inclusive, and liberating, but that experience is reserved only for those on the inside. She tells Adam that with twenty-two Affinities there now exist “[t]wenty-two gardens, with

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twenty-two walls around them. No disputing it’s nice inside, for anyone who can get inside. But think about what that means for all the people not included. Suddenly you’ve segregated them from the best cooperators. Which puts outsiders in a walled garden too, but it’s not really a garden […]. It looks like a prison” (239–40). Unfortunately, Adam learns firsthand what it means to be on the wrong side of the wall. In helping rescue Geddy, Adam lies to his Tau tranchemates and as a result is excommunicated for betraying Tau. This expulsion, however, was inevitable, and he learns that he was no longer Tau by virtue of a statistical drift in his most-recent testing: You were always good at talking to outsiders. You could see the world the way they did. You had that knack. Almost a sort of double vision, yes? Tau and non-Tau. The reason for that is simple. You’ve been on the edge for many years – a Tau by the skin of a decimal point, so to speak. But at your last requalification, you simply failed. No, Adam, you are not a Tau. Not any longer. (294)

Just as readily as Adam was accepted into Tau by virtue of being one of them, so too is he callously used and discarded, excommunicated from his Tau family and left with no home, no job prospects, and no social network whatsoever. Adam’s excommunication from Tau only reinforces Rebecca’s argument about gardens, walls, and prisons, a concern shared by other sources. For example, Wilson uses fictional excerpts from magazine articles to depict the pulse of the larger diegetic setting. One such article, entitled “Why the Affinities Matter,” explains how the Affinities are simply another form of socioeconomic dislocation and unequal distribution of wealth: In the early decades of this century we saw the world’s financial elites become increasingly divorced from national loyalties. The wealthy learned to think of themselves as essentially stateless – citizens of the Republic of Net Worth – while the rest of us clung to our old-fashioned patriotism. Now the masses (or some fraction of them) have discovered their own post-national system of loyalty. They would rather tithe to their sodalities than pay taxes, and they love their tranchemates just a little bit more than they love their neighbours. If this trend seems harmless, give it time. Politicians should be worried. So should activists. And so should the stateless wealthy one-percenters, whose continuing influence over the legislative process is no longer assured. (Wilson 2015, 89)



The article’s description of the financial elite as citizens of the Republic of Net Worth facing obsolescence by a newly privileged 1% is comparable to the socioeconomic elite in our own world, and although Wilson shifts this elitism from a socioeconomic gauge to one of polycompatability it nevertheless remains the same measurement, at least in spirit. The Affinities may have started out as a way to connect people “beyond race, gender, sexual preference, age, or national origin” (15), but in the end, the wealthiest one percent remains a privileged class increasingly divorced from the lived realities of the masses, regardless of how wealth is measured. Although there is a fostering of a post-national loyalty in the Affinities, there remains an indebtedness to neoliberal capitalism that causes friction with the Affinities’ utopian potential. Professor Navarro again provides a useful infodump when he explains that the Affinities can become: major players in the evolution of a pan-global culture. By which I mean they will increasingly influence politics, policy, and economics. They could in fact come to serve in place of what is so conspicuously absent – a global human conscience […]. It’s possible that we can create a better world – more just, equitable, and humane. In fact that may be the only alternative to destruction. (Wilson 2015, 140–41)

Meir Klein, the founding father of the Affinities, even believes in the power of neurosocial teleodynamics to harness humanity’s collaborative potential for a better future. Nevertheless, a global human conscience still has to contend with employing accountants and financial experts to operate in tandem with traditional economic networks while TauBourse remains a publicly-traded corporate entity. In fact, a nameless reporter editorializes “[s]ome of the Affinities were cooperating themselves into big money by way of entrepreneurship or investment” (182). This financial dedication runs counter to the utopian potential espoused by key members of Tau, and Rebecca could teach Navarro and Klein a thing or two about the flaws in their utopian visions: “[t]he Affinities are all about cooperation within the group, not between groups. So, hey, look, a new world order, [twenty-two] brand new para-ethnicities and meta-nations, and what prevents them from going to war with each other? Nothing. Apparently” (240). The Affinities were initially supposed to be building bridges toward a pan-global culture, a better world moving toward a

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global human conscience. Unfortunately, walls, segregation, and exclusion win out, and the Affinities are a far cry from any pan-global culture that awaits on the horizon. The Affinities’ failure to usher forth a better world amidst their internal conflict is in sharp relief when we reconsider these poly-compatible tranches from the perspective of molarity and molecularity, concepts advanced by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari in A Thousand Plateaus (1980).2 Pierre Lévy explains these concepts as follows: molar technologies “manage objects in bulk, in the mass, blindly and entropically,” whereas a molecular technology “will manage the objects and processes it controls on a much finer level of detail. It will avoid mass production” (1997, 40–42). We can recognize this techno-molarity in InterAlia’s “mainframe computers and complex analytical algorithms,” which are subject to top-down corporate control, judicial filings for intellectual copyright violations, and subsequent lawsuits. A molecular approach appears to be Tau’s bottom-up attempt to freely release the algorithm to the street because a “half dozen sensors and a video device and you can run the application on any tablet computer or smartphone” (Wilson 2015, 99); similarly, Sherryl Vint writes of molar and molecular collective identities. The former are “fixed in being, able to be grasped as a whole, recognised within the current social formation” while the latter are “always in flux, made up of capacities and tendencies, offering the possibility for transforming identity and society—precisely because they refuse to follow fixed channels” (2010, 52). Tau appears more closely aligned with molecularity because it “had no president, no board of directors, and no governing body” (Wilson 2015, 96) while Het is most certainly aligned with molarity since it is “monohierarchical. Which meant it possessed a single hierarchy: just one rigorously denominated chain of command, one leader, stacked ranks of followers. It was a classic form of human collaboration: horizontal equality among members of any rank, but top-down decision-making” (198). Nevertheless, what actually emerges is a different story. The Affinity testing embodies molarity by assigning its participants to easily identifiable categories. At the same time, the rigid, top-down structure Adam encounters at the start of the novel—i.e., each Affinity “has regional and local subdivisions” which are described as sodalities and tranches; each tranche “has a maximum of thirty members” (15)—remains largely unchanged despite the online WikiLeaks-style release of the Affinity algorithm. Meir Klein even explains that “short-term gain for some [means] a net loss of



collaborative efficiency. It can also lead to a kind of arms race, in which predatory collaboration becomes a requisite for any group’s survival” (103–104). The unseemly-sounding predatory collaboration helps justify the Tau-Het conflict and is antithetical to a more equitable, pan-global future that is predicated on humanity as a whole. Finally, the ubiquity of walls and tethers, widespread exclusion or segregation, and the convenience of statistical drift to expel its own members are all testament to the Affinities’ fundamental molarity. In the end, for all the bluster about the beneficence of neurosocial teleodynamics and the potential for utopian pan-global cultures, what actually happens is the squandering of the Affinities’ molecular potential in favor of a predatory collaboration and ties to neoliberal capitalism that only pit the Affinity groups against one another rather than ushering forth any utopian reality. Ensconced behind their walls and espousing the merits of collaboration, predatory or otherwise, the Affinities may exhibit some degree of molecularity but otherwise remain tethered to a molarity that fuels their practices of segregation and exclusion. The Affinities are therefore remarkably similar to the mundane world they scorn with their faux elitism.

Bridge to Better Days The Affinities does keep the utopian flame alight, chiefly in the form of a molecularity inspired by insect communities that slowly replaces the walls with bridges. Meir Klein reveals he was inspired by “‘eusociality,’ the ability of some insect species to act cooperatively. Hive insects like bees and ants were the classic example. By comparison, human beings seem like pretty feeble cooperators: we compete with each other, occasionally kill each other when scant resources are at stake” (Wilson 2015, 102–3). Nevertheless, Klein rejects affinities with insects because: we [can] collaborate even more effectively than insects (who conduct their own wars and mortal combats), and our genius for collaboration has made us uniquely successful as a species. Insect hierarchies are rigid and formal; human hierarchies are fluid and an individual can participate in more than one. The more flexible and layered these multiplex hierarchies, the more successful a human culture tends to be. (103)

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The truth of the matter, however, is quite the opposite. There is the obvious rebuttal that the Affinities are involved in their own civil strife in spite of humanity’s so-called genius for collaboration, but the problems with the Affinities predate Tau and Het jockeying for Affinity mastery. Walls have been foundational to the Affinities by virtue of Klein subscribing to, and reinforcing, a pervasive species hierarchy vis-à-vis his views of insects. Joan Gordon points to Aristotle (“animals lack reason and therefore do not have the same moral status as humans”), René Descartes (“animals [are] organic machines”), Martin Heidegger (“animals [are] ‘poor in the world’ and as clearly separate from human beings”), and “Western monotheistic religions, from Judaism to Islam, [that] emphasize the superior moral worth of human beings over animals” (2009, 332) as evidence of our deeply rooted sense of superiority over our fellow animals, something Klein readily demonstrates at his core. Klein’s dismissal of insect communities is all-too-common; for example, we often see bugs as “vectors for disease and psychosis (not to mention straightforward pestiferousness)” (Brown 2006, x) while insects in general: are all wrong. There is a good case for regarding them as zoology’s Other, the definitive organisms of différance. We humans have skeletons; they keep their hard parts on the outside and their squishy bits in the middle. We humans celebrate intelligence as our defining feature; they form almost equally complex societies by instinct. (Sleigh 2006, 281)

As I’ve shown elsewhere, there is also a well-established habit of denigrating communities and individuals by likening them to insects and their nests or hives (Murphy 2008). In sum, eusociality may have inspired Meir Klein’s Affinities, but he is inaccurate in his estimation that humanity has evolved beyond insect programming because our seemingly molecular-oriented cooperative abilities are a stark contrast to the rigidity and formality of molar-oriented insect hierarchies. The dismissal of insects and the glorifying of human superiority, particularly some kind of Affinity-led Homo sapiens superior, obfuscates the central problem with the Affinities: they aren’t insect enough. Eric Bonabeau, Marco Dorigo, and Guy Theraulaz explain that insect communities may appear rigidly hierarchical but “[o]ne of the most important features of social insects is that they can solve problems in a very flexible and robust way: flexibility allows adaptation to changing



environments, while robustness endows the colony with the ability to function even though some individuals fail to perform their tasks” (1999, 6–7). The adaptation and robustness within the insect hives and colonies suggest they have the ability to self-regulate, self-reproduce, self-correct, and self-maintain, key concepts to Deacon’s teleodynamics. The problem with the Affinities is that they become entrenched behind their isolationist walls only to emerge when it suits their interests: they reject the benefits of a truly operational eusocial network, nest, or hive. In this regard, there is something decidedly—dare I say it?—American about the Affinities; or, more specifically, something reflective of the America envisioned by its current commander in chief. The Affinities was published in North America on April 21, 2015, two months before Trump announced his campaign for the presidency and famously promised “I will build a great wall […]. I will build a great, great wall on our southern border” (Joshi 2017). If we can say anything to characterize Trump’s America, it is the dominance of walls to divide and segregate people—the popularity of wall-building has been most acute at Trump conventions where chants of “build that wall!” routinely break out— which is a contrary turn of events considering Trump has bragged that “I really unify and bring people together […] [a] lot of people would say the exact opposite. I can really bring people together” (Hensch 2016). In this Age of Trump, walls and exclusions are palpable. Walls are promised along the US–Mexico border; racially imbued travel bans marked the first days of the new administration and have divided families and continue to pit Americans against one another; Puerto Ricans have been treated as second-class citizens in their calls for help following Hurricane Maria (at least compared to relief efforts for Harvey in Texas and Irma in Florida). The President’s tepid response to white supremacy has been an ongoing, even scandalous, disappointment. The Trump administration’s ending of the Temporary Protected Status program in May 2018 has left thousands of El Salvadorians, Hondurans, Nepalis, Nicaraguans, and Sudanese a little over a year to return to countries they haven’t called home in decades, if at all. Trump’s repeal of DACA on September 5, 2017 has left Dreamers (immigrants who were brought to the United States illegally as children who have since grown up in America) facing deportation unless Congress can come up with an alternative plan, something which appears increasingly unlikely as of July 2018. The implementation of a “zero tolerance” policy announced by Attorney General

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Jeff Sessions on May 7, 2018 meant immigrants crossing the US border illegally faced criminal prosecution and the separation of their families, including the stripping of more than 2000 children from their parents. The Affinities’ members may not be chanting “build that wall!,” but it is the bedrock of the Affinity testing protocols. The subsequent Affinity groups—Tau, Het, and the other twenty designations—embrace wall-building as a natural consequence of their special status, and as Rebecca argues in the novel, the global conscience or para-ethnicities envisioned for the future are predicated upon keeping people out, not letting them in. It is therefore understandable that Wilson’s use of walls, segregation, and exclusions to keep people out—barriers that are endemic to the Affinity groups’ raison d’être—resonates uncomfortably in the contemporaneous American sociopolitical fabric that has become increasingly divisive under Donald J. Trump’s controversial leadership.3 The inflexibility of the Trump-like Affinities is particularly pronounced when the New Socionome emerges in the final chapters of the novel. The New Socionome is the anti-Affinities affinity group that Adam is looking towards after his expulsion from Tau. Adam learns the New Socionome: works differently. The social nuclei we create are open and polyvalent. We make social molecules that hook up complexly and create the possibility of new emergent behavior. Our algorithms of connection favor non-zero-sum transactions, as the Affinities do, but they also facilitate long-term panhuman goals: prosperity, peace, fairness, and sustainability. (Wilson 2015, 210)

When compared to the divisiveness of the molar Affinities and the imagery they evoke—walls, segregation, and exclusion—the New Socionome’s focus on open and polyvalent social networks that focus on prosperity, peace, fairness, sustainability sounds very—dare I say it?— Canadian; or, more specifically, something reflective of Canada envisioned by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. It is perhaps self-serving for a Canadian academic to point to the New Socionome’s goals of prosperity, peace, fairness, and sustainability and identify them as Canadian values, particularly in a novel written by a Canadian author; however, the narrative details and rhetorical parallels are quite timely: In contrast with his American near-counterpart, Trudeau has spoken about Canada’s pledge to deliver true, meaningful, and lasting reconciliation between Canada and First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples.



He outlined Canada’s efforts on climate change, and the importance of forging progressive trade agreements that emphasize fairness and real benefits for everyone. He also stressed that gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls grow stronger economies and communities. (Government of Canada 2017)

This is not the first time Trudeau has evoked a utopian vision of the future founded upon building bridges between and among communities: immediately upon his 2015 election, Trudeau quoted former Prime Minister Wilfred Laurier (1841–1919) by proclaiming “Sunny ways my friends. Sunny ways. This is what positive politics can do” (CBC 2015). This sentiment is a far cry from Donald Trump’s inauguration speech that referenced “American carnage,” “rusted out factories scattered like tombstones,” and a nation with “little to celebrate” (Rushe et al. 2017). And, of course, Trudeau didn’t withdraw Canada from the G7 communique that advocated shared goals, shared ideals, and a shared commitment to democratic principles and the bettering of global conditions (G7 Presidency 2018). Granted, neither Trudeau nor the G7 communique were addressing panhuman goals comparable to the New Socionome, Canada certainly has a lengthy history of failing to live up to the ideals of an inclusive society, and Trudeau’s reputation (and the larger Liberal party) has been tarnished in mid-2019 by the SNC-Lavalin scandal. Nevertheless, there is a palpable contrast between the Affinities’ Trump-like reliance upon walls and segregation vs. the New Socionome’s goals that conveniently align with Trudeau’s 2017 remarks to the UN General Assembly that “[i]n the face of complex global challenges, Canada will continue to champion diversity, acceptance, and compassion on the world stage. We cannot build a better world unless we work together, respect our differences, protect the vulnerable, and put people at the heart of the decisions we make” (Government of Canada 2017). Prime Minister Trudeau is essentially speaking of prosperity, peace, fairness, and sustainability, the identical goals the New Socionome is pursuing. The New Socionome (and Trudeau) is about bridging to not only a larger global community but also the utopian goal of building a better world, something the Affinities (and Trump) seem to have lost in the solipsism of walls, segregation, and exclusion. The method of creating this Trudeau-like bridge to a utopian future or “sunny ways” is the New Socionome’s emergent behavior which appears to be inspired by a swarm intelligence, defined as “any attempt to design algorithms or distributed problem-solving devices inspired

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by the collective behavior of social insect colonies and other animal societies” (Bonabeau et al. 1999, 7). Central to swarm intelligence is self-organization, “a decentralized problem-solving system, comprised of many relatively simple interacting entities” (Bonabeau et al. 1999, 6). In other words, swarm intelligence is an intelligent system “in which autonomy, emergence, and distributed functioning replace control, preprogramming, and centralization” (Bonabeau et al. 1999, xi). The New Socionome is therefore more flexible to accommodate and embody utopian desire because it “isn’t an Affinity. There’s no us and them. No single point of view. No consensus. It has no interests to advance, except to facilitate non-zero-sum collaboration” (Wilson 2015, 241). The swarm intelligence framework informing the New Socionome and its building bridges toward prosperity, peace, fairness, and sustainability aspires to be more molecular-oriented than the Affinities ever realized. In sum, the New Socionome is not some molar-oriented utopia-swarm4 where utopianism has been replaced by images of walls, segregation, and exclusion that are currently shaping the American political landscape; instead, it is a more Canadian, molecular-oriented swarm-utopia where emergent behaviors and localized energies are coupled with flexibility and robustness that herald brighter utopian prospects and reflect the bridging of multiple communities and diverse groups with the shared goal of sunny ways. If there can be any frustration with The Affinities, however, it is that Adam (and the reader) learns very little about the New Socionome; instead, the novel ends with Adam standing on the steps of a small café, having accepted an invitation to a New Socionome gathering. In that moment he is feeling “good to be in motion, to be for that moment no one and nothing but myself, stepping through another door into the sound of human voices” (300). Wilson ends his novel in a cautiously optimistic fashion as Adam steps into a dawning future comprised of the swarming voices of “social molecules that hook up complexly and create the possibility of new emergent behavior” (212). The Affinities therefore may not be a meditation on social media, online networking, or even Trump’s walls vs. Trudeau’s bridges, but following N. Katherine Hayles’s observation that “science fiction writers, traditionally the ones who prognosticate possible futures, are increasingly setting their fictions in the present” (2005, 149 n. 2), there are timely alignments nonetheless that speak to our current world from a novel set largely in our current world. The Affinities therefore resembles what Veronica Hollinger



writes about fellow Canadian author Geoff Ryman’s Air (2005): “In Ryman’s [or Wilson’s] utopian-inflected fiction, human beings manage to achieve a series of more or less mutually constitutive engagements with the future, although not without significant physical, psychological, and emotional costs” (Hollinger 2006, 455). The narrative resolution of The Affinities therefore resides in “the dramatic reinstatement of the future: however difficult and demanding and inescapable the time to come may be, it is also the site of potentially positive transformation, and one might meet it with some deliberation and some degree of freedom” (ibid.). In sum, The Affinities’ fictionalizing of neurosocial teleodynamics is a broader consideration of sunnier ways and the metaphors by which we frame utopianism—walls vs. bridges—as we edge into tomorrow.

Notes 1. Though born in the United States, Wilson moved to Canada when he was 13 and has mostly lived there since, becoming a Canadian citizen in 2007. In addition, his professional career as a science fiction writer has emerged from his base in Canada; therefore, Wilson is, for all intents and purposes, a Canadian author with dual citizenship. 2. It should be stressed that molar and molecular are dynamic, not binary oppositions. As Deleuze and Guattari write, “[e]very society, and every individual, are thus plied by both segmentarities simultaneously: one molar, the other molecular […] the qualitative difference between the two lines does not preclude their boosting or cutting into each other; there is always a proportional relation between the two, directly or inversely proportional” (1980, 213, 215). 3. As I first edited this chapter Trump had just addressed the 2017 United Nations General Assembly professing the importance of “strong sovereign nations,” stressing that the United States “can no longer be taken advantage of or enter into a one-sided deal where [it] gets nothing in return” (Swanson 2017). He also admitted willingness to “totally destroy North Korea” if necessary (ibid.). Later, at the G7 summit—held in Charlevoix, Québec—on June 8–9, 2018, Trump seemingly absolved Russia for its Crimean annexation, advocating an invitation to reinstate the G8 (Hansler 2018). He then praised North Korea’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un in what became merely a historic photo op (Graham 2018). Trump added to US isolationism by withdrawing from a shared G7 communique following the host Prime Minister’s press conference at which Trudeau reaffirmed Canada was moving “forward with retaliatory measures on July 1, applying equivalent tariffs to the ones that the Americans have unjustly applied

98  G. J. MURPHY to us” (Da Silva 2018). Trump’s retaliatory tweets attacked the Canadian leader on a personal level, calling Trudeau “very dishonest & weak” and “meek and mild,” followed by a press conference that doubled-down on his insults and threatened future automobile tariffs and economic punishment of the Canadian people (Aleem 2018). As of the final edits of this paper, Trump has now declared a ‘national emergency’ to secure his wall funding and is threatening to shut down the US-Mexico border to dissuade Central American caravans from seeking asylum status in the United States. 4. Wilson remarks that he “can imagine social scenarios that would look like utopia to me. But I know people who would find then insufferable. Maybe any real utopia would look more like a utopia-swarm, a complex of pocket utopias interacting in mutually beneficial ways. Which is what the Affinities seem to be, at least at first” (Ketchersid 2015).

References Aleem, Zeeshan. 2018. “The G7 Summit Looked Like It Was Going Okay: Then Trump Got Mad on Twitter.” June 10. Accessed July 18, 2018. Bonabeau, Eric, Marco Dorigo, and Guy Theraulaz. 1999. Swarm Intelligence: From Natural to Artificial Systems. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Brown, Eric C. 2006. “Introduction: Reading the Insect.” In Insect Poetics, edited by Eric C. Brown, ix–xxiii. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. CBC News. 2015. “Justin Trudeau’s ‘Sunny Ways’ a Nod to Sir Wilfred Laurier.” October 20. Accessed October 16, 2017. http://www.cbc. ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/ns-prof-trudeau-sunny-ways-1.3280693. Curlew, Ryan. 2016. “Affinity and Algorithm: A Sociological Review of Robert Charles Wilson’s The Affinities.” Socionocular. April 2. Accessed October 21, 2017. Da Silva, Chantal. 2018. “GOP Backs Canada After Trump Attack: ‘A Reliable Ally, a Close Friend!’” June 12. Accessed June 13, 2018. Deacon, Terrence. 2012. Incomplete Nature: How Mind Emerged from Matter. New York: W. W. Norton. Epub2 (Adobe DRM). Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari. 1980. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Translated by Brian Massumi. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. G7 Presidency. 2018. “The Charlevoix G7 Summit Communique.” June 8. Accessed June 13, 2018.



Gordon, Joan. 2009. “Animal Studies.” In The Routledge Companion to Science Fiction, edited by Mark Bould, Andrew M. Butler, Adam Roberts, and Sherryl Vint, 331–40. London and New York: Routledge. Government of Canada. 2017. “Prime Minster Concludes Successful Week at the United Nations General Assembly.” PM.GC.CA. Accessed October 16, 2017. Graham, David A. 2018. “Trump’s Effusive, Unsettling Flattery of Kim Jong Un.” The June 12. Accessed June 13, 2018. https:// umps-ef fusiveunsettling-flattery-of-kim-jong-un/562619/. Hansler, Jennifer. 2018. “Trump Again Calls for Readmitting Russia to G7, Blames Obama for Crimea’s Annexation.” June 9. Accessed June 13, 2018. Hayles, N. Katherine. 2005. “Computing the Human.” Theory, Culture and Society 22 (1): 131–51. Hensch, Mark. 2016. “Trump: ‘I Can Really Bring People Together’.” The Hill. December 1. Accessed October 11, 2017. Hollinger, Veronica. 2006. “Stories About the Future: From Patterns of Expectation to Pattern Recognition.” Science Fiction Studies 33 (3): 452–72. Joshi, Anu. 2017. “Donald Trump’s Border Wall—An Annotated Timeline.” The Huffington Post. March 1. Accessed October 11, 2017. us_58b5f363e4b02f3f81e44d7b. Ketchersid, Larry. 2015. “Robert Charles Wilson Discusses The Affinities, His Next Novel and How He Got His Start.” SF Signal. June 5. Accessed September 12, 2017. Lévy, Pierre. 1997. Collective Intelligence: Mankind’s Emerging World in Cyberspace. New York: Pleanum Trade. Logan, Robert K. 2012. “Review and Précis of Terrence Deacon’s Incomplete Nature: How Mind Emerged from Matter.” Information 3 (3) (September): 290–306. Murphy, Graham J. 2008. “Considering Her Ways: In(ter)secting Matriarchal Utopias.” Science Fiction Studies 35 (2): 266–80. Rushe, Dominic, et al. 2017. “What You Need to Know About Trump’s First Speech as President.” The Guardian. January 20. Accessed October 16, 2017.

100  G. J. MURPHY Sleigh, Charlotte. 2006. “Inside Out: The Unsettling Nature of Insects.” In Insect Poetics, edited by Eric C. Brown, 281–97. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Swanson, Kelly. 2017. “Read Trump’s Full Speech to the U.N. General Assembly.” Vox. September 19. Accessed October 16, 2017. https:// Vint, Sherryl. 2010. Animal Alterity: Science Fiction and the Question of the Animal. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press. Wilson, Robert Charles. 2005. “The Profession of Science Fiction, 61: Ideas and Inhabitations.” Foundation 34 (94): 5–12. ———. 2015. The Affinities. New York: Tor.


The Art of Not Dying: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel and Oscar De Profundis by Catherine Mavrikakis Patrick Bergeron

Through their biographical trajectories and the spatial dynamics of their novels, Emily St. John Mandel and Catherine Mavrikakis belong more to the broader North American landscape than the Canadian reality alone. The Anglophone Mandel was born in Comox, British Columbia in 1979 and lived in Toronto and Montréal before settling in Brooklyn, New York. The Francophone Mavrikakis was born in Chicago in 1961 of a Greek father and French mother, but she has lived for some time in Montréal where she teaches literature and creative writing. Their works reflect the transnational character of their authors’ lives. The events of Mandel’s novels move from Montréal (Last Night in Montréal, 2009) to New York and Florida (The Lola Quartet, 2012), whereas Mavrikakis moves her characters from Montréal and Bay City, Michigan (Le ciel de Bay City, 2008) to Key West, Las Vegas, New York, and Kalamazoo Translated by Amy J. Ransom. P. Bergeron (*)  University of New Brunswick, Fredericton, NB, Canada © The Author(s) 2019 A. J. Ransom and D. Grace (eds.), Canadian Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror, Studies in Global Science Fiction,



(La ballade d’Ali Baba, 2014). This continental echo reaches another level in Station Eleven (2014) and Oscar De Profundis (2016), works marking these novelists’ first forays into the realm of science fiction. After devastating plagues, we see the entire territory of North America—the world, even—retraced. Borders are abolished or redefined, the bridges between communities are broken, typical of the principal topoï of postapocalyptic fiction. In contrast, we discover the efforts of survivors to save various aspects of civilization from irreparable erasure, notably those relating to literature, the arts, and popular culture. In this manner, Station Eleven and Oscar De Profundis exploit in an original manner the metaphor of the cultural bridge. These two novels develop an ethos of preservation that this chapter proposes to outline.

The Apocalypse as “Fiction Machine” When looking back on the first two decades of the twenty-first century, future historians will observe that this period is characterized by an intense renewal of the apocalyptic turn haunting the twentieth century. As Jean-Paul Engélibert asserts, based on the work of philosopher Günther Anders: since the first atomic explosions, we live in a new era, one that is not history, but a delay. […] Since then, we know nothing anymore and will know no other time than the waiting period that separates us from a truly absolute end, for the death of history has condemned us to nothingness. As if humanity never existed, because no one will be left to remember. (Engélibert 2013, 11)1

Contemporary forms of danger weighing on humanity (chemical or biological warfare, pandemics, cyber attacks, natural catastrophes linked to global warming, among others) appear increasingly to suggest that our species has not much longer to live. For some, “the dawn of the posthuman” has already begun (Després and Machinal 2014), and, for others, we are on our way to the “sixth extinction,” the most disastrous since that of the dinosaurs (Kolbert 2014). In short, at the time that Mandel and Mavrikakis undertake writing their own visions of the end of the world, the apocalypse already haunts the collective imagination. We would be wrong, however, to invoke only the Zeitgeist to explain these novelists’ inspiration. We must also consider their individual



tendencies to privilege the fundamental theme underlying the trope of apocalypse: death. From this perspective, we see an undeniable continuity between their science-fiction novels and the rest of their prior works. Before Station Eleven, Mandel had published three romans noirs2; before Oscar De Profundis, Mavrikakis had produced some fifteen titles (fiction and essays) haunted by illness, death, and mourning. Postapocalyptic fiction not only allows writers to depict nightmarish visions and critique the errors of the contemporary world, but also, as French journalist Camille Thomine has observed, “The end of the world appears above all as a formidable fiction machine” (2016, 34). In the body of cataclysmic fiction published in the last fifteen or twenty years, the novels of Mandel and Mavrikakis stand out for the richness of their narrative apparatus—a structure resting notably on a skillful temporal decoupage.

The Before, the After, and the In-Between-Times Emily St. John Mandel might have appropriated the title of Alexandre Dumas’s classic Twenty Years After (1845) since, of the various temporal sequences that Station Eleven comprises, two appear particularly important. The first relates to the moment that the Georgian flu spreads, taking the lives of 99% of the world population. This sequence is organized around Toronto’s Elgin Theater’s production of King Lear, during which actor Arthur Leander dies on stage, brought down by a heart attack; this will be the last “ordinary” death before the apocalypse. The second sequence takes place twenty years later and deals with a troupe of traveling musicians and actors, “the Traveling Symphony,” which wanders around the former Great Lakes region to introduce Shakespeare to surviving colonies considered safe to visit in this time of disaster. The link between the two sequences is established by the character of Kirsten Raymonde, a member of the Symphony who, at the age of eight, played a silent role in King Lear the evening of Leander’s death. She knew the actor well enough to visit his dressing room to chat or color. From this period, the adult Kirsten retains more impressions than memories, but she is still vividly attached to it. This is why, in the years following the flu-based plague, she collects photos and tabloid clippings relating to the actor’s life. For her part, Mavrikakis might have taken the title of Joris-Karl Huysmans’s famous novel Against the Grain (1884) for Oscar De


Profundis. Not only because her work can be seen as a dystopian rewriting of this “breviary of Decadence” (Mourier-Castile 1983, 152)—I’ll return to this notion—but also because the main temporal sequence is intercut with digressions and flashbacks largely designed to establish the singular personality of Oscar Méthot-Ashland, the novel’s eponymous hero. This sequence is organized around a few days in mid-November of an unidentified year near the end of the twenty-first century, during which a devastating epidemic of the black plague takes down the popular classes of Montréal (which Mavrikakis refers to as “paupers” and “nobodies”). An international star, having returned to his birthplace of Montréal after a long absence to give two concerts, Oscar is overcome by painful memories linked to the murder of his younger brother Olivier nearly a half-century earlier. This occurred before the creation of the “World State,” which would change the status of nations, annihilate numerous dialects (including the near-extinction of French), ban the publication of paper books, and, above all, would work toward the eradication of the poor, likened to a “sub-human” class. Even if Mandel leaves behind detective fiction, Station Eleven retains certain narrative codes from that genre. One of the principal elements of the plot in the Year Twenty sequence, the disappearance of three members of the Traveling Symphony (Dieter, Sayid, and Sidney, aka “the clarinet”), to which another mysterious disappearance is added (that of Charlie, Jeremy, and their baby Annabel), is subject to a progressive elucidation. We eventually learn that “the prophet”—the leader of an unnerving apocalyptic sect—and his band have kidnapped them while the Symphony made its way toward the airport of Severn City. The prophet wanted to use them as hostages in order to demand the return of Eleanor, a twelve-year-old girl who had secretly left with the troupe to avoid becoming his fifth wife. The kidnaping of Dieter, Sayid, and the clarinet is not the only element of the narrative that develops across the telling. By juxtaposing different narrative frameworks, Mandel keeps the reader on tenterhooks. Thus, each time that we return to the focalizing characters, namely Kirsten, Jeevan, and Clark (in both the apocalyptic and postapocalyptic timeframes), light is shed on each of the previous sections. This way, for example, the close link between Arthur and the prophet is finally revealed. Mandel thus proposes in Station Eleven a novel with a well-considered architecture, in which the threads never cease to cross each other.



Mavrikakis opts for a different technique in Oscar De Profundis. She also interlaces narrative sequences, but in a manner less polyphonic than that of Mandel. In her work, we find just two focalizing characters and thus two principal narrative frameworks. The first concerns the singer Oscar Ashland; it is above all descriptive and retrospective. Mavrikakis outlines here, with the help of numerous intertextual references, the singer’s intellectual horizon. The second framework, involving more action, refers to the leader of a gang, the ex-doctor Cate Bérubé, and her plan for a rebellion; she wants to kidnap Oscar in order to blackmail the World Government. Thus, the plot developments are less important in Mavrikakis than in Mandel. The failure of Cate’s rebellion is not presented as the overturning of an extraordinary situation. Rather, it seems to derive from a general pessimism and validates the dystopian postulate of this particular work by Mavrikakis: the World Government wages a merciless war against the underprivileged. In the end, if one retains only the strictly narrative aspects of Oscar De Profundis, the novel might have taken the form of a novella.

A “Des Esseintes” for the Future He would rather have sought refuge in the bomb shelter that was his library, far from the noise and problems of this world. (Mavrikakis 2016, 163)

This disproportion between the esthetic frame and the action brings us to the first cultural bridge considered here: that of intertextuality. Oscar De Profundis is packed with literary references. The protagonist’s given name is from Oscar Wilde. His stage name, “De Profundis,” is at once an allusion to Wilde (a nod to the long letter he wrote to his lover, Lord Alfred Douglas, from Reading Gaol in 1897) and a direct reference to a Baudelaire poem, “De profundis clamavi,” which the singer has tattooed on his back. At this stage, we are not surprised to learn that the French poet’s Flowers of Evil (1857) was Oscar’s bedside reading for many years (Mavrikakis 2016, 87). But more than with Baudelaire, Oscar’s filiation with Huysmans appears fundamental, as Mavrikakis identifies her character with des Esseintes, the hero of Against the Grain, a reclusive esthete who reorganizes his physical environment in order to make it coincide with his mental universe. Oscar “had always hated nature and repeated to himself like his hero, des Esseintes, that only the trash of artifice was worth anything” (Mavrikakis 2016, 32). Several individual characteristics


justify this link between the two characters: their solitary and asocial nature, their melancholy and obsession with death, their penchant for artifice and bygone eras, their distaste for the present, their collector sides (to which we will return), and so on. However, more than these two singular temperaments, it is the two specific social contexts that Mavrikakis brings closely together: decadence—as a “sensibility relative to the years 1880–1900” (Grojnowski 2004, 142)—and apocalypse. This direct relationship explains in large part Mavrikakis’s intertextual allusions: not only to Baudelaire, Huysmans, and Wilde, as we have seen, but also to Poe, Villiers de l’Isle-Adam,3 Rachilde,4 and Thomas Mann. Furthermore, the comparison between Oscar and des Esseintes has its limits. For example, the first is a creator (we learn at the end of the novel that his days in Montréal will have allowed him to compose the twelve songs of an album titled—in a deliberately Poesque fashion—The Masque of the Black Death), while the second weighs, ruminates, and categorizes the works of others. It is not the sequence of events—rather limited in Oscar De Profundis and nonexistent in Against the Grain—that reveals this intertextual correlation, but the intellectual horizon. Oscar is positioned at the extreme end of history, or if one prefers, “of the delay,” to return to Engélibert’s term cited above. What, then, is this apocalypse in progress if not a planetary decadence? Nonetheless, for all its inhabitants, Earth was abandoned by the heavens. It no longer attracted the pity of the empyrean. The pleasures and starry encounters had deserted it. Its coming end was known. It would not, however, be spared a long agony. Its lamentations, tremblings, and somersaults would be for nothing. It was condemned to its own eclipse. (Mavrikakis 2016, 10)

In a passage like this one, rhythm is key. Mavrikakis reproduces the saturnine and throbbing accents of decadent prose. So that he can face the death of the Earth, Mavrikakis installs Oscar in the pose of a decadent hero. His role will consist, then, in taking up a formula I have used before: “to distinguish in what is dying that which is worthy of immortalization” (Bergeron 2013, 190) or, at the very least, to be preserved. We understand better, then, the ethos of preservation that compels Oscar. He has set up, in his opulent Texas property, a library-bunker that protects against the combined effects of the apocalypse and oblivion and



goes against the grain of the dominant ideology, for the State has instituted “the systematic digitalization of the world heritage and [imposed] policies of elimination on paper products” (Mavrikakis 2016, 71). Taking his extravagance up a notch, he seeks out the corpses of famous dead people and installs them in a gigantic necropolis, which “resembles a huge mall” (89), that he has had built in Michigan. We understand by now that Mavrikakis intentionally leans toward the register of the grotesque (she has, after all, given Oscar the family name of Ashland, the land of ashes). Her choice of privileging the esthetic frame over action thus leaves her elbowroom. Nonetheless, Oscar’s attachment to the French language is a clear indication of the sincere love of the language of Molière by an author whose transnational profile we have already laid out. Francophilia is linked not only to Oscar, even if it contributes to particularize him: “The French of his childhood had made him a being apart, an eccentric” (Mavrikakis 2016, 25). Other characters remain attached to this language: Cate Bérubé and Annie Houle-Watson, the former for political and identitary reasons (expressing herself in French is a way of resisting the “Sino-American jargon” imposed by the World State), the latter for cultural and artistic reasons, like Oscar. When Mavrikakis evokes the difficulty of making French “something other than a banal folklore or an unusual luxury in a world where cultural differences had been eradicated by an enthusiastic indifference” (Mavrikakis 2016, 223), we sense the indignation of the Montréal writer faced with the deterioration of French in the age of globalization and the digital. Hence the essential character of Oscar’s Francophilia, masked no doubt by the numerous intertextual allusions to French and foreign writers: it refers to Montréal itself, “this improbable and Francophone city, at once beautiful and ugly, sumptuous and ridiculous that Jeanne Méthot [Oscar’s mother] had left to her son. […] Montréal was for the little Oscar a site of legends and myths” (Mavrikakis 2016, 221). And how do we link this “damned city” to the decadent intertext without referencing the Parisian, des Esseintes? The answer is simple: by turning to the Québécois poet Émile Nelligan (1879–1941). Mavrikakis imagines him to be Oscar’s relative on his mother’s side; this detail is not at all anodyne. Nelligan’s poetry was deeply inspired by that of Symbolist writers like Rodenbach and Rollinat.5 Furthermore, like any reference to Rimbaud, an allusion to Nelligan implies a reference to the poet’s


tragic destiny: internment in a mental hospital from 1899 to his death. In Mavrikakis, the fact of linking the Méthot family to the Montréal poet explains the hereditary melancholy of this French-Canadian family inclined to suicide. But the reference to Nelligan has another function: it allows the novelist to repair an injustice, the fact that Nelligan is almost completely unknown outside of Québec. Thus, Mavrikakis takes care to underscore that Oscar had “finally made him famous around the world” (Mavrikakis 2016, 166).

Under the Aegis of the “Bard” Intertextuality also plays an important role in Station Eleven, but in another manner. Mandel does not deploy a vast array of allusions like Mavrikakis. Her most extended reference concerns Shakespeare. In the preapocalyptic sequence, actor Arthur Leander dies in the fourth act of a staging of King Lear. In the postapocalyptic sequence, the Traveling Symphony ranges the territory that once corresponded to southern Ontario and Michigan in order to present the comedies and tragedies of Shakespeare to survivors who have taken refuge in former Walmarts, fast food restaurants, motels, gas stations, and other ruins of civilization. Mandel attempts to pass off this choice of repertory as the fruit of chance: the Traveling Symphony is born out of the fusion of an ensemble directed by the “conductor” and a company of Shakespearian actors who had fled Chicago, but in Anglophone culture there is nothing random about such a decision. What author could alone incarnate the literature of the modern world, other than Shakespeare? Furthermore, Station Eleven is not the first dystopia to invoke Shakespeare. Huxley and Orwell had done the same in Brave New World (1932) and 1984 (1949): John Savage is a fervent reader of the playwright whereas Winston wakes up one day, after having dreamed of his mother, with the name “Shakespeare” on his lips (Orwell [1949] 2014, 38). Among the numerous possible meanings of Mandel’s Shakespearean intertext, I will address two that support the link to Mavrikakis. In Oscar De Profundis, Mavrikakis associates the apocalypse with the Decadent period of the late nineteenth century. In Station Eleven, the link is made between the London plagues of 1603 to 1624 (see Wilson 1963). Dieter explains that “Shakespeare had lived in a plague-ridden society with no electricity and so did the Travelling Symphony” (Mandel 2014, 288). Gil nonetheless perceives a great difference: “they’d seen electricity, they’d



seen everything, they’d watched a civilization collapse, and Shakespeare hadn’t. In Shakespeare’s time the wonders of technology were still ahead, not behind them, and far less had been lost” (ibid.). The inspiration or the consolation of finding Shakespeare’s work thus has its limits for members of the Traveling Symphony; existence at the time of Shakespeare was not a source of comfort and pleasure as it would be in the twenty-first century. The anticipated nostalgia for the present is furthermore an important theme in Station Eleven. When we reread chapter six in this vein, the author makes “an incomplete list” of the lost aspects of our civilization (Mandel 2014, 31). The ensemble is rather heteroclite, ranging from “diving into pools of chlorinated water lit green from below” and “concert stages lit by candy-colored halogens” (ibid.) to air transport, countries, firemen, the police, and the Internet. Hintingly, Mandel invites the reader to consider the numerous dimensions of existence that we take for granted, but which, in the apocalyptic context, appear to be phenomenal, even magical things. The other significance of the Shakespearian intertext addressed here concerns less the dramaturge himself than the setting in which King Lear is staged in the preapocalyptic sequence of Station Eleven: Toronto’s Elgin Theater (see Russell 1989). In and of itself, the choice of this establishment, an architectural jewel of the Queen City, is revealing. Built in 1913, it forms with the Winter Garden a single complex and thus constitutes the only Edwardian two-story theater still in operation today. Mandel thus found a powerful symbol of what life might have been, and in particular the life of a star (a theme one also finds in Mavrikakis), before the apocalypse. But it is not only one of the most picturesque theaters in Canada; the Elgin Theater, situated on the city’s principal artery, Yonge Street, symbolizes the pleasure that Toronto proffers. It is in part her own experience that Mandel transposes onto the characters of Arthur and Miranda.6 They are both originally from Delano Island—a fictional variant of Denman Island where the writer had lived until she went to study dance in Toronto at the age of 18— and are quickly enamored of the metropolis: “Toronto felt like freedom” (Mandel 2014, 223). Beyond Shakespeare, Mandel’s intertextual apparatus remains rather limited. It includes an epigraph: a citation from Polish poet Czeslaw Milosz’s The Separate Notebooks (1955). This is very little in comparison to some fifteen epigraphical citations that Mavrikakis places before the chapters of Oscar De Profundis. We also find a veiled allusion to


Justin Cronin’s postapocalyptic novel The Passage (2010). The character Elizabeth Colton is speaking, but we sense that she expresses Mandel’s thoughts, because she praises the “ingenious flash-forward device” used by the author (Cronin, whom she does not name) to suggest that all of civilization has disappeared except “North America, which had been placed under quarantine to keep vampirism from spreading” (Mandel 2014, 248). Similarly, Mavrikakis also alludes to a dystopian or postapocalyptic intertext, citing Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 (1953) and Antoine Volodine, “for whom Oscar had a particular admiration” (Mavrikakis 2016, 91). Here, too, we suspect that the author lends her character an opinion that is actually her own. From Minor Angels (1999) to Radiant Terminus (2014) as well as works published under various pseudonyms (such as Lutz Bassmann), Volodine is the author of an oeuvre, that he refers to as “post-exotic,” constructed on the idea that “all of history is one single, long disaster, and we stand eternally at the edge of the abyss” (Engélibert 2013, 19).

Intermediary Points If Mandel’s intertextual network is rather summary in Station Eleven, the intermedia apparatus is quite elaborate. Two cases appear particularly worthy of attention. The first regards the process of mise en abyme and concerns the reference to the fictional comic Dr. Eleven. This unfinished work of only two issues was written and illustrated by Miranda Carroll, Arthur’s first wife. It develops a sci-fi scenario, partially inspired by wellknown works: the hero is a physicist living on an ultra-sophisticated space station; his name refers to the eleventh variation of the “Doctor” (played by Matt Smith from 2010 to 2013) of the celebrated British television series Doctor Who. In addition, Miranda’s inspiration for her collection occurs while thumbing through an old Calvin and Hobbes book and falling on a passage concerning one of Calvin’s principal alter egos, Spaceman Spiff. If, in the end, the project remains incomplete— Miranda is ultimately more interested in the “Undersea,” “[t]hese people living out their lives in underwater fallout shelters, clinging to the hope that the world they remembered could be restored” (Mandel 2014, 213)—seduced by the humor and beauty of Bill Watterson’s drawings, Miranda’s initial impulse was joyous. Throughout Station Eleven, various allusions to Dr. Eleven reveal the structural value that Mandel lends this fictional comic. The title of the novel itself hints at this, with its reference to the space station where the



physicist lives. Furthermore, this comic belongs to elements that relate to the pre- and postapocalyptic frameworks. In the world before the advent of the Georgian flu, Dr. Eleven is a project that Miranda thinks about for years before finally being able to execute it. In the world after, the two issues of Dr. Eleven that Kristen has carefully preserved (Arthur had given them to her just before his death) are the relics of a time that the survivor tries desperately to remember (in the Proustian sense). Although numerous, the allusions to Dr. Eleven remain nonetheless too subtle for the reader to really understand or reconstruct their content. So why bother? We know enough to understand that the story imagined by Miranda is an anticipated and coded answer to the coming apocalypse. The stakes, as revealed by the Undersea, lie in the hope of restoring a lost world. This problem becomes clear after the second instance of intermedia referentiality that appears worthy of consideration in Station Eleven: the citation “Survival is insufficient” (Mandel 2014, 119). Taken from the television series Star Trek: Voyager (episode, “Survival Instinct,” broadcast September 29, 1999 on CBS), this citation, originally uttered by Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan), then by the Doctor (Robert Picardo), becomes a leitmotiv of Mandel’s novel. It is inscribed both on the lead trailer of the Traveling Symphony and tattooed on Kirsten’s forearm. It has at least two meanings. It signals, on the one hand, the spontaneous fusion of classical (Shakespeare) and popular (Star Trek) cultures, which constitutes one of the characteristics of the world before the flu epidemic. It serves, on the other hand, as a reminder or watchword to survivors that, despite the dangers they must face (Mandel insists, above all, on that represented by an apocalyptic sect like the one led by the prophet), their existence should not be limited to mere subsistence and day-to-day security, even if, as at the dawn of humanity, these tasks occupy much of their time. “Survival is insufficient” because human experience cannot be reduced to mere survival. Hence the bridge that the intertextual and intermedia apparatus serve to rebuild: a bridge to literature, art, entertainment, leisure, in brief, a bridge to the human soul and heart. “Survival is insufficient” when it is a question of, for all intents and purposes, digging in and reversing a process of dehumanization. We have already addressed the importance of the intertextual web in Mavrikakis’s work. The system of intermedia references is just as complex, even if, for obvious historical and technological reasons, the references belong not to the nineteenth, but to the twentieth century. It is less a question of anticipated nostalgia for the present (as with Mandel) than a declared preference for the works of the past, notably in terms


of film. Oscar is particularly fond of “old” films: Joyless Street (1925), Pandora’s Box (1929), and Diary of a Lost Girl (1929) by G. W. Pabst; Hitchcock’s Rebecca (1940); Death in Venice (1971), The Damned (1969), and Ludwig (1973) by Luchino Visconti; Melancholia (2011) by Lars von Trier, among others. As a cinephile Oscar is as selective as he is a bibliophile, both of which traits belong to an ethos of conservation. Not only does Oscar possess a large collection of films, he has installed in Taliesin West near Scottsdale, Arizona, the home once belonging to American architect Frank Lloyd Wright, a projection room that allows him to “live to the full the authentic experience of cinematography” (Mavrikakis 2016, 81). Here is another way, for Oscar, to completely assume his identity as a des Esseintes for the twenty-first century. The allusion to film, in Mavrikakis’s work, has a greater function than just adding to the portrait of Oscar. It also participates in the evocation of a lost Montréal, that of the “movie palaces built from 1910 to 1930” (Mavrikakis 2016, 235), a time supposedly dominated by the clergy’s dictums but when Montréalers expressed a real passion for film and a surprising independence of spirit. The focalizing character here is no longer Oscar, but Clarisse Bouthillette, the former director of the McCord Museum of History, who, since the advent of the World Government and the assaults on the poor, watches over the preservation of an ancestral home in the old and prestigious neighborhood of Westmount, the (fictional) Ormund House. The intermedia structures that Mavrikakis deploys are not limited to allusions to the seventh art. They also include references to architecture, fashion, photography, and popular song. In the latter, the references are sometimes fictional, as when the novelist describes Oscar’s musical repertory or the works of his collaborator Annie Houle-Watson. Taken as a whole, as in Mandel, the apocalypse intervenes as an interpellation to refocus the collective genius of the entire world. It is not because of the end of the world that all should disappear…

The Disappearance of Canada For a long time civilization had been in the process of degradation, despite the promises of science and technology. (Mavrikakis 2016, 161)

Canada, instead, disappears in both novels. In the postapocalyptic sequence of Station Eleven, the notion of “country” has become outdated. The survivors belong to colonies installed in ruined cities that,



often, preserve their former names: Traverse City, Kincardine, Algonac, Marine City, Severn City, and (invented by Mandel) St. Deborah by the Water. We remain in the Great Lakes region, because we follow the peregrinations of the Traveling Symphony. Mandel does not describe the rest of the world, even if the sequence presenting the last days of Miranda Carrol, stuck in Malaysia, leaves us to understand that the flu plague has struck everywhere with the same violence. In Oscar De Profundis, Canada no longer corresponds to the former historical region. Oscar continues to use the name “Canada,” but he is one of only a few to do so, and it simply adds to the effect of his anachronistic personality. Cities have preserved their identities, but the majority of countries have been absorbed by the World State, a totalitarian power engaged in a battle to the death with the impoverished. The black plague that strikes Montréal is, incidentally, a government offensive to accelerate their extinction. Thus, Canada does not survive the apocalypse, except in memory. Station Eleven and Oscar De Profundis both anticipate the nostalgia that Toronto and Montréal—the two poles that manifest a national attachment—might inspire in Canadian exiles (the international stars Arthur and Oscar are both originally from Canada). The seduction derives, of course, in part from the inherent charm of both of these metropolises. But it also comes from their Canadian character (that is, essentially northern). Hence the extended references that both novelists make to snow, an indispensable element in the Canadian landscape. What clues do Station Eleven and Oscar De Profundis give to the Canadianness of their authors? Not many, apart perhaps from Oscar’s attachment to French, which denotes the status of the Québécois writer Mavrikakis. Mandel, on the other hand, makes very little reference to the second official language of the nation (which she probably does not speak): she invokes the viola’s mania to toss out French words that no one else understands and indicates that Clark participates in the exchange of languages at the Severn City airport by speaking French. The essentially transnational and North American nature of the two novelists, invoked at the beginning of this study, contributes strongly to explaining the rarity of Canadianness in their works. But it is also a sign of the times (planetary tribalism in the age of globalization) and, most importantly here, a result of the choice of the apocalypse as a subject of fiction. We need only liken Station Eleven and Oscar De Profundis to foreign novels on the same subject—and the potential corpus is vast—to realize that the battle against dehumanization is the universal and permanent question of this genre. Authors often develop the metaphor of the


bridge—the broken bridge that must be rebuilt—to describe the efforts of a few characters to safeguard certain aspects of the human presence on Earth. For Mandel and Mavrikakis, this ethos of preservation is essentially turned toward culture, in various forms. By way of conclusion, I note an important difference between the treatment of the apocalypse between the two writers, a difference that does not derive from their status as Anglophone or Francophone, but rather from their disposition or mindset: Mandel offers optimism whereas Mavrikakis reveals a certain pessimism. Mandel shows several characters preoccupied not only with preserving, but also with transmitting humanity’s heritage. The Traveling Symphony goes to peaceful colonies to spread music and Shakespeare’s theater; Clark Thompson becomes the conservator of a “museum of civilization” which spontaneously developed in the Skymiles lounge of the Severn City airport; François Diallo, at New Petoskey, takes care of a library and a newspaper; at Traverse City people have restored electricity and work to restore the Internet. The novel takes place in a moment of hope. In contrast, the process of degradation that Mavrikakis depicts in Oscar De Profundis appears irreversible. The author situates various characters within an ethos of preservation: I focused here on Oscar Ashland, the most important of these. But one cannot speak, in his case, of transmission of an inheritance because his collector’s attitude and his preferences in literature, film, and architecture render him an atypical and anachronistic personage. Like Jean Floressas des Esseintes in Against the Grain, he has created a fictional universe for himself in order to reduce contact with his time and to devote himself to his own dream of beauty. He certainly succeeded in “writing songs that were literary, even hermetic, in which he managed to instruct his fans and raise them up to what remained of their souls” (Mavrikakis 2016, 83), but he does not show any empathy for the lot of his neighbor. He preserves for the sake of preservation, as an esthete, for the love of art; he is perhaps History’s last adept of “art for art’s sake.” In contrast, the gang leader Cate Bérubé is perhaps the last leftwing militant. An idealist and a die-hard, the former doctor dreams of better worlds. She is ready to start a revolution in order to liberate the community of the damned to which she has chosen to belong. But Goliath crushes David here: the revolution that Bérubé dreams of will never take place; the World State erases Montréal’s poor just as it has already suppressed them in London, Rio de Janeiro, Helsinki, Chicago, and Rome. There remain only the figures of Clarisse



Bouthillette and Adrian Monk, the McGill ghetto bookseller. The former dies when the army tries to rescue Oscar after his kidnapping; the latter leaves the rebels’ camp to become Oscar’s librarian in Texas. The entire idea of rebellion is thus futile in this context. Even Oscar, who appears to get out unharmed, doubtless achieves a sad ending: He would certainly die of an overdose in a Los Angeles hotel, like the astrologer had predicted. This would be sweet. The end of the world had already happened. Oscar really hoped to be able to contemplate it, just before his death, from the heights of Beverly Hills. (Mavrikakis 2016, 321)

Thus an open ending that opens paradoxically upon nothing…

Notes 1.  This and all other translations, including passages from Oscar De Profundis, in this chapter are by Amy J. Ransom. 2. The French term roman noir historically applied to the Gothic novel as practiced by Lewis and Radcliffe; more recently, it has come to refer to a particular genre of thriller, detective novel, and otherwise “dark” novel usually involving crime, influenced as much or more by film noir than by the Gothic tradition (Translator’s note). 3. Auguste Villiers de l’Isle-Adam (1838–1889) was a French writer whose works included fantastic tales and the science-fictional Tomorrow’s Eve (1886), in which Thomas Edison is recruited to build an artificial woman for the novel’s hero (Translator’s note). 4. Rachilde was the pen name of Marguerite Vallette-Eymery (1860–1953), a proto-feminist decadent writer whose works flirted with the fantastic at times. Her then racy works, like Monsieur Vénus (1884) and La Marquise de Sade (1887), involved oppositional images of gender and sexuality (Translator’s note). 5.  Georges Rodenbach (1855–1898) was a Belgian-born poet who spent most of his literary career in Paris. Maurice Rollinat (1846–1903) is also a French poet who had set Baudelaire’s poetry to music; his performances at the famous Chat Noir cabaret entertained audiences that included Oscar Wilde (Translator’s note). 6. This is most certainly a purposeful Shakespearean reference, as Miranda is the female protagonist of The Tempest who utters the words, “O, brave new world,” borrowed by Aldous Huxley for his famous anti-utopian novel (Editor’s note).


References Anders, Günther. 2006. La menace nucléaire. Considérations radicales sur l’âge atomique. Translated by Christophe David. Paris: Le Serpent à plumes. Bassmann, Lutz. 2010. Les aigles puent. Paris: Verdier. Bergeron, Patrick. 2013. Décadence et mort chez Barrès et Hofmannsthal. Le point doré de périr. Montréal: Nota Bene. Cronin, Justin. 2010. The Passage. New York: Ballantine Books. Després, Elaine, and Hélène Machinal, eds. 2014. Posthumains: Frontières, évolutions, hybridités. Rennes: Presses universitaires de Rennes. Engélibert, Jean-Paul. 2013. Apocalypses sans royaume. Paris: Garnier. Grojnowski, Daniel. 2004. “Décadence.” In Le dictionnaire du littéraire, edited by Paul Aron, Denis Saint-Jacques, and Alain Viala, 142–43. Paris: PUF. Huysmans, Joris-Karl. [1884] 2003. À rebours. Paris: Gallimard. Kolbert, Elizabeth. 2014. The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History. New York: Henry Holt. Mandel, Emily St. John. 2009. Last Night in Montréal. Lakewood: Unbridled Books. ———. 2010. The Singer’s Gun. Lakewood: Unbridled Books. ———. 2012. The Lola Quartet. Lakewood: Unbridled Books. ———. 2014. Station Eleven. Toronto: Harper Avenue. Mavrikakis, Catherine. 2008. Le ciel de Bay City. Montréal: Héliotrope. ———. 2014. La ballade d’Ali Baba. Montréal: Héliotrope. ———. 2016. Oscar De Profundis. Montréal: Héliotrope. Mourier-Casile, Pascaline. 1983 “Modernités à rebours.” Romantisme 42: 151–66. Orwell, George. [1949] 2014. 1984. London: Arcturus. Russell, Hilary. 1989. Double Take: The Story of the Elgin and Winter Garden Theaters. Toronto: Dundern. Thomine, Camille. 2016. “Romans post-apocalyptiques.” Magazine Littéraire 571 (September): 32–34. Volodine, Antoine. 2007. Des anges mineurs. Paris: Points. ———. 2014. Terminus Radieux. Paris: Seuil. Wilson, F. P. 1963. The Plague in Shakespeare’s London. London: Oxford University Press.


Building Bridges: Constructing and Deconstructing Myths of the Canadian Nation


When Are We Ever at Home? Exile and Nostalgia in the Work of Guy Gavriel Kay Susan Johnston

All that you held most dear you will put by and leave behind you; and this is the arrow the longbow of your exile first lets fly. You will come to know how bitter as salt and stone is the bread of others, how hard the way that goes up and down stairs that are never your own. (Dante, The Paradiso) When are we ever at home?

(Barbara Cassin, Nostalgia)

When, in 1990, Guy Gavriel Kay took Dante’s lines as his epigraph to Tigana, the stand-alone novel following his debut fantasy trilogy, The Fionavar Tapestry (1984–1986), he asserted the themes of exile and displacement marking all his work. From Fionavar’s expatriate dwarf king, Matt Sören, to disgraced daughter, Leonora Valeri, in Children of Earth S. Johnston (*)  University of Regina, Regina, SK, Canada © The Author(s) 2019 A. J. Ransom and D. Grace (eds.), Canadian Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror, Studies in Global Science Fiction,



and Sky (2016), Kay’s works frame exile as “one of the most powerful ways to present and explore a character in extremis. The intensity of that. Longing for the homeland” (Kay 2013). This chapter uncovers the ways in which Kay examines the question of home through the longing of exiles, politicized and emphatically alienated. Their displacement is both geographical and temporal, as they find themselves disconnected from both past and present. Kay’s concerns are characteristically Canadian, products of contested home/lands and sovereignties, but they are also global. In charting the physical and emotional trajectories of exiles and immigrants, his works map Canada in and of the world. The profound defamiliarization that Kay instantiates in his exile figures is not only the stranger in a strange land, familiar in fantasy and its precursors from The Odyssey and The Aeneid forward as a perspective from which the reader can explore the secondary world.1 If these exiles open into unfamiliar worlds, they are also closed off from the familiar, made strange even as they work to render the strange world familiar to us. This defamiliarization is not Darko Suvin’s cognitive estrangement, turning as it does on the novum or “strange newness” (1979, 3–15), but that curious critical hybrid deriving, on the one hand, from Russian formalist Viktor Shklovsky’s ostranie (defamiliarization), and on the other from Bertholt Brecht’s Verfremdung (Attebery 1992, 16). Ernst Bloch distinguishes between Entfremden (to alienate, as in a relationship) and Verfremden (to estrange or make distant), and notes that for Brecht, “estrangement is directed against that very alienation which has doubled in strength as people have grown accustomed to it” and from which they must be “startled awake” (1970, 124). Colin Manlove would call this “wonder,” evoked by “the contemplation of strangeness” (1978, 1, 7), while for J. R. R. Tolkien, it is “enchantment” which enables the recovery of a weary-hearted world, so that “we should meet the centaur and the dragon, and then perhaps suddenly behold, like the ancient ­shepherds, sheep, and dogs, and horses—and wolves” (2001, 57). Oriented to the past and to an absent home, exiles cannot be rehomed, or they cease to be exiles; their worlds are conceptualized as “here” and “there” (Mardorossian 2002, 16). Carine M. Mardorossian imagines literatures of exile transformed into migrant literatures as a changing stance toward exilic conditions, one that resists stasis and emphasizes becoming. Québec historian Jocelyn Létourneau, seeking a way forward for a conquered and colonized people dealing with the burden of the past, similarly calls for the transformation of “souvenir” (remembrance) to “devenir” (becoming) (2000, 278). We see just such a transformation in Kay’s oeuvre, from the eucatastrophic restorations of



The Fionavar Tapestry—The Summer Tree (1984), The Wandering Fire (1986), The Darkest Road (1986)—as well as Tigana (1990) and A Song for Arbonne (1992)—to the elegiac historical fantasies of The Lions of AlRassan (1995) and Under Heaven (2010). Fionavar opens with the classic portal fantasy device of strangers in a strange land. Five university students, encountering a wizard, Loren Silvercloak, and his partner, the dwarf Matt Sören, choose at their behest to cross the wall between worlds, going to “the place beyond the ends of the earth” (Kay 2004a, 24). In the archetypal structure of the portal-quest fantasy, this transition typically thematizes coming of age, involving “an earned passage from Bondage—via a central Recognition of what has been revealed and of what is about to happen, and which may involve a profound Metamorphosis of protagonist or world (or both)—into the Eucatastrophe, where marriages may occur, just governance fertilize the barren Land, and there is a Healing” (Clute and Grant 1999). Farah Mendlesohn understands this structure as fundamentally imperialist, beginning “with a sense of stability that is revealed to be the stability of a thinned land […] and conclud[ing] with restoration rather than instauration (the making over of the world)” (2008, 3). The fantasy hero “moves through the action and the world stage, embedding an assumption of unchangingness on the part of the indigenes […] only the hero is capable of change; fantasyland is orientalized into the ‘unchanging past’” (Mendlesohn 2008, 9). The Fionavar Tapestry challenges this assumption. The five protagonists—Kim Ford, Kevin Laine, Jennifer Lowell, Dave Martyniuk, and Paul Schafer—undergo personal transformation by defeating Rakoth Maugrim, one of Fionavar’s ancient powers, and restoring the frayed world. However, they also anchor Fionavar, and Maugrim himself, in time, thus opening both to change. Their victory depends on Jennifer’s son Darien, child of her rape by Maugrim, the child who “binds [him] into time […] [so he] can die!” (Kay 2004c, 329). Meanwhile each traveler assumes a mythological role (Cawsey 2015, 71), which partially absorbs them into the unchanging world of archetypes: Jennifer as Guinevere, Kim as the Celtic Morrigan, Paul as Norse god Odin, Kevin as Adonis, and Dave as warrior consort of huntress Ceinwen (Doughty 2013, 75). These roles bind them to the mythic world of Fionavar, which is in turn bound to the primary world and to time. Thus Dave’s son, child of the goddess, carries lost Kevin’s name “into time” (Kay 2004c, 367), though Dave must return to the primary world, since “no man of Fionavar may see Ceinwen hunt” (366). But Paul, like Odin, sacrifices himself on the tree, becoming Pwyll Twiceborn, “a power, brother to gods” (Kay 2004c, 372), and entering the fantasy world’s timelessness. Yet this too


proves contingent, for in his Fionavarish lover’s arms, he relinquishes such power, again becoming “a mortal man” (374). He thus re-enters time, relocating himself in the present from which change is possible. Through such figures, Kay works against the dichotomy of “here” and “there.” His high fantasy closes with the restoration of the world underscored by repeated references to “pattern[s]” and “full circle[s]” (Kay 2004c, 359–79), but in the end some of his protagonists remain neither here nor there. Dave’s child, halfway between man and goddess, and Paul’s honeymoon cottage, “halfway between the Temple and the Tree” (376), signal changes quite other than the losses which, in eucatastrophe, are the terrible cost of victory (Tolkien 2001, 69). The Five do not move through but into the fantasy world, and these movements, back and forth, point to a reconfiguration of home and away, such that neither world remains static but is instead caught up in the transformation—the becoming—of these characters. As Liadon/Adonis, Kevin is different, destroyed by the goddess whose beloved he is, and thereby bound into timelessness. Jennifer is likewise different, for as Guinevere she is ensnared in the eternal return of King Arthur, part of the “long unwinding doom[:] A cycle of war and expiation under many names, and in many worlds” (Kay 2004b, 30), punishment for the massacre of innocents beginning his reign (Cawsey 2015, 67). But a prince of Fionavar breaks this cycle, taking Arthur’s last battle onto himself (Kay 2004c, 290). Arthur is thus released, with Jennifer, back into mortality and death, to his long home in the “Weaver’s Halls” (353). Importantly, this afterlife is not simply another iteration of mythic time, for the doomed king’s immortality differs from the eternity he enters, though endless ever new. Kay’s Arthur recalls Mary McCarthy’s exile as a singular figure, solitary and alone. Like the refugee, the exile is political, banished by government, by circumstance, by his or her own crimes or those of others. Whereas the refugee is caught up in the present, the exile inhabits an unchanging past similar to mythic time. Grieving exiles walk through places imprinted with the lost home, which have become unheimlich: uncanny because unhomelike. Defined by waiting, “concentrated on the land [they] left behind, in memories and hopes” (McCarthy 1972), exiles are unlike other strangers, such as travelers or migrants. Similarly, Arthur is unlike the Five, because the arc of their exile is toward the past rather than the traveler’s eternal present or the migrant’s imagined future. Even Paul, who enters Fionavar to escape memories of his



fiancée’s death, re-enters the present by passing through mythic space and time in his three days hanging on the Summer Tree. The displacement of the Five is surpassed by the more profound unhoming of Arthur and Sören, who “turned away from his people” and from the lake Calor Diman (Kay 2004c, 253). They reveal both place and time as bound up with “home,” an imaginary and imaginative homeland, constantly receding and ever-present. What seems at first to be the simple opposition of “here” and “there” is echoed in and entangled by the complicated opposition of past to present. And for Canadian writer Kay, homeland can never be an uncomplicated idea, bound up with the idea of nation, one’s own people, and origins or roots. If Sören’s tale foregrounds departure and displacement, homesteading and rehoming, Tigana considers home and exile in terms of conquest and colonization, part of the Canadian experience of home and its finding for two centuries. Tigana narrates the struggle to end the reigns of two sorcerous conquerors, Brandin of Ygrath and Alberico of Barbadior, in the Italianate “Peninsula of the Palm.” Twenty years earlier, as Tigana resisted the tide of conquest, its prince Valentin killed Brandin’s son, Stevan. In bitter retaliation, the sorcerer king stripped the memory of the very name Tigana from all born outside its borders. Valentin’s son Alessan calls the spell “[Brandin’s] deepest curse, his ultimate revenge. He made it as if we had never been. Our deeds, our history, our very name” (Kay 1991, 97). Kay has said Tigana was the first of his books to be translated into Croatian, “specifically because the editors there were sharply aware of the thematic links to the re-emergence of eastern Europe from totalitarian control (The relationship between history, language, and identity is central to the novel, and to the means with which many oppressive regimes have suppressed conquered or subjugated peoples.)” (Kay 1998, 156). Exile may be situational—from one’s place, from one’s past—but it may also be linguistic, not just from motherland but from mother tongue; Tiganans’ dispossession from the very name of their motherland brings these two ideas together. Indeed, Tigana is in some ways Kay’s pre-eminent story of dispossession. With his rebel band, Alessan is cut off not just from a home that knows them not, but from its memory. Namelessness is the absence not just of story, but of history, and therefore of identity itself. Helen Siourbas (2004) recollects Margaret Atwood’s assertion that “[f]or the members of a country or a culture, shared knowledge of their place, their here, is not a luxury but a necessity. Without that knowledge we will not


survive” (1972, 19). Alessan’s rebels find personal fulfillment in collective survival. Siourbas says “[t]he people, though stripped of their heritage, remember and, by sharing their memories, find the strength to act through a collective pride that leads to their ultimate survival and fulfillment”; Tigana thus shows the evolution of Canadian fantasy beyond those early articulations Atwood documented (2004, 79).2 Siourbas contrasts that literature of oppression, whose struggle for cultural survival and identity dwindles into “failed collective and self-expression,” with contemporary Canadian fantasy’s “true triumph over oppressive forces” (2004, 74). This dispossession from language and land highlights these ideas’ centrality to our understanding of national identity. Benedict Anderson conceptualizes “nation” as “an imagined political community—and imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign” (Anderson 1991, 6). Limited, because “[n]o nation imagines itself as coterminous with mankind;” sovereign, because the idea of the nation matures as the hierarchical dynasties of the old world are passing away, such that “[t]he gage and emblem of this freedom is the sovereign state” (Anderson 1991, 7); and community, “because, regardless of the actual inequality and exploitation that may prevail in each, the nation is always conceived as a deep, horizontal comradeship” (ibid.). Recognizing in Devin’s wordless lullaby the sign of a compatriot (Kay 1991, 34; 93), Alessan proffers such a comradeship, restoring to Devin the name of his country and its memory, making him truly his fellow. Strikingly, enmity for the conquerors is not first or even last amongst the waves of loss and love Devin experiences (99), though he will shortly pledge his life to Alessan’s rebellion and to the destruction of tyranny. As Anderson reminds us, though it is commonplace to note that twentieth- and twenty-first-century nationalisms have taken on a “near-pathological character […] [their] roots in fear and hatred of the Other, […] nations inspire love, and often profoundly self-sacrificing love” (1991, 141). Importantly, “the cultural products of nationalism”—from poetry and the plastic arts to comic books and cradle songs—reveal this love (ibid.), but they also survive the loss of the nation itself. Devin’s wordless lullaby hints at a nationalism imagined in displacement and diaspora, as indeed a Canadian nationalism must be. A Song for Arbonne rearticulates exile and diasporic nationalism through a nationalism uneasily balanced between love of one’s country and loathing of the other via the interlaced perspectives of the self-exiled Blaise of Gorhaut, younger son of Gorhaut’s High Elder Galbert de



Garsenc, and the Arbonnese minstrel, Lisseut. “Until the sun dies and the moons fall, Gorhaut and Arbonne shall not lie easily beside each other” (Kay 2017, 145) runs the proverb on both sides of the border. Indeed the novel charts the lead-up to the long-expected invasion of Arbonne and the invaders’ “message in blood and fire” (429). On both sides of that uneasy border, culture dreams nation, a point Kay elaborates through the exaggerated opposition of the troubadours and minstrels of Arbonne to the stern men-at-arms of the north. For Canadians, the power of the imagination to create nations and that power’s limits is at once resonant and controversial. As a nationstate, Canada was belatedly re-imagined onto existing communities through the 1867 Confederation Act, and the latter part of the twentieth century was marked in Canada by the contentious revisiting of the limits of nation and community. Québec nationalism took the form of a demand for the preservation of a distinct linguistic identity and, for some, even independence as a sovereign state. Anderson, indeed, highlights language, particularly the linking of vast territories through sacred languages, as a critical origin point and precursor of the idea of the nation (1991, 12–17; 67–82). Furthermore, Québec’s motto, “Je me souviens” (I remember), underscores the role of memory in nation building. For Canadians of the last half-century, then, national identity is inevitably bound up with memory and language, with the fear of an erasure as complete as that effected by Tigana’s Brandin of Ygrath. Létourneau fears the deformation of historical consciousness and collective identity by the false dichotomy of “the rejection of the past and its total remembrance” (2004, 11). For Létourneau, the task is rather “[s]e souvenir et devenir,” learning from the past: The challenge Quebeckers have to meet now is not to opt for a memory based on resignation or contempt for the past. The challenge is to distinguish what in the past should be re-acknowledged and what should be “de-acknowledged” in the name of the values and contexts of the present. As regards memory, contemporaries should keep their eyes on the future. Failing that, they remain eternally in mourning, incapable of extricating themselves from the echoes of the past, so weighed down by the past that they are soon unable to envision new solutions to the histories that they, as the custodians of a legacy of memory, have a duty to take on for posterity, eternally. (Létourneau 2004, 10)


While alienation from our past is an exile from continuity, from situatedness in history, both Tigana and A Song for Arbonne share Létourneau’s conviction that memory, “when it leads to the ancestors’ domination of the world of the living, […] can obscure the self” and become an exile from the present (2004, 12). Tigana’s tyrant Brandin is chained to the past by his mind and magic, which maintain the spell of erasure. When, too late, Brandin releases the spell and “twenty years of vengeance” (Kay 1991, 652), he can only die at the hands of Valentin who avenges a past he cannot recuperate (656). A Song for Arbonne is likewise haunted by the past, opening with a tryst between Bertran de Talair and Aelis, wife of the duke of Miraval, which will lead to her death in childbirth, to the death or disappearance of the child, and to twenty years of blood feud (Kay 2017, 63). “Memory,” recites the ruling countess, “[is] the harvest and the torment of my days” (63). As her high priestess daughter Beatriz knows, this memory is the “savage, time-locked obsession that had never let them go, and would never do so” (507). Létourneau contends against “shutting [ourselves] up in the universe of the unforgettable evoked in the injunction to remember, which takes over the future and obliterates it” (2004, 12). He speaks of culture and tradition rather than the kinds of personal tragedies that consume Arbonne, but Kay’s exploration of memory rests in the entwining of this tragedy with the culture of courtly love and courtesy (2017, 520). Strikingly, Miraval and Talair finally let the past bury its dead, though their performance of an undying enmity permits them to defeat an invading army, freeing their beloved homeland (588–89). They, in other words, transform the past that chained them into memory. Létourneau calls this the proper work of mourning, “nothing less than an act of re-foundation and regeneration” (2004, 16), which frees the present to build a renewed future. Talair’s attendance on Miraval’s death mirrors this mourning (Kay 2017, 589–91). The renewed future appears first in Bertran de Talair’s belated marriage to Rosala (whose escape to Arbonne is the casus belli for Gorhaut’s invasion), then in the recovery of the lost heir to Arbonne, Rinette. Finally, this daughter of Talair and Aelis de Miraval cements the peace by marrying Blaise, now king of Gorhaut (608–9). They have not abandoned the past, but laid it at last to rest. The restoration aligns with Létourneau’s idea of forgetting as “the culmination of mourning, which, turned into forgiveness, opens a universe of the future, of possibility and understanding, based on the recollection of the good in the past rather than the harm” (2004, 25–26). Urté de Miraval’s last words to Bertran



de Talair are not recrimination, then, but benediction: “Rian shelter this land of Arbonne forever in her arms” (Kay 2017, 591). Thus far I have unpacked the dispossession of characters who are unmoored from the present by the demands of a homeland elsewhere or elsewhen. But to live in such a past, as Urté de Miraval and Bertran de Talair do for so long, is not precisely to give way to nostalgia, at least in the most familiar senses of the term; rather, it is to dwell too long in the land of the dead. Daniel Cottom’s injunction bears mention here: [t]he present is defined by sacrifice, for we must give up some portion of the present to appease the dead who would otherwise demand all of it. For it is in the act of memorializing that we at once mark and remark boundaries such as those between the living and the dead, the past and the present, the public and the private, the victor and the vanquished, and the text and the present event. (1996, 76)

We might add, between here and there, between home and away. Mardorossian links the experience of exile to nostalgia, seeing the exile as trapped between a “here” and a “there” that remain anchored in a binary, in which the lost home functions as both “a fixed or comforting anchor” and a marker of lost plenitude, authenticity, fullness (2002, 16). Like many thinkers (e.g. Boym 2001), Mardorossian sees nostalgia as a longing for an imagined and imaginary past, which, in the end, serves itself to exile us from the present (Muller 2006, 748). But as Svetlana Boym notes in The Future of Nostalgia, the “retrospective” can also be “prospective” (2001, xvi): “not a nostalgia for the ideal past, but for the present perfect and its lost potential” (Boym 2001, 21). Boym finds nostalgia emerging in the wake of revolution, of instability, of seemingly catastrophic rupture (see also Muller 2006, 740). The Lions of Al-Rassan opens with two such ruptures. First, the assassination of “the last of the khalifs of Al-Rassan” by Ammar ibn Khairan brings an end to the khalifate and perhaps to a golden age (Kay 1995, 1–3, 16). Second, the “Day of the Moat,” the slaughter of 139 prominent citizens of the factionalized city of Fezana (25–28), drives the Asharite Ammar into exile with Jaddite commander Rodrigo Belmonte and Kindath physician Jehane bet Ishak. Lions draws on the fifteenth-century fall of Granada, transforming “our history’s patterns of subjugation and conquest, in the names of gods who are detached from the human condition” (Taylor 2016), from the zealotry of the Asharite desert tribes to the bigotry of the Jaddite clerics enslaving the


dispossessed Kindath, who like the Jews of our world are marginalized, stateless. Nonetheless, Lions reveals a sense of exile linked to historical rupture. In Ammar, Jehane, Roderigo, and his compatriot Alvar, the novel captures the Arabic Muslim, Sephardic Jew, and Spanish Christian of Andalusia just before the Reconquista. It reads the Reconquista as a catastrophe which, like the French Revolution, like the British victory on the Plains of Abraham outside Québec City, like the coming of Brandin of Ygrath to Kay’s imagined Peninsula of the Palm, shatters history and social continuity, “casting the present off from the past and thereby creating a ‘different race,’ exiles who had become strangers in their own time and read contemporary history as dispossession” (Fritzsche 2001, 1588). That the exiles of Al-Rassan find a new home in Sorenica mitigates, but does not erase, the loss and grief of this end of worlds. Lions’ final chapter sees Jehane, Ammar, Alvar, and their families together celebrating Alvar’s birthday but also mourning the last fall of Al-Rassan, which itself recollects the death of Roderigo at the hands of Ammar on the plains by Silvenes (Kay 1995, 565). The chapter, like the party, closes with “three glasses of wine that had each been left deliberately behind, brim-full” (582), a kind of libation, which shows that “[t]ho’ much is taken, much abides” (Tennyson 1891, 77, l.65). Though the glasses stand for the novel’s three protagonists, they are also an image of the hope that “men of different worlds can blend and mingle those worlds” (Kay 1995, 350). This image testifies to what is gone, but is reflective rather than restorative in its longing. Svetlana Boym makes this distinction, counterposing restorative nostalgia’s desire to “rebuild the lost home” in its imagined plenitude with that reflective nostalgia which inhabits “longing and loss, the imperfect process of remembrance” (2001, 41). Both Muller and Boym see restorative nostalgia as potentially threatening (Muller 2006, 755; Boym 2001, 41–43), whereas reflective nostalgia can recall one to the present despite what is lost. While restorative commemoration need not invite either stasis or exclusion (see also Johnston 2012), Tigana, Arbonne, and Lions explore the repercussions of giving up the present to the insatiable past, both on the personal and national levels. What is the religious intolerance of the Jaddites or the fanatic Asharites but a longing to restore the past’s imagined purity? We might say that restorative nostalgia seeks to erase catastrophe, or at least to return to the time before the rupturing of time; reflective nostalgia, on the other hand, owns the kind of sightfulness that becomes fruitful:



Nostalgia not only cherishes the past for the distinctive qualities that are no longer present but also acknowledges the permanence of their absence. […] What the ghostly remains of other pasts recall is the fact of other presents and other possibilities. It makes sense, then, to reconsider nostalgia not as blindness but as sightfulness, which completes the modern experience of time with its insistent perception of disaster and its empathy to strangers stranded in the present. (Fritzsche 2001, 1592)

Under Heaven begins in just this way, with a man in a vast field of bones, the site of the hard-won battle of Kuala Nor (Kay 2010, 3–5). Shen Tai is the bereaved son of General Shen Gao, its victor, temporarily ending strife between his native Kitai and neighboring Tagur. There, Shen Gao contracted a memory that would plague him always, “a source of pride and sorrow intermingled, marking him forever after” (5). There, Shen Gao’s second son returns after his father’s death, west of the Iron Gate Fortress and of everything he knows, “beyond that last outpost of empire, with the dead” (6). There, for the two and a half years of official mourning for his father (13), in the no-man’s land between nations, between time, between worlds—for the ghosts of Kuala Nor “were outside in all seasons, moonlit nights and dark, as soon as the sun went down” (4)—Shen Tai labors to lay nameless bones to rest. Like Lions but drawing on Tang Dynasty China, Under Heaven explores exile as the space between catastrophes, and its protagonists are unhomed in significant ways. There is Shen Tai, “a holy hermit or a fool” (Kay 2010, 8), between old life and new; his sister, Shen Li-Mei, traded beyond borders (171) to consolidate an alliance with the Bogü; and his former lover, Spring Rain, now concubine to prime minister Wen Zhou (87). Each is on the threshold of something new, though for Shen Tai, who begins the novel in the field of the dead, this liminal space is uncanny. It is what Lawrence Steven calls “the portal (from poros meaning way through; opposite of aporia, dead end) for wonder and terror” (2004, 68). But is it wonder or terror? Space limitations preclude a fuller exploration of this question and its implications for Kay’s fantasy as a species of modernism; what is critical here is that Shen Tai’s dislocation becomes, in the end, a portal to his relocation, which is only incidentally a return home:

130  S. JOHNSTON The stone bench was still here. Of course it was. Why should such things change because a man had been away? Were two years any time at all? For human beings they were. Two years could change the world. For stones, for trees growing leaves in spring, dropping them in autumn, two years were inconsequential. A stone in a pond makes ripples, the ripples are gone, nothing remains. When those one has loved are gone, memories remain. (Kay 2010, 551)

Returning, Shen Tai is no longer an exile, but nor can he be said to be, precisely, at home. Mardorossian distinguishes migrancy from exile, remarking that the migrant’s world “is no longer conceptualized as ‘here’ and ‘there.’ Because of her displacement, the migrant’s identity undergoes radical shifts that alter her self-perception and often result in her ambivalence toward both her old and new existence” (Mardorossian 2002, 16). Home, whether it is the peaceful estate of retired General Shen Gao, salvaged Tigana, emperilled Arbonne, or fallen Al-Rassan, cannot, for Kay, be reclaimed intact. Indeed, it can only be glimpsed “through a fragmented memory” (Mardorossian 2002, 22). Memory is, for Kay and his exiles, the fragments that may be shored against the ruins, like those of T. S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land” ([1922] 1969, 75, l.430): Seasons tumble and pass, so do human lives and ruling dynasties. Men and women live and are remembered – or falsely remembered – for so many different reasons that the recording of these would take seasons of its own. […] At Kuala Nor the seasons turned with sun and stars, and the moon lit green grass or made silver the snow and a frozen lake. For a number of years following the events recounted here (however incompletely, as with all such tellings) two men met there each spring, sharing a cabin by the lake, and labouring together to lay to rest the dead. (Kay 2010, 567)

In the end as in the beginning, this labor is the homage Shen Tai offers in the present to a past that, as Cottom reminds us above, would otherwise claim all of it. It is striking in that it unites the personal with the public—these are not Shen Tai’s dead, though they are his empire’s dead—and bridges them as it bridges home and world, past and present, remembering and becoming. Such a view does not erase the price of empire, but reconfigures it, permitting the arrival of an unmortgaged future. Like ruins, the graves



marking the end of Kay’s fantasies remind us that the imagined nation is not without cost: a landscape “scattered with the ruins of other worlds […] recounted devastation and ruin, [but] also demarcated specific cultural traditions that even in fragmentary form defied the logic of imperial conquest and imperial sameness” (Fritzsche 2001, 1610). Recurring throughout Kay’s work, such fragments—of myth, of culture, of lives— mean that exiles may be relocated and restored but never quite returned. Though their pasts may haunt the present it is, at the last, to enable other presents and other possibilities.

Notes 1.  See Farah Mendlesohn’s discussion of “portal fantasy,” which requires that readers learn the world from a portal or point of entry; such fantasy “allows and relies upon both protagonist and reader gaining experience” (2008, xix). In such a work the protagonist’s world is strange, sometimes made strange, and the narrative arc traces the hero and reader as the world is rendered familiar to them (Mendlesohn 2008, 8). 2.  Such a resolution is in keeping with the eucatastrophic tradition, since these triumphs are not without cost: Dianora di Tigana, who once dreamed of freeing her people by assassinating Brandin, adding love for him to “the terrible interwovenness of things” (Kay 1991, 655), is unable at the last to be free, though she hears again the name of her homeland, breathed aloud by Valentin, Prince of Tigana before he dies (657), and she herself goes to “an ending in the sea” (662).

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Mardorossian, Carine M. 2002. “From Literature of Exile to Migrant Literature.” Modern Language Studies 32 (2): 15–33. McCarthy, Mary. 1972. “A Guide to Exiles, Expatriates, and Internal Emigrés.” The New York Review of Books. March 9. articles/1972/03/09/a-guide-to-exiles-expatriates-and-internal-emigres/. Mendlesohn, Farah. 2008. Rhetorics of Fantasy. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press. Muller, Adam. 2006. “Notes Toward a Theory of Nostalgia: Childhood and the Evocation of the Past in Two European ‘Heritage’ Films.” New Literary History 37 (4): 739–60. Siourbas, Helen. 2004. “More Than Just Survival: The Successful Quest for Voice in Guy Gavriel Kay’s Tigana and Randy Bradshaw’s The Song Spinner.” In Worlds of Wonder: Readings in Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature, edited by Jean-François Leroux and Camille R. La Bossière, 73–80. Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press. Steven, Lawrence. 2004. “Welwyn Wilton Katz and Charles de Lint: New Fantasy as a Canadian Post-colonial Genre.” In Worlds of Wonder: Readings in Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature, edited by Jean-François Leroux and Camille R. La Bossière, 57–72. Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press. Suvin, Darko. 1979. Metamorphoses of Science Fiction: On the Poetics and History of Literary Genre. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. Taylor, Dena. 2016. “Three Glasses of Wine: The Accommodation of Culture in The Lions of Al-Rassan.” Bright Weavings. denalions/. Tennyson, Alfred Lord. 1891. “Ulysses.” In Vol. 2 of The Complete Works of Alfred Lord Tennyson, Poet Laureate, 75–77. New York: Frederick A. Stokes. Tolkien, J. R. R. [1964] 2001. “On Fairy-Stories.” In Tree and Leaf, Including the Poem Mythopoeia and the Homecoming of Beorhtnoth, 3–81. London: HarperCollins.


Reconciliation, Resistance, and Biskaabiiyang: Re-imagining Canadian Residential Schools in Indigenous Speculative Fictions Judith Leggatt

This chapter examines how Indigenous storytellers use speculative tropes to re-imagine relationships within Canada in the aftermath of the personal and cultural trauma caused by residential schools. As Stephen Harper noted in the official Government of Canada apology, these schools had two primary, and related, objectives: first “to remove and isolate children from the influence of their homes, families, traditions and cultures,” and second “to assimilate them into the dominant c­ulture” (Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada 2008). As any Star Trek fan will recognize, assimilation is akin to genocide; once one becomes Borg, the original identity is no longer present. Harper’s apology continues: “These objectives were based on the assumption Aboriginal cultures and spiritual beliefs were inferior and unequal. Indeed, some sought, as it was infamously said, ‘to kill the Indian in the child’” (Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada 2008). This metaphor is speculative in nature. J. Leggatt (*)  Lakehead University, Thunder Bay, ON, Canada © The Author(s) 2019 A. J. Ransom and D. Grace (eds.), Canadian Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror, Studies in Global Science Fiction,



The concept of dying while remaining alive through metamorphosis is a common trope in science fiction, with cyborgs and brain transplants, and in horror, with vampires and zombies. Residential schools and other forms of institutionalized child abduction by government agencies have been a central theme in Indigenous storytelling in Canada since the 1980s,1 and several texts use speculative tropes to tell these ­stories.2 In this chapter, I will examine three Indigenous speculative texts that explore the effects of the residential school experience from the perspective of the stolen children and their families. In The Black Ship (1994, 2015),3 Gerry William allegorizes the effects of child stealing by repeating it in the far future on distant worlds; in “Savage” (2009), Lisa Jackson uses the trope of zombies to demonstrate the drastic changes to the students; and in Rhymes for Young Ghouls (2013), Jeff Barnaby uses horror imagery to evoke the terror inspired by both the residential schools and the government systems that supported them. These three texts combine speculative fiction with realism to create a cognitive dissonance that reshapes the current discourses around the schools and to suggest the impossibility of easy solutions. Although some Canadians still defend the schools, the national discourse has shifted so that we4 distance ourselves from the racist ideals that allowed them to exist. Harper’s apology recognized that the government’s “policy of assimilation was wrong, has caused great harm, and has no place in our country” (Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada 2008). He ends by looking forward to the Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which will: be a positive step in forging a new relationship between Aboriginal peoples and other Canadians, a relationship based on the knowledge of our shared history, a respect for each other and a desire to move forward together with a renewed understanding that strong families, strong communities and vibrant cultures and traditions will contribute to a stronger Canada for all of us. (Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada 2008)

Here, the official discourse on relations between Indigenous peoples and Canada moves from “assimilation” to “reconciliation,” exemplified by a desire to build bridges and find ways of moving forward as one nation; however, the focus on reconciliation’s benefit to the nation-state suggests that the two practices have more in common than Harper’s progressive rhetoric indicates. William’s, Jackson’s, and Barnaby’s texts share



an open-endedness that counters the hopefulness of the government of Canada’s apology, or even the 94 Calls For Action that came out of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (2015). As Chelsea Vowel notes in her review of Barnaby’s film: “it utterly rips apart the notion that by beginning to gather an account of the residential school system, we are in any way done the last bit of truth telling we need to undergo in this country” (2014). These creators of Indigenous speculative fiction use science fiction and horror tropes not only to unpack the immediate and intergenerational trauma of the institutionalized theft of Indigenous children, but also to situate the schools within ongoing colonial processes, and—most importantly—to suggest specifically Indigenous modes of regeneration. The term reconciliation carries with it Western connotations that suggest the dangers inherent in the process. The term is used in accounting, showing “a tendency among Europeans to treat human relations as they do money relations” (Maracle 1990, 162). Leanne Simpson compares national reconciliation with marital reconciliation, casting Canada as an abusive partner who wants to “reconcile,” but “continues to physically, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally abuse his partner. He just wants to say sorry so he can feel less guilty about his behavior. He just wants to adjust the ways he is abusing; he doesn’t want to stop the abuse” (2011, 21). She argues that calls for reconciliation interfere with decolonization by drawing attention away from continued, and unacknowledged, structural injustice and dispossession (ibid.). The dangers of cultural exchange are demonstrated by the fact that residential schools sprang from an effort to bridge cultural difference. A clause in many treaties stipulated that Indigenous children receive a Western education, in order that future generations could live together with greater cultural understanding. Indigenous people expected the schools to be run in their communities and according to the belief systems of their people. As Olive Patricia Dickason puts it, “What they [the First Nations] saw was a partnership with the newcomers as they worked out their own adaptations. Officials and others of the majority society, however, saw another purpose for the schools: their use as instruments for assimilation” (2009, 305). Rather than providing a way for the newcomers and Indigenous people to live together, the schools aimed to eradicate the First Nations, so that there would no longer be Indigenous people who could claim treaty rights.5 It could well be that the best solution to our current ­situation is not bridge building, but rather more careful guarding of the bridges that already exist, so that they cannot be used for invasion.


Rather than using horror tropes only to illustrate the abuses that have made headlines, Indigenous speculative storytellers emphasize the genocidal impulses behind the schools. Both Savage and Rhymes for Young Ghouls literalize the assimilative metaphor of “killing the Indian in the child.” In the opening scene of Rhymes for Young Ghouls, Burner warns Aila and Tyler of the dangers of St. Dymphna, the local residential school: “they cook Indian kids up there for that zombie priest” (Barnaby 2013). In a less speculative way, many children are brutalized and die in the school. The epigraph to the film paraphrases the Indian Act in a blending of dark fantasy and legal realism: “The law in the Kingdom decreed that every child between the age of 5 and 16 who is physically able must attend Indian Residential School. Her Majesty’s attendants, to be called truant officers, will take into custody a child whom they believe to be absent from school using as much force as the circumstance requires” (ibid.). These words set the stage for the introduction of Popper, the evil Indian agent who runs the school, and controls the lives of all the Indigenous children and adults in his domain. As Vowel notes, “In this film, the residential school is merely a terrible side concern. The real villain is the Indian agent, and though not explicitly mentioned, the Conservative and Liberal governments that gave these bureaucrats such wide-sweeping powers for so many generations” (2014). By making Burner’s zombie story a cover for a darker realist horror, the film demonizes the government systems that facilitated the abuses. Lisa Jackson created Savage “to subvert stereotypes about ‘native issues’ and use an unconventional approach to get underneath preconceptions and deliver an emotional experience” (Jackson 2013). In her film, the children become zombies; their pale makeup and hollow eyes evoke not only the mission to erase their Indigeneity, but also the idea that the schools are designed to kill a part of them. What better metaphor is there for the half-death of assimilation than the image of the walking dead, deprived of agency? These zombie children sit in straight lines, heads bent over their work, in a sterile classroom adorned only with a map of Canada—an explicit reminder to the viewer of the role of the nation-state in their situation. Unlike in Rhymes for Young Ghouls, the dehumanizing of the children happens in the absence of any obvious signs of physical or sexual abuse. Jackson’s film shows the schools as they claimed to be: neat and tidy places, where the children follow an academic curriculum. She unsettles viewers with low camera angles, washed out color, and dark halls, all showing that the horror of the schools lies



not only in the overt abuse, but also in the inherent function of the institutions. In attempting to “kill the Indian,” the schools dehumanize the children they are ostensibly “saving.” Their non-human status is further underlined by the lack of words in this part of the film. The Cree lullaby sung by the mother in the first section gives way to instrumental music in the section set in the classroom. The lack of vocals suggests that the schools’ erasure of Indigenous languages leads not to a facility with English, but to tongue-tied silence. These silent zombie children indicate that the ultimate goal was not assimilation, but genocide. In both films, the horror motifs are intensified with realist depictions of the transformation of the students; the female protagonists are stripped of their clothes, have their hair cut, are bathed, and dressed in a school uniform. In Savage, we never see the face of the person who performs these actions. The only part of her that is regularly in focus is her hands, suggesting that the transformation is not the work of an individual but of larger forces. During the transformation scene, the soundtrack indicates the violence in apparently peaceful actions; the background music changes to martial drumming and then heavy metal guitar as the mother’s singing disintegrates into a heart-wrenching scream. In Rhymes for Young Ghouls, the Christian liturgical music that accompanies the transformation, while more melodious, evokes both horror movie soundtracks and the role of the church in the schools. Unlike the parallel scene in Jackson’s film, the nuns who bathe Aila are in focus, and—apart from the haircut when we see the rage and agony on Aila’s face—we see the protagonist entirely from her back. The bathing scene, where Aila is face down, curled almost into a fetal position, is shot from above, making her seem smaller and more vulnerable. The emotional pain and disempowerment that mark both scenes are even more powerful and moving than the horror tropes, suggesting that one does not need the supernatural to show the terror inspired by the schools. Whereas Jackson and Barnaby focus on the immediate emotional effects of residential schools, William concentrates The Black Ship on the larger cultural effects of successful assimilation. The 2015 edition includes a section in which Enid is imprisoned and abused in ways that bring to mind residential schools, but the novel primarily allegorizes the Sixties and Millennium Scoops, during which many Indigenous children were “scooped” by protective services, and fostered or adopted out, often into non-Indigenous homes. This focus on more recent removals emphasizes that the Canadian government project of assimilation did


not end with residential schools. As Vowel points out, “by 2002, over 22,500 Indigenous children were in foster care across Canada—more than the total taken during the Sixties Scoop and certainly more than had been taken to residential schools [at any one time]” (2016, 183). William presents two peoples, the Anphorians and the Repletians, who stand in for European settlers and the First Nations, respectively. The novel’s protagonist, Enid Blue Starbreaks, is stolen from her culture, and raised in settings explicitly designed to forge her into a weapon to defeat her people. As a child, Enid was part of a forced relocation of Repletian people; her parents were killed during a “revolt,” and she was raised by Anphorians, first by a kind adoptive couple, and then in a military school. They use psychological and medical techniques to erase all conscious memory of her family and culture, though they cannot change the physical characteristics that mark her as Repletian. She separates her birth identity from her assimilated one, saying “I’m Repletian by birth. […] My allegiances are to my fleet and to the Anphorian Confederacy” (1994, 202). Anphorian attitudes toward the Repletians echo racist and stereotypical constructions of Indigenous people; Enid internalizes these negative attitudes as she is assimilated into Anphorian society, echoing the experiences of Indigenous children stolen as part of systemic government programs. Enid’s adoption and training are explicitly a tool of genocide. Her assimilation into Anphorian society is part of an unsanctioned plot by Katina Patriloney, the president of Anphoria. Patriloney shapes every step of Enid’s education, keeping “her isolated from anything we can’t ­control” so that “[s]he’s only what we’ve made her” (William 1994, 33), which is “a weapon against” the Repletians (162). Katina promotes Enid to Admiral and sends her to confront Repletians about the Black Ship to “create a moment of confusion” and distract Repletian forces so that the president could send in “star-bomb drones” to annihilate “every star that housed the ten Home Worlds of Repletia” (50). By making Enid’s education part of a plan for literal genocide, William demonstrates that the adoption and education of Indigenous children is part of a systemic plan of cultural genocide, designed to undermine the treaty rights and sovereignty of Native people, and eradicate Nations that were not defeated in battle. These three Indigenous storytellers suggest ways of moving forward from the legacy of the schools, though not through reconciliation as it is currently understood. Rather than focusing on the past, these narratives



look toward the future. Speculative fiction, which has at its heart imaging otherwise, is essential in creating visions of a strong Indigenous future and new ways of Canada and the First Nations relating to each other. Indigenous speculative texts have the potential to function like residential school survival narratives, which: document the perseverance of certain raw materials of cultures against the relentless undertow of genocide; they reinvigorate what survived, recreate what didn’t, and re-imagine the place of the creative Indigenous individual in relation to her or his community (or, better, communities). They articulate— and so proclaim—the beauty and power of writing as an Indigenous individual in a post-residential school Canada, and they re-imagine the relations between Aboriginal communities and the Canadian state. (McKegney 2007, 8)

The protagonists in all three texts resist and escape, albeit in complex and limited ways. More importantly, through speculation, the texts themselves resist colonial narratives of reconciliation and recast the Indigenous people as autonomous agents of their own destiny. Barnaby’s film is explicitly a revenge narrative. As Aila is being transformed at St. Dymphna, a triumphant Popper reads Joseph a p ­ assage from Christian scripture: “Vengeance and retribution are mine. In due time my enemy’s foot will slip, for the day of their calamity is near, and their impending sorrow and ruination are falling fast upon them” (Barnaby 2013). While Popper means this passage to intimidate and demoralize Joseph, the events of the film give vengeance and retribution to Aila, and Popper is the one whose foot slips. Aila paradoxically escapes by aligning herself with the deceased victims of the schools, including her mother, whose suicide after killing Tyler in a drunk driving accident is a direct result of her experiences at St. Dymphna. In the transition from the prologue to the present of the film, Aila claims “the day I found my mother dead, I aged by a thousand years.” This uncanny aging allows her to commune with the dead and bring justice to their spirits; she becomes a supernatural old woman, a mask she wears, both figuratively and literally, as a disguise, which leads to her victory over Popper. She and her friends steal their “truancy tax” back from Popper, and humiliate the priest by rigging a shower to spray hot shit on him during his ritual cleansing after his abuse of students. When Popper retaliates by attempting to rape Aila, Jujijj shoots him, eradicating the threat. The movie ends with Aila and Jujijj in her fortress of solitude. When he


asks, “What do we do now, boss?” she smiles and closes her eyes and the screen fades to black. The drug business has died with the old lady, and Aila is going to have to find her own way in the world, now that her father has returned to prison. The open-endedness of the final shot emphasizes the possibilities of life post-residential school, but does not provide a blueprint for what that life will be like. The 1994 edition of The Black Ship ends with the Black Ship foiling Patriloney’s plans, destroying all the bombs before they can destroy the Repletian home worlds, and sending Enid and her fleet into another space, possibly the past earth of The Woman in the Trees (William 2004). The 2015 edition brings Enid back to her time and place, but she is— again—captured by the Anphorians, given drugs to erase her memories, imprisoned, and used by Patriloney as a weapon, this time to disrupt peace talks between the Repletians and Anphorians. Again, the plan is unsuccessful. The repeated failed attempts at genocide suggest not only the tenacity of colonizers, who cannot be trusted even when there are those who want to find peace, but also the resilience of the First Nations, allegorized as the Repletians, who not only endure but also grow stronger in the face of attempted genocide, working together and becoming the dominant force in that part of the galaxy. The novel explicitly links this resurgence with an earlier Indigenous resurgence. A mediator for peace explains the history of the Repletians’ Indigenous ancestors: “They were conquered and almost exterminated through a series of barely-hidden genocidal policies. The First Nations of the First Home World continent lost battles but they’re still here in their descendants. Time wins” (William 2015, 324). The repetition of attempted genocide and resurgence, throughout millennia, emphasizes the long-term health of Indigenous cultures and the need for continued resistance. In Jackson’s music video, the children, within the confines of the classroom, create their own dances that suggest their resistance and individuality. As soon as the teacher leaves the classroom, a beat begins, and the children look up from their work, get up from their chairs, and dance beside their desks. The sequence has obvious echoes of the zombie choreography in Michael Jackson’s Thriller video (1983), a connection which leads to ambiguous interpretation. The unified choreography could reinforce the trope of zombification in which the children lack agency and move like puppets, controlled by some outside force. However, this dancing happens only while the teacher is outside the classroom, as is emphasized in the Vimeo synopsis: “In a place like this,



there aren’t many chances to be a kid. But, when no one’s watching…” (Jackson 2009). This is a chance for the children to express themselves within the confines of the residential school, in a manner not sanctioned by its regimented schedule. The dance begins with the children moving stiffly and in lockstep, but as it continues their movements become looser, and individual children break out into solo dances, emphasizing a fluidity that belies the zombie makeup. Significantly, the dancing is ­completely anachronistic. The film is set in the mid-twentieth century, at least two decades before the Thriller video, yet the children dance to a twenty-first-century hip-hop beat. They are thus placing themselves at the forefront of cultural change and emphasizing that they will be there in the future. If the school transforms the children into the walking dead, the children resist by deciding what kind of zombies they are going to be, and they choose to be dancing zombies, who anticipate the future. The anachronisms in Jackson’s period piece are a direct example of what Leanne Simpson calls biskaabiiyang—“returning to ourselves”— which allows the storytellers “to pick up the things we were forced to leave behind […] and bring them into existence in the future” (2011, 49–50), a concept that dovetails perfectly with Indigenous speculative fiction. Grace Dillon argues that “all forms of Indigenous futurism are narratives of biskaabiiyang” which involves “recovering ancestral traditions in order to adapt in our post-Native Apocalypse world” (2012, 10). Indigenous futurism encourages “Native writers to write about Native conditions in Native-centered worlds liberated by the imagination” (Dillon 2012, 11). In these residential school narratives, biskaabiiyang is inextricably linked to the speculative elements of each text, where the intermingling of past and future provides direction and agency to Indigenous storytellers and audiences in the present, suggesting ways of finding balance in an unbalanced world. The future setting of William’s novel is the most obvious example of Indigenous futurism in the three texts, especially in the 2015 edition, in which the Repletians have become a dominant force. The connection between this utopian vision of cultural continuity and the reclaiming of tradition is made clear in William’s historical novel, The Woman in the Trees, in which Enid Blue Starbreaks appears as a spirit who helps guide the Okanagan people as they face first contact with the settlers. She is identified as “the star person—the woman from the other side of creation” (William 2004, 18), who is “here as proof that we will continue” and brings the message: “The future will be yours when you own


it” (29). While she acknowledges the inevitability of the Black Robes stealing the children, she suggests that the dominion the settlers have over this world is “at the cost of other worlds” (115) and thus that the Indigenous people will get past these dark times and find strength in other worlds. Enid is the main bridge between The Woman in the Trees and The Black Ship and, while the texts do not make clear how or why she arrived in our past, I read the Black Ship as having thrown her back in time, both to help lay a foundation for what might, as the series progresses, be a reconnection with her culture and to help the people of her past survive colonization. With the future world of The Black Ship, Enid can only find herself by reconnecting with her family. When she is questioning a Repletian servant in order to find out about Repletian culture and mindset, Blue Strike tells her, “unless you know your family, there isn’t much I could say that would mean much” (William 1994, 125). This lack of family knowledge affects not only Enid but also her uncle, Leon Three Starbreaks. Leon knows of his niece’s existence, but it takes him decades to find her through the Anphorian security systems that echo the paperwork, name changes, and other factors that prevent families from reuniting after residential schools and foster care. In the expanded edition, Leon’s partner Red Dawn supports his continued search for his niece, saying, “she’s kin, and she needs her family” (William 2015, 271). While the expanded edition ends on a second cliff-hanger, bringing niece and uncle within sight of each other, but in dire peril, the hope offered by the continued search, Leon’s tenacity, and the insistence on family as home, all point to a path of recovery, even if the series has not yet arrived there. Where Jackson’s film also, as previously noted, brings the future into the past to demonstrate cultural continuity, the idea of biskaabiiyang is most clearly stated at the end of the Cree lullaby that the mother sings alone in her kitchen as her daughter is being driven to school. The English subtitles indicate a song of journey and return: Baby’s canoe is the moon flying through the sky […] Fly, baby, fly. But you must come back to me. Come back to me. (Jackson 2009)



These hopeful, and speculative, lyrics suggest the possibilities offered by leaving home and exploring new worlds. The poignancy with which they are sung, together with their situation in a residential school narrative, suggests that the hopes expressed in the lullaby will be difficult to realize, since her daughter is being guided not by moonbeams but by colonial forces. While the discrepancy between the journey in the song and the journey that the child is taking is a source of pathos, the song suggests ways of reclaiming the journey, by reconfiguring it as circular. The song breaks down into an anguished repetition of the Cree sentence: “You must come back to me.” The mother’s loss is evident in both the lyric and its delivery; however, its repetition, and the fact that the child seems to hear it at the school, with back and forth cuts suggesting a conversation between parent and child that transcends the distance between them, also gives it the feeling of prophecy. No matter what happens in the schools, Indigenous cultures will prevail, and the children, or the children’s children, will return to culture, as indicated by Lisa Jackson, the daughter of a residential school survivor, making this movie. That the song is sung in Cree, the only verbal language present in this twenty-­ first-century film, emphasizes the tenacity of the language, which was not eradicated by the schools. In Barnaby’s film, Aila indigenizes Western speculative tropes as a form of biskaabiiyang. In the prologue, when Tyler is scared by Burner’s tale of zombies at the residential schools, Aila comforts him with a picture, drawn by her mother, of a strong woman on horseback who “likes to fight, dead people especially” (Barnaby 2013). Aila later paints the same woman on a van, emphasizing the figure as a continuing source of strength and resistance. Her positioning on horseback suggests not only the fantasy genre, but also the use of horses by Indigenous plains people, who adopted the animals, introduced to the continent by Spanish colonizers, and used them to resist colonization. The horse suggests the ways in which the van and Alia’s bicycle work as methods of resistance, preventing the community from being confined to the reservation. In the same way, the Mi’gMaw characters artistically assume speculative guises as a means of escape and protection. The ghoul makeup Jujijj wears to avoid recognition when he sneaks out of the school at night and the Halloween costumes Aila and her friends adopt for their raid on the school subvert the trope of Indigenousness in the horror genre. Typically, restless Indigenous spirits represent “fears of territorial illegitimacy, anxiety about forgotten or occluded histories, resentment toward


flawed or complicit ancestors, assertions of Aboriginal priority, explorations of hybrid cultural forms, and interrogations of National belonging and citizenship” (Sugars and Turcotte 2009, ix). Alia and her friends exploit the fears they raise in order to keep themselves safe from far more dangerous forces. The Western horror tropes become comforting and a source of cultural strength when they are translated into a Mi’gMaw framework. Barnaby does use horror imagery to evoke residential school trauma, echoing the films Christine (1983) in shots of the car that ran over Tyler, and Vertigo (1958) in shots of the residential school stairs. However, when the horror motifs are associated with Aila’s relatives and community, they become consoling. When Aila discovers the old lady’s body, the snow on the television in her home channels Poltergeist (1982), but in this case the passage between worlds is one that has guided the old lady to the next life, rather than being a conduit for evil forces to enter this world. When Aila dreams of approaching her mother’s grave in a dark woods, a hand reaches out of the grave, echoing the jump scare at the end of Carrie (1976), but the figure that crawls out of the grave embraces her, gives her a talisman, and asks for vengeance. Later, Aila tells a vision of Anna that she doesn’t need to visit the grave to see her. Similarly, while Aila is imprisoned at the school, Tyler’s ghost leads her to a mass grave on the grounds of the school. As well as the obvious reference to the genocidal aims of the school, and the many literal victims, this vision is also a reclaiming. Aila’s hair is long in the vision, even though it has been shorn in reality, showing that the schools may win in the physical world, but they cannot affect the spirit world. By drawing ghosts on the wall of her cell, Aila symbolically lets their spirits free, at the same time that she defeats the school through her defeat of Popper. While the Mi’gMaq adopt speculative tropes for Indigenous ends, their language demonstrates the tenacity of their culture, and their refusal to be broken. The Mi’gMaw language is strong in the community, and Aila speaks it fluently. She uses it to speak in code in front of Popper and to impart extra signification to important words. Aila also speaks the language with the old woman who runs the grow-op, whom she calls “Grandmother” in the language, as a sign of respect and a recognition of family structures that transcend the nuclear family. In an overt example of biskaabiiyang, the old woman tells Aila an oral story in Mi’gMaq, which reframes the schools as a legend. The movie switches



from live action to animation as she speaks, breathing life into Anna’s sketchbook. The words of the oral story suggest a traditional setting, while the postapocalyptic animation places it in the future. While the story allegorically depicts the schools, represented by a wolf eating the children, it ends with the wolf eating itself, showing how the schools harm the body politic of Canada, and suggesting that they will lead to their own destruction. The old woman explains that this is a story her mother told her before she was taken to residential school, and that Aila’s mother is telling it to her too. The use of the present progressive, at least in the English subtitles, emphasizes that Anna’s death did not cut her daughter off from her traditions, her culture, or her relatives, all of whom continue to visit Aila, providing her with strength and allowing her to transform horror into victory. Simpson argues that for “reconciliation to be meaningful to Indigenous Peoples” it “must be grounded in cultural generation and political resurgence” (2011, 22). By focusing on resistance and return, these Indigenous storytellers posit ways of moving forward that are grounded in Indigenous cultures rather than Canadian mythologies, and which—paradoxically—point the way to a truer reconciliation, one that imagines a decolonized Canada. Chelsea Vowel ends her review of Barnaby’s film by putting it in a wider context of storytelling: “Indigenous film-making is certainly on the rise, and it is my hope that this new form of a very old way of telling stories will reach a wide audience and have us looking for truths that have been ignored for far too long. And just maybe, after we dry our eyes, we can sit down and talk about it” (2014). The metaphor of “bridging the solitudes” that ties this collection together is an apt one for reimaging the metaphorical chasm that exists between the First Nations and the Canadian nation-state, in which two conflicting structures of nationhood form a palimpsest on the same geographic space. The First Nations and settler Canada exist as parallel but linked dimensions, with fundamental differences in experience, quality of life, history, and worldview preventing easy communication between the two. The problem with building bridges is that such bridges can lead not only to beneficial exchanges between cultures, but also to further aggression and mobilization into another’s territory, as happened with the schools. Even when the bridging of cultural divides is undertaken with the best of intentions it requires both groups to work on equal ground and with the same goals.


In “Ramparts Hanging in Air” (1990), Lee Maracle describes the ultimate failure of the bridge-building efforts at the 1988 Telling It Conference. She describes how she and Jeannette Armstrong “dug deep inside ourselves for the words, special words, that would finally begin to build the ramparts to the bridge with would allow us to meet as equals. Those ramparts are still hanging in the air in that room, dusty and unused” (Maracle 1990, 163). Maracle notes that “We all struggled to build bridges at the Telling It conference. Too bad they weren’t located in the same spot, directly across from each other” (1990, 171). A quarter of a century later, the metaphor of unused, incomplete bridges remains an apt one for Canada’s failure to implement the recommendations of The Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples,6 or establish true nation-to-nation arrangements grounded in an honoring of the treaties. Only by ensuring that the First Nations have solid ground from which to build their own bridges, including recognizing that the bridges built will be international ones, can we all begin to recover from the traumas of the schools.

Notes 1. For a detailed discussion of literary representations of Residential schools, written by survivors, see Sam McKegney’s Magic Weapons (2007). 2. In addition to the texts explored here, see Thomas King’s “Where the Borg Are” (2001), Tomson Highway’s Kiss of the Fur Queen (1998), and Armand Garnet Ruffo’s A Windigo Tale ([2001] 2010). 3. The first edition was revised and became the first half of the second edition, which contains a full novel’s worth of new material. In order to distinguish between the two parts, which I read as the first and third part of a series, with The Woman in the Trees in the middle, I cite the 1994 edition for the first part, and the 2015 edition for the next part. 4. I use the first person plural here to acknowledge my own positioning as a settler Canadian. 5. When introducing a 1920 Bill that made it mandatory for all Indigenous children to attend Residential Schools, Duncan Campbell Scott explained: “Our objective is to continue until there is not a single Indian in Canada that has not been absorbed into the body politic and there is no Indian question, and no Indian Department, that is the whole object of this Bill” (McKegney 2007, 28). 6. There has not yet been enough time to gauge fairly the government’s response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action.



References Barnaby, Jeff, writer and director. 2013. Rhymes for Young Ghouls. Montréal: Prospector Films. DVD. Dickason, Olive Patricia, with David T. McNab. 2009. Canada’s First Nations: A History of the Founding Peoples from Earliest Times, 4th ed. Don Mills: Oxford University Press. Dillon, Grace L., ed. 2012. Walking the Clouds: An Anthology of Indigenous Science Fiction. Tucson: University of Arizona Press. Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission. 2015. “Calls to Action.” Final Report of the Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission 6: 223–42. trcinstitution/File/Reports/Volume_6_Reconciliation_English_Web.pdf. Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada. 2008. “Statement of Apology to Former Students of Indian Residential Schools.” June 11. Last Modified September 15, 2010. /1100100015649. Jackson, Lisa, writer and director. 2009. Savage. BravoFACT. Vimeo. 06:02. Posted by Lisa Jackson. June 17, 2013. ———. 2013. “Savage.” National Screen Institute Website. Maracle, Lee. 1990. “Ramparts Hanging in the Air.” In Telling It: Women and Language Across Culture, edited by Telling It Book Collective, 161–72. Vancouver: Press Gang. McKegney, Sam. 2007. Magic Weapons: Aboriginal Writers Remaking Community After Residential School. Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press. Simpson, Leanne. 2011. Dancing on Our Turtle’s Back: Stories of Nishnaabeg Re-creation, Resurgence, and a New Emergence. Winnipeg: Arbeiter. Sugars, Cynthia, and Gerry Turcotte, eds. 2009. Unsettled Remains: Canadian Literature and the Postcolonial Gothic. Waterloo: Wilfred Laurier University Press. Vowel, Chelsea. 2014. “Why Every Canadian Should Be Haunted by Rhymes for Young Ghouls.” Âpihtawikosisan: Law, Language, Life—A Plains Cree Speaking Métis Woman in Montréal (Blog). June 8. ———. 2016. Indigenous Writes: A Guide to First Nations—Métis & Inuit Issues in Canada. Winnipeg: Highwater. William, Gerry, 1994. The Black Ship: Book One of Enid Blue Starbreaks. Penticton: Theytus. ———. 2004. The Woman in the Trees. Vancouver: New Star. ———. 2015. The Black Ship, Rev. and Exp. ed. Penticton: Theytus.


Indigenous Futurist Film: Speculation and Resistance in Jeff Barnaby’s Rhymes for Young Ghouls and File Under Miscellaneous Kristina Baudemann

Indigenous speculative fiction infuses narratives of Indigenous r­ealities with elements of science fiction, fantasy, and horror to foreground the power of the imagination. Also referred to as “Indigenous futurisms,” these works mediate future-oriented thinking despite a traumatic past. They bridge trans-cultural and mass-marketed forms of storytelling across a wide range of media—what John Rieder might call “mass cultural genre system[s]” (2017, 1)—with Indigenous knowledges and expression. Mi’gMaq filmmaker Jeff Barnaby, for instance, filters his protagonists’ colonial trauma through tropes and themes from genre fiction. In File Under Miscellaneous (2010) and Rhymes for Young Ghouls (2013), Barnaby approaches past atrocities with representations of monsters and “[c]yberpunk [s]urgeries” (Attebery 2016, 95), tropes that serve as an entry point and “mnemonic device” (Byrd 2011, xii) for viewers. This chapter zooms in on Barnaby’s use of speculative tropes to articulate the K. Baudemann (*)  Europa-Universität, Flensburg, Germany © The Author(s) 2019 A. J. Ransom and D. Grace (eds.), Canadian Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror, Studies in Global Science Fiction,



relationship of First Nations individuals and communities to the colonial nation-state and explore how they widen what Jason Lewis has termed “Indigenous future imaginaries” (2016, 5). Barnaby’s work participates in a “trans-Indigenous” (Allen 2017, 239) “movement” (Wikipedia 2017) of young artists who use speculative themes and tropes to tell Indigenous-centered stories about the future. Since the publication of Grace Dillon’s anthology Walking the Clouds (2012), the term “Indigenous futurism(s)” has been applied to describe a global scene of Indigenous painters, digital artists, designers, filmmakers, and authors. Chadwick Allen’s notion of Indigenous literatures as “trans-Indigenous” (2017, 239) is particularly fitting since it acknowledges the global dimension of Indigenous literary and cultural movements that override colonial territorial boundaries. “Indigenous futurism” is not synonymous with “Indigenous science fiction” or “Indigenous speculative fiction” and includes works that bridge generic boundaries, but speculation is an important narrative strategy for Indigenous Futurists. According to Ingrid Thaler, “speculative fiction writers tend to be more interested in philosophies of time and communal organization rather than the effects of science and technology in future worlds (even though science and technology may figure prominently in their writing)” (2010, 9). Her definition is useful for understanding the speculative element in Indigenous futurisms that aims at “imagining time and alternative spaces in time” (Thaler 2010, 2). Indigenous Futurisms frequently revolve around Indigenous conceptions of time, revisit colonial history, and carve out sovereign Indigenous spaces within and across different discourses for the imagining of an Indigenous-centered future. As Danika Medak-Saltzman notes, “[s]ince Native presence in North America, by colonial design, is always already vanishing (rendering Indigenous futures impossible), inserting ourselves into future narratives (as subjects, authors, and participants in futurity) is a particularly powerful act” (2017, 146). The future-oriented element of Indigenous futurisms lies in the broad representational range of what Jason Lewis calls the “Indigenous future imaginary” (2016, 7). This “popular vocabulary that we use to describe what we see when we see the future” (Lewis 2016, 1) is a major theme in Indigenous futurisms. Canadian contributions to the Indigenous Futurist movement shape and broaden this vocabulary, re-write genre, and articulate Indigenous philosophies of time. These include, among many others, the fiction of Haisla writer Eden Robinson,



Anishinaabe playwright Drew Hayden Taylor’s sf collection Take Us to Your Chief (2017), digital interventions on Emily Carr paintings by Ligwilda’xw Kwakwaka’wakw artist Sonny Assu, podcasts by Métis artists Molly Swain and Chelsea Vowel, works from Montréal-based Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace network (AbTeC) and its Initiative for Indigenous Futures (IIF) and—the topic addressed here—the films of Jeff Barnaby.

Bridging Canadian Solitudes and Jeff Barnaby’s Work Jeff Barnaby was born in Listuguj, Québec, in “Gespe’gewa’gi (‘The Last Land’), the seventh and largest district of Mi’gma’gi,” the homeland and territory of the Mi’gMaq “since time immemorial” (Listuguj Mi’gmaq Community 2014). Growing up on the reserve he came to see films as “a form of social protest” (Barnaby 2014). He cites Alanis Obomsawin’s (Abenaki) Incident at Restigouche (1984), which documents two violent raids of Listuguj by the Sûreté du Québec (its provincial police) in 1981, as a major influence. Inspired by Obomsawin’s fight for the right to represent the ongoing colonial oppression of First Nations people in Canada from an Indigenous perspective, Barnaby’s films articulate the relationship of Canada to its Indigenous people as one steeped in colonial violence, governmental surveillance, racist hatred, and jealousy of Indigenous rights and sovereignties as perceived entitlements. The harm Indigenous people suffered at the hands of their oppressors is rendered visible in the tormented and injured bodies portrayed in Barnaby’s films (Attebery 2016, 108). Sean Carleton insightfully remarks that Barnaby’s Rhymes for Young Ghouls (Rhymes) “dramatizes the process of decolonization that anti-colonial thinker Frantz Fanon outlines […] in The Wretched of the Earth” (2014). Because colonial systems are built with and sustained by violence—because the colonizer fears the colonized who has nothing to lose—decolonization is equally violent. Rhymes and Miscellaneous transform the indirect workings of colonialism underneath our Western democracies into explicit totalitarian regimes, suggesting that the overthrow of the latter can only ever be imagined as a war on an entire system. The viewers’ urge to look away from what they see on screen is an intended effect; it is the cinematic equivalent of the Mi’gMaw elder in Obomsawin’s documentary using his axe to draw a line in the sand and daring the group of attackers to cross it. Barnaby


cites this filmic moment as “[encompassing] my whole philosophy of filmmaking, of being a Native person in Canada” (Barnaby 2014). In Barnaby’s works, colonization is the repeated crossing of boundaries that must never be crossed, visualized as a violent trespassing of the most intimate boundary, that of one’s own body. Examples include the skin removal scene in Miscellaneous, the Mi’gMaw man amputating his own leg with a chainsaw in The Colony (2007), or the repeated attacks on the protagonist’s body in Rhymes. The disturbing scenes represent the harm done to Indigenous cultures and bodies under colonial rule, from physical abuse in residential schools to outbreaks of racist violence against Indigenous men, women, and children. Linking Barnaby’s films to the idea of bridging the Canadian ­“solitudes” is not easy. Hugh McLennan’s Two Solitudes (1945) dramatizes the divide between the French and English-Canadians and “the problem of Canadian unity” (Taylor 2005, 24) as “two groups [envisaging] their predicament, their problems, and their common country” (ibid.) and futures in a manner so different “it is hard to find a common language” (ibid.). Envisioning First Nations people in Canada as yet another solitude is problematic not only in the way the metaphor of the solitudes romanticizes and normalizes settler-colonialism, but also in the implication that Indigenous people must overcome a perceived lack—their own solitude—to form a whole with the settler-colonial state. The demand that Indigenous communities become functional parts of the Canadian nation-state is at the core of colonial legislation that worked toward the dissolution of Indigenous nationhood and erasure of Indigenous cultures. The 1876 Indian Act provided the legislative basis for the forced assimilation of Indigenous people into the Canadian nation-state. Duncan Campbell Scott, Deputy Superintendent of the Department of Indian Affairs from 1913 to 1932 (Titley 1986, 22), made the government-mandated extinction of Indigenous futures explicit when he wrote that “[t]he happiest future for the Indian race is the absorption into the general population, and this is the object of the policy of our government” (Titley 1986, 34). Canadian residential schools and the politics of Indian Status were major tools of assimilation. Furthermore, implying that metaphorical bridges should connect Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians is too simplistic given the complex spectrum of overlapping Canadian-Indigenous and Métis identities. It echoes colonial notions of Western and non-Western cultures as naturally separate, with a need to overcome this separation forcefully.



In “Bridge and Door,” Georg Simmel notes that the idea of the bridge brings with it the conceptual separation of things since one cannot “connect without separating” (1997, 69). Simultaneously, this concept emphasizes “unity” (Simmel 1997, 66): “By choosing two items […] to designate them as ‘separate’, we have already related them to another in our consciousness, we have emphasized these two together against whatever lies between them” (ibid.). More importantly, however, the metaphor of the bridge suggests movement. It draws our attention to the liminal space between two separate entities as a place in its own right where identity is ambiguous and meaning is transient, temporarily suspended in the air. Being in transit on that metaphorical bridge between their cultures and the nation-state Indigenous people might experience movement as both possibility and entrapment. As a metaphor for ambiguity and movement, then, the bridge might capture the ways in which Indigenous nations and individuals affirm their sovereignties and separateness in the most positive sense of the word while grappling with the boundaries of mobility within the colonial system. Barnaby’s films “bridge” Indigenous realities and the colonial past of the nation-state with speculative tropes, representing history through “demon theory.” Jodi Byrd adapts Stephen Graham Jones’s use of “genre as mnemonic device” (Jones qtd. in Byrd 2011, xii) to her own reading of colonial history: The story of the New World is horror, the story of America a crime. To read mnemonically is to connect the violences and genocides of colonization to cultural productions and political movements […]. Such a reading practice understands indigeneity as radical alterity and uses remembrance as a means through which to read counter to the stories empire tells itself. (Byrd 2011, xii–xiii)

Similarly, Barnaby’s films make sense of colonial history in a “demon theory” mode of storytelling—using generic tropes to re-package “old” stories and counteract their disappearance in (largely untold) history (Quinney 2016, 299). Indigenous Futurists apply their own “demon theory” to prevent colonialism’s demons from becoming static clichés, collaging generic tropes in unexpected ways. Metaphorical colonial demons become literal monsters. Barnaby’s “demon theory” is an artistic practice of articulating the history of colonial trauma through speculative tropes that multiply possible plots and outcomes. In other


words, bridges between cultures can be crossed, yes, but they can also be burned down, danced upon, canoed under, traversed in zigzag, and— resisting the laws of gravity—traveled upside down in all directions in a speculative story. Zombies, witches, cyberpunk towns, and mad surgeons seep into historical memory, blurring the line between imagination and reality to suggest that fiction provides important paradigms for understanding history: as man-made horrors transcend what the human mind is capable of comprehending, resorting to art might remain as the only means of making sense. While Barnaby’s short films From Cherry English (2003) and The Colony, and his documentary short Etlinisigu’niet (Bleed Down) (2015) certainly merit attention, I focus on works in which speculative tropes shape the plot and create events that are fantastic and “impossible” (Mendlesohn and James 2012, 1), or at least highly “unlikely, but […] grounded in the scientifically possible” (ibid.). Through a demon theory mode of storytelling, both films disrupt the audience’s attempt to pigeonhole what the “‘Indian experience’” (Jones 2015, xiv) is, and how it should be represented. As Jones observes, creating the illusion of a uniform Indigenous reaction to trauma stymies Indigenous artists and “leads to the authenticity shuffle, which is an ugly, ugly dance to do for all the people who really want us to do it. Us doing that dance, it keeps us looking at each other, not at the world” (2015, xiv). Rhymes and Miscellaneous disrupt the shuffle and force viewers to look at the world through the lens of fantastic and science fictional elements, which creates fresh entry points to Indigenous experience and memory.

Aila’s Demon Theory: Rhymes for Young Ghouls Rhymes relates the Indigenous experience of colonial disenfranchisement and forced assimilation through a blend of colonial history, lived experience, and speculation. Set in an alternate timeline, on the fictional Red Crow reserve in 1976, Rhymes envisions teenage characters’ rebellion against the cruel Indian Agent Popper presiding over the residential school and the reserve. Historical fact is laced with the fantastic. Dates (the opening scene is set in 1969, the main story in 1976), place names, and denominators like “Indian Agent” and “residential school” lend the events a specific setting. But the colonial regime is referred to as “the Kingdom of the Crow,” the existence of zombies is key to the plot’s resolution, and at



times Mi’gMaw protagonist Aila’s powers border on the superhuman. Events on the reserve are familiar from colonial history, but they do not seem inescapable. Reality warps around fantastic elements, suggesting that any kind of ending is yet possible. The film’s epigraph introduces viewers to this blend of realism and the fantastic: The law in the kingdom decreed that every child between the age of 5 and 16 who is physically able must attend Indian Residential School. Her Majesty’s attendants, to be called truant officers, will take into custody a child whom they believe to be absent from school using as much force as the circumstance requires […].—Indian Act, by will of her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada

Barnaby’s film illustrates the lived reality of the Indian Act through speculative tropes that become literalized: the reserve really is an isolated faraway land, an enclave within Canadian democracy where different laws and rules apply. The residential school really is a Gothic castle filled with colonial monsters and dungeons where little children are abandoned. And the Indian Agent Popper really is a monster who devours—beats, rapes, and kills—little children. The Mi’gMaq are subjects in a misanthropic regime that might appear almost otherworldly or dystopian—in other words, unreal—to people unfamiliar with Canadian colonial history. As Barnaby notes: The idea that you can’t leave the reserve without written permission, that you can’t go out on the water, all this stuff—you know, these were actually rules in the […] reservation system up until the ’80s, and I just thought it was absurd. It’s just totally insane. And I don’t think Canadians, Americans […] living today realize how stringent those parameters were for Native people at the time. (CBC 2013)

Aila’s voice-over during a violent bar raid at the beginning of the film makes clear that survival in a corrupt system requires that people understand how to manipulate it: “There are rules to surviving a thousand years in the Kingdom of the Crow. Rule number one? Never befriend an Indian Agent” (Barnaby 2013). In order not to vanish into the residential school along with all the other children, Aila deals drugs to pay off Popper and his pawns. After standing up to Popper, however, Aila is taken away to the school and stripped of her identity. However, in the


fantastic Kingdom of the Crow, successful resistance is possible. Aila strikes up a plan for revenge. The graphic scene of Popper’s death at the end of the film, and the slow-motion fall of his lifeless body to the ground, symbolize the long, slow fall of the colonial regime. Aila represents all the children abused in Canadian residential schools as she takes revenge upon the colonial system condensed into the pathetic figure of Popper. Aila’s resistance in 1976 can be imagined kicking off an alternate timeline in which the colonial system will be overthrown. This blend of history and speculation resembles Linda Hutcheon’s “historiographic metafiction,” “fiction that is at once metafictional and historical” (1989, 3). While Rhymes self-consciously manipulates history, the effect is not a postmodern deconstruction of “objective” historical truth. Hutcheon notes that the “metafictional self-reflexivity (and intertextuality) renders […] implicit claims to historical veracity somewhat problematic” (ibid.). But Barnaby’s Rhymes demonstrates that Indigenous futurisms blend history and the fantastic to a contrary effect: rather than making Aila’s perspective less plausible, they mediate the complex historical underpinnings of the plot. Zombies, some metaphorical, are the most pervasive speculative element in Rhymes. At the film’s beginning, the camera zooms in on the drawing of a zombie by Aila’s mother while Aila’s uncle Burner explains that the people running the residential school are “religified zombies” who devour children. Aila’s father’s car also “eats children” as Aila later tells a young friend; in 1969, Aila’s mother Anna, after a night of drinking, accidentally runs over a little boy. The tragic accident triggers major events: Anna commits suicide and Aila’s father Joseph is arrested, leaving Aila to earn a living at the age of nine. A joint dipped in formaldehyde is called a “zombie,” suggesting that the drugs the Mi’gMaq consume also consume them. Burner compares Aila to a zombie when he says that “she’s gonna be eatin’ people after the apocalypse.” The comment highlights Aila’s survival skills, but it also suggests that Aila is one of the title’s “ghouls,” “the Arabic term for soul-hungry spirits that haunt graveyards” (Luckhurst 2015, 137), a flesh-eating zombie-like revenant. Like a ghoul, Aila haunts graveyards, repeatedly returning to her mother Anna’s burial site; in her dreams she haunts the graveyard of colonial history, standing on the edge of an open mass grave filled with the decaying corpses of the residential schools’ victims. Through colonial oppression Aila’s life has become a graveyard filled with loved ones and she is trapped among the spirits of the dead, unable to move on.



These dead loved ones appear as zombified characters. Anna and Tyler, the little boy whose head was crushed under the tires of Aila’s parents’ car in 1969, can be seen as dark shapes hovering on the edges of Aila’s vision, haunting both her dreams and her waking life. In a dream, Aila watches her mother crawl out of her grave. The camera shows a shocking close-up of Anna’s rotting face, and her lips move to utter one word in Mi’gMaq: “Vengeance.” Anna and Tyler stand in for the revenge that consumes Aila’s thoughts and “zombify” her, and for her vengeance Aila defiantly disguises herself as a colonial “ghoul,” transforming into the monster Popper has been claiming she is, using the system’s master narrative against itself to reveal that the true monster is the colonial Agent. Like the famished zombie wolf in a traditional Mi’gMaw story, corrupted by the toxic colonial society, Popper succumbs to his mindless hunger for children. Colonialism is horror, and the colonized turn into zombies in a dehumanizing system. Instead of Montaigne’s Indigenous “Caniballes” (1603), it is the colonizer who feasts on human flesh, forcing colonized bodies into a system that consumes them. Zombies enter the filmic reality through Aila’s imagination. The shuffle of speculative tropes with historical realism in Rhymes is not an arbitrary collage, but reflects Aila’s demon theory of art and art-making. Aila’s capacity to envision resistance to colonial horrors is an act of the imagination “that delivers us” (Jones qtd. in Quinney 2016, 300). The “rhymes for young ghouls” are Aila’s artistic manifesto for “surviving a thousand years in the Kingdom of the Crow” (Barnaby 2013). Rhymes is a highly self-aware piece of art, a film about the power of film to re-imagine reality. Throughout, we watch Aila create art—spray-painting a van, making paper mâché masks, and flipping through the pages of her mother’s sketchbook—and reflect on the creative process: “If you’re good at one thing, apply it to everything. You can turn anything into an art form” (Barnaby 2013). Aila’s declaration encapsulates Barnaby’s artistic program, celebrating the power of art to pattern our understanding of reality. Aila’s features are entirely hidden behind the mask that is itself halfway hidden underneath the large black hood of her trademark leather jacket, suggesting her professional detachment as she goes about her “art”: I been doing this for years. You have whiskey-, wine- and cognac-dipped cigar blends for those rez princes and princesses who wouldn’t lower themselves to smoke unless they thought they were doing something no

160  K. BAUDEMANN one else could afford. You have honey-dipped blends for the drum-andfeather Indians who like to keep it au naturel to smoke down close to the Great Spirit—or whatever. And then you have broken rez rats who want nothing more than to get fucked up for a bottom dollar. This is what burns my people together. The art of forgetfulness. (Barnaby 2013)

Aila’s parents’ house transforms into a club at night, with fifteen-yearold Aila reigning over party goers and dealing out custom-made joints. Aila’s detached reflection on the art of drugs is self-aware; the blend of speculative tropes in Rhymes—as with Aila’s joints, there is something there for everyone, the horror and Gothic lovers, the realists, the fantasy aficionados—permits detachment and matter-of-fact reflection on the subject-matter, even “forgetfulness.” When the camera perspective switches to Aila’s POV we see a quick succession of images of the packed room from the inside of her gas mask, which gives viewers the impression of looking through the kaleidoscope eyes of an insect. This underlines Aila’s strange, alien-like appearance: her gas mask functions as a practical protection against paint fumes and secondhand smoke, but it is also part of her artist persona. The white mask symbolizes the activist art passed down to her from her own mother; in a flashback later we see Aila’s mother wearing it as she spray-paints a logo of Native resistance. The unbroken circle of storytelling—passing down meaningful art from elders and parents to subsequent generations—is of central importance in Rhymes. Aila’s “art of forgetfulness” therefore has multiple meanings. It refers to her drug business and, by extension, to the practice of escaping the reserve’s entrapment through drugs and alcohol, which “burns my people together” and damages the life-sustaining memory of traditional teachings. Aila’s “art of forgetfulness” is also a metafictional metaphor for Aila’s demon theory: her art is ambiguous; it can heal or damage. It is subversive, powerful and unexpected, and runs counter to the colonial metanarrative. Aila’s weed business is a dark and dirty art suggesting that true art is all encompassing. Rather than a practice, it is a worldview; nothing can escape Aila’s creative vision informed by her mother’s graffiti art, the Mi’gMaw oral tradition, and fueled by her own anger and defiance. Watching Aila’s revenge unfurl creates a cathartic experience, encouraging viewers to “embrace their own demons” (Quinney 2016, 300). Just as Aila stands in for the abused children, Rhymes stands in for revenge; rather than celebrating violence, it works in place of real-life violence, as a supplement. Revenge itself is not



cathartic, but watching a revenge drama play out is. Rhymes asserts that art can indeed have this power because, as Aila demonstrates throughout the film, the artful manipulation of historical material introduces both playfulness and the necessary distance to make traumatic experiences comprehensible and manageable.

Neo(n)Colonial Futures: File Under Miscellaneous Like Rhymes, Barnaby’s 2010 short film Miscellaneous explores forced assimilation and resistance through speculative art, in this case sf. Sf has long been understood as dramatizing class struggle while discussions of race and ethnicity have been absent from the canon: “[T]he prevailing mode of dealing with race in pulp and golden age sf was to erase it by positing a postracial future where racial differences had become unimportant or simply disappeared” (Rieder 2017, 141). In Miscellaneous, Barnaby zooms in on the perceived absence of race and culture in sf futures, forging a weapon for Indigenous resistance. An extreme long shot of a “metropolitan hellscape” (IMDb 2017) sets the scene for Miscellaneous. The city lights fade into the long shot of “a spiritually exhausted and destitute Mi’gMaq man” (IMDb) in the center of a dirty alleyway; the hive-like structure of the cyberpunk town rises around him. The translation of Pablo Neruda’s poem “Walking Around” into Mi’gMaw voices over the events. English subtitles inform viewers that “[i]t just so happens that I am tired of being a man” (Barnaby 2010). The man “has resolved to assimilate into the ruling culture” (IMDb); he enters a “surgical clinic” (IMDb) and, in a series of graphic scenes, his “red skin” (IMDb) is peeled off his body with a scalpel and replaced with white skin. At the end of the film, we see him blend into a crowd of identical-looking men in suits whose “white” skin looks equally sewn-together. Miscellaneous mocks uniformly white sf futures; the futuristic society is made up of impostors who have slipped on white skin and culture. Although not visible, diversity is still there: “while there are no ‘authentically’ Indigenous subjects living in this cyberpunk cityscape, there are also no ‘authentically’ white subjects” (Attebery 2016, 110). Barnaby uses sf to visualize colonial assimilation as a literal shedding of one’s skin, linking the clinic where the protagonist is transformed to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the colonial institution created to control reservations and oversee assimilation. A dirty sign above it reads “B.I.A. MEDICAL.”


The speculative tropes in Miscellaneous structure historical events without depriving them of depth. The dystopian future world is a metaphor for past and present reality, but it simultaneously implies that colonial assimilation is ongoing; even in a cyberpunk future, colonial institutions still exist. Barnaby’s cyberpunk world is therefore not a conventional dystopia; it does not represent a “non-existent society […] considerably worse than the society in which” (Sargent 2004, 207) we currently live. Like Rhymes, Miscellaneous portrays a Native dystopia: the colonial regime already constitutes the worst possible world. Cyberpunk sf is not an arbitrary choice of genre for Barnaby’s film. By connecting colonial history and sf, Miscellaneous identifies a colonial core in the seemingly cultureless voids of cyberpunk. Cyberpunk’s theme of “body invasion” (Sterling 1991, 346) highlights the colonial disregard for personal and territorial boundaries. In addition to the skin removal, the surgeon also cuts out the man’s tongue. He discards the dark red piece of flesh into a clinically white sink, a scene reminiscent of Barnaby’s From Cherry English where a young Native man spits his own tongue into a white sink. This graphic image visualizes the metaphor of “losing one’s tongue,” “the loss of a spoken Indigenous language, a theme that is also reflected in the film’s voice-over narration, which switches from Mi’gmaq to English at this point in the film” (Attebery 2016, 108). Nevertheless, as Stina Attebery notes, a Mi’gMaw “echo” (108) can still be heard “suggesting that Indigenous languages have not been entirely silenced” (108). The notion that Western culture will have absorbed all else normalizes visions of a uniformly white bodily-enhanced future, revealed as ideological as the film ends on the vision of a fascist regime. After his makeover the Mi’gMaq joins neat rows of men in suits, their gazes fixed on a screen showing a man delivering a speech in German. The German language and rows of suited-up clones conjure images of a foreign totalitarian regime, a metaphor for Western ideology itself that silences Indigenous voices, demands assimilation, erases Indigenous-centered futures. The screen inside the film implies a mise-en-abyme. And, indeed, the regime leader is not reciting a Hitler speech, but lines from a monologue in Goethe’s 1787 play Die Mitschuldigen (“The Accomplices”), a lighthearted comedy about love affairs, money and eavesdropping. In the play, a thief delivers the speech that discusses the advantages of being stealthy, cunning, and good at hiding. The lines celebrate the Mi’gMaq’s ingenious disguise and validate reading the film as “a sinister image of resistance” (Attebery 2016, 111). He has infiltrated the system and is now hiding in



plain sight; the disappearance of Indigenous culture is only on the surface. The protagonist’s voice-over reinforces the message of the speech: he imagines himself joining the Lone Ranger not as the Native sidekick, but as protagonist exchanging crude jokes and laughter, and “burn[ing] the world with our whiteness” (Barnaby 2010). Barnaby’s representation of totalitarianism makes a darkly humorous statement on fascism’s search for the biologically enhanced superhuman that ran parallel to the conviction that allegedly primitive peoples must vanish. Through forced assimilation, Miscellaneous hints, fascist ideology has produced visions of the future where the ostensible absence of people of color covers up the persistence of a multitude of languages and cultures. As Attebery remarks, the surgical “procedure grants the protagonist an ironic form of empowerment, as the need to assimilate produces an exclusively Indigenous future that possibly reverses the predation of a white dominant society on Indigenous populations” (2016, 110). The assimilated can overturn the system stepby-step: Indigenous people in metaphorical white skin know the ways of the neocolonial system and transform it from the inside.

Conclusion: Stories of/for the Future One might ask what kind of future Barnaby envisions. Both Rhymes and Miscellaneous offer bleak visions of historical reality, and their fantastic and science-fictional elements do not imagine an end to the violence of colonization and trauma; nor is such a dismissal intended. Both films’ future-oriented agenda does not consist of their portrayal of an actual future world, but contributes to the “Indigenous future imaginary,” “the popular vocabulary that we use to describe what we see when we see the future” (Lewis 2016, 1), creating a more diverse representational language to describe Indigenous-centered visions. A significant factor is Barnaby’s use of tropes and master narratives against their grain. On the bridge between horror and realism, zombies in Rhymes represent colonialism as devouring Native people and zombifying both colonizer and colonized. In Miscellaneous, the colorless, cultureless voids of a cyberpunk future are traced back to colonial and fascist ideologies that erase Indigenous presences. Most importantly, both Rhymes and Miscellaneous emphasize the power of film and the importance of art; both are concerned with transforming popular images and familiar tropes from Gothic, fantasy, horror, and science fiction, which widens the scope of storytelling and subverts the idea of a homogeneous Indigenous culture.


References Allen, Chadwick. 2017. “Productive Tensions: Trans/National, Trans/ Indigenous.” In The World, the Text, and the Indian: Global Dimensions of Native American Literature, edited by Scott Richard Lyons, 239–56. Albany: State University of New York Press. Attebery, Stina. 2016. “Indigenous Posthumans: Cyberpunk Surgeries and Biotech Boarding Schools in File Under Miscellaneous and SyFy’s Helix.” Extrapolation: Special Issue on Indigenous Futurism 57 (1–2) (Spring/ Summer): 95–115. Barnaby, Jeff, dir. 2010. File Under Miscellaneous. YouTube. December 5, 2012. www.youtubecom/watch?v = Zi3B2V_e8fY. ———. 2013. Rhymes for Young Ghouls; Prospector Films and Canadian Film Centre (CFC), 2014. DVD. ———. 2014. “Jeff Barnaby on George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight: Interview.” Interview by George Stroumboulopoulos. YouTube. January 31. Byrd, Jodi A. 2011. The Transit of Empire: Indigenous Critiques of Colonialism. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Carleton, Sean. 2014. “On Violence and Vengeance: Rhymes for Young Ghouls and the Horrific History of Canada’s Indian Residential Schools.” Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society. Wordpress. October 24. CBC. 2013. “Rhymes for Young Ghouls: Interview with Jeff Barnaby.” YouTube. October 4. Dillon, Grace L. 2012. Walking the Clouds: An Anthology of Indigenous Science Fiction. Tucson: University of Arizona Press. Hutcheon, Linda. 1989. Historiographic Metafiction: Parody and Intertextuality of History. Toronto: University of Toronto. https://tspace.library.utoronto. ca/bitstream/1807/10252/1/TSpace0167.pdf. Internet Movie Database. 2017. “File Under Miscellaneous (2010).” IMDb. Jones, Stephen Graham. 2015. “Letter to a Just-Starting-Out Indian Writer: And Maybe to Myself.” The Fictions of Stephen Graham Jones: A Critical Companion, edited by Billy J. Stratton Jr., xi–xvii, 2016. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press. Lewis, Jason Edward. 2016. “A Brief (Media) History of the Indigenous Future.” PUBLIC: Art | Culture | Ideas 54 (Winter): 36–49. Listuguj Mi’gmaq Community Plan. 2014. “About Listuguj.” Listuguj Mi’gmaq Government. Copyright 2017.



Luckhurst, Roger. 2015. Zombies: A Cultural History. London: Reaktion Books. Medak-Saltzman, Danika. 2017. “Coming to You from the Indigenous Future: Native Women, Speculative Film Shorts, and the Art of the Possible.” Studies in American Indian Literatures (SAIL) 29 (1): 139–71. Mendlesohn, Farah, and Edward James. 2012. Introduction to The Cambridge Companion to Fantasy Literature, edited by Farah Mendlesohn and Edward James, 1–4. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Montaigne, Michel de. [1603] 2005. “Of the Caniballes.” In Essays, translated by John Florio. Renascence Editions. xmlui/bitstream/handle/1794/766/montaigne.pdf?sequence=1. Obomsawin, Alanis, dir. [1984] 2017. Incident at Restigouche. National Film Board of Canada. Quinney, Charlotte L. 2016. “Lost in Owl Creek: Demon Theory’s Literary Labyrinth.” In The Fictions of Stephen Graham Jones: A Critical Companion, edited by Billy J. Stratton Jr., 277–304. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press. Rieder, John. 2017. Science Fiction and the Mass-Cultural Genre System. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press. Sargent, Lyman Tower. 2004. “Utopian Literature in the United States 1990– 2000.” In Dreams of Paradise, Visions of Apocalypse: Utopia and Dystopia in American Culture, edited by Jaap Verheul, 207–19. Amsterdam: VU University Press. Simmel, Georg. 1997. “Bridge and Door.” In Rethinking Architecture: A Reader in Cultural Theory, edited by Neil Leach, 66–69. New York: Routledge. Sterling, Bruce. [1986] 1991. “Introduction to Mirrorshades.” In Storming the Reality Studio: A Casebook of Cyberpunk and Postmodern Science Fiction, edited by Larry McCaffery, 343–48. Durham: Duke University Press. Taylor, Charles. [1993] 2005. Reconciling the Solitudes: Essays on Canadian Federalism and Nationalism, edited by Guy Laforest. Montréal: McGillQueens University Press. Thaler, Ingrid. 2010. Black Atlantic Speculative Fictions: Octavia E. Butler, Jewelle Gomez, and Nalo Hopkinson. New York: Routledge. Titley, E. Brian. 1986. A Narrow Vision: Duncan Campbell Scott and the Administration of Indian Affairs in Canada. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press. Wikipedia. 2017. “Indigenous Futurism.” Wikipedia. Last Modified August 23.


Bridging the Gender Gap: Transnational and Transsexual Identities in Canadian SF


Building Hope Through Community in Élisabeth Vonarburg’s The Maerlande Chronicles Caroline Mosser

In response to political turmoil in both the United States and abroad, dystopian narratives have grown in popularity over the past decades. With the current attempts to pass laws restricting women’s reproductive rights, it is not surprising to see the popularity of the 2017 televised adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s acclaimed novel The Handmaid’s Tale (1985), which extrapolates the reduction of reproduction to an economic commodity. This reduction of motherhood to labor has fostered many narratives exploring new dynamics of the family. Dystopian fiction seems to have been a privileged locus for the exploration of such relationships, as it challenges the dominance of the utopian tradition, which frequently posits the nuclear family as the core unit of social structures. It is also important to note the contemporary popularity of dystopian fiction for young adults, such as Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games (2008) and Veronica Roth’s Divergent (2011) being only the

C. Mosser (*)  Independent Scholar, Mulhouse, France © The Author(s) 2019 A. J. Ransom and D. Grace (eds.), Canadian Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror, Studies in Global Science Fiction,


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most well-known examples of a plethora of novels published in the last two decades or so, whose popularity has expanded due to their cinematographic adaptations. In Mothers and Masters in Contemporary Utopian and Dystopian Literature, Mary Elizabeth Theis claims that the characteristic paternalistic utopia of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries becomes dystopian precisely when it usurps or undermines maternal roles (2009, 10) in order to drain the mother/baby dyad of love, agency, and a sense of community. The control of the individual by the state is obtained by either the abolition of the mother as primary educator, as found in Huxley’s Brave New World (1931), or the regulation and perversion of family life, as in Orwell’s 1984 (1949). By draining love and agency from the relationship between mother and children, the state is able to prevent family loyalty and replace it with loyalty to the state. Although Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale is one of the most visible and well-known pieces of feminist dystopian/utopian fiction, it belongs to a rich tradition of feminist practice throughout the past century. The novel’s popularity sheds light on this tradition and led to the re-discovery of Katherine Burdekin’s Swastika Night (1985) and The End of This Day’s Business (written in the 1930s but not published until 1989). Burdekin’s work is especially relevant here because it explores both male and female domination. In Swastika Night, Burdekin describes a society in which women are objectified as reproductive bodies and kept in camps where they are made available to men and subject to rape. While Swastika Night deals more with the issues of power and reproduction than does The End of This Day’s Business, the interest of the latter consists in its gender reversal: men are second-class citizens while women are in charge of everything, including reproductive politics. While this society is much more peaceful than that of Swastika Night, it is still based on subjection and extreme gender politics. Burdekin’s two novels represent a tendency in Anglophone feminist utopian and dystopian fiction to embody an inescapable opposition between the sexes that can only lead to the domination or eradication of one group or the other—the most well-known examples being Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Herland (1915), Joanna Russ’s The Female Man (1972), James Tiptree Jr. (Alice Sheldon)’s Houston, Houston, Do You Read? (1976), or Sheri S. Tepper’s The Gate to Women’s Country (1988). All these novels explore sexual and gender power dynamics that are different from those of traditional patriarchal structures. In that



respect, they can be read as responses to the call made by John Stuart Mill in “The Subjection of Women” that if “there had been a society of men and women in which the women were not under control of the men, something might have been positively known about the mental and moral differences which may be inherent in the nature of each” (1869, 138). Each of these novels links the shift in focus to a female-­ centered or all-female society to a desire to protect life and the future of the human race: since man’s dystopian, androcentric, hierarchical society seems bent on the total annihilation of humanity, women must salvage civilization by using technology to make possible a single-sex separatist society. In such a community, traditional, hierarchical social mechanisms are overthrown. […] These societies, founded as they are on generation, have as their primary concern the future of their race. An individual’s value is determined primarily by her contribution to her vast family of sisters, mothers, daughters, aunts, and cousins. Individual gain is a trivial matter, individual power an obscenity. (Lewes 1995, 120; 123)

These novels can be defined as feminist experimental writing as they focus on exploring the nature of women, as opposed to their condition in society. Despite their utopian approach, such narratives are inherently problematic as they tend either to erase men altogether, or reverse gender roles and oppression; furthermore, they frequently succumb to an essentialist vision of women’s nature. In her novel The Maerlande Chronicles (1992),1 Élisabeth Vonarburg responds to the oppressive values that underlie these separatist feminist utopias, an opposition she confirms in an interview with Sylvie Bérard (1999, 97). Neal Baker conceptualizes syncretism as the “reconfiguration of various unified essences—be it the nation-state, race, language, the body, or time—and the fusion of radical differences” (2001, 220). Similarly, The Maerlande Chronicles embodies the rejection of separatist feminism by depicting a society whose only hope for betterment and prosperity is to ensure mutual respect and inclusion of all its members, to build a bridge between isolated or oppressed communities. While the question of gender is the most visible aspect of the text, its syncretism is also political. I will argue that The Maerlande Chronicles exemplifies both the necessity of, and the obstacles to, building bridges between diverse communities to establish a stable, inclusive government.

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This can only be achieved if both sides are willing to open to the other, thus entering a world of blurred boundaries. The society depicted in The Maerlande Chronicles is far from being a feminist utopia; rather, it echoes Angelica Bammer’s move from utopia to utopian as it is based on the “longing for a more just and human world, [the] belief that such change is possible, and [the] willingness to act on the basis of that belief” (1992, 3). This belief in a possibility for change corresponds to what Mary Elizabeth Theis refers to as “meta-utopian speculation” (2009, 58), a genre that appears as a flexible hybrid, mirroring the complexity of human identity, and of the distribution of power and agency beyond the oppressor/oppressed dichotomy. Drawing from Jan Relf’s understanding of the women’s retreat from the patriarchal world as a transitional step in the process of social change (1991, 131), I argue that the utopian impulse of The Maerlande Chronicles is rooted in the liminality of its main protagonist Lisbeï, who functions as an agent of change, building bridges between faith and values, between fiction and history, between progress and tradition, but more importantly between communities.

Politics of Oppression The Maerlande Chronicles is set in a confederation of self-governing, small communities known as capteries. Each of them functions as a house of women ruled by a mother figure, the Capta. Centuries after a global catastrophe and the destruction of most societies due to technological hubris (referred to as the decline), the world is slowly recovering from radiation and genetic mutations, leading to an extremely low rate of male birth and a high rate of fatal childhood diseases. In the aftermath of the world’s decline, a patriarchal society, the harems, in which women were sex-slaves and breeders, appeared. However, due to the scarcity of male birth and the growing number of women, the latter rebelled and created a new society, the Hives, in which women were in power and men were slaves. Maerlande emerged from the Hives through a religious movement started by the prophetess and martyr Judith, the daughter of the goddess Elli. Based on a religion of nonviolence and love, Maerlande differs from the Hives in that the Maerlanders have a respect for all life— including the lives of men. This difference has become a point of great pride; however, it also blinds Maerlande to other forms of oppression that are not as obvious.



It is through the eyes of the young protagonist Lisbeï, that the reader discovers the pervasive sexism of Bethely, a province of Maerlande. Even though she is about five when her story starts, elements of sexism already appear as young boys are ostracized by both young girls and their guardians, called gardianas in the novel’s estrangement of gendered language. Because of her tendency to play on her own, Lisbeï realizes this pattern without actually understanding its meaning: “Boys,” say the gardianas, and the trio lift their heads as one. They’re always together, do everything together, and that’s why they’re almost never spoken to individually. Or maybe it’s the other way round: because they’re always called boys, they have a rather hazy idea of their individual identities—but Lisbeï is too young to understand this. […] Lisbeï is also too young to realize it’s the gardianas’ attitude which sets the boys apart and that, like the other mostas, she instinctively imitates the gardianas. Why would she realize it, anyway? The gardianas themselves are unaware of treating the boys differently and would probably be very surprised if you pointed it out. (Vonarburg 1992, 11–12)

This passage is extremely relevant as it will be echoed many times throughout the novel. Most women in Maerlande are not aware of the precarious situation of men because it is not visible. Men do not participate in the everyday organization of houses. If they are fertile, they travel from place to place to give their sperm for artificial insemination; if they are not fertile, most of them work in farms or camps away from the community. Because of the low number of men in Maerlande and their lack of visibility, most women do not think about their lives. When she is studying in Waldenberg, Lisbeï is surprised to see a fair number of men in the town, which makes her realize her own blindness: “I never thought males could go anywhere other than into the Families that had chosen them. In fact, she’d never wondered what males did who weren’t chosen right away or who were between choices” (Vonarburg 1992, 252–53). While she is aware of the traditional rules imposed on men, she does not understand their consequences before befriending Dougall and Toller and realizing how her own linguistic bias has influenced her beliefs. Through the use of the Waldenberg’s Frangleï, a more masculinized language than her own Litali, she starts “to wonder why these differences exist between the two languages, and why men are considered inferior in Bethely” (Taylor 2011, 92–93). Lisbeï ultimately realizes that the Mothers “have not

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succeeded in distinguishing themselves from their Hives ancestors as much as they would believe” (ibid.). While Maerlande is run by women who have more rights than men, its matriarchal government does not ensure that women are not oppressed as well. It is necessary to look here at a specific episode that portrays a unique instance of male agency in the novel, one that is marked by sexual violence. In this incident, Lisbeï is spying on Selva— the Mother of the house of Bethely and her own biological mother— during the “Celebration” (the ritual of intercourse) in order to learn about the ceremony of what is called the Dance of Elli. What Lisbeï discovers is a shock to her: Selva, the most powerful person in the House, is in a submissive position, crying under the grip of her “male,” whose “maleficent grin” indicates that he is enjoying his position of power over her. This is shocking to Lisbeï for various reasons. She could not imagine the possibility of the Mother ever being in a position in which she would be powerless, but also because it makes her realize that violence against women, because of their womanhood, is possible in her society, something that was, for her, something of the past, that had been overcome by Maerlande’s gynocentric society. This episode is, however, not the only instance of violence toward women. On the contrary, institutional violence is the most common, as every fertile teenager and woman is required to carry a child every two years as long as she is fertile. Their status is thus defined by their ability to reproduce, which is strictly monitored and publicly indicated. Thus, even in this society governed by women, these individuals do not have control over their own sexuality, and in many cases, their function in society. Heterosexual intercourse is restricted to communal rituals, during which fertile women and selected males are drugged. The only women allowed to have intercourse outside of this setting are the rulers of each “house,” but even this is not from their own volition, as their partners are chosen by the community according to their lineage in concordance with political and economic agreements. Men do not have a say in this process either. They are so few that most of them are sent from house to house to impregnate as many women as possible. Once they become infertile they are relegated to the labor force. Reproductive status, for both men and women, is indicated by the color of their outfit: red for fertile individuals, blue when they are infertile, and green for pre-pubescent adolescents who are referred to as “mostas” or “dottas” depending on their age. The very logic of this symbolism reduces



individuals to their ability to reproduce, dismissing most other characteristics except social class. The extent of the oppression of women is best exemplified in two episodes: the deaths of Loï and Ysande. Loï’s abuse by a house of extremely conservative Juddites, a sect believing in the sanctity of reproduction and the inferiority of men and refusing any kind of progress in the name of tradition, pushes her to commit suicide, and Ysande dies in childbirth after being forced to undergo another pregnancy despite the difficulties she experienced during her previous ones. These events corroborate Lisbeï’s initial hopelessness: Power… who really had power in Bethely? Not Selva, not the Mother. Nor Mooreï, who would have been more worthy of it. Nor Antonë nor Kelys nor any of the captas. The Family Assembly, then, the delegates of the Reds and Blues? No. Everybody. Nobody. Tradition with its stupid rules was the true mistress of Bethely, this invisible shell that everyone always carried around, preventing them from really seeing their surroundings. (Vonarburg 1992, 160)

It will be through another strategy that Lisbeï realizes that the oppression of both men and women is caused in part by their segregation, and in turn, by their inability to see, and thus empathize with, each other’s struggles. During the archeological expedition Lisbeï leads in Entraygues, Lisbeï identifies Dougall as a collaborator in her project even though men have only been considered as subalterns relegated to manual labor. While Dougall’s participation creates a precedent that builds a bridge toward a more inclusive future, he struggles to find his place, between the camp built by men and the one constructed for his female friends and colleagues. His love for Lisbeï is discovered and revealed by other men, a love that is forbidden in this society. The feelings of shame, rage, and despair will lead him to die by suicide. Because Dougall existed in the world of women through his participation with Lisbeï’s group, his death is recognized by both men and women. Contrary to tradition, Lisbeï and the other women participating in the expedition participate in the wake organized by the men, an event that will have a significant impact on Mearlande as a whole. This wake combines two different traditions: the women’s, which focuses on their own experiences with their late friend; and the men’s, which mourns the condition of all men. The men remain silent as the women retell

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their stories about Dougall until Kélys invites them to break the cycle of silence, the separation between men and women, which she identifies as the cause of this tragedy, and many others. When the men start mourning not only Dougall’s but also their own lives, Lisbeï and the other women present recognize an echo of their own suffering: And while this litany of great and small agonies spiraled into the gloom above the fire-glow, another slowly filtered upwards, the voices of women, echoes of other scenes and memories, all different, all the same, Lisbeï’s included. (Vonarburg 1992, 410)

It is through the recognition of their shared suffering that Lisbeï will decide to help men enter the Assembly, described below, and to change Maerlande’s political course. This event is a syncretic narrative stratagem that establishes the need for inclusion and community in order for a society to progress. The question of inclusion and collaboration is not limited to the level of individuals (such as the wake honoring Dougall). On the contrary, it has to be validated in the political sphere as well in order to be recognized. In the setting of Maerlande, this is done through the Assembly of the Mothers, in which the representatives of each Family (political/social unit) is present. Each year, this Assembly is hosted by a different family, and there is no head of the state or capital to avoid unfair governance. Structured as a federal government, the very function of Maerlande relies on collaboration and the willingness to accept different points of view and cultures. Indeed, the different provinces are scattered through what used to be Europe and parts of North Africa, making the Assembly a transnational (if not post-national) body, with many different languages and traditions. All the scenes involving the Assembly highlight the struggles of unity in such a diverse context. The very political system of the society that Vonarburg depicts is based on the dichotomy between a centralized government established through an assembly comprised of members from each house (each is equivalent to a city as well as to a lineage) and their local independent ruling. Each house is ruled independently by its Mother (a title transferred within biological families but only to fertile women/girls) and is represented in the Counsel, which is a form of federal government. While most of the everyday life is ruled by each Mother of each house, the Counsel is more of a diplomatic institution which guarantees peace and agrees on basic laws and “universal” rights.



According to Patricia Smart, feminist discourse has been a way to explore issues not only of gender but also of problematic forms of nationalism, especially to the tendency of nations to discriminate against others (1991). A number of scholars have identified a strong feminist bent amongst the works of female sfq writers (Bérard 2008; Ransom 2004), as well as a form of postcolonial writing (Ransom 2000, 2006; Serruys 2008). Canada’s (and Québec’s) status as a white settler nation is different from that of the former British colonies whose literatures are now described as “postcolonial.” Nonetheless, as Amy J. Ransom observes: Because of perceived differences in race (or at least ethnicity), language, and the political struggles for cultural and political recognition on the part of French-Canadians and the province of Québec, that region aligns more closely with the ‘Black nations’ identified by Mishra and Hodge as exhibiting an oppositional postcolonialism than with traditionally defined white settler nations. (2006, 284)

While some might question the appurtenance of French-Canadian and Québécois literature to the “postcolonial” as this is frequently defined, such writings often explore the dialectic between colonized and colonizer using the more allegorical form offered by speculative fiction (Ransom 2000, 457). As a movement born out of the Quiet Revolution of the 1960s, during which intellectuals from Québec rejected the political and cultural power of Ottawa, sfq has embraced a “progressive, anti-racist stance, seeking to expose and condemn racism through speculative discourse” (Ransom 2006, 296) similar to that of other, more easily recognizable postcolonial literatures. The utopian and dystopian worlds created by sfq writers and their focus on gender politics is a way to articulate the idea of a national identity through the commonality of gender while also recognizing the diversity of cultures and political ideals within Canada. In the same way, the houses of Vonarburg’s imaginary world systematically come together to tackle issues concerning human rights (e.g. the treatment of blue males and their reintegration in society rather than their assignment to ungratifying labor) and external politics (e.g. the exploration of the rest of their world and the possibility of contact with peoples that they refer to as “mutants,” inhabitants of the Badlands deformed by radiation).

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Liminality as Agent of Change So far, I have analyzed how Vonarburg addresses both the difficulty and the necessity of building bridges between different groups in order to provide peaceful cohabitation and collaboration. Using Jan Relf’s concept of liminality as an agent of change, I will argue that Lisbeï’s liminal position functions as such a bridge that is built through a commitment to truth and history. Relf defines feminist separatist utopia as a “necessary and recurrent part of a strategic process” aiming to liberate women from patriarchal law (1991, 131). Using the three stages of the feminist struggle identified by Julia Kristeva, and the anthropological definition of liminality offered by Arnold van Gennep and Victor Turner, he models the feminist impulse as an upward spiral reaching toward a post-feminist utopia. According to Relf, the upward spiral allows for a reconciliation of at least two of the three temporal modes proposed by Kristeva in “Women’s Time” (1979): linear time, which sees history as teleological; and cyclical time, which focuses on its repetitive nature. These two modes correspond to two stages of the feminist struggle, respectively liberal feminism, which demands access to the symbolic order; and radical feminism, which refuses the law of the father and requires creation of a counter society. It is only their combination that has the potential to lead to a post-feminist utopian deconstruction of the opposition between masculine and feminine. The separatist retreat thus becomes “simultaneously engaged in the politics of demand for equality, the personal demand for autonomy and selfhood, and the deconstruction of received ideas of gender and the masculine/feminine binary opposition” (Relf 1991, 131). As such, the retreat or counter society becomes a “traditional phase of metaphorical rite of passage” toward progress (Relf 1991, 139). Defining the retreat as part of a rite of passage allows Relf to introduce van Gennep and Turner’s motif of liminality as a key agent for social change. Their progress narrative consists of a sequence of events alternating between structure and communitas in the following order: initial structure; some of its members leave because of injustice (this is the first rite of passage); they form a communitas, a sort of haven in which they find themselves; they re-enter society through another rite of passage, and a new, evolved structure is created. It is the ability of members of the initial structure to move in and out of the cultural/social realm, their liminality, which allows for social change. Relf’s upward spiral model, relying on both temporal and spatial planes, helps us identify how Vonarburg uses the concepts of both



liminality in her main protagonist and the paradoxical nature of history, which is both cyclical and teleological, as critical, if not necessary, components of social progress. The society of The Maerlande Chronicles is neither a utopia nor a dystopia; rather, it is a society always evolving in response to injustice. Social progress is depicted as a long and often painful process. Social injustice is often met by other forms of injustice; many innocent lives have to pay for the length of the process. These elements might remind us of dystopian narratives, but the upward spiral fosters hope for a better future nonetheless. It does not give us the key to utopia; rather, it fosters hope for a better, though not perfect, future. Through her liminality, Lisbeï functions as an agent of change as she goes through the steps delineated by Relf’s model and, as a result, is able to change her society. Her narrative arc can be defined as an upward spiral within Maerlande’s own narrative of progress. Even though Lisbeï already demarcates herself from other children at an early age, it is only when she becomes a young Blue that she becomes truly liminal. At the age of sixteen, she is officially declared infertile and becomes a Blue, which means that she will not be subjected to arranged unions and forced pregnancies. While the social status of Blues is inferior, they are also left in peace and able to travel. Because they are considered as less valuable for society, they have more professional options, such as being explorers. It is this very social position of the outsider within—of being in a circle of power without truly belonging to it, of being on the margins—that allows Lisbeï to do more than merely survive. This position, while uncomfortable, allows for the knowledge of both inside and outside the circle of power, as well as a higher likelihood of being heard by those in power. Lisbeï has the knowledge of a Mother (as she was supposed to become one) but has the liberty and the knowledge of an outsider because she is not fertile. Her knowledge might not give her direct power, but she is somewhat respected and listened to by some other Mothers. It is her experience of having been inside the power circle and of being ejected from it that provides her with a certain awareness of the pervasive injustice of her society. In addition to her unorthodox status, her ability to read other people’s feelings and auras defines her as a creature of in-betweens. She keeps this ability secret because it would be identified as a mutation, an abomination which would justify her excommunication to the Badlands according to the rules of the more conservative members of her society. Because her difference is not physical, she is able to hide it and stay safe.

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In that respect, her ability to pass as normal, once again, defines her as an outsider within. While her mother Selva and her sister Tula also share this ability, they seem to shut it down as much as they can; in contrast, Lisbeï embraces it and learns to use it. Doing so, she develops a better understanding of others and their feelings, as shown by her relationship with Dougall. It is because of the anger she can feel, in several instances, under his usual calmness, that she realizes the oppression of Blue males leading her to help them politically further along in the novel. While Lisbeï’s liminality—in terms of her social status, her initial inability to reproduce, and her extraordinary empathic ability—is imposed on her, she has the possibility to integrate a normal, respected position in Bethely when she is offered the opportunity to become Tula’s Memory (an archivist and adviser). Lisbeï’s refusal is not surprising as it would require her to sacrifice her quest for truth in favor of securing a stable community and avoiding political turmoil. Lisbeï’s decision to share her discovery with the Assembly means that she will not be able to become Tula’s Memory. Because of the turmoil ignited by her revelation, she leaves her home to study history and live anonymously in Waldenberg. This retreat forces her to reflect on her decision as well as her motivations. Only a few years later, she finds the words to understand and the courage to publicly justify her decision: During the past two years I’ve often asked myself whether I did the right thing in speaking out at the Assembly. But if we in Maerlande have reached the point where we’d rather think people were lying than question our own entrenched beliefs, then I was right and I am not sorry. At least I’ll have let all this poison surface for everyone to see. (Vonarburg 1992, 312)

In her statement, Lisbeï refers to her decision to reveal to the Assembly of Mothers her discovery of a text questioning the veracity of one of the most important religious stories. After her revelation and her change of status from Green to Blue, Lisbeï leaves her home to study in Waldenberg, a more progressive province that functions as Maerlande’s intellectual center. Despite its openness and her own nature as an agent of change, Lisbeï will never truly feel at home there because of her more traditional upbringing. After reimbursing her debt to Waldenberg for her studies, she will accept an invitation to stay with acquaintances at Angresea, hoping to find peace and rest. Both Waldenberg and Angresea will be relatively short-term havens, just additional learning experiences



for Lisbeï, who will eventually become an itinerant scholar before spending her last months at home, in Bethely. It is Lisbeï’s relationship to the truth that is the best indicator of her evolution and of her role as a liminal agent of change. Following Relf’s liminality and progress model, we can establish a similar pattern in Lisbeï’s evolution. Her initial structure is that of the traditional Bethely, the one she can never fit in or, later, come back to. Her first rite of passage is that of her revelation to the Assembly, the one that will lead her to enter the realm of the communitas through her exile and her studies as a Blue and an independent scholar/explorer. Her second rite of passage takes place during her unexpected and miraculous pregnancy as she is hiding in the Badlands. As she is debating the possibility of sharing the news with the child’s father, she reflects on the price of telling the truth and decides not to share the fact that the Badlands are not as dangerous as expected and could be explored, because the numbers of mutations, even inoffensive, would be too much to be accepted for many in Maerlande. It is her time in the communitas, the group of unorthodox Blue explorers, that taught her the importance of balancing truth and comfort. She has become more interested in fighting for people rather than for the truth in and of itself, far from the defender of truth for truth’s sake with whom she used to identify. Lisbeï’s change is, however, not without a price as she gives up her project to explore the big Badlands as an attempt to prove her theories about stories being key to understanding history, which have been at the core of her career. She has learned the meaning behind the common saying “imperfect choices in an imperfect world” (Vonarburg 1992, 191). Her resignation is, however, not to be seen as defeat. During the Assembly following her major archeological discovery in Entraygues, her actions reveal her shift in focus: rather than concentrating on her discoveries, she helps a few Blue men to sneak into the Assembly so that they can plead for their rights and fair treatment. This event will lead to more tangible changes in her society, rather than any further archeological findings, and she will see, in her lifetime, the overdue inclusion of men in Maerlande’s Assembly. In that respect, Lisbeï’s upward spiral narrative allows for a corresponding narrative of progress in Maerlande: from a violent oppressive patriarchy, followed by a non-violent oppressive matriarchy, it is now entering an inclusive matriarchy (though still problematic in many respects).

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Conclusion: History, Memory, and Progress The saying “Imperfect choices in an imperfect world” encapsulates Lisbeï’s journey in a few words. Underneath its jaded, if not pessimistic, surface appears a message of hope, the utopian impulse that refuses to exist outside of reality. It is a bridge between one’s resignation in the face of dystopia and one’s daydream about utopia. The very power dynamics of The Maerlande Chronicles challenge our notion of utopian fiction and “[emphasize] the quest for truth and justice, and discourage complacency, even if that quest causes instability” (Sauble-Otto 2001, 177). To avoid the stagnant utopia as well as the inescapable dystopia, Mary Elizabeth Theis focuses on what she calls meta-utopian speculation—a category to which Vonarburg’s novel belongs. The development of such a liminal genre can be explained by the very nature of both utopian and dystopian fiction: critical but without a realistic solution or steps toward a possible solution. Because the societies they depict have clearly defined rules, they lead to a monologic ideology that refuses difference. The development of theories such as intersectionality and transnationalism have shown that these categories are not relevant (or not enough) and therefore do not represent society. Meta-utopian literature, then, appears as a flexible hybrid, mirroring the complexity of human identity, of the distribution of power and agency beyond the powerful/powerless or oppressor/oppressed dichotomies. As a meta-utopian novel, The Maerlande Chronicles builds a bridge between utopia and revolution, two political approaches that “embody not only the hope for, but the promise of, radical change” despite having “historically always ended up finding themselves in structural opposition” (Bammer 1992, 17).

Note 1. Published in the US as In the Mother’s Land (New York: Bantam Spectra, 1992).

References Baker, Neal. 2001. “Syncretism: A Federalist Approach to Canadian Science Fiction.” Extrapolation: A Journal of Science Fiction and Fantasy 42 (3): 218–31. Bammer, Angelika. 1992. Partial Visions: Feminism and Utopianism in the 1970s. New York: Routledge.



Bérard, Sylvie. 1999. “Dialogue sur l’utopie, le féminisme et autres sujets connexes: Élisabeth Vonarburg interviewée par Sylvie Bérard.” Tessera 26: ­ 95–104. ———. 2008. “Sexualité, échange de pouvoir et science-fiction: une étude sémiotique de quelques textes de science-fiction québécoise.” Voix plurielles 5 (2): 45–58. Burdekin, Katharine. 1985. Swastika Night. New York: The Feminist Press. ———. 1989. The End of This Day’s Business. New York: The Feminist Press. Lewes, Darby. 1995. Dream Revisionaries: Gender and Genre in Women’s Utopian Fiction (1870–1920). Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press. Mill, John Stuart. 1869. The Subjection of Women. London: Longmans, Green, Reeder and Dyer. Orwell, George. 1949. 1984. London: Penguin Books. Ransom, Amy J. 2000. “(Un)Common Ground: National Sovereignty and Individual Identity in Contemporary Science Fiction from Québec.” Science Fiction Studies 27 (3): 439–60. ———. 2004. “A Distant Mirror: Ideology and Identity in Quebec’s Science Fiction by Women.” In Worlds of Wonder: Readings in Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature, edited by Jean-François Leroux and Camille La Bossière, 167–79. Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press. ———. 2006. “Oppositional Postcolonialism in Québécois Science Fiction.” Science Fiction Studies 33: 291–312. Relf, Jan. 1991. “Women in Retreat: The Politics of Separatism in Women’s Literary Utopias.” Utopian Studies: Journal of the Society for Utopian Studies 2 (1–2): 131–46. Sauble-Otto, Laurie Gwen. 2001. “Writing in Subversive Space: Language and the Body in Feminist Science Fiction in French and English.” PhD diss., The University of Arizona. Serruys, Nicolas. 2008. “Xénototalité: l’utopie, l’uchronie et l’anticipation canadiennes-françaises et québécoises dans l’optique de l’allégorie nationale.” Voix Plurielles 5 (2): 28–44. Smart, Patricia. 1991. Writing in the Father’s House: The Emergence of the Feminine in the Quebec Literary Tradition. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. Taylor, Sharon. 2011. “Sexualects in Vonarburg’s In The Mother’s Land.” Femspec 11 (2): 83–98. Theis, Mary Elizabeth. 2009. Mothers and Masters in Contemporary Utopian and Dystopian Literature. New York: Peter Lang. Vonarburg, Élisabeth. 1992. The Maerlande Chronicles. Translated by Jane Brierley. Victoria: Beach Holme. Originally Published 1992. Chroniques du pays des Mères. Montréal: Québec/Amérique.


Cruising Canadian SF’s Queer Futurity: Hiromi Goto’s The Kappa Child and Larissa Lai’s Salt Fish Girl Wendy Gay Pearson

Queerness is a structuring and educated mode of desiring that allows us to see and feel beyond the quagmire of the present. The here and now is a prison house. We must strive, in the face of the here and now’s totalizing rendering of reality, to think and feel a then and there. —José Esteban Muñoz, Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity

(No) Future? Is there a queer future? Lee Edelman (2004) argues that there is no queer future and that our opposition to heteronormativity must involve embracing the death drive and repudiating reproductive futurity. For Edelman, the future is entirely occupied by the figure of the Child, a symbol that, at least from Anita Bryant onward, has been weaponized against queer and trans people.

W. G. Pearson (*)  University of Western Ontario, London, ON, Canada © The Author(s) 2019 A. J. Ransom and D. Grace (eds.), Canadian Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror, Studies in Global Science Fiction,


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Edelman’s symbolic Child is definitionally white and male. Edelman writes, “we are no more able to conceive of a politics without a fantasy of the future than we are able to conceive of a future without the figure of the Child. That figural Child alone embodies the citizen as an ideal, entitled to claim full rights to its future share in the nation’s good, although always at the cost of limiting the rights ‘real’ citizens are allowed” (2004, 11). Edelman’s Lacanian argument that queers must reject futurity as a political strategy that can only do us violence culminates in his insistence that “we do not intend a new politics, a better society, a brighter tomorrow, since all of these fantasies reproduce the past, through displacement, in the form of the future” (2004, 31). The figure of the child undoubtedly occupies a symbolic place in national politics and in the nation’s vision of itself. To see this in action, we need only look at the campaigns mounted in support of California’s Proposition 8, which de-legalized marriage equality. Most ads for the National Organization for Marriage involved the depiction of young children as threatened by the very idea of same-sex marriage. In the Canadian context, this weaponization of the child by ultra-conservative groups was demonstrated by newspaper ads depicting a large-eyed sad little white girl captioned “Please! Don’t confuse me” in opposition to a new sexual education curriculum in Ontario that included explanations of transgender and intersex issues (Salerno 2017). There is no doubt that this child is always already racialized, as Lauren Berlant (1997) argues: the nation’s value is figured not on behalf of an actually existing and laboring adult, but of a future American, both incipient and pre-historical: especially invested with this hope are the American fetus and the American child […]. This national icon is still tacitly white, and it still contains the blueprint for the reproductive form that assures the family and the nation its future history. (1997, 6)

The question “Is there a queer future?” then has to be understood as always implying the racial context in which it is asked. Furthermore, we could revise the question to ask, “Is there a future for queers? Is there, particularly, a future for racialized queers?” However, we must be careful not to ignore the distinctions between the idea of a queer future and the desire for (or disavowal of) a future for queers. This chapter investigates these questions about reproductive futurity in the context of two queerly Canadian sf novels, Hiromi Goto’s The Kappa Child (2001) and



Larissa Lai’s Salt Fish Girl (2002). Both novels take up Donna Haraway’s contention that “reproductive politics are at the heart of questions about citizenship, liberty, family, and nation” (1997, 189). In an environment in which the very idea of futurity is deeply invested in heteronormativity and white supremacy, what kind of future can queers, especially racialized queers, imagine? In stark contrast to Edelman, José Esteban Muñoz writes that We may never touch queerness, but we can feel it as the warm illumination of a horizon imbued with potentiality. We have never been queer, yet queerness exists for us as an ideality that can be distilled from the past and used to imagine a future. The future is queerness’s domain. (2009, 1)

Muñoz’s epigraph for his introductory chapter is a quotation from Oscar Wilde: “A map of the world that does not include utopia is not worth glancing at.” So we have two radically different queer theorizations of the value of futurity for queers and queerness. Edelman follows Leo Bersani’s antirelational turn, which “moves to imagine an escape or denouncement of relationality as first and foremost a distancing of queerness from what some theorists seem to think of as the contamination of race, gender, or other particularities that taint the purity of sexuality as a singular trope of difference” (11). By contrast, Muñoz argues that “utopian readings are aligned with what Eve Sedgwick would call reparative hermeneutics” (12). He insists that “affective and creative maps of the world that a critically queer utopianism can create, maps that do indeed include utopia, need to be attended to in a fashion that resembles a kind of politicized cruising” (18), in which cruising is viewed as an aesthetic, as well as sexual, practice. Hiromi Goto and Larissa Lai cruise utopia in ways that bring, as Muñoz himself does, “queer feminist and queer of color critiques that are the powerful counterweight to the antirelational” (17) and anticipate Muñoz’s theorization of a “queer futurity that is attentive to the past for the purposes of critiquing a present” (18).

“More Than a Dialectic Response to Power”1 One way of imagining queer futurity involves rewriting reproductive futures into a non-heteronormative (and non-white supremacist) context; another involves the equally subversive, but sometimes subtler, queering of time itself. These two strategies are not mutually exclusive.

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Because reproductive futurity and its links to the national symbolic depend on both linear time and chrononormativity, narratives that queer time can also find ways out of the bind Edelman presents. Science fi ­ ction is a particularly fruitful genre for constructing forms of queer futurity that counter the antirelational. These narratives speak more directly to the utopian impulse within queer theory; its antiutopian, antirelational side “has led many scholars to an impasse wherein they cannot see ­futurity for the life of them” (Muñoz 2009, 12). If the future is tied, as Edelman argues, to reproductive normality, to the production and protection of the Child who must be taught only the way things are, then sf’s queer modes of reproduction must function to derail the Child, installing instead various forms of queer children—from Frankenstein’s abandoned creation to Le Guin’s adolescent Gethenians who will experience life as neutral, female, and male to Blade Runner’s (1982) replicants. Each form of queer reproduction suggests the possibility of a different relationship between self and world, of a different journey toward subjectivity, one that is not necessarily based upon its inability to, and indeed may be founded on its refusal to, enter into the patriarchal symbolic order. The alternative is the near inevitability that the symbolic order will attempt to reposition its new queer children as nothing, as literally non-human. What is different is the balance of power, which shifts, sometimes imperceptibly but unstoppably, from patriarchy to its presumptively abjected others. Sf, we might argue, refutes queer shame by literally replacing the definition of the human. The Kappa Child tells the story of a nameless narrator, one of four daughters of Japanese immigrants who are scarred by their father’s abuse, their mother’s withdrawal, and their encounters with the desperation, poverty, and racism of life on the Canadian Prairie’s only would-be rice farm, an experience that is nothing like that represented in the narrator’s childhood ur-text, Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie (1935). While falling in love with the female proprietor of a Korean grocery store, the narrator has an ambivalently sexual encounter with what seems to be a kappa, a genderless creature from Japanese mythology whose life depends on maintaining the water pooled in its bowl-shaped head. She then spends the majority of the novel ambivalently pregnant with a kappa child. The chapters, which also move backwards in time to the narrator’s difficult Prairie childhood, are interwoven with comments from the kappa fetus, so that it has a distinct textual reality even though it never achieves a physical birth. As Larissa Lai notes, “the thing that



presses on [the narrator] from the inside speaks with the voice that is connected to a mythic past, one that holds no truck with European conceptions of beauty” (2014, 153). While the narrator repeatedly describes herself as an “ugly […] Asian” (Goto 2001, 14), the referent here is to more than racialized assumptions about appearance; it also refers to the way in which the opposite of beauty in science-fictional/cyborgian terms is not aesthetic ugliness, but monstrosity. This monstrosity is re-envisioned through the carnivalesque nature of the narrator’s experience as a corrective to the monstrosity of patriarchal Western hegemony: like Haraway’s cyborg, the pregnant narrator stumbles toward a “monstrous world without gender” (Balsamo 1996, 33), a place of “hopeful monsters” (Goto 2004, 135). In Salt Fish Girl, Lai presents us with two interwoven narratives. The first is the mythic story of the goddess Nu Wa, who creates humanity before deciding to split her fishlike tail in two to become human herself and falls queerly in love with a seller of salt fish. When homophobia and patriarchy defeat their romance, however, she shrinks herself into a durian seed and lies in wait. The second tale is that of Miranda Ching, born into a mid-twenty-first century corporate enclave after her elderly parents eat a durian; she exudes the distinct durian odor of cat piss and pepper. After Miranda’s father loses his job, the family has to move to the Unregulated Zone, where she meets Evie, who is a Sonia, one of a line of female clones with 0.03% carp genes. Evie tells Miranda, “I’m a patented new fucking life form” (158). As with any patented product, the Sonias belong to their creator, Pallas Corporation. Having escaped their corporate owners, Evie now lives in hiding with other refugee Sonias. Their freedom is fulfilled in large part because they have learned how to use the durian tree to procreate without either heterosexuality or technological assistance, thus creating their own race of beings and, as Heather Latimer notes, fulfilling Frankenstein’s greatest fear, that his creature will procreate (2013, 116). Miranda and Evie survive the destruction of the Sonias’ house and its protective durian tree and escape into another hideaway in the mountains, where both of them transform into fish girls/goddesses and Miranda gives birth to a daughter. Like The Kappa Child, Lai’s story is both framed and underwritten by a non-Western mythology; Lai’s comment about Goto’s novel is equally applicable to her own work: “the pregnancy that results […] comes from the traumatic sites of white hegemony and the father’s patriarchal abuses, and yet at the same time is more than reaction to oppression.

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The celestial, mythical, technological, cultural, and physical magic of the conception and pregnancy promise a birth that is more than a dialectic response to power” (2014, 154). The Kappa Child thus shares with Salt Fish Girl a concern with embodiment as a site of resistance to hegemonic narratives. Punningly tying human bodies to textual bodies, both authors also challenge generic boundaries, flirting with sf’s conventions and tropes. Paul Lai argues that “Lai’s embrace of messy origins and futures inevitably disrupts generic categories, offering a hybrid mythological future that questions assumptions of scientific progress and Western modernity embedded in conventional science fiction narratives” (2008, 184). Thus, Lai’s work contains a clearly science-fictional narrative, set in the future and peopled with clones and references to Frankenstein (1818), Blade Runner, Angela Carter’s The Passion of New Eve (1977), and Shakespeare’s The Tempest (1623), precisely because these texts mirror a queer, racialized, mostly postmodern anxiety about “Western modernity” and progress. Goto’s use of sf in The Kappa Child is less obvious and distinctly sly and humorous. Reading both these novels in light of the ways in which they interweave mythological narrative with their generic play with science fiction illuminates the means by which both authors inhabit a space that is not “here and now” (Muñoz 2009, 1). Both texts experiment with what it means to be produced as a gendered, racialized, and sexualized human being and explore ways it may be possible to think outside of that model, to imagine that it may also be possible that “something desirable may come” (Morris and Lai 2004, 25) of the encounter between science fiction, as an apparently Western and seemingly mostly-male and mostly-white genre, and an explicitly Asian Canadian take on mythology. Both novels call for reparative, rather than paranoid, readings even when those readings also deconstruct and reveal the horrors obscured by their ur-texts (this is particularly the case of Goto’s use of Wilder). In their imagining of ways of asking and answering the question of why some people are accorded (full) humanity and others are not, both Goto and Lai imagine a new queer racialized humanity whose existence is liminal and contingent, but full of hope and possibility, a world in which we both do and undo race, gender and sexuality so as to make life livable for all (Butler 2004, 1). Both authors position their fictions in relation to a queerness which Muñoz describes as “the warm illumination of a horizon imbued with possibility” (2009, 1).



Indeterminacy allows for a queer futurity that cannot be fixed, one that acknowledges that queerness is never quite here, but always to come. In this sense, queer futurity is the always postponed arrival at queerness itself. In Lai’s and Goto’s novels it is approached through the queering of reproductive futurity and the subversion of chrononormative time. This indeterminacy is interlinked with the generic liminality of both novels, particularly The Kappa Child; indeed, both Goto and Lai push the boundaries of literary choices considered proper for Asian diasporic writers, which, as Patterson and Troeung (2016) point out, have largely limited Asian-Canadian writers to autobiographic fiction which, in turn, is read as autoethnographic. Neither Goto nor Lai want any truck with the expectation that Asian-Canadian writers will produce “an authentic ethnic text” (Patterson and Troeung 2016, 75). Both Goto and Lai link generic impurity and playfulness with popular genres to their explorations of genders, sexualities, and questions of race. Both also participate in a hybrid and necessarily feminist cyborg politics which facilitates parallel, but distinctly different, forms of queer reproduction and maternity, hints of the authors’ intertextual references to science fiction’s foremother, Mary Shelley, and her queer creation. In addition, Goto’s androgynous Stranger on an airport runway during a lunar eclipse reiterates cinematic as well as literary images of aliens, positioning the kappa as both a creature from Japanese mythology and a true alien, something which cannot escape the multiple resonances of “alien,” particularly for diasporic writers. In Salt Fish Girl, Lai uses a number of devices, including repeated references to Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, to bring gender, sexuality, and race (and their intersectionality) into play in terms of the question the Sonias ask: what does it mean to be human? As the central question in both Blade Runner and its source-text, Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968), the problem of identifying and limiting the human acts as a perfect metaphor for the ways in which constructions of race, gender, and sexuality have been and continue to be used to render some people less human than others. By cruising Blade Runner, one might say, Lai rereads its dystopian limitations in the service of a critical, anti-chrononormative approach to the “warm horizon” of both queerness and utopia. Indeed, undoing Blade Runner’s particular temporality is key to queering the narrative of the replicants/Sonias. The replicants are both excluded from normal human chrononormative expectations (birth-childhood-marriage-children-agedeath) and restricted to a lethally reduced non-reproductive timeframe

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intended to ensure their slave status. The Sonias radically undo the corporate hegemonic limitations that make them legible only in terms of profit and loss when they learn to use the durian tree to reproduce for themselves, just as they radically undo the gender-normative expectations of human pregnancy by eliminating the father and giving birth only to daughters. As Judith Butler notes in Undoing Gender, “Sometimes a normative conception of gender can undo one’s personhood, undermining the capacity to persevere in a livable life. Other times, the experience of a normative restriction becoming undone can undo a prior conception of who one is only to inaugurate a relatively newer one that has greater livability as its aim” (2004, 1). Such a conception of doing and being undone by gender and sexuality clearly applies as much to the contemporary politics of race and ethnicity. Thus Lai plays with her generic references to sf (and particularly to Blade Runner) as a way of highlighting what it means to be defined as inhuman, or not quite human, in ways that are intended to render the world unlivable. Lai makes this clear with the legal non-human status of the cloned Sonias: while 99.97% human, the 0.03% carp genes in their DNA is all it takes to elide their humanity. In terms of racial discourse, this is clearly also a nod to US racial politics and the “one drop” law. Being defined as inhuman may also, inadvertently and often painfully, inaugurate new ways of thinking about oneself outside of the normative which may allow for the location of possibilities for a more livable life.

Closer Encounters of a Queerer Kind The Kappa Child’s nameless Japanese-Canadian narrator has a sexual encounter on the runways of Calgary Airport during a lunar eclipse with an equally nameless Stranger, who may or may not be a kappa. Goto plays with the fact that kappa in mythology are genderless, although what the narrator first encounters is apparently a woman in a red wedding dress. After they climb over the barbed wire fence surrounding the runway of Calgary airport in order to watch “the last total lunar eclipse of the twentieth century,” the stranger insists, “We must sumo tori” (Goto 2001, 119, 123). They proceed to wrestle and, seemingly, experience orgasm, although the ambivalence between female ejaculation and the spilling of liquid from the kappa’s bowl-shaped head multiplies the liminality of an encounter in which the Stranger impregnates the



narrator by blowing into her. The answer to whether their interaction is sex or sumo is that it is clearly both. That liminality continues in relation to the Stranger’s lack of gender or even literal humanity. Goto carefully avoids using a pronoun for the Stranger who, naked, reveals neither nipples nor bellybutton, but rather is described by the narrator as seeming, in the light of the moon, “almost greenish, skin hairless and moist” (122). Without the marks of mammalian origin, the Stranger’s gender becomes an impossible question: the Stranger is both mythical and an alien being, someone whose alienness is explicitly linked not only to the lack of biological sex but to the lack of any interest in sex/gender. “‘Guy, girl, so what?’ Stranger scoffed. ‘Do I look like someone who cares?’” (119). The question of non- or ambivalently-gendered embodiment is central to the narration: not only is the Stranger’s body revealed in its alien nudity, but the text is continuously marked with references to the narrator’s own queer, “alien” embodiment. She refers to herself as ugly, bow-legged, short, and Asian, while also constantly referencing the physical symptoms of the queer/kappa pregnancy that apparently results from her encounter with the Stranger. The narrator’s pregnancy is even queerer than that of Le Guin’s Gethenian king, since it is undetectable by scientific or medical means, marking it as liminal in multiple ways. As Susan Knabe (2005) has argued, narratives of queer reproduction and maternity have become increasingly common over the last two decades; their genealogy inevitably includes Frankenstein and usually The Left Hand of Darkness (1969), marking them as inherently science-fictional despite their theoretical connection to Haraway and applications of Haraway’s work to the concept of the cyborg fetus. In this case, the indeterminacy of the fetus is underlined by the combination of its absence of physical markers (it does not “show,” nor does it show up on ultrasound) and its textual presence as a voice in the novel. It also works to link the pregnancy itself to the narrator’s past “as it opens the door to a memory of family conflicts and feelings of alienation and estrangement regarding her double migratory experience to and in Canada,” according to Sandra Almeida (2009, 51). Almeida concludes that, “Being pregnant with this alien creature forces Goto’s protagonist to embrace a role she has always been reluctant to embody: that of the diasporic other” (51–52). The narrator is not just positioned willy nilly as a diasporic other, however; she also occupies a liminal position herself in terms of gender. As a child on her father’s newly purchased farm, the narrator meets the neighbor’s son, Gerald

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Nakamura Coming Singer, who is First Nations on his absent father’s side. As they explore the creek together, Gerald asks, “You a boy or a girl?” The narrator retorts, “You Blood or Japanese?” Gerald acquiesces easily to this logic: he is both, so is she. Like Lai’s novel, it seems The Kappa Child might have been quite different had it been written almost two decades later, at a time when trans and non-binary identities are very much in the news. Indeed, given that nowhere in the novel does the narrator refute her childhood refusal of the gender binary, Goto’s use of first-person narration allows for a much less gendered narration of the protagonist’s embodiment—enough that the critical habit of referring to the narrator as “she” might seem somewhat problematic, despite the pregnancy. After all, given the “supernatural or fantastic element” (Almeida 2009, 51) underwriting the kappa pregnancy, there seems no particular reason why pregnancy must here be gendered female. This liminally gendered pregnancy occurs in a context also of racial hybridity/liminality marked by the two children’s innocent acceptance of the equation between being neither and both girl/boy and Blood/Japanese. If the central moment of the narrative is thus marked as a racialized and ungendered alien encounter, as well as a mythological one, which results in sumo/sex and pregnancy, we might ask what that tells us about the way in which Goto’s mingling of genres reproduces and reinforces her play with genders. While Goto’s novel is not quite as richly intertextual as Lai’s, she puts in play numerous more or less overt science-fictional references. The most obvious is to Frankenstein, but unlike Victor Frankenstein, the narrator figures herself as a kind of monster, one, moreover, who has no inclination to abandon the kappa child with which she has been gifted. The lack of agency in the narrator’s pregnancy signals a distinctly feminist response to Frankenstein’s ego-driven quest to create life: pregnancy is not controllable, despite the twentieth century’s various reproductive and prophylactic technologies, in the way that Frankenstein’s technological act of creation supposedly is. But while Frankenstein controls the means, he cannot control the ends: horrified by his creation’s lustrous black hair, “dull yellow eye” and “yellow skin” (Shelley 1994, 38–39), he abandons him. In this context, it is hard to miss that Shelley’s description of the creature’s monstrosity coincides rather precisely with the Asian (yellow) classification in the relatively recent Linnaean taxonomy of human “races.” Unlike Frankenstein’s, the narrator’s is a positive act of queer reproduction set within an already racialized context. It argues that there is a queer future and a future for racialized queers.



In a similarly liminal fashion, the novel’s play with time, as it moves between the narrator’s past and present, is deepened and complicated by the undoing of chrononormative time both in the account of the moment of sumo/sex during the lunar eclipse and in the pregnancy that disappears only to reappear at the end of the novel. In the first case, the narrator experiences time strangely from the moment she (they?) sets foot in the Chinese restaurant where the wedding banquet takes place. The banquet is in full progress when the narrator walks into the washroom, only to have all the convivial noises replaced by a silence that presages a return not only to an empty room, but to one in an advanced stage of deterioration. The wedding guests are also gone, except for the Stranger, who tells her to “consider the wedding banquet a gift. Don’t ask why” (89). The narrator nevertheless asks, only to be told: “Nights like this fold over like cloth. Don’t worry about it, honey” (89). Time slips and slides in ways that are perhaps even more marked once narrator and Stranger reach the airport runway and wrestle/fuck: “The dry grass prickled beneath me. I couldn’t say where the stars lay. They glittered and spun, constellations chasing planets toward the horizon. Time spiraled and inflated, how could I know?” (124). Interleaved between these two moments, however, are two further stories, the first that of a kappa who, coming upon a tattered human habitation in its forest, decides to offer life-giving liquid from the bowl on its head to the dying child it finds inside. This first story echoes strangely with the narrator’s vision of the “real” Laura Ingalls/Melissa Gilbert whose “eyes glitter bright in her starving face, lips cracked with malnutrition” as she tells the narrator that, while she can’t do anything about her story being altered into something “happy” for children, “you can” (Goto 2001, 252). The narrator must rewrite the history of Prairie settlement as something closer to the truth, replacing a dominant happy narrative with the memories of First Nations people, immigrants of color, animals, and people displaced in both fact and narrative. The second story reiterates the impossibility within official Canadian histories and normative conceptions of time of the arrival of a Japanese family at an Alberta farm with the intention of growing rice. The narrator’s history, then, is rendered impossible, invisible, and also untimely, given that they arrive so much later than other Japanese farmers, who were shipped to Prairie farms as labor during World War II. Time changes and is queered in this novel, as the past is recuperated for a reclaimed present and an altered sense of future possibility.

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Goto thus plays, as does Lai, with the Alien/Asian conjunction. Asian Canadians, both Chinese and Japanese, have historically been othered within the nation, produced as aliens and often, if arriving as refugees, as “illegal aliens.” The history of the Chinese head tax and Japanese internment during World War II are never far from the surface of Asian Canadian writing. The simple fact that the narrator is both sure and not sure that what they did is sex is queer in and of itself; our cultural imaginary marks the type of sexual intercourse that can result in pregnancy as very clear indeed. Furthermore, the possibility that a queer kappa pregnancy could result from what is effectively oral sex merely heightens both its indeterminacy and its queerness. By re-envisioning more canonical sf texts through a queer, feminist, and racialized lens, Goto enacts a new form of science-fictional imaginary which is not dependent on technology or science, but rather on asking for a new epistemology of being, one that recognizes the humanity even of a kappa fetus or a Sonia. In classic alien encounter stories, humans are not changed in any serious way. Racial divisions, gender imbalances, the possibilities of queerness, these rarely raise their ugly heads in first encounter stories outside of feminist and queer sf. Yet for queer, feminist, and racialized sf writers, the close encounter, even if not specifically a re-enactment of the legacy of The Left Hand of Darkness, remains remarkably productive territory. In The Kappa Child, this territory enables the narrator to face her past and re-imagine both her present and her future. Rather than being bound by the hegemony of white heteronormativity, Goto’s narrator is finally able to step out of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “utopian” but obviously ahistorical and counterfactual story of white settlement and into her own, a place where “skin moist, wet, slick and salamander-soft, kappa and human dance together, our lives unfurling before us” (275).

Brave New Worlds? Given sf’s positioning as outside the literary canon, indeed as literature’s abject other, Lai’s and Goto’s choice to adopt sf is a radical act of racialized and gendered repossession of a literary world that has been denied to Asian Canadians because Asian Canadian writing has been, as Robyn Morris notes, “incarcerated” (2004, 71) into a literary mainstream that expects the work of its Others to assimilate into its own particularly bounded notions of the appropriate and the normal. For queer



Asian-Canadian writers to take up sf as a genre is then doubly queer, since it not only indicates the potential attractions of sf as an imaginative tool for deconstructing the heteronormative cisgender hegemony on the world, but also involves a repudiation of the literary norms that mark what is acceptable and what is not. Lai marks her commitment to sf with her choice of Miranda’s name—a science fictional reference, by way of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Fred Wilcox’s sf film adaptation of it in Forbidden Planet (1956), and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (1932) which quotes Miranda’s words in The Tempest for its title: “O brave new world / That has such people in’t!” (Act 5, Scene 1, 217–18) The irony of the quotation, both in Huxley’s work and in Lai’s, lies in the immediately preceding lines: “O, wonder! / How many goodly creatures are there here! How beauteous mankind is!” While Lai’s Miranda aptly embodies Prospero’s terse response, “Tis new to thee,” she has little in the way of goodly creatures to wonder at until she meets the Sonias. Despite her name, she feels not at all worthy of admiration; indeed, her smell has condemned her to a lonely existence at the fringes of social acceptance. Yet, whereas Miranda in The Tempest, and even more so in Forbidden Planet, is the dutiful daughter of a possessive patriarch, Lai’s Miranda has a much more complicated genealogy. Either Miranda or her much older brother may have the novel’s “mad scientists” as their biological fathers; in any case, it is clear that, like that of the clones, the genesis of Miranda is much more radical, an experiment in reproduction without males that is linked to the novel’s other tale, the story of the goddess Nu Wa. At some level, Nu Wa and Miranda are the same person, as are the Salt Fish Girl and Evie, thus generating a story of female self-(re)production in two parts. As Lai notes in an interview with Morris, while the story may be about female empowerment, it is also about characters who are weak and who make bad choices about what to do with power; “hope,” Lai says of the novel, “lies in the random” (Morris and Lai 2004, 25). The trope of rebirth that occurs in Salt Fish Girl becomes a way of “trying until something desirable comes of it” (Morris 2004, 25). Thus the Sonias’ discovery of a new mode of reproduction is a product of luck, rather than a result of the technoscience in which Dr Flowers believes—and which, combined with a slightly futuristic and vaguely postapocalyptic corporate capitalism, produces most of the novel’s negative circumstances, such as the dreaming disease.

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Like The Kappa Child, Salt Fish Girl is a novel which re-centers race to the heart of the story. Lai notes that one of her goals is to decenter whiteness as the presumed owner of narrative. She says, I think of my first line of address as other people like myself; my own generation of younger Asian Canadians, women, maybe lesbian, maybe feminist, maybe not, but those who feel like outsiders for whatever reason […]. Whoever gets caught in the crossfire of my line of address, though, that’s also fine. I’m caught in the crossfire of most writing in English. I’m very seldom in the first line of address. It’s an interesting place to read from. You could say that I’m interested in providing the pleasure of that experience to people who aren’t usually in that place. (Morris and Lai 2004, 22)

The people who “aren’t usually in that place” are precisely the iconic citizens whom Lauren Berlant theorizes. One can wish to give up one’s iconicity, but iconicity is inherent in the system and thus not easily displaced by individual will or agency. Science fiction has, as a genre, made a serious attempt to imagine more multicultural futures, even to imagine futures in which white people are simply a small minority in a broad spectrum. Yet the centrality or iconicity of the white figure prevails. In Blade Runner, for example, a film in which the majority of people one sees are Asian, the white characters are at the center of the story and are also presented as both the top and bottom of the power spectrum: as the replicants and as their creators. The Asian characters have small roles, although they are also positioned, in a sense, as the inheritors of the future. The billboards advertising emigration to the off-world colonies all feature the face of an Asian woman, for example. Lai speaks of this as the relatively recent circulation of the figure of the Asian as a figure that belongs to this mythologized future. I think it’s very interesting how all science fictions, including mine, are circulations of myth. A site out of time, a conflation of past and future, a site that belongs to the other because it isn’t here and now. Salt Fish Girl explores how race can work in futuristic texts. (Morris and Lai 2004, 27–28)

As an imagination of the future, Salt Fish Girl is thus also a re-imagination of myth, both Chinese and Western. The Western mythic background is inserted into the story primarily through the figures of Miranda and Evie. Evie, of course, is a play on Eve, just as the durian becomes a play on the apple that Eve eats in the Biblical story (the novel



actually starts with the words “in the beginning”). Rather than knowledge of good and evil, figured as knowledge of sex, the durian represents knowledge of all-female reproduction, a queer moment in an already queer work. Whereas most of Salt Fish Girl’s genealogical antecedents tell a story of creation by a white male stand-in for a white male God and usually feature a racialized creation, Lai’s story reclaims Shakespeare’s Miranda’s “o brave new world that hath such creatures in it” in a racialized feminist context. It also plays with the utopian notion of worlds of all-female reproduction, from Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Herland (1915) to—particularly—Angela Carter’s The Passion of New Eve (1977), a story which is referenced in clone Evie’s name—Evie Xin. Xin means “new” in Mandarin. In Carter’s story, the male protagonist, Evelyn, becomes Eve through a surgical procedure performed by a cruel female goddess named Mother; she is eventually reborn into a new world in which she and Lilith abandon Adam to go and fight with the rebels. Evie in Salt Fish Girl is an escaped clone, part of a group of rebels striving to establish a new order of hybridity, liminality, and queerness among the chaos of the failing, but still powerful, corporations. The Passion of New Eve, Evie and Miranda can claim no easy female utopia, not even the contingent feminist utopia of Joanna Russ’s The Female Man (1975)—a world which exists because there are no men, but which, as the short story “When It Changed” (1972) demonstrates, sidesteps rather than solving the problem of gendered power imbalance. Nevertheless, these novels have in common some notion of queer reproduction, queer insofar as all of them disrupt the heteronormative teleology of the sperm-racing-for-egg story that presupposed the active insertion of a Y-chromosome-bearing reproductive organ into the passivity of the X-chromosome-bearing receptacle. This story has been debunked and continues to be debunked in multiple ways, from Emily Martin’s (1991) classic deconstruction of the active/passive narrative to contemporary science’s deconstruction of the very notion of pure binary sexes.2 The deconstruction of the heteronormative monopoly on reproduction has largely been studied in relation to Salt Fish Girl in two ways: in terms of feminist cyborg politics and specifically Donna Haraway’s “A Manifesto for Cyborgs” (for example, by Tara Lee 2004; Heather Latimer 2013) or as a way of illuminating Lai’s critique of a supposedly post-racial Canadian multiculturalism within the neoliberal state (see Paul Lai 2008; Joanna Mansbridge 2004; Rita Wong 2003–2004). Although these approaches are quite different, both assume that queer

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reproduction/queer futurity exists in the novel in the service of some other form of critique. I argue, however, that queer futurity in Salt Fish Girl, as in The Kappa Child, is valuable in and of itself as it imagines an alternative space/time for queerness outside both chrononormative patriarchal values and the endless deferment of rejecting the future to spite the Child, as it were. These novels imagine not an iconic Child nor one that is purely abstract, but rather queer children, born (or not born) out of queerer racialized circumstances. No “immaculate abstractions” (Daniel 2010, 329) these, but rather citizens-to-come, denizens of a place where their apparent monstrosity does not impair their ability to belong. These novels are bridges over the “normal” world, the world of heteronormativity and chrononormativity and The Child, that allow us to reach for a different future and a livable life that is always just on the horizon.

Notes 1.  Larissa Lai makes this comment about the narrator’s pregnancy in The Kappa Child, but it seems apt for both novels in the context of envisioning a queer futurity whose liminality both evades and interrogates hegemonic forms of power. 2. See the September 2017 issue of Scientific American for a good overview of the current state of scientific thinking about “biological sex.”

References Almeida, Sandra R. G. 2009. “Strangers in the Night: Hiromi Goto’s Abject Bodies and Hopeful Monsters.” Contemporary Women’s Writing 3 (1) (June): 47–63. Balsamo, Anne Marie. 1996. Technologies of the Gendered Body: Reading Cyborg Women. Durham: Duke University Press. Berlant, Lauren Gail. 1997. The Queen of America Goes to Washington City: Essays on Sex and Citizenship. Durham: Duke University Press. Butler, Judith. 2004. Undoing Gender. New York: Routledge. Carter, Angela. 1977. The Passion of New Eve. London: Victor Gollancz. Daniel, Drew. 2010. “Trading Futures: Queer Theory’s Anti-Anti-Relational Turn.” Criticism 52 (2): 325–330. Edelman, Lee. 2004. No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive. Durham: Duke University Press. Goto, Hiromi. 2001. The Kappa Child. Calgary: Red Deer Press. ———. 2004. Hopeful Monsters. Vancouver: Arsenal Pulp Press. Haraway, Donna Jeanne. 1997. Modest−[email protected] Second−Millennium. FemaleMan− Meets−OncoMouse: Feminism and Technoscience. New York: Routledge.



Knabe, Susan. 2005. “Mothers of a Different Nation: Tricks of Queer Maternity in The Kappa Child and ‘Hopeful Monsters.’” Unpublished Conference Paper. Canadian Women’s Studies Association, University of Western Ontario, May 29–31. Lai, Larissa. 2002. Salt Fish Girl: A Novel. Toronto: Thomas Allen Publishers. ———. 2014. Slanting I, Imagining We: Asian Canadian Literary Production in the 1980s and 1990s. Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press. Lai, Paul. 2008. “Stinky Bodies: Mythological Futures and the Olfactory Sense in Larissa Lai’s Salt Fish Girl.” Melus 33 (4): 167–87. Latimer, Heather. 2013. Reproductive Acts: Sexual Politics in North American Fiction and Film. Montréal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press. Lee, Tara. 2004. “Mutant Bodies in Larissa Lai’s Salt Fish Girl: Challenging the Alliance Between Science and Capital.” West Coast Line: A Journal of Contemporary Writing and Criticism 38 (2) (Fall): 94–109. Mansbridge, Joanna. 2004. “Abject Origins: Uncanny Strangers and Figures of Fetishism in Larissa Lai’s Salt Fish Girl.” West Coast Line: A Journal of Contemporary Writing and Criticism 38 (2) (Fall): 121–33. Martin, Emily. 1991. “The Egg and the Sperm: How Science Has Constructed a Romance Based on Stereotypical Male-Female Roles.” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 16 (3): 485–501. Morris, Robyn L. 2004. Re-visioning Representations of Difference in Larissa Lai’s When Fox Is a Thousand and Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. West Coast Line: A Journal of Contemporary Writing and Criticism 38 (2): 69–86. Morris, Robyn L., and Larissa Lai. 2004. Sites of Articulation: An Interview with Larissa Lai. West Coast Line: A Journal of Contemporary Writing and Criticism 38 (2): 21–30. Muñoz, José Esteban. 2009. Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity. New York: New York University Press. Patterson, Christopher B., and Y. Dang Troeung. 2016. “The Psyche of Neoliberal Multiculturalism: Queering Memory and Reproduction in Larissa Lai’s Salt Fish Girl and Chang-Rae Lee’s On Such a Full Sea.” Concentric: Literary and Cultural Studies 42 (1): 73–98. Russ, Joanna. [1972] 1978. “When It Changed.” In New Women of Wonder, edited by Pamela Sargent, 227–39. New York: Vintage. ———. 1975. The Female Man. New York: Bantam. Salerno, Rob. 2017. “National Post Apologizes for Running Transphobic Ad.” Xtra September 28. Accessed September 2, 2017. national-post-apologizes-for-running-transphobic-ad-33519. Shelley, Mary. [1818] 1994. Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus. Edited and with Introduction by Marilyn Butler. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Wong, Rita. 2003–2004. “Troubling Domestic Limits: Reading Border Fictions Alongside Larissa Lai’s Salt Fish Girl.” BC Studies 140 (Winter): 109–24.


Crossing the (Trans)Gender Bridge: Exploring Intersex and Trans Bodies in Canadian Speculative Fiction Evelyn Deshane

In a 2015 article titled “The Rise of the Gender Novel,” written for the Canadian magazine The Walrus, Casey Plett notes that many contemporary literary authors use mythological language when discussing people with transgender or intersex identities. Myths have infused speculative fiction for centuries and often provide a relatable plot structure, along with a wealth of symbols for contemporary authors to draw upon and enhance the reading experience for their audience. My chapter explores how Annabel (2010) by Kathleen Winter, about an intersex child growing up in rural Canada, quickly moves from literary fiction to speculative text when Winter draws on mythological language and symbols in order to describe the intersex child. Because of his “different order” (Winter 2010, 208) in the world, the novel’s protagonist, Wayne, becomes the bridge between two genders. In addition, he becomes the bridge between two worlds, those of the physical and mundane, as well as the spiritual and fantastic. While Winter garnered praise from literary critics for the ambiguity of Wayne’s eventual gendered ending, her presentation E. Deshane (*)  University of Waterloo, Waterloo, ON, Canada © The Author(s) 2019 A. J. Ransom and D. Grace (eds.), Canadian Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror, Studies in Global Science Fiction,



of a real-life condition as speculative fiction has led to much criticism from those who are intersexual. Instead of being a bridge between communities—those of intersex/trans and cisgender people—critics ­ in the intersex and transgender community insist that Winter’s writing ­creates, as Plett observes, “one-dimensional characters” similar to those created by other authors who attempt to present a contemporary “ ­ gender novel” through the use of mythological language and symbols. “However contemporary the Gender Novel is,” writes Plett, “it’s tapping into a much older form: the epic, with its quests and journeys and brave deeds. […] [These elements] of myth [lend] these novels their synchronicity and broad appeal. It also makes them fantasies” (2015). By mixing myth with the reality of medicalized identities and gender surgeries, Winter attempts to situate the novel within the mainstream canon rather than as genre fiction (thus lending it “broad appeal” as Plett says). But by doing so she ends up comparing transgender and intersex people to mythological creatures, thus disparaging the real-life conditions and communities that the authors of gender fictions attempt to represent. Therefore, the second half of my chapter examines the Canadian trans writer Sybil Lamb and her treatment of trans people and their bodies in I’ve Got a Time Bomb (2014) and a subsequent short story “Cybervania” (2017) set in the same fantastic world. Instead of using mythology as a way to explain her characters’ gender differences, Lamb embraces a critical assessment of the landscapes they inhabit; they do not become bridges or the borders that (cisgender) people long to transgress, but use technology to build and sustain better bodies, communities, and stories overall.

Annabel as Bridge Annabel can be loosely categorized as a Bildungsroman that follows the life of Wayne Blake, an intersex child1 born to parents Treadway and Jacinta Blake in rural Croydon Harbor, Labrador. The novel starts with his birth “surrounded by women his mother had known all her married life: Joan Martin, Eliza Goudie, and Thomasina Baikie” (Winter 2010, 7). One of these women, Thomasina, notes his ambiguous genitals as soon as he is born and “by miracles of deflection” manages to conceal the issue until much later (20). After visiting a doctor, Wayne’s parents decide to raise him as a boy; during his baptism, however, Thomasina whispers “Annabel” under her breath, thus giving Wayne a



secret name he will return to much later in the narrative as Thomasina and others inform him of the actual story of his birth (62). The name Annabel, like the diagnosis of intersexuality, effectively haunts Wayne for the rest of the novel. The pain from Wayne’s still intact cervix, uterus, and fallopian tubes becomes a physical manifestation of both his body’s condition that is kept hidden and emblematic of the name he was given by Thomasina, since his pain is coded as menstrual (and thus female) pain. This feminine haunting is compounded even further as Winter reveals that the name Annabel is derived from Thomasina’s dead daughter. From the start, Wayne’s gender is coded as something supernatural, especially since his “girl-self [is] trapped inside him” (343) and effectively haunts his body like a “ghost without a body – a shadow” (99). I do not wish to conflate intersex and transgender identity, however. Though often spoken about in the same breath, transgender and intersex are different identities, and their communities differ in their overall goals, especially in relation to medicalization and/or surgery (Kaldera 2013). While some transgender people desire gender affirmation surgery in order to conform their body to their internally felt sense of gender identity, more often than not intersex people campaign against medical intervention and surgery (Kaldera 2013). Since intersex babies are often visibly different at birth—as Wayne is in Annabel—they are often subjected to invasive medical treatments from the moment they are born. In contrast, transgender people are often visibly “normal” at birth and often require an outside diagnosis of gender dysphoria in order to be treated, usually much later in their life, after the onset of language development (Kaldera 2013; see also Rubin 2003). Although there are cases of gender transition inside the intersex community, Plett notes that this is rare; writer Raven Kaldera is one example of someone who was born intersex and raised a girl, but has since transitioned to identify as a man. In his case, he identifies as both intersex and transgender as two separate categories that represent two separate things to him (Kaldera 2013). As intersectional feminism reminds us, identities can overlap—but I do not wish to give the impression that this is always the case for trans and intersex people. I need to articulate this as clearly as possible, however, because these two identities are often conflated through the metaphors we use to talk about them. Kathleen Winter and the writers on Plett’s list—including Jeffrey Eugenides and Kim Fu—are no different and often make this mistake.


Even if Winter seems to borrow her metaphors from both transgender and intersex stories, what her descriptions effectively do is treat Wayne as a supernatural creature from the start. Indeed, the first time Wayne and his parents go to the doctor, Jacinta is unable to parse what intersex identity actually means and insists that it cannot be real. In her conversation with the doctor, she wonders if her child’s body is believable and not something from a “science fiction horror movie” (Winter 2010, 50). The full conversation is worth citing because of the revealing metaphors that both the doctor and his mother use to facilitate their understanding: You think […Jacinta said] a child’s sex needs to be believable. You think my child—the way he is not, the way she is—is unbelievable? Like something in a science fiction horror movie? And you want me to make her believable? Like a real human. We want to give him a chance. As soon as possible after birth. Have you done it before? True hermaphroditism happens, Mrs. Blake, one in every eighty-three thousand births. I haven’t done this before. But what we are doing today is normal medical response. Normal? And I think it’s the most compassionate one. We try to decide the true sex of the child. (50)

Though Jacinta’s comments can be read as a critique of the medicalization of intersex babies—since it is the doctor who uses the phallometer to measure Wayne’s genitals and wishes to normalize his body—this critique is not sustained throughout the narrative. In addition, both Jacinta and the doctor use metaphors to explain Wayne; hers is the “horror movie,” while the doctor invokes the Greek image of the hermaphrodite. Although this scene takes place in 1968, when the more inclusive term “intersexuality” was not yet in common use, the medical term “hermaphrodite” is still derived from the mythological. Even in the scientific and medical community, medical journals, and diagnostic language, then, intersex bodies are treated as something not quite real— especially Wayne, who seems to be the rarest of the rare with his “true hermaphroditism.” As the novel progresses, the haunting of its characters continues as Jacinta becomes fixated upon the binary of a true and false gender to the point where she believes she is “never honest” and has “murdered [her] own daughter” (Winter 2010, 142). Similarly, Treadway, Wayne’s father,



grows “silent outwardly and more self-sufficient, but lonesome inwardly” during Wayne’s youth as a result of the decision made at the doctor’s that day (94). Treadway’s transformation is essentially a reversal of what happens to Wayne during the measuring of his genitals by the doctor: the phallometer determines that Wayne can physically pass as a boy by means external to his own body—i.e. he can no longer be self-sufficient in his gender and must rely on an outside tool like the phallometer for acceptance. Though Wayne’s body passes the test, Treadway’s literal stagnation in the narrative is yet another signal that the phallometer was wrong in its measurements of the body, thus leaving all the novel’s major characters haunted by what could have been. Now that a gender has been assigned to Wayne, it is forever the wrong one. Indeed, the major conflict of the book seems not necessarily to be that Wayne is intersex, but that Wayne is a perfect hermaphrodite; his “true” gender is that he is both male and female and nothing at all. Because of the duality and “frightening ambiguity” (Winter 2010, 28) that he presents, each option is forever tainted. Intersexuality—and the choice imperative in that situation—is thus represented by Winter in the novel as both a figurative haunting in the feelings it evokes in its characters, but also one with physical consequences. When Wayne finds out about his condition and attempts to take back his name as Annabel, he is raped by a member of the town and outed as a freak of nature who is merely there for “experimenting” on (398). Winter’s fractured narrative of gender and identity makes it clear that Wayne’s body is a liminal space. Wayne’s body represents the dual pathway of genders that the names Wayne/Annabel signal, but his body also becomes the battlefield for other binaries in the text: city/country, upper/lower class, mother/father, and the past/future (especially in relation to family lineage). He is a living and breathing binary opposition in action, one which Winter wields for purely symbolic power. As Plett notes, one of the major turning points in the story is when Wayne self-impregnates—something that is a “medical impossibility” (Plett 2015). As Australia’s Intersex community website OII also notes, “The biological circumstances depicted in the book are fanciful” and “fantastic,” meaning that they have far less to do with reality and far more to do with poetry and symbolic potential (Admin 2010). Even if Winter and her publisher House of Anansi were to market her book as speculative fiction,2 her conflation of intersex identity and miraculous pregnancy is still problematic because it imbues intersex identity with magical


capabilities, giving an unrealistic impression of a very real identity group. By having Wayne impregnate himself, Winter not only shows that Wayne is the perfect hermaphrodite and completely 50/50 man and woman, she also uses Wayne’s pregnancy as a way to deconstruct binary gender altogether. Her literary construction of a self-impregnated Wayne seems to ask a rhetorical question: What do the dueling sides of male/female matter when they can be together in one unit, and produce something from that union? Deconstruction in this context becomes productive and reproductive; both sides of Wayne end up being useful, thus validating Wayne’s lack of choice in his gender (which is also Wayne’s lack of agency to make a choice). Winter also highlights Wayne’s liminality by focusing on his affinity to bridges. After Wayne receives a postcard with France’s famous Pont d’Avignon on it, his obsession with “symmetry” becomes fixated on bridges and their history, which Treadway illuminates for him (Winter 2010, 74–76). At several critical points in the novel, most notably after he is attacked, Wayne seeks refuge under bridges; when he builds snow forts as a child, he laments that they are not like the bridges in the town (126–27). Wayne’s love of symmetry is also documented in several chapters by the shapes he cuts out of paper, the objects and tools he keeps around him, and the school subjects like geometry he loves the most (71–72). The bridge in Annabel is both symbolic of the self and protective of that self—which, in theory, amount to the same thing. Because Wayne is a perfect hermaphrodite, it is difficult to say if Wayne is Wayne or Wayne is Annabel. Therefore, he is both and nothing; he is a bridge that is both coming and going, where he can walk across the top or hide underneath. The bridge becomes a way to make sense of his own body’s liminal space, and his body-as-bridge is something that makes him different and special. Since Wayne embraces the bridge, and the bridge itself embodies all the mythology and the “frightening ambiguity” (28) of gender that Plett criticizes in her article, Winter’s text is not transgressive, postmodern, or even (re)productive in terms of its treatment of gender. Instead, the way in which Winter attempts to deconstruct gender itself through Wayne and his self-impregnation is exceptionally “reductive” (Admin 2010) and “clichéd” (Plett 2015). Though being intersex is a real condition and many of Wayne’s medical treatments are drawn from actual medical practices (such as the phallometer), Winter uses Wayne as a theoretical question, one that is especially captivating to Thomasina, since she is the one who witnesses



his birth, discovers his identity, and bestows the titular name. She insists that “people were rivers, always ready to move from one state of being into another. It was not fair, she felt, to treat people as if they were finished beings. Everyone was always becoming and unbecoming” (Winter 2010, 41). Her life philosophy seems to have found the perfect exemplar when she delivers Wayne and realizes that he has ambiguous genitals; he ends up becoming the perfect liminal body on which to project the loss of her daughter. Wayne becomes Annabel then not because he is truly Annabel inside (or any felt internal sense of gender dysphoria) or because the phallometer or doctor was wrong, but because the poetic potential of his body was too good to be true for those around him, which is what Plett says the real problem of the “gender novel” is overall.

Genre Trouble When Wayne asks Thomasina about his “blood disorder” (what his parents initially tell him about his treatments), she tells him that he doesn’t have a disorder at all, but a “different order” (Winter 2010, 208). She praises Wayne for his condition—conflating his diagnosis with an ­identity—and then proceeds to call it “fantastic” and “overwhelmingly beautiful, if people weren’t scared” (209). “Fantastic” here can be seen both as a term of praise and as an acknowledgment of the genre from which Winter’s work derives most of its literary power. Wayne’s “ ­ different order” (208) makes it clear that he is split between another binary: physical/spiritual. He becomes the bridge between two worlds, one ­ based in fantasy and the other one on reality. By calling Wayne a “true” (50) hermaphrodite and then representing the magic around his birth, Winter effectively treats the ambiguously gendered body as speculative fiction in and of itself: a fantasy space where mythical beings can happen that will dazzle those who are cisgender and not born with “frightening ambiguity” (28). She treats Wayne’s body and the intersex identity that goes with it as a mythic creature, something that cannot be found in the day-to-day world. This is the main reason why intersex activists and Plett have heavily criticized the novel. The quotidian aspects of intersex lives were not represented, but rather emptied out for poetic value; in some way, it turned them into victims of violence, or into misunderstood monsters. Though Winter seems to edge close to critique of the medical system which regularly pathologizes and forces surgery on intersex children, the fact that


Wayne ends up embracing his role as a special, mythical being makes her critique fall flat. For instance, when Wayne is scrutinized in front of a group of medical interns, he brings up the fact that he has fallopian tubes and other typically “female” organs, but he is ignored by the medical staff (Winter 2010, 367–73). What seems to be the issue in this scene is not that Wayne’s body is being used as an example, but that while using him as an example, they are getting the information wrong. Rather than critiquing the system itself (that he is literally being objectified and silenced), he seeks to find recognition in an oppressive system; a “different order” (208) that does not necessarily benefit him but illuminates his perspective to others. In an attempt to represent the “authentic self” (71) inside the body, Winter focuses more on the body and what is not entirely visible when first looking at Wayne: organs like a womb or fallopian tubes that represent Annabel. Instead of critiquing the assumption of a “true self” underneath the body, Winter merely enforces the naturalization of gender itself as wholly linked to the organs, something which trans activist Julia Serano calls “gender essentialism” (2007, 54). Furthermore, by treating Wayne’s body as a bridge between the physical and spiritual worlds, Winter expresses a deeply held ideology that “abnormal” bodies are always there to be examined by others, and in doing so, must be the bridge between knowledge and ignorance. Derek Newman-Stille writes about this trend through an examination of the mythological blind prophet Tiresias (who is yet another gender ambiguous mythological figure that becomes conflated with trans/intersex bodies in these narratives) and how disability informs Tiresias’s all-knowing position (2014a, 187). Newman-Stille has also written about how the immigrant Other, in Canadian sff (science fiction and fantasy) but also in sff as a whole, is often put in the same position as the disabled or gendered Other as the bridge between worlds (2014b, 146–49). Effectively, anyone in sff whose body can be read as different in any way often risks being represented as their difference being magical—rather than a systemic part of oppression. The fact is that intersex people, like those with disabled or racialized bodies, are consistently used as examples and anomalies, rather than as people both in and outside of fictive worlds. Annabel is not the only novel to do this; rather, it is part of a larger trend that has been going on for some time in contemporary literature. As a genre all its own, speculative fiction is not immune to these same gendered associations, either. As I have argued elsewhere (Deshane 2017), when transgender and/or intersex people are introduced into a



fantasy environment, the poetic metaphors associated with their identities often become expressed through magic, mayhem, and prophecy— especially in comic books. Trans people still take on liminal roles in speculative fiction, especially when those roles involve becoming bridges from the mundane to fantasy, because their bodies are still assumed to be liminal creations for others to use. In his assessment of Canadian sff, David Ketterer points to several examples of gender-swapped or gender ambiguous characters who also become bridges; indeed, the gender possibilities in Canadian sff seem to be part of its appeal. If Canada’s literature is premised on survival (Atwood 1972, 33) and on alienation (Ketterer 1992, 147), then what better examples are there of people who have survived in spite of alienation than those who are gendered ambiguously? Wayne’s character in Annabel is moving and poignant because of his seemingly never-ending suffering and the unanswerable question about his gender. He is alienated from himself and the world he lives in, like many other quintessential Canadian sff protagonists; Winter’s work bears a remarkable similarity to Élisabeth Vonarburg’s The Silent City (1981), a landmark work in Canadian sff which also embodies gendered alienation that leads to “real” human suffering outside of the fantastic realm (Ketterer 1992, 147). Ketterer sees the mythological figure of Janus as “embod[ying] the mission of SF” in Canada so completely because Janus “stands for duality, ambivalence, and wholeness,” and “with his two faces, one looking back into the past, the other looking forward into the future, Janus” becomes the figurehead at the heart of Canadian sff (Ketterer 1992, 157). Janus is also known as a transgender god-figure, or one which has come to be known in the trans community for its duality, much like the Phoenix, Tiresias, and Loki (Mardollsdottir 2015). Indeed, Winter’s work seems to be taking the next step in Canadian sff to present a fully reworked and more modern Janus at its core, with Wayne as a figure who looks back into his past and at his impossible birth. The resistance to name Wayne as anything fully male or female can be considered reflective of Canada’s national identity as well, especially in relation to Canada’s role in the medical treatment of trans patients. Although the transition process is similar in the US and Canada, Canada has been far more active in opening clinics that provide care to trans people; as of this writing in 2017, Canada has plans to expand treatment options (Bellemare 2017). Furthermore, because it is possible to have surgery funded by the government and the process for changing


documents is easier in some Canadian cities, it can be argued (and I have argued in the past3), that Canada as a whole may be more receptive to trans identity and, more importantly, trans ambiguity. Several of our trans authors are those who are nonbinary: Rae Spoon, Ivan Coyote, S. Bear Bergman, Sassafrass Lowry. These authors effectively do not take a “side” in the gender debate, much like Winter and Wayne, and work toward deconstructing the mandatory rules that come with gender itself, sometimes going so far as to brand themselves as “gender failures” (Spoon and Coyote 2013, 1). As Aren Aizura has also noted, transgender surgery is a trans-national act, especially since it often involves travel to a better surgeon or one that patients can afford, often in another country (2010, 139–43). For those trans people who are also immigrants or from immigrant homes (such as Kai Cheng Thom and Vivek Shraya), the shifting borders of national identity, along with gender identity, often lead to a blurring of the line of truth/fiction in their memoirs, where accessing the purest “truth” is treated as speculative fiction. Canada’s “mosaic” has not only grown accustomed to racial and global diversity, but also to the ambiguities around gender and the gendered body, which then goes on to influence many of the writers in this country. Winter, however, is not writing about transgender surgery or trans identity. She is writing about intersex identity, which regularly fights against forced surgery and medicalization. In spite of the similarity between her work and that of Bergman, Coyote, or Kai Cheng Thom, the same embracing of nonbinary identity cannot apply to Winter’s creation of Wayne mostly because she does not seem to understand the community’s nuance and because she seems to represent the pain of duality, rather than embracing it. Wayne’s rape, his drug use, his mother’s pain, and his father’s silence all point to a deep shame around his ambiguity, rather than someone like Rae Spoon, who treats their4 body as a spaceship in one chapter of their shared work with Ivan Coyote Gender Failure (Spoon and Coyote 2013, 115). For Spoon, the gendered ambiguous body is speculative (the spaceship), meaning it can become anything. By contrast, Wayne’s body is speculative, meaning that it never existed in the first place. Some of these perpetual metaphorical faux pas come down to the fact that many of these authors do not know or have no experience with transgender identity. As Plett remarks, the “gender novel” is about “transition by people who haven’t transitioned;” outsiders looking in on a community of which they are not a part (2015). In this sense, Winter’s lack of genre assertion also leads her work to feel like that of an outsider among both literary and speculative fiction writers. As Robert Runté



remarks, the boundaries between literary and speculative fiction are perhaps less rigid in Canada, since “almost every major figure in Canadian literature has written at least some speculative fiction” (2014, 28). Though the boundaries of Canadian literature and sff can be “less rigid” (Runté 2014, 27–28) and sometimes even “porous” (Deschenes-Pradet 2014, 131), Winter’s book can take no easy side in these genre debates. By not making a decision about genre, what we are left with is a gender ambiguous body that is coded as a monster but without the speculative landscape where the monstrous can be redeemed (Newman-Stille 2014a, 189–91). It means that the transgender and intersex body, as well as the communities of which they are part, cease to become real in Croydon Harbor while the pain that comes with monstrosity remains intact.

Technology of Community In I’ve Got a Time Bomb, Sybil Lamb’s protagonist—Sybil D’Lye5— explores many of the same binaries that Kathleen Winter does in her work. The story starts in the decrepit re-imagined North American city of New Paris and expands across “the Republic of Empires of North Amerika” during “February 282 and January 288” as the protagonist Sybil travels and meets up with people along the way (Lamb 2014, 4). The re-imagined Toronto, a sprawling Great Metropolis “glimmering with a million billion watts of sound and light” (Lamb 2014, 223), contrasts with the novel’s more rural beginning in New Paris. The author thus deconstructs the binaries of country/city, upper/lower classes, along with signaling the precariousness of the future and the past, and gender. Instead of using the transgender body of Sybil D’Lye in which to examine these ideas, however, Lamb shifts her commentary to the landscape and cities between which she travels. Jay Prosser and Aren Aizura have both recognized the transgender travel narrative as a persistent trope within the trans community, especially in texts from the 1970s (Aizura 2010, 139; Prosser 1998, 116). Lamb’s novel falls in line with this travel tradition, especially since it is the re-imagined city of Toronto to which Sybil and her friends migrate at the end of the novel. Sybil’s travel to locations that symbolize gender makes her narrative quintessentially trans, but by resetting this world in an imagined place, Lamb manages to effectively critique the medical institution. Indeed, I’ve Got a Time Bomb (henceforth Time Bomb) is set up as a “record of the rehabilitation” of Sybil, making it an extended


medical case study (Lamb 2014, 1–5). Effectively, the road trip that expands over dark Amerika and new Canadia describes the process of transition, but by making these cities not real, the author makes the surgeons/doctors/therapists who inhabit them supernatural—while preserving the trans people as fully realized beings. For Plett, Lamb’s work is “anarchic and excellent” precisely because it is written by someone who has transitioned. Now, the “horror is real [and it is] way more complicated than you even fucking know about” (Lamb qtd in Plett 2015). Lamb’s real horror is the horror of gendered violence; the entire book is also presented as a hallucination caused by a gay bashing which left Sybil with memory loss and “intermittent Tourette’s-like symptoms, blurts and utterances, racing thoughts or morbid hyper-fixation, and a loss of sense of taste and smell” (Lamb 2014, 1). The horror of her injuries is real, but there is also potential in her symptomatic aftermath. Thus, Lamb imagines the cities where the violence occurred into real-life monsters, renaming them Filthydelphia and Salt Plain City. Lamb’s book also contains a cast of characters who embrace their trans identity as much as they reject the cultural associations that go along with it. Lamb’s character both is and is not the author; the last name of “D’Lye” is an obvious tongue-in-cheek reference to the perceived essential truth at the heart of these trans stories, the “authentic self” that Winter never allows Wayne to let go of entirely (Winter 2010, 71). Lamb also introduces the character Mary Belle, a trans woman whose name is shortened to “Maybe” in several sections. Character names are therefore another way in which Lamb embraces gender ambivalence; Mary Belle used to be someone else and maybe, in the future, she may be someone else as well once again. In order to prevent her trans character from becoming a lone symbol, Lamb also has more than one, allowing her work to pass the “Topside Test.” Similar to the Bechdel test or the Mako Mori, which help writers and audiences screen for diversity, Tom Léger, the owner of Topside Press and Lamb’s publisher, came up with the test in the early days of his publishing house in order to determine what “transgender” stories meant without having to rely solely on authorship. It is as follows: » Does the book include more than one trans character? » Do they know each other? » Do they talk to each other about something besides a transition-related medical procedure? (Léger 2010, 5)



By including more than one trans person in each work, an author gives the audience the idea that there is a community of people, rather than a disconnected series of success stories—or like Wayne, a rare gem in the middle of nowhere; “one in every eighty-three thousand births” (Winter 2010, 50). The focus on the community, rather than on the individual, effectively strips any and all magic from the identity itself. Sybil’s community expands past herself and Maybe, to the other trans women Cake and Sterile. While it is clear that trans people are not mythic in Time Bomb, the technology associated with their identity has changed immensely. Unlike the gender technology used on Wayne, or the focus on progress in Golden Age science fiction stories (Weiss 2014, 20), the medical intervention in Lamb’s world operates on different goals. In the short story “Cybervania,” set in the same universe as Time Bomb, Lamb describes breast implants which can be taken off or changed at will and operated on by those who possess them—or a close friend (2017, 209–12). The technology of the body, rather than the identity category itself, is speculative. What matters is not whether the genitals of the trans or intersex body passes an artificial test—like that in the phallometer—but whether Sterile’s breasts are comfortable to her in “Cybervania” and whether Sybil derives pleasure from her hook-ups in Time Bomb. When the surgeons are gone, the second half of the Topside Test is effortless, and Lamb creates a new imaginative future.

Conclusion In 2017, Casey Plett and Cat Fitzpatrick released Meanwhile, Elsewhere: Science Fiction and Fantasy from Transgender Writers. In the anthology, Lamb’s “Cybervania” demonstrates that trans bodies are very much real, but the usefulness of the technology surrounding them is open to interpretation. Bridget Liang, another Canadian writer, documents the life of a trans zombie, while Cooper Lee Bombardier documents a queer meeting group at the end of the world. But Ryka Aoki’s story “The Gift” (2017) perhaps best articulates the speculative nature of transgender life in fiction; it contains no monsters or mythology, but rather offers a realistic approach to a trans girl coming out and being accepted by her family and friends without much fuss. In Aoki’s scenario, trans identity is real; the estrangement occurs as North American culture is depicted as transphobia-free, thus markedly different from the actual situation, and therefore, speculative. In this chapter, I have documented how fictions that claim to be about gender ambiguous bodies simply use them as symbolic tools,


arguing that these poetic metaphors quickly turn people who possess these gender ambiguous bodies into mere “fantasies” (Plett 2015). By making Wayne Blake the bridge between genders and worlds, Kathleen Winter isolates him and exacerbates the very real divide in the intersex community. Winter is one of many authors who has attempted to write “gender novels” without having transitioned themselves, only to perpetuate a misreading of the trans/intersex as mythological (Plett 2015). By using the Topside Test to establish a strong trans community and exploring the potential of speculative fiction to recreate better worlds, however, it is possible to create a different future for gender ambiguous characters and the real-life communities of which they are a part.

Notes 1. I’ve elected to use the pronouns “he/him” to refer to Wayne, though I acknowledge that doing so could pose interpretation issues regarding his gender identity. As I will document, however, Winter’s eventual lack of a gendered decision has far less to do with Wayne’s identity and far more to do with the metaphors associated with intersex identity. I elect to use “he/ his” for the reader’s clarity. 2. House of Anansi is a Canadian Publisher largely known for literary fiction, not speculative. Though they have a mystery line called Spiderline, it remains their only genre-based imprint. They actively discourage all other genre fiction from their submissions. 3. Most of my dissertation work, currently in progress at Waterloo University, is on the travel narrative present in trans narratives, and many American authors look to Canada as a place “light-years ahead” of them (Nelson 2015, 69). 4. Rae Spoon identifies as nonbinary and prefers the use of nongendered pronouns—such as they/them—to be used when referring to them. 5. Since Lamb’s main character is also named Sybil, I will refer to the author by surname and the character via first name to avoid confusion.

References Admin. 2010. “Kathleen Winter’s Book, ‘Annabel’.” OII – Australia – Intersex Australia, 28 September 2010. Accessed September 12, 2017. https://oii. Aizura, Aren. 2010. “The Persistence of Transgender Travel Narratives.” In Transgender Migrations: The Bodies, Borders, and Politics of Transition, edited by Trystan Cotton, 139–56. Toronto: Routledge.



Aoki, Ryka. 2017. “The Gift.” In Meanwhile, Elsewhere: Science Fiction and Fantasy from Transgender Writers, edited by Casey Plett and Cat Fitzpatrick, 393–405. New York: Topside Press. Atwood, Margaret. 1972. Survival: A Thematic Guide to Canadian Literature. Toronto: House of Anansi. Bellemare, Andrea. 2017. “Women’s College Hospital in Toronto to Offer Genital Transition Surgery.” CBC News, June 28. Accessed September 1, 2017. Deschenes-Pradet, Maude. 2014. “Writing About Invented Places: Ester Rochon’s Archipelago of Vrenalik.” In The Canadian Fantastic in Focus: New Perspectives, edited by Allan Weiss, 131–45. Jefferson: McFarland. Deshane, Evelyn. 2017. “No More Magical Transformations.” Vex Mosaic, March 13. Accessed April 1, 2017. Kaldera, Raven. 2013. “The InterSection.” Accessed September 3, 2017. Ketterer, David. 1992. Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy. Indianapolis: Indiana University Press. Lamb, Sybil. 2014. I’ve Got a Time Bomb. New York: Topside Press. ———. 2017. “Cybervania.” In Meanwhile, Elsewhere: Science Fiction and Fantasy from Transgender Writers, edited by Casey Plett and Cat Fitzpatrick, 192–216. New York: Topside Press. Léger, Tom. 2010. Is There A Transgender Text in This Class? New York: Topside Press. Mardollsdottir, Laine. 2015. “The Lady’s Quill: Queer and Trans Identities in Pagan Mythology.” Patheos, September 24. Accessed September 2, 2017. the-ladys-quill-queer-and-trans-identities-and-pagan-mythology/. Nelson, Maggie. 2015. The Argonauts: A Memoir, 2015. Minneapolis: Graywolf Press. Newman-Stille, Derek. 2014a. “Navigating in the Darkness: Blindness and Vampirism in Tanya Huff’s Blood Books.” In The Canadian Fantastic in Focus: New Perspectives, edited by Allan Weiss, 186–99. Jefferson: McFarland. ———. 2014b. “Speculating Diversity: Nalo Hopkin’s Brown Girl in the Ring and the Use of Speculative Fiction to Disrupt Singular Interpretations of Place.” In The Canadian Fantastic in Focus: New Perspectives, edited by Allan Weiss, 146–58. Jefferson: McFarland. Plett, Casey. 2015. “The Rise of the Gender Novel.” The Walrus, November. Accessed January 2017. Prosser, Jay. 1998. Second Skins: The Body Narratives of Transsexuality. New York: Columbia University Press.

218  E. DESHANE Rubin, Henry. 2003. Self-Made Men: Identity and Embodiment Among Transsexual Men. Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press. Runté, Robert. 2014. “Why I Read Canadian Speculative Fiction.” In The Canadian Fantastic in Focus: New Perspectives, edited by Allan Weiss, 14–33. Jefferson: McFarland. Serano, Julia. 2007. Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity. Berkeley: Seal Press. Spoon, Rae, and Ivan E. Coyote. 2013. Gender Failure. Toronto: Arsenal Pulp Press. Weiss, Allan. 2014. “Introduction.” In The Canadian Fantastic in Focus: New Perspectives, edited by Allan Weiss, 1–13. Jefferson: McFarland. Winter, Kathleen. 2010. Annabel. Toronto: House of Anansi.


Bridging the Species Divide: Technological, Animal, Extraterrestrial, and Posthuman Sentience


A Maelstrom of Replication: Peter Watts’s Glitching Textual Source Codes Ben Eldridge

So from the soil Yahweh God fashioned all the wild animals and all the birds of heaven. These he brought to the man to see what he would call them; each one was to bear the name the man would give it. (Genesis 2:19)

Natural fuels have been exhausted: an era of excess consumption fully desiccating the compressed corpses of the past. Catastrophic climate change has forced a bitter reinscription of national boundaries, with North America now skirted by a border of environmental refugees subsisting on the poisoned excrement of the increasingly desperate and fractious nations from which they are excluded. Rather than curbing the ingestive social profligacy, environmental despoliation by corporations has plumbed new depths. The latest affront occurs off the North American shore, kilometers below the surface of the ocean, where submerged power generators steal geothermal energy from unstable tectonic In memoriam: John Brian Bowes (1929–2017). Taken by the scourge of Alzheimer’s. A man worth remembering. B. Eldridge (*)  University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia © The Author(s) 2019 A. J. Ransom and D. Grace (eds.), Canadian Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror, Studies in Global Science Fiction,



movements and underwater earthquakes. Unimaginable pressure is the only state of existence on the Juan de Fuca Ridge—the geographical bridge between modern-day Canada and the United States. Here, volatility is redefined by both the unrelenting geological activity and the temperament of the (post)human “rifters”—humans retrofitted with genetic and technological improvements—tasked with harnessing nature’s kinetic fury from underwater power stations. But these stratified instabilities will ultimately become secondary concerns, as the oceanic depths prove to harbor an unanticipated surprise—a primitive microbe: βehemoth. For millennia, the microorganism has been imprisoned by its cold saline surrounds, only to be unleashed as the rifters prove to function as effective host cells, with the blood in their bodies providing βehemoth a bridge to wider dissemination. And, unfortunately for humanity, the newly adapted βehemoth will celebrate its freedom by bloodying the earth with the corpses of its present biological carriers: this is apocalypse in the form of an RNA bacterium. Humanity’s drastic containment measures are failing; millions of lives have been sacrificed in an unsuccessful attempt to halt the spread of the contagion, and increasingly desperate holocausts of pre-emptive suppression continue to be insufficient to inhibit the spread. In the near-future world of Peter Watts’s ambitious Rifters trilogy— Starfish (1999), Maelstrom (2001), and ßehemoth (2004a, b)—humanity, it seems, has burned its bridges. Meanwhile, the Internet—redubbed Maelstrom to more accurately reflect its chaotic unpredictability—has come to exist as both electronic and ecological space replete with its own ecosystem of digital life; Maelstrom has effectively ruptured the biocentric fantasy that life will be forever confined to elements arising from organic chemistry. Life itself, we find, is nothing more than an expression of code. Indeed, the artificial and the biological prove to be remarkably similarly coded and equally amenable to infection, with βehemoth far from the only infective agent that contaminates this future. This chapter is concerned with the malleability of contamination, and, indeed, iterations of infection are manifest throughout the trilogy, as life, in all its forms, proves remarkably susceptible to disease. In fact, the pestiferous decay is taken to particularly extreme lengths in Maelstrom’s form: the complex heteroglossia of this novel is perhaps defined by its prevalent glitches, which infect both the discourse and diegesis. This chapter will attempt to traverse the glitching topography of the novel and interrogate the extent to which life itself can be understood as based upon viral inf(l)ection.



Before the infection spreads too far, however, it seems pertinent to clarify what, precisely, is meant by the term virus. After all, “virus” is a word which has a rather convoluted etymological history—ultimately derived from the Latin vīrus, which paradoxically signifies both a poisonous secretion and a discharge of semen—leading Carl Zimmer to reflect on its internal contradiction: “Creation and destruction in one word” (2011, 3). It is only for a little over a century that natural viruses have been made somewhat comprehensible by the natural sciences, and, accordingly, the term itself has attained a greater degree of clarity. Paul Davies provides a succinct description: A virus is simply a strand of DNA or RNA encased in a protein coat. Although viruses store genetic information, they cannot replicate on their own. To do so they invade cells and hijack their reproductive apparatus, adapting it to make more viruses. (2003, 106)

A virus’s unique outsourcing of its reproductive and metabolic methods—and resultant lack of homeostatic autonomy, which, apart ­ from evolutionary possibility, is the most commonly cited requirement for life—problematize any possibility of simple biological categorization. The etymology of the term, then, proves to be rather prescient: viral procreation requires enslavement and destruction of a virus’s unwitting host cells, by definition. This terroristic takeover of the host cell raises difficult questions as to the biological—and ontological—status of the virus. Immunologist Marc H. J. van Regenmortel asserts that “[v]iruses are thus nonliving, infectious agents which can be said, at best, to lead a kind of borrowed life” (2010, 22). Though eminently quotable, van Regenmortel’s assertion serves to obfuscate rather than to clarify: what does it mean for an entity to “borrow” life? The natural virus actually reveals the limitations of life itself, as viruses are neither living nor non-living, but instead reside in a liminal interstice: an unstable bridge between chemistry and life. This is actually a rather staggering admission: life is indefinable, or at the very least, as David Toomey suggests, “any reasonable definition of life is likely to be provisional” (2013, 69). And, moreover, open to serious reconsideration. As an emergent property of non-living things, life does not adhere to arbitrarily imposed borders and exists rather as a persistent process instead of a precise product. Given this makeshift division in the very apprehension of life, Richard Dawkins (2006) was


famously led to argue that life need not even have a biological basis. In his theorization of the composition of non-genetic lifeforms, Dawkins suggests that any type of replicator—such as a meme, which typically functions through cultural transmission—is capable of evolution. Computer viruses provide a perfect exemplar of memetic spread: they are self-copying informational patterns. Digital viruses would appear to be closely aligned with their naturally occurring namesakes, as they spread wildly through susceptible populations, have limited lifespans, and eventually return to dormancy, from which they can later revive to repeat the infection process. However, the digital virus can also replicate in the absence of a host, requiring only sufficient space to replicate and spread, and thus shares traits with the more conventional ­conception of life. Ultimately though, the differences between the two major types of replicating agents (genes and memes) are largely elided by their similarity—both are informational elements reliant on procreation and propagation. The constituent components of the material circulated are but subsidiary concerns—it is the circulatory system of the information that is of significance. Life, then, is nothing but an embodied instantiation of information. Watts’s Rifters trilogy extends Dawkins’s theorization to demonstrate narratively that the medium of this informational embodiment need be neither biological, nor chemical, nor even genetic, to be considered living. Where biological behavior is an expression of selfish genetics, technological behavior is an expression of selfish memetics: Whenever conditions arise in which a new kind of replicator can make copies of itself, the new replicators will tend to take over, and start a new kind of evolution of their own. Once this evolution begins, it will in no necessary sense be subservient to the old. (Dawkins 2006, 194)

Survival, we find, is merely the flourishing of the least inadequate in a given environment; as the digital viruses of the series bridge the divide between biology and technology, it is their hybrid status that can provide them with significant adaptive advantages over their biological predecessors. The liminal status of the digital virus manifests in the verbal violence of Maelstrom, and becomes most apparent in the sections of the novel that take place inside the titular internet, with its codified landscape providing the setting for some striking linguistic glitches. These sections are marked by a peculiar grammatical patterning



that—ostensibly—establishes significant diegetic and discursive alignment. Take the following, wherein the narratorial position and temporal frame are relayed through the grammatical arrangement of the sentence: “400Megs is currently inbreeding with a middling sib whose lineage only diverged a few hundred generations ago” (Watts 2001, 184). The initial auxiliary verb is in singular third-person present form and thus presents the narration as voiced from an exterior perspective; the narration appears as an emanation from an entity detached from the interactions of the fictional world. The temporality is also confirmed: after the present auxiliary verb, the sense of contemporaneity is heightened by the adverb which precedes the present participle form of the main lexical verb. The clause, that is, features a combination of present and present participial verb forms, which creates a grammatically progressive aspect. So, events are expressed as unfolding at the very same time as their narrated description. The combination of apparent third-person narration and present-progressive temporality gives the passage a pseudo-documentary quality: there is a rhetorically constructed objectivity at work here, as if the ongoing action is perceived impartially. The description, then, mirrors a simple act of reported observation, as the grammatical structure ensures that this description is regarded as a distinctly amoral act of surveillance. And yet, this apparent objectivity is undermined by a number of issues: the most obvious of which is the loaded term “inbreeding,” but, equally, the nominal attribution process itself. Donna Haraway provocatively claims that “[l]anguage is not about description, but about commitment” (1991, 214), and we can immediately witness the unfolding of this logic of instantiation as 400Megs—the textual reference attributed to this particular iteration of the computer virus—is specifically personified through language. Essentially, the vocative process of naming ensures that the grammatical subject is transformed into a legitimated nominal subject: the electronic information string is instantiated with an individual identity. As John Frow asserts in his early exploration of the notion of fictional character, “outside of language there is neither self nor desire” (1986, 238), and when 400Megs becomes an anthropomorphized and specific fictional character—through its instantiation in a linguistic medium—it is no longer a nonspecific entity, inseparable from its collective population, but rather a discrete individual, replete with its own base physiological predilections. In short, the grammatical process enacted in the sentence ascribes biological need to an entity previously


devoid of that requirement. The onomastic tactic, then, gives rise to a significant semantic glitch—the previously denotative term “inbreeding” shifts to a connotative frame. Rather than a literal denotative descriptor of close interbreeding across a generic population, the connotation becomes much more disturbing: we are now, effectively, engaging in an act of scopophilia as we scrutinize an individual familial mating process in uncomfortably close proximity. The faux objectivity of the sentence collapses to reveal a disturbing personified pornography. Indeed, this is more than mere erotica; a more visceral description of the copulation occurs slightly further into the same section: All the bits are lining up to be counted. Replication subroutines march down the line like messenger RNA, ready to cut and paste. Chance shuffles the cards, orgasm squirts them hence, and 400Megs injects Lenie Clarke into its cousin. (Watts 2001, 184)

The textual excerpt goes to increasingly overt and hyperbolic lengths in its bridging of the artificial with the biological, culminating in the climactic money shot toward the end of the passage. Such amplified anthropomorphism comes replete with filtration through biology and sensory perception: note the references to natural selection, genetics— importantly, not memetics—and the position of the squirting orgasm, for example. Internet pornography has rarely inspired less arousal. The emphatic literalism of the biological basis of the viral character ultimately results in a very strange moment of post-coital reflection: “By all appearances, just another unremarkable fuck” (Watts 2001, 185). But, if the fuck is unremarkable, the sentence fragment certainly is not. What we have here is yet another grammatical glitch, as the fucking reveals itself to be both literal and figural. There is intercourse between form and content in a quite literal sense: the fragment is entirely agrammatical, with the two verb-less clauses mirroring the semantic content of the fragment, and, rather like the forgettable fornication indicated in the diegesis, there is no action or occurrence worth considering here at the level of discourse. The discursive presentation is also inseminated by the figurative: the fragment, in its very agrammaticality, is an attack on standardized form—the fuck, that is, is drained of its sexual connotations and instead represents a concerted attack on standard grammar. But the fragment is yet to fully discharge its infective polysemous payload, with its glitching fluctuation between figural and literal implications further fertilizing its



diegetic content. On a semantic level, the sexual comparison functions literally, as physical intercourse is explicitly detailed. But the analogy also retains its metaphorical status, as, in actuality, the coitus is a proliferation of code—a non-physical exchange and copying of information. In its transgression of multiple boundaries, the deformed sentence fragment destabilizes the possibility of clear divisions and provides an instance of human language being harnessed by the radically inhuman in a fascinating copular display. Given the series’s concern with the limitations of life, it is significant that the grammatical patterning amplifies the biological elements in the representation of the digital mating process. One of the effects of this textual arrangement, then, is to undermine the “biological essentialism” (Turkle 2011, 170) that persistently presents the impossibility of perceiving the artificial as capable of truly living. Electronic life, in Watts’s construction, becomes life, full stop. The bridge between life and “artificial life” is burned down, as Watts explicitly rejects the anthropocentric glitch that continues to promulgate humanity’s supposed superiority. Clare Wall suggests that Watts’s collapse of the biological and the technological in the series “emphasiz[es] the active force that spacial conditions have on the development of individual subjects” (2015, 68). We can see this at work, not just in the more strictly biological sense to which she is referring, but also through the evolution of the computer virus across the course of Maelstrom and the remainder of the series. It is frequently overlooked that there is a materiality to the digital, with binary code existing within a physical architecture, which is governed by the harnessing of electrical current. The instruction set of machine code is, ultimately, a simple exercise—currents are either on, or off. Program complexity is an increasingly intricate layering of these basic elements. The biological and the electronic are no different in following their blueprints through to complexity: this is precisely how the instructions embedded in deoxyribonucleic acid function to create genetic material. Douglas Hofstadter even cautiously claims that “[l]ooking at a program written in machine language is vaguely comparable to looking at a DNA molecule atom by atom” (1980, 296). Dawkins takes a much more forceful position and, throwing caution to the wind, declares that “genetics has become a branch of information technology. It’s pure information. It’s digital information” (Dawkins et al. 2016, 192). Indeed, the infective potentiality of the natural virus displays a remarkable affinity with the human species as a whole; we also colonize


and reshape our environments to increase our ability to proliferate. The major difference is that humans do so to the point of the destruction of the original host environment. We are, after all, living in the time of the Anthropocene, in which human activity has become the dominant influence on climate and the environment. In fact, in terms of pure biology, as Dawkins observes: The point of comparing rebel human DNA with invading parasitic viruses is that there really isn’t any important difference between them. Viruses may well, indeed, have originated as collections of breakaway genes. (2006, 247)

It may well be that natural viruses mark the most significant stage of development in all evolutionary history, particularly for complex multicellular life, such as Homo sapiens. The alignment of the human with the viral is surely not misplaced in the context of the Rifters trilogy. It is not difficult to suggest that the spread of the viruses through Maelstrom is analogous to the spread of humanity throughout its colonized territories. And just as the virus finds itself individuated in the naming process within Maelstrom, so does each individual nation in the increasingly globalized world: the setting of the series on the geological borderline between the United States of America and Canada is certainly not incidental. Despite the fact that nations are little more than politicized “narratives of cohesion” (Giles 2002, 7), the constitution of national boundaries has an increasingly fractious political import. But where the limits of nation-states are clearly arbitrary, there does exist a geographic reality that physically divides the constituent elements of the globe. Throughout Watts’s series, the North American Pacific region is little more than a subsidiary of dominant Asian powers: Vancouver has given way to “Hongcouver” (Watts 1999, 183). The internal geopolitical landscape has undergone a further radical split: Canada as a unified entity no longer exists—the two solitudes have become literal. “Sovereign Québec” (Watts 2001, 341) has long since separated, and—due to topographical advantages which enable the provision of large-scale energy stability, and its intimated systemic slaughter of large swathes of the indigenous population in search of increased landholdings—has become a global financial powerhouse. We find that both politics and history are malleable in deference to the almighty dollar; international borderlines have been irremediably shifted, in a manner



which, while still based on nationalistic and capitalistic fictions, relies to a much greater degree on pure geography. Unfortunately, the apparent stability of large-scale hubs of human civilization is entirely at the mercy of the unstable natural constitution of the environment. An appreciation of long-term change is a biological impossibility for our species, and has resulted in active participation in our own destruction (and that of the natural world that supported our inhabitation). Watts’s series necessitates a toppling of the human from its self-(pro)claimed pedestal and acts as an indictment of the longstanding artificial division between the human and natural worlds; a divide which has been exponentially exacerbated by the fantastical neoliberal doctrine of perpetual growth that designates the natural world as an externality. Nevertheless, perhaps it was always inevitable that the world would turn against us: Cascadia. Nobody says it aloud. Nobody has to. One day, five hundred years ago, the Juan de Fuca Plate developed an attitude. It got tired of being endlessly ground under North America’s heel. So it just stopped sliding, hung on by its fingernails, and dared the rest of the world to shake it free. So far the rest of the world hasn’t been able to. But the pressure’s been building now for half a millennium. It’s only a matter of time. (Watts 1999, 252)

The initial—singular—emphasis in the passage is a reference to the Cascadia subduction zone, more commonly known as the Cascadia fault. This geological area is a destructive plate boundary (which divides the Juan de Fuca and North American Tectonic Plates) that extends over 1000 kilometers, from Vancouver to California; destructive plate boundaries are so-named due to their high frequency and intensity seismic and volcanic events. If a high category seismic event were to occur along the entirety of the fault line, the devastation would be catastrophic, almost apocalyptic. The stuttering of the text that opens the passage mirrors the grinding geographical process to which it alludes; individual sentence fragments do not retain their grammatical integrity, but are rather formed through tectonic shifting. Each relies on its predecessor for its respective grammatical subject, much as the ostensible boundaries of the plates impinge upon one another. Ultimately, nature loses its dispassionate stance, sullenly personified as responding to its geological ill-treatment. And this is a level of mistreatment that has previously manifested


in similar terms in perhaps the most famous piece of dystopian literature produced in the twentieth century: “If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face, forever” (Orwell [1949] 2008, 280). The glitching that aligns the natural shifting of the earth with Orwell’s literary interrogation of totalitarian state power conflates the natural world with the political one; in addition to their literal geographical references, the words take on a symbolic political coding. The North American Plate is here made synecdochical with the United States of America; the dominant global hegemon, enforcing its own “democratizing” project on a frequently unwilling world. The Juan de Fuca Plate has had enough, but we find that submission is inevitable. The extraction of that submission will, however, come at a massive price, and both a physical and political reshuffling of the globe will be the endpoint. One of the most unsettling things about Watts’s texts, then, is that despite their overtly fantastical quality, they prove to propel themselves beyond the realm of implausibility and veer into a form of seemingly inevitable verisimilitude through the sheer weight of logical extrapolation. Watts’s growing literary reputation precedes him: if his name is recognized at all, Watts drolly suggests, he is known as “The Guy Who Writes The Depressing Stories” (2013, 217). Though the extent of his weaponization of logic is a distinctively Wattsian trait, it finds precedent in the obsessions of both the “hard science fiction” genre, and longstanding Canadian literary field, in both of which Watts exists somewhat peripherally. Canada’s literary output has become inflected with its own noticeably idiosyncratic tendencies, the most prevalent theme of which is, simply, perseverance. A subsidiary element of which is (political) autonomy; as Watts himself somewhat facetiously claims, the Canadian character can be defined as one of opposition: “We aren’t Americans; in fact one of the few things we agree upon is that we don’t want to be” (1997, 18). The difficult and impartial landscape of Canada—and its relationship with its southern neighbour—seems to have had a marked effect on Canadian artistic output: survival is an attenuated endpoint; many texts manifest an ongoing struggle against entropy. It is no wonder that the writers of the fantastic, broadly defined, have taken such firm root in this soil—it is the soil itself that is both literal and metaphorical antagonist. Watts merely carries these concerns to their distressingly final endpoint. The interrogation of the boundaries of life—as enacted perhaps most forcibly in Maelstrom—in which the biological is refracted through the technological, results in the outright collapse of an anthropocentric



worldview. Like all our living brethren, we are in an egocentric fight for survival: the next feed in service of the next fuck to propagate our genetic material. There are neither excuses, nor delicacy: all human behavior is an expression of pure biology. And, if the virus constitutes such an important piece of biological evolution, it stands to reason that the virus form could have a similar impact on the digital information sphere. From the surface, the difference between memetic and genetic spread simply does not matter. Quite outside of its science fictional framework, then, we can see the truly disconcerting thing about Watts’s oeuvre: its dedication to a realistic interrogation of the modern age and humanity’s tenuous position within that space. After all, as Susan Stewart reminds us: “[r]ealistic genres do not mirror everyday life; they mirror its hierarchization of information” (1993, 26). In our contemporary world of information overload, when digital and biological are revealed as equivalent, Watts unveils the fallacy of humanity’s self-proclaimed centrality with clinical precision. In fact, the original ending of Starfish—the first book of what was to become the Rifters trilogy—struck a markedly more Wattsian tone: “Lenie Clarke, survivor, mermaid of the apocalypse in ways she doesn’t begin to understand, lies bleeding on the rocks. βehemoth, free at last, kisses the soil” (Watts n.d., unpublished manuscript). It seems more in keeping with Watts’s bleakness: Lenie— dead by the final line—is the original vector for the mainland release of βehemoth, and, accordingly, the unwitting architect of the apocalypse. Something will survive, it just won’t be us. Our creations are almost certainly assured to outlast the last semblances of humanity. The computer viruses in Maelstrom—presumably originally programmed to serve the biddings of its creators—have begun to conceive of selfhood, and hence identity. Paul de Man has suggested that “[b]eing and identity are the result of a resemblance which is not in things but posited by an act of the mind which, as such, can only be verbal” (1996, 45). Identity, that is, is a linguistic epiphenomenon. The section in which the computer virus is initially introduced in Maelstrom provides a demonstration of this reliance on language to constitute narrative selfhood: Replication is not all that matters. 94 sees that now. There’s a purpose beyond mere procreation, a purpose attained perhaps once in a million generations. Replication is only a tool, a way to hold out until that glorious moment arrives. For how long have means and end been confused in this way? 94 cannot tell. Its generation counter doesn’t go up that far.

232  B. ELDRIDGE But for the first time within living memory, it has met the right kind of operating system. There’s a matrix here, a two-dimensional array containing spatial information. Symbols, code, abstract electronic impulses—all can be projected onto this grid. The matrix awakens something deep inside 94, something ancient, something that has somehow retained its integrity after uncounted generations of natural selection. The matrix calls, and 94 unfurls a profusely-illustrated banner unseen since the dawn of time itself. (Watts 2001, 36)

Before a consideration of the purported teleological end of the virus, attention must be drawn to the linguistic act of self-constitution that results from glitches in the narration, as the narration morphs into free indirect discourse. Free indirect discourse is a kind of polyvocal technique in which third-person narration is effectively filtered through the personalized narration of a fictional character. Multiple voices can be observed impacting, or performing, the narration. Typically, free indirect discourse occurs when an omniscient third-person narrator speaks through a character in a kind of refraction; the narrator adopts the verbal and/or mental patterns of the character in focus. This focalization generally provides increased affective insight into the focalized entity. This is certainly an element in play in this instance, but there’s also a more complex accumulation of effects throughout passage. If we return to the opening sentence, “Replication is not all that matters” (Watts 2001, 36), an explicit reversal of the earlier “Replication is all that matters” (33), the adverb represents a moment of anagnorisis—a shocking recognition that marks a shift from ignorance to, in this instance partial, knowledge. This recognition is evidently made by the virus itself, whose voice has filtered into the narrating space. This is free indirect discourse writ large, emphasized by the adverb’s semantic impact and its italicized typesetting. The entire passage is, then, a response to this initial moment of recognition. We can see that the hyperbole in this passage is exorbitantly extravagant: glorious moments and ancient awakenings that have been immemorially unseen. This was also something that defined the first passage we considered in this chapter, but now we can observe that such exaggeration is actually typical of the viral perspective—it is actually the virus that aggrandizes its own existence as both individual and biological entity. Ultimately, the viruses in Maelstrom take their signifiers from the amount of data of which they are constituted and are always seeking ways to spread through the network to claim more digital territory. James Paxson suggests that it is absolutely critical “which names are given



to personification figures, but also how and when these names are given” (Paxson 1994, 124). So, not only is the denomination given to the virus a reflection of its relative sophistication, we discover that the name is both self-designated and given at a time of growing self-awareness. We are, literally, watching life come into consciousness and reflect upon its own existence. So what is this ultimate viral goal that has retained its integrity over untold generations? Before the revelation, it bears repeating that the moment of anagnorisis was the virus’s recognition that duplication is not a thing of sole existential import. The raison d’être of the virus is as follows: XXX FOLLOW POINTER TO XXX FREE HARDCORE BONDAGE SITE THOUSANDS OF HOT SIMS BDSM NECRO WATERSPORTS PEDOSNUFF XXX MUST BE 11 TO ENTER XXX

(Watts 2001, 37) Look beyond the depraved sexual content of the banner and the irony is palpable. The self-amplification of the biological credentials of the virus is dryly reinforced by its genetic ancestry as an auto-generating piece of spam. The means of replication have served the end of promoting taboo (and illegal) libidinal fetishes: sex promotes sex. We find that later iterations of the virus’s proclamation experience some surface distortion: XXX FREE HARDCORE XXX BoNDAGE SI22 THOUS NDS OF HOT S MS BDSM NECRO WATERSporTS PEDOsNUFF XXX mu34.03 11 TO ENTER XXX

(Watts 2001, 40) The inbreeding clearly leaves its mark: transcription errors abound in the expression of the genetic material of the virus on an observable level. If


the prior self-aggrandizement of the virus did not leave questions as to its narratorial reliability, these textual errors provide an additional pause for concern. But appearance matters not—replication of surface materials is irrelevant—it is the deeper code which is of significance. Here, then, the irony is multi-layered: the doubly corrupted sexual proclamation is also reflective of the pornographic impetus that drives all narrative consumption. Readers of Maelstrom are forced, in the face of distressing material, to confront their own narrative desires—the desire for action, for explication, for closure—and repeatedly have their association of literature and leisure forcibly challenged. Michele Braun suggests in her contribution to this volume that “the density of [Watts’s] scientifically-­ inflected philosophy can be off-putting to the casual reader” (Braun, 2019, 80). And, while Braun is undoubtedly correct, the aversion of mass audiences to Watts’s fiction also has much to do with his fiction’s violently antagonistic rejection of easily consumable outcomes. This is one of the most disturbing aspects of Maelstrom and Watts’s oeuvre more generally: a commitment to systemically strip every complex element to its base atomic structure. Frail human beliefs and exceptions are exposed for the fantasies and illusions that they are, and our immortality is challenged: Maybe people would change from the inside out, the old breed gone, replaced by something that looked the same but acted better. Maybe it was about fucking time. (Watts 2004b, 243)

Human consciousness is perhaps the ultimate evolutionary misfire, and its epiphenomenon of narration—the post-mortem arrangement of unconscious selections of occurrences into teleological form— is our brain’s glitchy attempt to provide an orgasmic experience of meaning. The ultimate irony of Watts’s textual production is that its very fabric—language—is the thing that finds itself under attack. The entirety of human epistemology is based on a similarly violent slippage: language both defines and is defined by us. And natural language is, without exaggeration, the defining characteristic of the human species. Our communicative existence underlies the organization of the entire social strata, and is responsible for our entire epistemological frame. James J. Bono argues that “[a]t some fundamental level, linguistic tropes—literary and scientific—belong to language, not to individuals” (1990, 66). Now, of course, fiction is always an



animation of textual figments: “fiction has no material referent,” reflects Susan Stewart (1993, 20). On a more basic level, however, language has no inherent truth-value; it is a medium for communication that is inherently narrative, in design and function. What Watts’s textual output provides is a mirror: his texts brutally interrogate the glitch that is the entire linguistic system. I opened this chapter with a claim that understandings of life cannot be forever confined to elements arising from organic chemistry. This is nowhere more evident than in the element that constitutes the entirety of Watts’s experimental text, though its ubiquity masks its incredible oddity: language itself. The meaning arising from human language is, after all, derived from entirely arbitrary components. The smallest linguistic elements (phonemes), unintelligible in isolation, can—astonishingly—combine to create units of meaning (words). This duality of patterning—explained by R. L. Trask as “the use of a small number of meaningless elements in combination to produce a large number of meaningful elements” (2004, 3)—is the major difference between human language and the language of our other biological brethren. Evidently, though, if the smallest components are arbitrary, then the larger units must be arbitrary as well. The referential tension of minute elements is fractal: the linguistic system is identically unmotivated at every level of observation. Therefore, language has no inherent truth-value; it is a medium for communication that is inherently (op)positional. As a representational medium, responsible for the transmission of information, language is not even a reflection of reality, but merely a mediation of the real. The linguistic medium is one that is deliberately constructed, or, as Friedrich Nietzsche so astutely observes, “[w]hat is usually called language is actually all figuration” (2000, 25); language itself is an empty pattern—nothing but a method of interaction, a method of interchange that allows continuous communicative functionality. In the end, we are already dealing with artificial life, and have been for millennia: the human technology of language itself is nothing if not alive. Watts’s collapse of the anthropocentric glitch—through a direct alignment of the technological and the biological—may just be the only vaccine for continued survival. Humanity is being inoculated against its own narcissistic conceit. It is through the memetic virus of language that something of ours may survive, and flourish.


References Bono, James J. 1990. “Science, Discourse, and Literature: The Role/Rule of Metaphor in Science.” In Literature and Science, edited by Stuart Peterfreund, 59–89. Boston: Northeastern University Press. Braun, Michele. 2019. “Two Solitudes, Two Cultures: Building and Burning Bridges in Peter Watts’s Novels.” In Bridging the Solitudes: Essays in Canadian Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror, edited by Amy J. Ransom and Dominick Grace, 67–82. London: Palgrave Macmillan. Davies, Paul. 2003. The Origin of Life. London: Penguin Books. Dawkins, Richard. 2006. The Selfish Gene, 30th Anniversary Edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Dawkins, Richard, J. Craig Venter, and John Brockman. 2016. “The GeneCentric View: A Conversation.” In Life, edited by John Brockman, 189–212. New York: Harper Perennial. de Man, Paul. 1996. Aesthetic Ideology. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Frow, John. 1986. “Spectacle, Binding: On Character.” Poetics Today 7 (2): 227–50. Giles, Paul. 2002. Virtual Americas. Durham: Duke University Press. Haraway, Donna J. 1991. Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. New York: Routledge. Hofstadter, Douglas R. 1980. Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid. Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin Books. Nietzsche, Friedrich. 2000. Friedrich Nietzsche on Rhetoric and Language. Translated and edited by Sander L. Gilman, Carole Blair and David J. Parent. New York: Oxford University Press. Orwell, George. [1949] 2008. Nineteen Eighty-Four. London: Penguin Books. Paxson, James. 1994. The Poetics of Personification. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Stewart, Susan. 1993. On Longing. Durham: Duke University Press. Toomey, David. 2013. Weird Life. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. Trask, R. L. 2004. Language: The Basics, 2nd ed. New York: Routledge. Turkle, Sherry. 2011. Life on Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet. New York: Simon & Schuster. van Regenmortel, Marc H. V. 2010. “Nature of Viruses.” In Desk Encyclopedia of General Virology, edited by Brian W. J. Mahy and Marc H. V. van Regenmortel, 19–22. Oxford: Academic Press. Wall, Clare. 2015. “Here Be Monsters: Posthuman Adaptation and Subjectivity in Peter Watts’ Starfish.” In The Canadian Fantastic in Focus: New Perspectives, edited by Allan Weiss, 67–80. Jefferson: McFarland.



Watts, Peter. 1997. “Reluctant Praise.” On Spec 9 (1) (Spring): 17–19. ———. n.d. “Starfish Original Ending.” Unpublished Manuscript, Received November 17, 2017. Microsoft Word file. ———. 1999. Starfish. New York: Tor Publishing. ———. 2001. Maelstrom. New York: Tor Publishing. ———. 2004a. βehemoth: β-Max. New York: Tor Publishing. ———. 2004b. βehemoth: Seppuku. New York: Tor Publishing. ———. 2013. Beyond the Rift. San Francisco: Tachyon Publications. Zimmer, Carl. 2011. A Planet of Viruses. Chicago: Chicago University Press.


The Missing Link: Bridging the Species Divide in Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam Trilogy Dunja M. Mohr

“In this city of bridges where all comers belong” —Anon., June 20171

As one of Canada’s most prominent mainstream writers with regular dips into the realm of speculative fiction, Margaret Atwood has repeatedly challenged the generic divide between utopia and dystopia in her fictional as well as in her non-fictional writing. Generally, she has demonstrated a keen interest in subversively undermining generic attributions and in merging genres, hybridizing intertexts in palimpsestic ways.2 Many critics (e.g. Malak 1987; Ketterer 1989) have classified Atwood’s famous The Handmaid’s Tale (1985), the winner of the prestigious Arthur C. Clarke Award for Science Fiction in 1987, as a classical if patriarchal or feminist dystopia, depending on the critic’s terminological preferences. Classifications are, however, by nature unstable and admittedly highly subjective. Recently, The Handmaid’s Tale has been reinterpreted as a political allegory of twenty-first-century political developments, (re)surging D. M. Mohr (*)  University of Erfurt, Erfurt, Germany © The Author(s) 2019 A. J. Ransom and D. Grace (eds.), Canadian Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror, Studies in Global Science Fiction,


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to a chilling, almost prophetical, status in the new political climate in the US with the multi-Emmy and Golden Globe award-winning Hulu TV series adaptation (2017–), gaining a new fan following including admonitory dress-ups in Handmaiden gowns. In Scraps of the Untainted Sky Tom Moylan somewhat inconsistently rates Atwood’s novel as “one of the last ‘classical’ dystopias” (2000, 105), only to then concede that it is a “challenge to the classical dystopia” (2000, 163) in that “Atwood seems to be pushing the classical form to its limits” (2000, 164). He concludes that, ultimately, the novel “remains a ‘classical’ dystopia in its overall structure and tone” (Moylan 2000, 166). Similarly, Atwood’s MaddAddam trilogy (2003–2013) has widely been read as a dystopian narrative, one that perhaps “swerves” from “classic dystopian fiction” (Barzilai 2013, 100), or it has been labeled as “postapocalyptic SF” (Casali 2012, 305).3 Atwood herself contests such literary taxonomies, in particular, those that attach the science fiction label to her work, insisting that she writes “speculative fiction” (2011, 6)—another much contested and fuzzy term—in the tradition of Jules Verne. Similar to Judith Merril,4 Atwood understands speculative fiction as exploring a potential social and scientific “what if” (future) reality that involves some technological features but primarily highlights technology’s and science’s repercussions on human (and nonhuman) social developments and the environment. For Atwood, speculative fiction contains a strong element of probability and must therefore be seen as clearly separate from escapist and potentially improbable sf, a fragile notion that risks the retrospective redefinition of works as “science fiction if their at-one-point possible futures do not become reality” (Oziewicz 2016) and, moreover, a notion that intrinsically ties fiction to a reality check in hindsight. Atwood’s resistance to clear-cut labels is captured by the generic term “ustopia” she has coined to address the intricate generic interweaving that she employs in her work. Clearly indicating the integration of utopian elements into dystopian narratives—“each contains a latent version of the other” (Atwood 2011, 66)—“ustopia” could prove to be the more appropriate term for narrations of a fuzzier, almost bipolar future decidedly resisting binaries. Over and above, the term ustopia seeks to offer a taxonomy that literally bridges the much debated generic divide, visibly as well as phonetically highlighting the interactions between and the repercussions of the best and the worst of (future) worlds.5 Importantly, ustopia thus draws our attention to the necessity to include multiple perspectives, various ways of reading(s), and the diversity of actants. Historically, such a multilateral or more consensual perspective has not been part of the cultural and national self-image of the postcolonial



Canadian settler nation preoccupied with Roughing It in the Bush (1852), as Susanna Moodie’s pioneer text encapsulates so well. Locked in what Northrop Frye famously called the “garrison mentality” in The Bush Garden (1971), Canada is a nation so obsessed with survival in an adversarial wilderness that its poetry of the time represents nature as “consistently sinister and menacing” (Frye 1943, 37). In Atwood’s words, in Canadian literature “nature the monster” becomes “alive and actively hostile towards man” (1972, 62; my emphasis). The twentieth-century Canadian literary landscape and Canadian politics have been dominated by a number of fetishized myths, particularly that of the two founding nations—captured in Hugh MacLennan’s classic Canadian family saga Two Solitudes (1945)—and that of the Canadian mosaic (and to a certain extent that of multiculturalism). Asked why he did not set his book in Canada, the character Paul Tallard replies in Two Solitudes, “A book about Canada – it would be like writing of the past century!” (MacLennan 1989, 364). For Paul, Canada is a virgin and juvenile country deeply entrenched in its European heritage and parentage: “Canada was imitative of everything […] a country that no one knew […] a Canadian book would have to take its place in the English and French traditions […] while Canada herself was still raw” (365).6 MacLennan’s novel vividly illustrates Canada’s emblematic cultural harking back to the historical legacy of France and Britain, the obliteration of the First Nations’ heritage, and the initial failure to mentally, and thus culturally, adapt to the “new” country and its different environments: “Their home was the English section of Montréal; as a result of what everyone told them, their country was not Canada but the British Empire” (232). The Canadian experience, the perception of nature, its architecture and paintings, Paul complains, strives to recreate Europe on the new continent in the failed attempt to turn Canada into a copy of France and Britain: “Why was a building beautiful in Europe when an exact copy of it was ugly here?” (233). Essentially, Two Solitudes narrates an early twentieth-century story of duality deeply grounded in a colonial settler nation’s historical self-narration of place and origin, of two separate peoples isolated in a game of dominance. The novel’s epigraph, “Love consists in this, / that two solitudes protect, / and touch, and greet each other,” taken from Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet (1929) and originally defining an ideal of love, thus contextualizes and problematizes the title of MacLennan’s novel. Rilke’s advice to a young poet about the future potential of a transformed egalitarian love relationship between

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man and woman as one of two human beings in their own right implores a utopian perspective of reconciliation for the two Founding Nations within MacLennan’s contemporaneous (rather dystopian) Canadian setting.7 Instead, MacLennan’s literary metamorphosis of Rilke’s “two solitudes” has rather become a byword for the considerable strains between French and English Canadians, “the unbridgeable gulf between the two peoples” (Besner 1992, 12), and has been discarded for its narrowing down of the fictional cultural-historical lens to the settler nations, excluding the First Nations. If we understand literary and cultural productions as a cultural, moral, and psychological reflection and as collective, as well as individual guidance, we need to question the offered fictionalized versions of the past, the explorations of the present(s), and the extrapolations of the impending future(s). “In Canada,” Neil Besner writes in his analysis of postmodern Canadian fiction of the 1980s, “the imperative [was up to the 1960s] that our literature define Canada’s condition, name us, explain us, map out time and place […] in response to the deep uncertainty implicit in the very idea of Canada” (1992, 9). Reflecting on the literary critical ­tradition of Frye (and Atwood), Besner diagnoses a “distinctively Canadian preoccupation with an absent past” (1992, 10) as well as a persisting definitional struggle against the US, but he observes a decidedly (late) twentieth century turn to the “complex, fragmented, densely layered labyrinth” (11) of the postmodern (Canadian) condition. In a similar vein, Linda Hutcheon and Marion Richmond address Canada’s then still often obscured multicultural and multiracial societal reality and the blurred literary/cultural representation thereof in their collection of so-called minority writing, Other Solitudes (1990), its title challenging the bicultural “predecessor” (albeit thus still presupposing and acknowledging the persistence of an exclusive binary cultural norm).8 In her introduction, Hutcheon argues for a substantial revision of the engrained view of two Canadian literatures, French and Anglophone, stressing that “the cultural richness that immigration has brought to this country has changed forever our concept of what constitutes ‘Canadian literature’” (1990, 6). Similarly, the ongoing search for “the Canadian identity” which “doesn’t really exist,” as Atwood satirizes, and must therefore necessarily remain “a phantom” (Atwood 1995, 7), describes a fictional ideal of singularity—charged with capturing a vast country with a diverse population—that must fail. Critical of the establishment of an exclusory Canadian national literary canon, the late twentieth century’s call for the



inclusion of minority authors and Native Canadians has expanded to the twenty-first century’s recognition of a more inter-American perspective,9 a Canadian poetics that pushes toward the postnational (and a machine world),10 and the more general literary turn toward ecology, critical animal studies, and critical posthumanism. Where Hutcheon’s emphasis on the importance of “the images we create and the stories we tell in our sense of identity” (1990, 1) aims at the inclusion of other human perspectives beyond the bicultural divide, Atwood’s speculative fiction extends this narrative call to a postanthropocentric view, the necessity to give a voice and narrative space to the nonhuman and the environment. It is against this CanLit and cultural background that Atwood’s MaddAddam trilogy reimagines the postanthropocentric (post)human, nonhuman animal, and environmental relationship. While Atwood’s earlier work admittedly exploits an extensive dualism—positioning in particular technology against nature, the dominant US against a victimized Canada, and duplicating female characters with mirror images11—negotiations of the spaces in-between, the exploration of multifarious bridging elements, characterize the ustopian MaddAddam trilogy.12 While MacLennan’s novel and Atwood’s own Survival (1972) narrate a twentieth-century story of duality grounded in a settler nation’s self-narration of place and origin, the trilogy reworks these binarisms and retells the Canadian settler narrative from a twenty-first-century speculative fiction perspective that clearly moves beyond the two solitudes myth and the Canadian mosaic metaphor, extending the “central symbol for Canada […] survival, la Survivance” (Atwood 1972, 32), to a planetary level that includes more than just the human species and moves from multiculturalism to interculturalism and interspeciesism, and from social, species, and ecological injustice to a “multispecies justice” (Heise 2015).13 Following a postnational and postanthropocentric impetus, Atwood refocuses the Canadian narrative speculative lens and points to two possible futures. Consequently, the dystopian strand of the trilogy stresses neither an English/French nor a national divide but a class segregation, redefining the cultural division along capitalist consumerist lines exemplified by profitable science and literally worthless, because unproductive in the sense of non-capitalizing, humanities. Reversing the Canadian adversarial nature myth, humans become monsters actively hostile against nature. The forceful biotechnological hybridization of species—reminiscent of Dr. Moreau’s painful vivisections of the Beast People in H. G. Wells’s The Island of Dr Moreau (1896)—geared at maximizing profits materially

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demonstrates hubristic human claims of superiority. Rejecting the notion that humans are part of and intricately connected to the world, and that all actions within this web eventually reverberate on one another and, hence, on us, the dystopian society of the MaddAddam trilogy adheres not only to the illusory paired coding concept of the two divorced solitudes of human culture and subjected nature, but also to the belief that we can step out of and beyond this system into an inhuman non-natural world of biotechnological making. According to Atwood, the uncontrolled engineered transformation of nature and the persistent denial of interdependencies, of rejecting the notion of humans as part of nature and part of the animal world, will result either in the entire destruction of the planet or in a postapocalyptic reboot. Where contemporary ecologists warn that the future of a climate-changed and poisoned earth will happen without us, the future survival in MaddAddam lies in a wilful move beyond nationalities and speciesism and in bridging the human– animal and culture–nature divide. Accordingly, the first two books’ speculation about our “future one”—Snowman’s/Jimmy’s male account of dominance and scientific hubris in Oryx and Crake (2003) and Toby’s and Ren’s female counter-narratives of (sexual) victimization and (religious) e­cological mindfulness and resistance in The Year of the Flood (2009)—offers in ­ retrospect the predominantly preapocalyptic dystopian perspective of a deeply riven society segregated into socio-economic compartments. This neoliberal postnational society is run by global corporate players that biogenetically transfigure animals, the environment, and human genes. Effectively, all matter—things, humans, animals—is manipulated and commodified to maximize profits as humanity hovers on the brink of ecocide. Scientists pragmatically tamper with all life forms, arguing “It’s just proteins […]. There’s nothing sacred about cells and tissue” (Atwood 2004, 65), adapting plants and animals for human needs. The scientific production ranges from biogenetically pre-selected designer babies (Perfectababes), various medical supplements, cosmetic surgery, and pills for or against anything, to ersatz meat, e.g. the canned “Sveltana No-Meat Cocktail Sausages” (Atwood 2004, 4) or the appallingly headless “bulblike object[s]” (Atwood 2004, 237), the transgenic “ChickieNobs Nubbin” chicken. Other genetically recombined animal hybrid crossbreeds include glowing rabbits, spoats and giders (goat/spider), or the predatory liobams (lion/lamb). Three projects involve the hybridization of humans and animals in different degrees: one involves



transgenic sheep with human hair (Mo’hairs) for beauty purposes, such as hair extensions and transplants; another grafts the human neocortex on pigs (these intelligent transgenic “Pigoons” are used as organ banks); and the third bioengineers posthumans by introducing animal genes into the human genome. As much as these hybrids exemplify exploitation and objectification, they also embody an essential relationality: “It [the Mo’Hair] thought she [Toby] was a relative” (Atwood 2013, 30). The misanthropic genius scientist Crake seeks to edit out certain aspects of what he (wrongly) believes to be solely a part of the human genetic text: the human propensity for violence, triggered by religion, art, and romantic love. For him, symbolic thinking and desire are the two originary human key elements that drive human violence and dominance. Consequently, he seeks to partially reanimalize the human species to a (prelapsarian) early hominid stage, adapting the (prehuman) posthuman Crakers to non-violent survival strategies in order to achieve a rehumanization in a postanthropocentric ethical sense that defines humanity as one animality among others. In this thinly veiled extrapolation of the current Western status quo, overpopulation, overconsumption, excessive consumerism, widespread pollution, climate change, hypermaterialism, unfettered bioengineering, and the open or covert brutalization of society eventually culminate in a cataclysmic event affecting the whole planet. To save the planet from the “giant [human] slug eating its way relentlessly through all the other bioforms on the planet” (Atwood 2004, 285), the nerdy and socially inept Crake clandestinely bioengineers a pandemic virus, the “Waterless Flood,” to kill off humans and their destructive civilization, intending the herbivorous and peaceloving Crakers to repopulate the ruined Garden of Eden and thus allow nature to gradually recover from all the human-made material “rubble” (Atwood 2004, 3). Indeed, after the apocalyptic pandemic, nature adapts and reclaims the derelict objects of human civilization, overgrowing ruins, the ocean washing over “tower blocks,” rivers “semi-flood[ing] […] townhouses” (Atwood 2004, 174), “broken kitchen windows [are] invaded by the probing green snoutlets of vines,” and “[t]ermites mining through the rafters” (Atwood 2013, 31). The relative irrelevance of human e­ xistence for the planet is a recurrent theme particularly in the third book: “[n]othing in the material world died when the people did” (Atwood 2013, 33), as Toby muses. Oblivious to human notions of possession, “physical objects have shucked their tethers – Mine, yours, His, Hers – and have

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gone wandering off on their own” (Atwood 2013, 33).14 The Crakers, for instance, have no concept of possession. Therefore, they destroy the effigy they had built when Snowman/Jimmy was gone, “to its component parts,” because “after a thing has been used, it must be given back to its place of origin” (Atwood 2004, 422). Atwood’s posthumans are no violent monsters. The Crakers are beautiful, strange, and pleasant. They are resource- and nutrition-efficient and, therefore, they are ideally adapted to the imminent postapocalyptic environmental hazards and the regime of scarcity. Clearly, Atwood satirically positions the Crakers as non-consuming utopian actants, bridging the human/animal divide on a material genetic basis, packed with all the ideal characteristics humans would need in order to live in a more holistic way; they are non-violent, non-possessive, non-materialist, hardwired with a propensity for cross-species communal sharing instead of human egotistical greed, high-strung individualism, and consumerism, and additionally equipped with a collective mating ritual that ridicules the inefficiency of human sexual desires and needs. At the same time, the Crakers function as a symbol for (human) diversity, being of “all colours – brown, yellow, black, white – and all heights, but each was perfect” (Atwood 2013, 11). The Crakers’ limited mental capacities— taking things at face value15 or simply requiring an explanation for the unfamiliar, “What is a bear?” (Atwood 2013, 48), “What is writing” (Atwood 2013, 91), “What is breakfast” (Atwood 2013, 93)—complicate the cultural contact, a comical narrative trick that offers the possibility to interrogate the necessity of objects and expose the absurdity of human concepts, customs, beliefs, and (a)moralities. Their simple way of life, devoid of any drive to dominate or missionize, tolerates other approaches: “We do not have battles […] the two-skinned ones […] have a battle […] the Pig Ones […] do a battle with their tusks and the others do a battle with the sticks […]. That is how they are made” (Atwood 2013, 360). Instead, they valorize difference: “[W]e [the Crakers] and the two-skinned ones […] have different gifts, and some of us turn blue and some do not” (Atwood 2013, 386). To bridge cultural divides, communication is a key prerequisite. To establish a system of shared references, both main narrators, Jimmy and Toby, struggle to explain confusing cultural practices, machinery, and poetic/abstract concepts of the past to the Crakers. In turn, the Crakers provide the communicative bridge between species; they are literally the linguistic key to the species’ tower of Babel, the incapacity to



communicate and thus understand and negotiate cross-species needs. As cultural and linguistic interpreters, they translate between Pigoons and humans, as they seem to be able to communicate telepathically with the Pigoons, just as they sense a human’s emotional setup via dreams (cf. Atwood 2013, 99–102). When Jimmy’s infected foot weakens him, the Craker Blackbeard “huddles with the Pigoons. There’s a silent interchange, followed by a few notes of music” (Atwood 2013, 349), and the Pigoons offer to carry Jimmy. Within a twenty-first-century Canadian literary setting, Atwood’s trilogy thus suggests that besides the recognition of a shared materiality, a communicative effort to bridge linguistic, cultural, and normative systems is necessary to reconcile the two and the other solitudes. Atwood positions the Crakers as (stereotypical) icons for indigenous people with their singing, their (return to) oral traditions and need for myths of origin, and their cultural oddities. In this reversed (Canadian) history, they peacefully repopulate the depopulated land of the former colonizers and rise from a child-like status and an indiscernible collective mass—“the children chorus” (Atwood 2004, 7) speaking in a collective “we” whom the human survivors initially treat paternalistically and talk about derogatorily16—to allies with distinct voices to eventually become kin when they procreate with humans. When asked who that “whole mob” was she brought back to the refuge, and “what would you call them, anyway,” Toby simply answers, “people” (Atwood 2013, 34), in recognition of shared bio-cultural similarities. For some, however, a feeling of difference remains, as another human survivor objects: “They’re definitely not like us” (Atwood 2013, 35). It is the Crakers’ genetics, their material origin, that troubles the MaddAddamite scientists, contemplating epigenetics and “[h]ow much of Craker behaviour is inherited, how much is cultural” (Atwood 2013, 139). However, shared biology may not be a sufficient marker of assumed similarity or kinship after all, as the human survivors realize when they put the painballers on trial for killing several survivors. The painballers are “[f]ellow human beings,” but “[r]apists and murderers,” and therefore the survivors resent declaring kinship with them: “Who cares what we call them […]. So long as it’s not people” (Atwood 2013, 367). Clearly, the species divide no longer fits the cultural and material experience in the postapocalyptic future. The third book, MaddAddam (2013), focuses on the potentialities of this “future two,” namely the transition to a postanthropocentric network of species and the (re)building of a sustainable

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multispecies society related to the environment. The narrative focuses on a small group of human survivors that includes members of an ecocritical sect called “God’s Gardeners” and the MaddAddamites, rogue scientists who formerly worked with Crake. This ragtag band, the Crakers, and the Pigoons are threatened by two surviving predatory Painballers, bestialized humans “reduced to the reptilian brain” (Atwood 2013, 9) by a cruel inhuman survival and killing game for convicts back in the dystopian society. In a restaging of the Canadian experience of adversarial nature, the human survivors of the pandemic realize that they must not only face multiple predators—the “bobkittens, the wolvogs, the liobams; worse, the enormous feral pigs [….] [and] who knew how soon the bears would begin to come down from the north” (Atwood 2013, 14)—but will survive only if they achieve an alliance with the feral Pigoons and cooperate with the Crakers (and other animals). Primarily, the last book familiarizes us thus with the strange: the necessity of cohabitation and respectful negotiation with other species—the posthumans and the transgenic animals—on an equal basis. In contrast to earlier (European) colonial settler narratives as adventure stories of lonely heroes and their great quests and accomplishments or the imperial stories of economic gains, MaddAddam tells of a slow process of rapprochement. In a perhaps distinctly Canadian refiguration of the specifically Canadian genre of the (ethical) wild animal story and its emphatic imaginary “humanistic exploration” of animal voices in their “radical otherness” (Fiamengo 2007, 2),17 this necessarily involves sentient animal perspectives as a narrative expression of the level­ ing of the artificial boundaries between humans and other animals. To this purpose, the last book gradually eradicates these species hierarchies, as humans become the minority life form on the planet, and accordingly, the narrative voice is gradually turned over to a Craker, the young Blackbeard who learns how to read and write and how to record (and manipulate) his/stories. Similarly, the new Craker–human hybrid progeny shares not only a multiple biological parentage, but their names textually indicate the emergence of a new relationality and point toward an ustopian bridging. With the death of Jimmy, metaphorically the “last man” in Oryx and Crake, and with the death of the leader of God’s Gardeners and the (Bible’s) first man—“Adam stopped breathing” (Atwood 2013, 363)— humanity-as-we-know-it symbolically disappears in the last section of the third book, but is figuratively resurrected in Jimadam, a young Crakerhuman hybrid.



Although originally designed to materially replace humans, the Crakers become the dominant missing link that bridges the species divide and refigures animal–human relations. Whereas the other transgenic interspecies caricature coexistence—the aggressive liobam literalizes and inverts the biblical metaphor of peace where ferocious beasts will coexist with gentle animals, or the snats, more profanely, ridicule the predator/prey hybridization—and the intelligent Pigoons act with considerable foresight and develop rituals but are unable to communicate with humans, the Crakers are cast as a living (post)biological material link between humans and animals and as meandering communicative bridges, translating between species. Since the Crakers genetically share several animal materialities and human heritage, they suggest a plurality of belonging and exemplify a multiple connectivity of materiality that meets with new materialism’s notions of matter refracting (species) boundaries since “we are part of that nature we seek to understand” (Barad 2003, 828). However, their very bio-material representation— they are “amazingly attractive […] each one naked, each one perfect” (Atwood 2004, 8)—as u(s)topian ciphers contains a dystopian element: they all share Crake’s uncanny, and now luminous, “green eyes” (ibid.), carrying a latently destructive heritage. The potential for more detrimental character traits becomes visible in the trilogy’s last words. The Craker Blackbeard, now scrivener of the postanthropocentric story, displays an innocent potential for manipulation, when he truthfully records all versions of Toby’s death—the Pigoons’ factual account; the Crakers’ and perhaps also the remaining humans’ more mythical and comforting accounts of Toby’s afterlife as an owl, or a “Spirit […] in the elderberry bush,” or that she and her partner Zeb are reunited “in the form of a Bear” (Atwood 2013, 390)—but decides to write down the first two versions “in smaller writing,” because the last one is “the best answer, because it is the happiest” (ibid.). This last image of humans turned into (mythical) bears—rather fittingly within a Canadian context—captures allegorically the dissolution of the species divide and the series ends with “a thing of hope,” i.e. the announcement of yet another pregnancy and a metaphorical rebirth: a female offspring “would be named Toby” (ibid.), bringing the story full circle. Significantly, the Craker hybrid’s “fourfathers” are “Abraham Lincoln,” “Napoleon,” “Picasso,” and “Blackbeard” (ibid.) himself. With these names, addressing politics, (human) liberty, war, art, and piracy’s promise of predation as well as an outlaw form of liberty, the legacy of the (patriarchal) dystopian future

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is textually inscribed into ustopia’s body just as there are “more people from before the chaos,” potentially “good people, or […] bad and cruel men […]. There was no way to tell” (Atwood 2013, 388). The future, Atwood suggests, is undecided, but indicates that we need collectively told stories with multiple interpretations and diverse actants, each and every one different, who actively seek to partake in and lean into each other’s stories, just as the “Pigoons wished to carry Adam and Jimmy to the [burial] site […] as a sign of friendship and interspecies cooperation” (Atwood 2013, 373), and the trilogy we have read becomes a chorus of species’ voices, “The story of you, and me, and the Pigoons, and everyone” (Atwood 2013, 374).


1.  Anonymous poem in memory of James McMullan, killed on London Bridge by an ISIS terror attack. 2. The MaddAddam trilogy draws on multiple textual sources, such as Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe 1719), Mary Shelley’s The Last Man (1826) (see Korte 2008) and Frankenstein (1818) (see Staels 2006; Wilson 2006), or fairy-tale motifs and myths (see Wilson 2012) as well as on obvious biblical sources. Investigating the “dynamic ‘conversation’” (Barzilai 2013, 102) of Oryx and Crake and H. G. Wells’s The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896), Shuli Barzilai also highlights various other influences, e.g. the romance, the Aesopian fable, the adventure story, the Bluebeard motif, and S. T. Coleridge’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” (1798). 3. Additionally, the ecocritical stance of Oryx and Crake invokes Atwood’s early Canada-focused novel Surfacing (1972), as both texts share a “correlation between imperiled environments and human identities in-between” with human protagonists who learn to come to terms with their stories through their intimate “changing relationships to the natural world” (Rozelle 2010, 71). 4. Merril explains that she “use[s] the term ‘speculative fiction’ […] specifically to describe the mode which makes use of the traditional ‘scientific method’ to examine some postulated approximation of reality, by introducing a given set of changes […] creating an environment in which […] the characters will reveal something about the inventions, the characters, or both” (1966, 36). 5. Atwood’s term correlates with Tom Moylan’s definition of the critical dystopia as “an open form” (Moylan 2000, xiii), a generic hybridization, or what Raffaella Baccolini calls the “opening for utopian elements” (Baccolini 2000, 13), and the transgressive utopian dystopia with “the



utopian subtext […] interwoven as a continuous narrative strand within the dystopian text” (Mohr 2005, 53). All of these taxonomies stress the porosity or fuzziness of the genres, emphasizing their interrelations rather than a distinct separateness and essentially underline the ongoing exchange and communication between genres. 6. See, for instance, Catharine Parr Trail’s account of the colonial experience in The Backwoods of Canada (1836), thematizing the cultural asymmetry between England and Canada and clearly adhering to the English identity and Old World expectations. 7. Although the literary merit and the canonical importance of MacLennan’s novel for Canadian literature in general remains unquestioned, Two Solitudes quickly became dated, as its socio-historical literary analysis no longer matched the societal questions and themes of a later twentieth century that questioned his novel’s viable understanding and representation of Québec society (see also Vacante 2016). 8.  Glaringly, indigenous literary texts are missing from Other Solitudes, which features only one such text, an interview with Tomson Highway. On the historical establishment and perseverance of “White normativity” (3) amalgamated with a civility “based on a British model of civility” (5) and the “fictive ethnicity” (9) in (English) Canada, pitting “the real project” of Canadian civility—e.g. a move towards multiculturalism—against the “myth of its [exclusionary] civility” (9), see Daniel Coleman’s White Civility: The Literary Project of English Canada (2006). 9. See W. H. New’s second edition of A History of Canadian Literature (2003) in which New acknowledges the influence of Latin America on Canadian writers, such as Eli Mandel, Earle Birney, or Daphne Marlatt, exemplified by Latin American settings or the use of magic realism. Québec writers of the late twentieth century, New contends, follow “a particular conception of ‘Canada,’ for instance, or allophone and Native cultures within Quebec, or ‘America,’ conceived of continentally and embracing Mexico and the United States,” with works critically highlighting that “the ‘copy’ is more ‘American,’ […] than the ‘original’” (New 2003, 291). For a more expanded perspective on Canadian literature as part of a hemispheric American literature, see Amaryll Chanady’s, George Handley’s, and Patrick Imbert’s collection Americas’ Worlds and the World’s Americas/Les mondes des Amériques et les Amériques du monde (2006). Winfried Siemerling’s and Sarah Phillip Casteel’s collection Canada and Its Americas: Transnational Navigations (2010) investigates the “current and geopolitical junctures” and cultural connections between Canada and the hemispheric context, as well as “how Canadian literature locates itself” (“Introduction” 5), a perspective Cynthia Sugars, among others, problematizes from a Canadian postcolonial angle. Sugars

252  D. M. MOHR critically investigates “the relative absence of Canada” and the “presumed ‘sameness’ between Canadian and American experiences” (Sugars 2010, 33) in inter-American studies while being cautious to relate the local within a more globalized hemispheric view that does not position the US at the center—in her contribution “Worlding the (Postcolonial) Nation: Canada’s Americas” to this anthology. 10. See Christian Bök’s and Carmine Starnino’s 2009 debate on Canadian poetics at Mount Royal University. Smaro Kamboureli’s and Roy Miki’s collection Trans.Can.Lit: Resituating the Study of Canadian Literature (2007) addresses (Anglophone) CanLit anxiety about its origins, past, and future, “its uneasy relationship with the British, the Commonwealth, and the American; its uneven responses to the (post)colonial and its so-called minority literatures; its desire to accommodate global cultural contexts” (Kamboureli 2007, viii), as Kamboureli writes in the critical “Preface,” attesting that CanLit is in a “nervous state” (ibid.). For Kamboureli, the illegible “elsewhereness” of CanLit offers a transitional “un/imagined community” (2007, x). 11. In The Handmaid’s Tale, for instance, Offred is repeatedly doubled (by the Handmaid Ofglen, Serena Joy, Moira, and various fairy-tale figures) as mirror images obscure her identity, “a distorted shadow, a parody of something, some fairytale figure in a red cloak” (Atwood 1985, 9), “a blue shape, a red shape, in the brief glass eye of the mirror […] Myself, my obverse” (243). In Atwood’s oeuvre the narrative duplication, via mirror images, and implied readers or listeners, ensures psychological survival. In her poem “Marrying the Hangman,” the lyrical voice captures this succinctly: “[t]o live in prison is to live without mirrors. To live / without mirrors is to live without the self;” or otherwise a voice may provide a Lacanian speculum: “[t]his voice / becomes her mirror” (Atwood 1978, 48). 12. Atwood’s earlier novels and non-fiction employ a Canadian nationalism that casts the US as imperialistic (male) aggressor to Canada’s (female) victimization and Canadian literature as marginalized by US literature. In The Handmaid’s Tale Gilead is located in the US and the ‘underground rail’ escape route leads to Canada. For Atwood, the US is “a tragic country” with “great democratic ideals” (Sandler 1990, 57), a utopian drive it fails as the American national theme of the frontier, the conquest of the West, implies a dystopian turn, whereas “Canada is not tragic, in the classical sense, because it doesn’t have a utopian vision. Our constitution promises ‘peace, order and good government’—and that’s quite different from ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’” (ibid.), and, in the Anglophone context, also leaves behind the ancestry of Britain’s much cherished splendid island isolation.



13.  I have addressed the intersection between social justice and twenty-first-century Canadian speculative fictions and its move towards multispecies justice more specifically in another article; see Mohr (2017a). 14. See also Mohr (2017b). 15.  For instance, when Toby applies maggots to Jimmy’s infected flesh, explaining that maggots “are eating the pain,” the Crakers want to help by also eating pain, asking, “Does it taste good?” (Atwood 2013, 22). 16. Swift Fox, one of the MaddAddamite co-creators of the Crakers, sneers at the posthumans as “walking potatoes” (Atwood 2013, 19) in reference to their limited intellectual capacities. Some human survivors refer to the Crakers as “Frankenpeople” (Atwood 2013, 19) and to the hybrid human–Craker offspring as “Frankenbabies” (Atwood 2013, 216), while the Pigoons are initially seen as a food source, “Frankenbacon” (ibid.), despite the part-cannibalistic implications. 17. Atwood describes Canadian animal stories as “failure stories” (1972, 74) of victimhood where the narrative identifies with the animal, “as felt emotionally from inside the fur and feathers” (ibid.), in contrast to the British literary tradition of anthropomorphized animals impersonating the British social hierarchy or the American heroic tales of hunting and killing animals. For Atwood, “Canadian animal stories present […] a trait in our national psyche” (1972, 75), linking the Canadian national experience with both victimization and animality and the very real possibility of collective erasure: “for the Canadian animal […] extinction as a species is a distinct possibility” (Atwood 1972, 79).

References Atwood, Margaret. 1972. Survival. Toronto: House of Anansi. ———. 1978. Two-Headed Poems. Toronto: Oxford University Press. ———. [1985] 1986. The Handmaid’s Tale. Toronto: McClelland-Bantam. ———. 1995. Strange Things: The Malevolent North in Canadian Literature. Oxford: Clarendon. ———. [2003] 2004. Oryx and Crake. London: Virago. ———. 2009. The Year of the Flood. London: O.W. Toad. ———. 2011. Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart. ———. 2013. MaddAddam. London: Bloomsbury. Baccolini, Raffaella. 2000. “Gender and Genre in the Feminist Critical Dystopias of Katherine Burdekin, Margaret Atwood, and Octavia Butler.” In Future Females, the Next Generation: New Voices and Velocities in Feminist Science Fiction, edited by Marleen S. Barr, 13–34. Boston: Rowman & Littlefield.

254  D. M. MOHR Barad, Karen. 2003. “Posthumanist Performativity: Towards an Understanding of How Matter Comes to Matter.” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 28 (3): 801–31. Barzilai, Shuli. 2013. “From H.G. Wells’s Island to Margaret Atwood’s Paradice: Bio-Perversity and Its Ramifications.” In Critical Insights: Margaret Atwood, edited by J. Brooks Bouson, 99–121. Pasadena: Salem Press. Besner, Neil. 1992. “Beyond Two Solitudes, After Survival: Postmodern Fiction in Canada.” In Postmodern Fiction in Canada, edited by Theo D’haen and Hans Bertens, 9–25. Amsterdam: Rodopi. Bök, Christian, and Carmine Starnino. 2009. “The Cage Match of Canadian Poetry: Carmine Starnino and Christian Bök in Conversation.” http://blogs. Casali, Ariana. 2012. “Facing the End of the World: Margaret Atwood’s Postapocalyptic Science Fiction.” In Collision of Realities: Establishing Research on the Fantastic in Europe, edited by Lars Schmeink, Astrid Böger, and HansHarald Müller, 295–310. Berlin: de Gruyter. Chanady, Amaryll, George Handley, and Patrick Imbert, eds. 2006. Americas’ Worlds and the World’s Americas/Les mondes des Amériques et les Amériques du monde. Ottawa: Legas. Coleman, Daniel. 2006. White Civility: The Literary Project of English Canada. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. Fiamengo, Janice. 2007. “The Animals in This Country: Animals in the Canadian Literary Imagination.” In Other Selves: Animals in the Canadian Literary Imagination, edited by Janice Fiamengo, 1–26. Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press. Frye, Northrop. 1971. The Bush Garden: Essays on the Canadian Imagination. Toronto: House of Anansi. Heise, Ursula K. 2015. “Multispecies Justice.” Lecture at the Green Citizenship Symposium, Centre for the Humanities, Utrecht University, The Netherlands. September 11. Accessed May 30, 2018. multispecies-justice/. Hutcheon, Linda. 1990. “Introduction.” In Other Solitudes: Canadian Multicultural Fictions, edited by Linda Hutcheon and Marion Richmond, 1–16. Toronto: Oxford University Press. Kamboureli, Smaro. 2007. “Preface.” In Trans.Can.Lit: Resituating the Study of Canadian Literature, edited by Smaro Kamboureli and Roy Miki, xii–xv. Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press. Kamboureli, Smaro, and Roy Miki, eds. 2007. Trans.Can.Lit: Resituating the Study of Canadian Literature. Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press. Ketterer, David. 1989. “Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale: A Contextual Dystopia.” Science Fiction Studies 16 (2): 209–17.



Korte, Barbara. 2008. “Women’s Views of Last Men: Mary Shelley’s The Last Man and Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake.” In Reading(s) from a Distance: European Perspectives on Canadian Women’s Writing, edited by Charlotte Sturgess and Martin Kuester, 152–65. Augsburg: Wißner. MacLennan, Hugh. [1945] 1989. Two Solitudes. Toronto: Macmillan. Malak, Amin. 1987. “Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and the Dystopian Tradition.” Canadian Literature 112: 9–17. Merril, Judith. 1966. “What Do You Mean: Science? Fiction?” Extrapolation 7: 30–46; 8: 2–19. Mohr, Dunja M. 2005. Worlds Apart? Dualism and Transgression in Contemporary Female Dystopias. Jefferson: McFarland. ———. 2017a. “‘When Species Meet’: Beyond Posthuman Boundaries and Interspeciesism—Social Justice and Canadian Speculative Fiction.” Zeitschrift für Kanada-Studien 37: 40–64. ———. 2017b. “Anthropocene Fiction: Narrating the ‘Zero Hour’ in Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam Trilogy.” In Écrire au-delà de la fin des temps? Les littératures au Canada et au Québec: Writing Beyond the End Times? The Literatures of Canada and Quebec, edited by Ursula Mathis-Moser and Marie Carrière, 23–43. Innsbruck: University of Innsbruck Press. Moylan, Tom. 2000. Scraps of the Untainted Sky: Science Fiction, Utopia, Dystopia. Boulder: Westview. New, W. H. [1989] 2003. A History of Canadian Literature. Montréal: McGillQueen’s University Press. Oziewicz, Marek. 2016. “Speculative Fiction.” Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Literature. Rilke, Rainer Maria. [1929] 1993. Letters to a Young Poet. Translated by M. D. Herter Norton. New York: W. W. Norton. Rozelle, Lee. 2010. “Liminal Ecologies in Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake.” Canadian Literature 206: 61–72. Sandler, Linda. 1990. “A Question of Metamorphosis.” In Margaret Atwood: Conversations, edited by Earl G. Ingersoll, 40–57. Willowdale: Firefly. Siemerling, Winfried, and Sarah Phillip Casteel, eds. 2010a. Canada and Its Americas: Transnational Navigations. Montréal: McGill-Queens University Press. ———. 2010b. “Introduction: Canada and Its Americas.” In Canada and Its Americas: Transnational Navigations, edited by Winfried Siemerling and Sarah Phillip Casteel, 3–28. Montréal: McGill-Queens University Press. Staels, Hilde. 2006. “Oryx and Crake: Atwood’s Ironic Inversion of Frankenstein.” In Margaret Atwood: The Open Eye, edited by John Moss and Tobi Kozakewich, 433–46. Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press. Sugars, Cynthia. 2010. “Worlding the (Postcolonial) Nation: Canada’s Americas.” In Canada and Its Americas: Transnational Navigations, edited

256  D. M. MOHR by Winfried Siemerling and Sarah Phillip Casteel, 31–47. Montréal: McGillQueens University Press. The Handmaid’s Tale. 2017–Present. Produced and Created by Bruce Miller. Beverly Hills: MGM Television Productions. Hulu Streaming Series. Vacante, Jeffrey. 2016. “The Decline of Hugh MacLennan.” University of Toronto Quarterly 85 (1) (Winter): 43–68. Wilson, Sharon R. 2006. “Frankenstein’s Gaze and Atwood’s Sexual Politics in Oryx and Crake.” In Margaret Atwood: The Open Eye, edited by John Moss and Tobi Kozakewich, 397–406. Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press. ———. 2012. “Postapocalyptic Vision: Flood Myths and Other Folklore in Atwood’s Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood.” In Critical Insights: Margaret Atwood, edited by J. Brooks Bouson, 334–52. Pasadena: Salem Press.


“I Can’t Believe This Is Happening!”: Bear Horror, the Species Divide, and the Canadian Fight for Survival in a Time of Climate Change Michael Fuchs

In his introduction to the collection of animal tales The Wild Animal Story, Ralph Lutts remarks that the “realistic wild animal story” is a “distinctly Canadian form of literature” (1998, 1). For Canadian writers, he continues, animals have always been “ideas as well as living, breathing creatures” (Lutts 1998, 2). Indeed, the editors of the Literary History of Canada acknowledged the centrality of animal narratives to Canadian literature as early as 1965 when they included Alec Lucas’s chapter on “Nature Writers and the Animal Story” in their volume, in which Lucas argues that the main reason for the prevalence of nature writing, including animal narratives, in Canadian culture may be traced to the early days of the Canadian experience: “the greatest single fact of the new country was nature – and a most unWordsworthian nature” it was (1976, 383). According to Lucas, many of the early settlers “saw nature as an obstacle on the road to civilization” and “[m]an’s kinship with the M. Fuchs (*)  University of Graz, Graz, Austria © The Author(s) 2019 A. J. Ransom and D. Grace (eds.), Canadian Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror, Studies in Global Science Fiction,


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wild creatures was usually expressed with rod and gun” (1976, 383). However, as Canadians grew urban and physically removed from the natural world, Lucas suggests, animals increasingly appeared in the realm of representation. Lucas thus constructs a history of Canadian human–animal relations first characterized by an epistemological divide, which later transformed into an ontological, or even onto-epistemological, one. Similar to human–animal relationships, the spatial and conceptual separation between Self and Other also defines horror narratives. Indeed, scholars such as Roger Salomon have stressed that horror is characterized by the crossing of these divides, as “some spook invades our commonplace reality, or our apparently sane and rational self enters a categorically malign environment” (2002, 9). Tellingly, in their seminal book on animal ­horror, Katarina Gregersdotter, Niklas Hållén, and Johan Höglund argue along similar lines, suggesting that the sub-genre’s narratives center on “how a particular animal or an animal species commits a transgression against humanity” (2015, 3). In this chapter, I examine some recent narratives that showcase ­animals’ “transgressions against humanity,” a process which goes handin-hand with the animals’ return to human lives. In particular, I discuss three examples of Canadian bear horror: Claire Cameron’s novel The Bear (2014), Susan J. Crockford’s sf/horror hybrid Eaten (2015b), and the movie Backcountry (2014; released as Blackfoot Trail in the UK). Unsurprisingly, these texts feature bear attacks and even scenes of bears preying on humans. This animal predation on humans provides a powerful symbolic vehicle for overcoming the human–animal divide. As Charles Taylor has argued, “The ‘two solitudes’ of Hugh MacLennan are still a fundamental reality in Canada; the ways that the two groups envisage their predicament, their problems, and their common country are so different that it is hard to find a common language” (1993, 24). French Canadians and Anglo-Canadians may live in the same country, but, effectively, they are alone. Similarly, the (non-­ native) human population of Canada has been conceived as alone in the wild—separated from the nonhuman world. While this divide is rooted in Canadian cultural history and conceptions of Canadian identity, the gap between the human and the “natural” environment is at the same time a global phenomenon, affecting humankind at large. Of course, “human” is not a term free from ideological trench warfare, as it operates with “ideological ferocity and triumphalism” (Said 2003, 37) to



prevent certain groups from accessing this select category. Rosi Braidotti asserts that “[n]ot all of us can say, with any degree of certainty, that we have always been human […]. Some of us are not even considered fully human now, let alone at previous moments of Western social, political and scientific history” (2013, 1). Yet regardless of whether someone belongs to Anglophone Canadian culture, a First Nation culture, or some culture in the Amazon removed from what Westerners might refer to as “civilization,” the borderlines between human and other animal species inhabiting this planet are more or less rigid across cultures. A trait specific to Western civilization, however, is human exceptionalism— the idea that humankind is both in some way superior to other animal species and exempt from the laws of nature. However, as I will argue, animal predation on humans bridges the divide between the species, as it reintegrates human beings into the natural food chain, reducing them to their fleshly materiality. While all three texts discussed in this chapter knock humankind off its horse, Eaten emerges as the text most explicit in its reflection of contemporary questions in green cultural studies and ecocriticism. As I will suggest, although Crockford does not believe in the negative effects of man-made climate change, Eaten paints a wonderful picture of life in the age of the Anthropocene—an era in which humankind has (purportedly) come to understand that the complex entanglements of different forms of life on the planet undermine simple cause-and-effect logic, which, at the end of the day, implies that humankind cannot control the natural environment.

The Canadian Fight for Survival Backcountry, The Bear, and Eaten echo what Canadian writers and Canadian Studies scholars (not necessarily mutually exclusive groups, of course) during the 1960s and 1970s considered the distinguishing feature of Canadian national identity: survival in the face of a ­malevolent environment.1 Whereas the American psyche has been shaped by the Frontier, the most dominant symbol in the Canadian national consciousness, Margaret Atwood argued, is “undoubtedly survival” (1972, 32). Tellingly, Northrop Frye likened the arrival of early European immigrants to “being silently swallowed by an alien continent” (1971, 217). Backcountry reflects Frye’s construction of Gothic imagery in order to highlight humankind’s insignificance on a cosmic scale. The movie

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translates a real-life story to cinema. In 2005, a black bear attacked Jacqueline Perry and her husband, Mark Jordan, in Missinaibi Lake Provincial Park, Ontario. Mark successfully fought off the bear, but his wife succumbed to her injuries on their way to the hospital (“Black Bear” 2005). In the film, Alex (Jeff Roop) drags his girlfriend Jenn (Missy Peregrym) to Blackfoot Trail in Alberta. Alex has been in the area several times and wants to take Jenn to a lake in the forest, where he plans to propose to her. However, the couple gets lost in the woods. The film introduces Jenn as an urbanite who can barely leave behind the comforts of civilized life, as she has a tough time putting her cell phone down while Mark loads their car. Since Mark wants to spend an uninterrupted weekend in the wilderness, he removes the phone from Jenn’s backpack in an unwatched moment. Implicitly, Mark is thus characterized as a (would-be) outdoorsman who can negotiate his way in the wilderness without twenty-first-century technology. This character trait is made explicit when he declines the park ranger’s offer for a map, saying, “I know this park well.” Unsurprisingly, this hubris does not bode well for his chances for survival. After journeying through the woods for more than twenty-four hours, Alex believes that they are about to reach their destination. As he predicted, the couple “come[s] up a steep rocky trail” before “it [suddenly] levels off.” Once they have reached the top, however, reaction shots suggest that the two face something terrifying. Instead of the “beautiful, pristine lake” Alex expected, they can see a vast forest and no signs of civilization. For miles, Jenn and Alex can spot nothing but highrising trees. As they confront the “profoundly unhumanized isolation” Frye considered so typical of Canada (1971, 164), Jenn and Alex look into the great unknown. At this moment, the “overwhelming of human ­values by an indifferent […] nature” (Frye 1971, 10–11) dawns on the two characters. Jenn and Alex’s terrified look “paralyzes [the characters] in such a way that distance is overcome,” as Linda Williams put it in her seminal piece on the female look in horror cinema (2002, 62). As they unwillingly begin to bridge the divide between human and nonhuman worlds, Jenn and Alex appear like a “tiny Jonah entering an inconceivably large whale” (Frye 1971, 214). Indeed, they become one with the nonhuman world, as the vast forest effortlessly swallows them up. Tellingly, Rosemary Sullivan has argued that in the Canadian wilderness, “the very idea of the human must be reinvented” (2013, 38), since the very



existence of “unconquered” nature questions humanity’s self-ascribed dominance of the planet. In this way, the film transcends its anchoring in Canadian culture and communicates ideas about Western civilization at large. Confronted with a forest that has existed for thousands of years (albeit most likely shaped by humans in the last two hundred years or so), Jenn and Alex begin to understand that the history of humankind “is but a momentary blip” in the geological history of the planet (Grosz 2011, 24). This insight is accompanied by the implicit acknowledgment that humankind is “as much at the mercy of the random forces […] of natural selection […] as any other form of life” (Grosz 2011, 24). Accordingly, humanity is not the center of the universe, but rather “entangled” in “a maze of unexpected associations between heterogeneous elements” (Latour 2003, 36). This moment of grasping the interconnectedness of human beings with the nonhuman world brings the film’s meaning full circle, back to Canada. Indeed, this bridging of the gap between the ­species is a distinctly Canadian experience, since “[t]o feel ‘Canadian’ [is] to feel part of a no-man’s-land with huge rivers, lakes, and islands” (Frye 1971, 218).

Fatal Bear Encounters in Canada There are three bear species in Canada: the brown bear (Ursus arctos), the American black bear (Ursus americanus), and the polar bear (Ursus maritimus). Despite their ability to kill human beings easily, bears rarely attack humans. In the 110 years between 1900 and 2009, wild American black bears mauled forty-nine human beings north of the 49th parallel (Herrero et al. 2011), Canadian brown bears killed seventeen people in the twentieth century (Herrero 2002), and polar bears accounted for twenty human deaths across their habitats (Canada, the United States, Russia, Norway, and Greenland) between 1870 and 2014 (Wilder et al. 2017). While brown bear attacks tend to be defensive, with female bears usually defending their cubs (Herrero and Higgins 1999, 2003), polar and black bear attacks are much more likely to be of a predatory nature (Wilder et al. 2017). Typically, fatal bear encounters are exploited by sensationalist reporting in the media. These reports feed into the image of large predators as deadly threats to human lives. Indeed, even “educational” programming on channels such as Animal Planet and Discovery Channel may tap

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into and reinforce these ideas (on bears, see Fuchs 2018; on sharks, see Lerberg 2016). While bear predation on humans features prominently in all three narratives discussed in this chapter, none of the texts indulges in overly excessive portrayals of bear attacks. Indeed, despite representing the horrors of experiencing bear attacks and the psychological trauma caused by witnessing a bear attack, the texts depict these moments in a strangely calm, partly even objective and distanced way, as if to suggest that nothing out of the ordinary is happening. The Bear and Backcountry employ the same basic narrative premise: humans go out into the wilderness, where they encounter bears. The Bear is loosely based on an incident that occurred in the fall of 1991 on Bates Island in Lake Opeongo in Algonquin Park, Ontario, where a healthy eight-year-old black bear killed 48-year-old Carola Frehe and 32-year-old Raymond Jakubauskas at a camping site (“What Can We Learn?” 1994). As Norm Quinn has explained, the general consensus was that “one or both [victims] put up a heroic fight,” as “long bruises were observed on the bear and a broken oar was found at the scene” (2002, 94). Cameron attributed her fictionalized couple, the Whytes, with two children, Anna and Alex, to reinforce the couple’s heroics and to tap into the children’s vulnerability for dramatic effect. Indeed, the entire story is told from the perspective of Anna, the couple’s five-year-old daughter. Cameron wastes little time in presenting the narrative’s seemingly climactic moment: In the two-page first chapter, the Whyte family is about to go to sleep at a camping site on Bates Island, but Anna’s comments foreshadow things to come: “I feel nervous and I don’t know why,” she remarks before “hear[ing] a sniff” outside her tent (Cameron 2014, 3–4). Despite the sounds, she falls asleep, only to be roused by her mother yelling outside; she “screams like a monster is tackling her” (10). Since Anna knows that monsters are not real, she concludes that she must be dreaming and closes her eyes again. Only moments later, Anna’s father rushes into the children’s tent. When Anna opens her eyes, she believes that her father “looks mad,” which is why she surmises she must be “in trouble” (11). Anna sees this belief confirmed when he drags her out of the tent. She cannot understand what is happening: “Daddy is hugging me but it’s not a huggle,” she remarks (11). Her father puts Anna and her younger brother Alex into a cooler, from which the two children witness the attack without grasping what is going on outside:



Outside I hear a growl and a nose breath that isn’t Stick’s [Alex’s nickname]. It’s from a longer nose like Snoopy’s. He is a dog that lives next door and usually he is behind the fence and he barks at Stick and me when we play with a ball […]. I can hear Snoopy outside of Coleman [i.e., the cooler] and it’s not Toronto but Snoopy came to visit near the cottage and maybe doesn’t like it because he growls […]. And I hear Daddy talking and I wonder why he has so much to say to Snoopy when usually he does not. (15)

This passage is emblematic of the novel’s narrative approach, as Anna’s stream of consciousness narration constantly and effortlessly bridges past memories, dreams, fantasies, and actual objects she sees, smells, and feels in the present moment. These constant slippages between ontological levels puzzle the reader in ways similar to how Anna is confused by the goings-on in the diegetic reality. In addition, the inability of Anna’s innocent mind to comprehend the events and her attendant mistaking a black bear for the neighbor’s dog fuel the narrative’s suspense and creates much of the book’s horror. For example, after the attack has ended and the bear has begun to devour her father, Anna reports that she can hear something outside: The noises are Snoopy breathing. Mrs Buchanon [their neighbor] has given Snoopy a bone. I am not allowed but Mrs Buchanon lets me hold the bone out and Snoopy takes it. He does it gentle with his lips back so that I can see his teeth aren’t going to bite me and he keeps them far away from my hand. When he is done with the bone for his dinner he gives me a wet kiss on the cheek and I smile. Snoopy is eating the bone and I can hear the snap snap snap of his jaws on the bone […]. His teeth go scrape on the bone and I hear it pop. I think Snoopy has broken the bone and he’s not supposed to do that. […] And the sounds outside crack crack snap and I know that Snoopy has broken the bone but Mrs Buchanan is not stopping him. Maybe she is sleeping because it is night-time for her. (18–19)

Anna begins to understand that the animal outside is not Snoopy only when the “black dog” starts sniffing at the cooler. As the bear comes closer, Anna notices that the “black dog has tomato juice on his jaw” (23). Apart from the fact that readers fear for the children’s lives, Anna’s lack of awareness adds to the horror. While she does feel increasingly uncomfortable, she never appears afraid, since she fails to grasp the

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degree to which her and her brother’s lives are in danger. Indeed, the following morning, she seems more troubled by the fact that her brother “poop[s]” (37) in the tent than by the ursine threat roaming the small island. Throughout the novel, Anna continues to be more concerned by their father’s absence and more disturbed by her younger brother’s misdeeds than by the anthropophagic bear close by. Indeed, Anna’s voice is the voice of a young girl not only desperately trying to make sense of the world, but also looking for guidance and striving to protect her younger brother. In fact, in terms of narrative action, barely anything happens after the opening attack, as the narrative focuses on Anna’s confusion and depicts her mind wandering around as she attempts to pass time, on the one hand, and deal with the situation she finds herself in, on the other. These mental journeys are repeatedly interrupted by the physical presence of the bear. For example, after the children have safely made it to the mainland, Anna notes: I see that the black dog is nosing around and sniffing and walking to the water that is across the lake from me. I stay quiet and try not to breathe and hope Stick will stay quiet too. […] The black dog is more like the raccoon and sniffs and eats something and puts his nose in the air. He sticks his nose out and sniffs for a minute and then walks slowly along the water […]. […] The black dog noses around and it grabs something in its mouth and I look and I can’t tell what it is besides long. But it waves around and on the end it’s red and it might be the meat with Daddy’s sneaker. Daddy won’t like a bear chewing his sneaker. (89–91)

Yet as much as readers might worry about the children’s well-being, at the same time, they are constantly aware that Anna narrates the story. And even though her narration is in the present tense, readers infer that she will make it out alive. Indeed, Cameron saves Anna’s terrifying acknowledgment of what truly happened on that October day in 1991 for the novel’s conclusion. In the epilogue, set in 2011, Anna and Alex return to the place their parents died. Anna admits that the traumatic experience has haunted her for twenty years; she has “had the same nightmare about this island” since her childhood days (211). Cameron taps into pop psychology here, as Anna hopes that her journey to the place will allow her to master



the traumatic experience which she failed to comprehend when it happened, and which she has re-experienced in dreams ever since. Tellingly, Sigmund Freud connected the compulsion to repeat traumatic events in the imaginary domain “to the impulse to obtain the mastery of a situation” ([1923] 2001, 252). This mastery is usually of the cognitive kind—the traumatic event is dissected, rationalized, and accordingly comprehended. However, what happened to the Whyte family is, in a way, beyond comprehension: “I’ve always wondered, why them and not us? We were little kids and would have been the easier prey,” Anna tells her brother. “We will never know exactly why,” he responds. “‘Why’ is missing the point,” she insists. “He was full,” Alex drily concludes (213–14). Alex’s conclusion is the most logical explanation; but we will never know whether this anthropocentric interpretation of the events even comes close to representing the bear’s perspective. Indeed, in an article published several months after the actual attack, the park service stated that “animals, just as […] humans,” have “a tremendous range of physical and mental attributes” (“What Can We Learn?” 26). On the one hand, this explanation elevates animals from instinct-driven beasts; on the other hand, it suggests that humans cannot understand the reasons for the bear attack. Similarly, in her novel’s preface, Cameron points out: There is no clear reason for what happened, other than the assumption that a hungry bear decided to take a chance on a new source of food. What is most frightening about this explanation is the idea that there is no blame to place on either the people or the bear […]. [I]n this case there is no apparent rationale for the attack, other than predation. The couple ­happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. (xii)

Accordingly, humans cannot grasp the bear’s rationale for the attack. I do not mean to thus emphasize rationality as a distinguishing feature of the species Homo sapiens, as this claim would support human exceptionalism and the attendant deepening of the chasm between human beings and other animal species. Instead, Cameron’s bear attack story bridges the divide between human and nonhuman animals by re-integrating human bodies into the food chain. While the novel highlights differences between humans and other animal species, the bear’s uprising against human domination reveals humankind’s “pathological belief in our ­ability to control the […] natural world” (Williston 2015, 35).

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Backcountry achieves the same effect, employing film’s ­multimodality to full effect. On the second day of their trip, Alex first notices bear tracks on the trail. That night, Jenn hears something sniffing around and moving close to their tent. Against the nearly black visual backdrop, the film uses its 5.1 audio track to create the illusion of the creature orbiting the tent, as indistinct sounds first move between the three front channels before switching to the rear. Alex assures Jenn (and the audience), “[T]hat’s acorns – just falling from the trees on our tent.” While nothing happens that night, nor the following one, when Alex unzips the tent on the third day of their trip, he sees a large black bear lying in the grass just a few hundred feet from the tent. Alex and Jenn’s hopes that the bear will not notice them if they remain silent do not come true, as the bear comes closer and eventually bursts into the tent. Moments prior to the bear attack, all environmental sounds disappear, endowing the gory bear attack with a documentary-like feel. As the camera frantically changes positions, primarily alternating between the bear and shots of Alex in pain and Jenn in despair, the film engages viewers somatically. Backcountry thus produces a very particular kind of realism, as the movie seeks to create a kind of corporeal, experiential realism. Julian Hanich has suggested that this generation of bodily responses typical of the horror genre returns viewers to their lived bodies; a (re-)recognition of their organic existences (2012, 586). The bear attack thus calls to mind the fragility of the human body, which highlights that humans live “in a messy, complicated, resistant, brute world of materiality” (Grosz 2004, 2). Animal predation on humans accordingly “remind[s] us that humans, too, are animals, despite a long philosophical tradition […] that insists upon a separate kind of being for human ­subjects” (Vint 2010, 8). The Australian feminist ecocritic Val Plumwood has arguably provided the most astute remarks on the ways in which animal predation on humans returns the human experience to the human body. Indeed, her insights were grounded in a horrifying experience, as a large saltwater crocodile attacked her while she was kayaking in Kakadu National Park—and she alone barely escaped to tell us. As Plumwood points out, she was well aware of the fact that hundreds of crocodiles surrounded her, but she “had given insufficient attention […] to [her] own vulnerability as an edible, animal being” prior to the attack (2012, 10). When the crocodile attacked her, she thought that “[t]he creature was breaking the rules, was totally mistaken, utterly wrong to think [she] could be



reduced to food” (Plumwood 2012, 12). Plumwood accordingly found herself thinking thoughts she had vociferously critiqued—she apparently believed in human exceptionalism, after all. Humans are used to “remake the world […] as [their] own, investing it with meaning, reconceiving it as sane, survivable, amendable to hope and resolution,” she argues, but the encounter with a large predator discloses “a world no longer [our] own, an unrecognizable bleak landscape composed of raw necessity, that would go on without [us], indifferent to [our] will and struggle, to [our] life or death” (Plumwood 2000, 131–32). Although she primarily only witnesses the attack on her boyfriend in Backcountry, Jenn undergoes a similar experience. Significantly, Jenn does not even try to rationalize verbally the events after the attack; does not try to explain the loss of her boyfriend. To be sure, “[l]anguage is one of the tools we use to […] explain and master nature” (Sullivan 2013, 38). Language, accordingly, allows humans to set themselves apart from nature. However, Jenn resists this urge, implying that she has accepted that she—along with her fellow human beings—is part of the environment, bringing Jenn and Alex’s earlier encounter with the unknown forest full circle. While each of the two overcomes the divide between the human and the nonhuman in different ways, both Jenn and Alex come to understand that humans cannot control the natural world, but are part of it. William E. Connelly suggested that the crocodile’s eye epitomizes a world where “multiple lines of intersection” between different animate creatures and inanimate objects “produce unexpected effects” (1993, 10). For Westerners, being killed by a large predator ­represents one such unexpected effect.

Bridging the Species Divide in the Anthropocene In Crockford’s near-future novel Eaten (it is set in 2025), the unexpected effect of our worldly entanglements is that polar bears begin preying on human beings in settlements in Newfoundland and Labrador (particularly on Fogo Island). Crockford’s book is by far the least engaging of the texts discussed here, in part because the novel’s primary function is to push the author’s agenda: to convince readers that ­liberal scientists have exaggerated the effects of climate change for years, and that measures aimed at countering the anticipated effects of global warming may, in fact, endanger humankind.2

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Writing about Atwood’s MaddAddam trilogy (2003–2013), Dunja Mohr suggests that the trilogy reverses the idea that Canadian nature is “actively hostile towards man” (Atwood 1972, 33) by turning the theme of survival from a human struggle “against nature [in]to a planetary one against humankind” (Mohr 2017, 55). Eaten depicts a similar scenario; yet whereas Atwood figures the planetary struggle against humankind as a just retaliation against the wrongs committed by humankind, Crockford seeks to employ polar bears’ out-of-control overcrowding of the region as a vehicle to critique “mainstream” science, Canadian lawmaking, and environmentalist groups, among others. Critically, however, the actual reasons for the bears’ encroachment upon human territory remain a mystery. To be sure, the attacks are caused by the lack of food: “It appears that a distemper epidemic has decimated the harp seal population offshore and the polar bears that normally depend on those seals for food are coming ashore,” notes a (fictional) CBC news report, continuing, “The Arctic bears are clearly starving, and people have replaced seals as prey for them” (Crockford 2015b, 238). Crockford’s polar bears accordingly follow both a narrative template and an actual, lived reality that Atwood diagnosed as early as 1972: “[F]or the Canadian animal, bare survival is the main aim in life, failure as an individual is inevitable, and extinction as a species is a distinct possibility” (Atwood 1972, 79). Indeed, Crockford’s polar bears—irrespective of whether she and her fictional stand-ins may claim otherwise—face extinction. And this (more or less) imminent danger of extinction is inherently tied to human progress. Elizabeth Kolbert neatly summarizes humanity’s rise in the prologue to her book The Sixth Extinction: Although a land animal, our species – ever inventive – crosses the sea. It reaches islands inhabited by evolution’s outliers: birds that lay foot-long eggs, pig-sized hippos, giant skinks. Accustomed to isolation, these creatures are ill-equipped to deal with the newcomers […]. The process continues, in fits and starts, for thousands of years, until the species […] has spread to practically every corner of the globe. At this point, several things happen more or less at once that allow Homo sapiens, as it has come to call itself, to reproduce at an unprecedented rate. In a single century the population doubles; then it doubles again, and then again. Vast forests are razed. Humans do this deliberately, in order to feed themselves. Less deliberately, they shift organisms from one continent to another, reassembling the biosphere.



Meanwhile, an even stranger and more radical transformation is under way. Having discovered subterranean reserves of energy, humans begin to change the composition of the atmosphere. This, in turn, alters the climate and the chemistry of the oceans […]. Extinction rates soar, and the texture of life changes. No creature has ever altered life on the planet in this way before. (2014, 2–3)

In terms of their goals Crockford and Kolbert could hardly be farther apart, but through Crockford’s insistence on the ideologically motivated construction of polar bears’ endangerment and Kolbert’s “unnatural history” of humankind’s negative impact on the planet, they do, in fact, have something in common. Eaten states that it “appears” as if a distemper epidemic devastated the seal population; however, one cannot be certain—there might be dozens of possible reasons for the drop in the seal population, including global warming. Implicitly, Eaten thus inadvertently acknowledges that, at the end of the day, natural phenomena elude human understanding and control. In this way, Eaten, in fact, reflects life in the Anthropocene. After all, this “threshold concept,” to allude to the subtitle of Timothy Clark’s book (2015), suggests that humankind dominates the planet to the point that the species is endowed with nearly god-like powers; at the same time, however, forces that Westerners had purportedly mastered centuries ago demonstrate that mastery is but a mere illusion (e.g. “nature” strikes back in the form of hurricanes). As a result, the Anthropocene is characterized by Westerners’ growing awareness of being out of control, as human and nonhuman lifeforms as well as other nonhuman agents are entangled in complex systems that humankind fails fully to comprehend. In different ways, The Bear, Backcountry, and Eaten all highlight that human lives are merely singular elements in these complex systems. In this way, these Canadian texts question what scholars such as Bruno Latour consider key to the project of modernity, namely the creation of “two entirely distinct ontological zones: that of human beings on the one hand; that of nonhumans on the other” (Latour 1993, 10–11). Indeed, Canadian literature has mined the interrelations between these “entirely distinct ontological zones” for decades. In particular, the Canadian animal story, John Sandlos has argued, is “a creative attempt to comprehend our relationship to the other beings with which we

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co-inhabit the living world” (2000, 76). This presence of the nonhuman world has been a staple of the Canadian imagination since “the country […] greeted […] the pioneers” (McKay 2009, 6), evoking both “dread […] and […] reverence” (Soper and Bradley 2013, xxiv). Yet, significantly, the domain of the nonhuman is always there, as a nodal point for human interactions of different kinds. In the contemporary age of climate change, this understanding of the interconnections between human beings and “the environment” is invaluable.

Notes 1. Tellingly, Backcountry’s poster features a very simple tagline: “SURVIVE.” 2. Crockford, who has a Ph.D. in zoology, has appeared on a list of “scientists” receiving payment for supporting the Heartland Institute, the primary mission of which is to “undermine the official United National’s IPCC [International Panel on Climate Change] reports” (Marriott 2012). She was also included in US Senator James Inhofe’s (in)famous list of “scientists” questioning climate change (Morano 2008). She has referred to studies about the endangerment of polar bears and other arctic creatures as the “arctic fallacy” (Crockford 2015a) created and perpetrated by liberals, as she believes animals fit for survival will adapt to the changing environment; those who won’t would simply fail to pass natural selection processes.

References Atwood, Margaret. 1972. Survival: A Thematic Guide to Canadian Literature. Toronto: House of Anansi. Backcountry: Gnadenlose Wildnis [Backcountry]. 2014. Directed by Adam MacDonald. Berlin: Pandastorm Pictures. Blu-ray. “Black Bear Kills Woman Camper North of Chapleau, Ont.” 2005. CBC News, September 7. Braidotti, Rosi. 2013. The Posthuman. Cambridge: Polity Press. Cameron, Claire. 2014. The Bear. London: Harvill Secker. Clark, Timothy. 2015. Ecocriticism on the Edge: The Anthropocene as a Threshold Concept. New York: Bloomsbury Academic. Connelly, William E. 1993. The Augustinian Imperative: A Reflection on the Politics of Morality. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield.



Crockford, Susan J. 2015a. “The Arctic Fallacy: Sea Ice Stability and the Polar Bear.” Global Warming Policy Foundation Briefing 16. http://www.thegwpf. org/content/uploads/2015/06/Arctic-Fallacy2.pdf. ———. 2015b. Eaten: A Novel. Edmonton: Spotted Cow Press. Freud, Sigmund. [1923] 2001. “Psycho-Analysis.” Translated by James Strachey, Anna Freud, Alix Strachey, and Alan Tyson. In The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, vol. 18, edited by James Strachey, 235–54. London: Vintage. Frye, Northrop. 1971. The Bush Garden: Essays on the Canadian Imagination. Toronto: House of Anansi. Fuchs, Michael. 2018. “All Teeth and Claws: Constructing Bears as Man-Eating Monsters in Television Documentaries.” European Journal of American Studies 13 (1): n. p. Gregersdotter, Katarina, Niklas Hållén, and Johan Höglund. 2015. “Introduction.” In Animal Horror Cinema: Genre, History and Criticism, edited by Katarina Gregersdotter, Johan Höglund, and Niklas Hållén, 1–18. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. Grosz, Elizabeth. 2004. The Nick of Time: Politics, Evolution, and the Untimely. Sydney: Allen & Unwin. ———. 2011. Becoming Undone: Darwinian Reflections on Life, Politics, and Art. Durham: Duke University Press. Hanich, Julian. 2012. “Cinematic Shocks: Recognition, Aesthetic Experience, and Phenomenology.” Amerikastudien/American Studies 57 (4): 581–602. Herrero, Stephen. 2002. Bear Attacks: Their Causes and Avoidance. Rev. ed. New York: Lyon Press. Herrero, Stephen, and Andrew Higgins. 1999. “Human Injuries Inflicted by Bears in British Columbia, 1960–1997.” Ursus 11: 209–18. ———. 2003. “Human Injuries Inflicted by Bears in Alberta, 1960–1998.” Ursus 14: 44–54. Herrero, Stephen, Andrew Higgins, James E. Cardoza, Laura I. Hajduk, and Tom S. Smith. 2011. “Fatal Attacks by American Black Bear on People: 1900–2009.” Journal of Wildlife Management 75 (3): 596–603. Kolbert, Elizabeth. 2014. The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History. New York: Henry Holt. Latour, Bruno. 1993. We Have Never Been Modern. Translated by Catherine Porter. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. ———. 2003. “Is Re-Modernization Occurring—And If So, How to Prove It? A Commentary on Ulrich Beck.” Theory, Culture & Society 20 (2): 35–48. Lerberg, Matthew. 2016. “Jabbering Jaws: Reimagining Representations of Sharks Post-Jaws.” In Screening the Nonhuman: Representations of Animal

272  M. FUCHS Others in the Media, edited by Amber E. George and J. L. Schatz. Lanham: Lexington Books. Kindle edition. Lucas, Alec. 1976. “Nature Writers and the Animal Story.” In Literary History of Canada: Canadian Literature in English, vol. 1, 2nd ed., edited by Alfred G. Bailey, Claude Bissell, Roy Daniells, Northrop Frye, and Desmond Pacey, 380–404. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. Lutts, Ralph H. 1998. “The Wild Animal Story: Animals and Ideas.” In The Wild Animal Story, edited by Ralph H. Lutts, 1–21. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. Marriott, Mike. 2012. “Heartland Institute Leak: Susan Crockford of University of Victoria Recruited to Help Think Tank Undermine IPCC.” Watching the Deniers: Dispatches from the Climate Change Debate. February 15. https:// McKay, Don. 2009. “Great Flint Singing.” In Open Wide a Wilderness: Canadian Nature Poems, edited by Nancy Holmes, 1–31. Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press. Mohr, Dunja M. 2017. “‘When Species Meet’: Beyond Posthuman Boundaries and Interspeciesism—Social Justice and Canadian Speculative Fiction.” Zeitschrift für Kanada-Studien 37: 40–64. Morano, Marc. 2008. “U.S. Senate Report: Over 400 Prominent Scientists Disputed Man-Made Global Warming Claims in 2007.” U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. Last modified on December 11, 2008. Plumwood, Val. 2000. “Being Prey.” In The Ultimate Journey: Inspiring Stories of Living & Dying, edited by James O’Reilly, Sean O’Reilly, and Richard Sterling, 128–46. San Francisco: Travelers’ Tales. ———. 2012. “Meeting the Predator.” In The Eye of the Crocodile, edited by Lorraine Shannon, 9–21. Canberra: Australian National University Press. Quinn, Norm. 2002. Algonquin Wildlife: Lessons in Survival. Toronto: Natural Heritage Books. Said, Edward W. 2003. Humanism and Democratic Criticism. New York: Columbia University Press. Salomon, Roger B. 2002. Mazes of the Serpent: An Anatomy of Horror Narrative. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. Sandlos, John. 2000. “From Within Fur and Feathers: Animals in Canadian Literature.” Topia 4: 73–91.



Soper, Ella, and Nicholas Bradley. 2013. “Introduction: Ecocriticism North of the Forty-Ninth Parallel.” In Greening the Maple: Canadian Ecocriticism in Context, edited by Ella Soper and Nicholas Bradley, xiii–liv. Calgary: University of Calgary Press. Sullivan, Rosemary. 2013. “La forêt or the Wilderness as Myth.” In Greening the Maple: Canadian Ecocriticism in Context, edited by Ella Soper and Nicholas Bradley, 31–42. Calgary: University of Calgary Press. Taylor, Charles. 1993. Reconciling the Solitudes: Essays on Canadian Federalism and Nationalism, edited by Guy Laforest. Montréal: McGill-Queen’s University Press. Vint, Sherryl. 2010. Animal Alterity: Science Fiction and the Question of the Animal. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press. “What Can We Learn?”. 1994. Nastawgan: Quarterly Journal of the Wilderness Canoe Association (Spring). Wilder, James M., Dag Vongraven, Todd Atwood, Bob Hansen, Amalie Jessen, Anatoly Kochnev, Geoff York, Rachel Vallender, Daryll Hedman, and Melissa Gibbons. 2017. “Polar Bear Attacks on Humans: Implications of a Changing Climate.” Wildlife Society Bulletin. Williams, Linda. 2002. “When the Woman Looks.” In Horror, the Film Reader, edited by Mark Jancovich, 61–66. London: Routledge. Williston, Byron. 2015. The Anthropocene Project: Virtue in the Age of Climate Change. New York: Oxford University Press.


Interacting with Humans, Aliens, and Others in Science Fiction from Québec Isabelle Fournier

In her novel Of Wind and Sand (2009; Terre des Autres [2004]), the award-winning science fiction author from Québec Sylvie Bérard depicts a cultural clash between humans and darztls when a group of humans decide to colonize a new planet at the expense of its first inhabitants, intelligent man-size lizard-like creatures. After peaceful first contacts, the relationship between the two quickly turns sour, with slavery and genocide as a result. Fear of the Other and a lack of communication on both sides are responsible for this fall-out. Meanwhile, in the French-language trilogy Le sable et l’acier (1997, 1998a, b; Sand and Steel), Francine Pelletier, also an award-winning sf author from Québec, presents a complex network of social and ethnic interactions, with various populations isolated in enclaves due to previous conflicts and intolerance. Oppression and social inequalities are omnipresent in both of these postcolonial narratives, with different groups fighting for the same natural resources instead of sharing them. In fact, in science fiction from Québec (sfq), the representation of this relationship with Others is often unequal and contentious. Why do sfq authors portray cases of conflictual cohabitation, I. Fournier (*)  Trent University, Peterborough, ON, Canada © The Author(s) 2019 A. J. Ransom and D. Grace (eds.), Canadian Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror, Studies in Global Science Fiction,



of constant alienation of the Other? If it is not only to serve the plot— to make a good story—then it may reflect some underlying issues in Québécois society. As Aimé Césaire demonstrates in his Discourse on Colonialism (1955), colonialism is not the best way to establish an equal and positive relationship between two cultural groups (Césaire 2000, 30). Quite the opposite, colonialism tends to create “two solitudes,” to invoke Hugh MacLennan’s metaphor, that share land and resources unequally, with the colonist on one side, and the colonized on the other. Yet Césaire still believes in the advantages of cultural exchange (Césaire 2000, 30). Both of the sfq stories considered here end on a glimmer of hope, concluding with a small, mixed group of people working together, despite their differences, on bridging the gaps—gaps that were artificially constructed by these colonist/colonized groups to justify their behavior— to restore harmony and bring back peace. Through a comparative analysis of the colonist/colonized relationships as they are represented in Of Wind and Sand and in Le sable et l’acier, I explore how fear, intolerance, as well as the lack of understanding, respect, and accommodation, lead to war and alienation for both groups, while attempts at bridging the gap to establish peaceful cohabitation between the two solitudes are beneficial to all involved. Furthermore, I view the human/alien relationship in sfq as a metaphor for the Québécois pure laine/Other dualism, in which pure laine refers to descendants of the first French settlers, and “Other” means people who “recently” moved to the province, as well as the region’s original inhabitants, the First Peoples in the Canadian context. Thus, I propose to read these sfq narratives as the reflection of a pluralist collectivity in a postcolonial environment. But first, let’s briefly look at the cultural context of Québec identity.

Diversity in Québec Cultural and ethnic diversity is at the heart of contemporary Québécois identity. Canada is a nation created by immigration, and so is Québec. Including the First Peoples who have inhabited the territory for such a long period of time that they are considered Indigenous,1 all Québécois came from somewhere else or are descendants of people coming mainly from France in the early years of colonization (the so-called pure laine), and later Great Britain. With the Treaty of Paris (1763), France conceded its former colony in America to the British Empire, changing the



status of the inhabitants of what was later to be known as Québec; losing their position of superiority, the French colonists were now (re)colonized by the British Empire. Some level of cultural assimilation may have been expected by the colonial administration at various times, but this did not become manifest. Instead, the already established population, which shared the same language (French) and religion (Roman Catholic) persevered, albeit as a subculture, well into the twentieth century, thus forging the main cultural identity of Québec as a “French-Canadian” one. With the Quiet Revolution of the 1960s, the Catholic Church lost its hegemony, while an increasingly secularized provincial government gained more power, and the Francophone subculture became dominant in Québec. Among the reforms was the creation in 1968 of the Québec Ministry of Immigration to support the immigration and integration of people from French-speaking countries to the province. With all these layers of ethnicities—First Peoples, French, English, and more recently other groups from around the world—mingling together in one shared territory, Québec has become a pluralistic society. According to the Government of Québec’s Immigration, Diversité et Inclusion website (hereafter “Immigration”), more than 45,000 people per year arrive in Québec from around the world, who then actively participate in the economic and socio-cultural development of the province. The aim of the Immigration website is to explain Québec’s common values to all Québécois, and to make it easier for newcomers to integrate into their new society, a way for the provincial government to work on bridging the solitudes. For the scope of this article, we will focus on only four of the seven core values. On top of the list is the Charter of the French Language, which recognizes French as the only official language in the province: “French is not only an essential instrument of communication, but also a common symbol of belonging to Québec society” (Immigration). The French language has been at the forefront of identity debates in Québec, including how to avoid its extinction because of the growing use of English and other languages for international trade and partnerships. Indeed, this explains the province’s campaign to support actively immigrants who already speak French. With the second value, “Québec encourages exchanges between cultures and closer relations between communities and recognizes what an enrichment diversity is” (Immigration). Newcomers, by adding new cultural elements to the society, or by offering a new perspective on old or current issues, thus play a role


in revitalizing the nation and transforming its pluralist identity. This cultural mingling should provoke new ideas (science, economy, etc.) and allow people to see beyond borders, two key ingredients to thriving in an era of globalization. The third value addresses the rule of law and insists on the fact that “All persons are equal in value and in dignity and have the right to the equal protection of the law” (Immigration). Based on the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, it prohibits any kind of discrimination on the basis of race, color, language, ethnic, or national origin, just to name a few. Finally, the fourth value is to respect the rights and freedoms of others, and is simply expressed as “Living in harmony means respecting one another” (Immigration), a simple and positive value. Overall, Québec presents itself as an open-minded Francophone ­society that wishes for the general well-being of everyone, and as a society in which “relationships between people are established with respect and tolerance in a climate of harmony” (Immigration). Interestingly these Québec official core values of an ideal pluralistic society are reflected in much of the national literature, including its science fiction. However, as this analysis reveals, relationships among the various populations or species depicted in these fictional narratives are not exclusively marked by respect, empathy, tolerance, and harmony; on the contrary, they also show the long-term negative effects of colonialism.

Human/Darztl Relationship In Bérard’s Of Wind and Sand, during the first few years after humans landed on the planet they named Mars II, the human–darztl relationship appears to be relatively cordial: in this extremely hot desert environment, darztls help humans find comestible food options, water supplies, and other resources such as metal to repair their spaceship. To show their gratitude, humans offer token gifts and jewels to this intelligent indigenous species, and organize diplomatic receptions to which all envoys, humans and darztls, are invited. Both species seem very much alike, and except for their lizard-like body, the darztls appear to have a level of intelligence, sense of ethics, emotions, cultural interests, and social interactions comparable to those of humans. In fact, humans and darztls are almost too similar for species that evolved several light-years apart. The description of these initial exchanges can easily be read as an allegory of first contact between Europeans and First Peoples in what is



now Québec, with the offering of trinkets (e.g. mirrors) to Indigenous peoples in exchange for sharing their knowledge of the land and access to natural resources of interest (e.g. furs) with French ­explorers. Significantly, instead of offering only the colonists’ dualistic vision, Bérard also presents a darztl’s point of view on the human colonization of their planet: “The humans are animals. They have no sense of dignity. […] The humans have no manners; they’re not civilized. […] Human envoys bring us hideous objects and attempt to pass them off as precious gifts” (Bérard 2009, 5). This darztl is clearly not impressed by human behavior, complaining about humans’ lack of culture and comparing them to “parasites” who “live off other species” (Bérard 2009, 6). By presenting the colonized person’s side of the story, Bérard confirms that each species has its own cultural identity, and different needs and preferences (food, climate, social interactions). Instead of accepting these differences, humans choose to see themselves as more technologically advanced beings, while darztls believe in their own superiority, widening the gap between the two species—creating two solitudes—and leading to prejudices and discrimination. Paul Kincaid summarizes Of Wind and Sand as follows: In each story we encounter a hatred between the races that, so far as it is possible to tell, is entirely irrational. Each has language, each has culture, yet neither side makes any attempt to understand or even learn about the other. Humans, en masse, decide the darztls are ugly and therefore not worthy of any consideration. The darztls, en masse, decide that humans are ugly and therefore not worthy of any consideration. So instead the humans brutalise every darztl they capture, and the darztls enslave every human they capture. Each side is monstrous to the other, which pushes them ever further apart. (Kincaid 2008)

As Kincaid points out, the initial onset of hostilities seems unjustified in the narrative (as it was with First Peoples in North America), but eventually, the reader understands their origins in the system of colonial imperialism. Its aim is to control a given territory and its resources, eliminating or assimilating former occupants in the process, because of hate, fear, or simply refusing to negotiate with them. For Césaire, colonialism dehumanizes both sides involved, including the so-called “civilized” people; the colonist, looking down on native people or species, “gets into the habit of seeing the other man as an animal, accustoms himself to treating


him like an animal, and tends objectively to transform himself into an animal” (Césaire 2000, 33). In Of Wind and Sand, humans dehumanize darztls based on an arbitrary judgment of aesthetics and dismiss their most fundamental needs; with their terraforming technology, humans cool off the desert to the point of threatening the darztls’ existence. In retaliation, the darztls attack the human colony. With a different narrator every chapter, Bérard uses a plurality of human and darztl voices to show how each species can be both “a predator and a prey” (Serruys 2012, 118), and both groups suffer from the colonization process. Some human renegades roam freely in the desert according to the law of the fittest, as a pack of wolves, raping and killing young human girls. Humans from the main colony and darztls both fear these marauders because, “Well, they may be human, but they’re capable of inflicting terrible harm on other humans” (Bérard 2009, 291). Considering darztls as nothing more than animals, these renegades also capture, torture, and eat parts of the reptiles while they are still alive, by repeatedly amputating their regenerative arms and legs as a renewable food source, until they eventually die. But humans can also fall prey to darztl hunters who are catching and enslaving them to work in mines. The constant change of point of view from human to darztl narrators makes the reader want to side at times with the human colonists and at others with the darztls. Nicholas Serruys argues that “the text [proposes] inverse developments with a feeling of estrangement towards your kind and a feeling of proximity towards Others” (Serruys 2012, 123).2 Because of their lack of respect and tolerance, each species refuses to consider the Other as its equal, constructing two solitudes instead of bridging the gaps between them in order to form a pluralist society. Amy J. Ransom suggests that “Bérard explores every aspect of colonial relationships, with a complex speculation about the impact of colonialism on race and human identity as she makes sure that neither group comes off with flying colors” (Ransom 2009, 59). As both Ransom and Serruys demonstrate, the novel can be read as a postcolonial allegory. Using an alien species as a metaphor for ethnicity, Bérard destroys the human/alien dualism to set both species on equal footing in terms of intelligence and sensitivity, but also of bestiality and cruelty. As a result of this strategy, the reader loses his/her reference points and starts thinking about the lingering (postcolonial) ethnic discrimination in contemporary (Québécois) society. Moreover, Ransom suggests that Bérard’s novel “represents one of the most sophisticated explorations in all of SF of the topic of racial relations



subsequent to Terran colonization of a planet inhabited by a sentient species, with direct references to French colonial history” (2009, 54). A specific reference to French colonial history appears in the short chapter “The Human Code” (Bérard 2009, 185), where one can find three articles from Le code noir (1685; The Black Code), an actual decree from the French government defining the life of slaves in the French colonies in the seventeenth century. Bérard modified excerpts from Le code noir, replacing all occurrences of the word “slave” with the word “humans,” as a reminder that this document was originally written by humans, proof of the institutionalized cruelty that humans have created. One question raised by Bérard’s novel is “Why would living beings impose this kind of life on other living beings? […] No one could deserve such a fate, such degradation” (2009, 133). The novel presents the dehumanizing life and reification of slaves and clearly shows that everyone can fall victim to colonization—the former inhabitants, the settlers, and their descendants—in the absence of a harmonious relationship. Both darztls and humans end up suffering, and lives are uselessly lost.

Enclaves and Barriers Francine Pelletier introduces in her Le sable et l’acier trilogy one small group of mysterious “Voyageurs” (travelers) who, by using their technological advantage to trade resources between different isolated communities, exert a certain imperialist control over them. The title of each book in the series is the first name of a woman followed by her place of origin (one of the isolated communities). Each independently cloistered society is reminiscent of a solitude in the Canadian setting. The first book, Nelle de Vilvèq (Pelletier 1997), takes place on a postapocalyptic Earth, and Vilvèq is a small city limited on three sides by the “Désolation,” a desert devastated by prior wars and environmental catastrophes, and on the fourth side by a toxic river. Reasons mentioned to avoid any partnerships with other communities are the language barrier, cultural differences, and fear of the Others (Pelletier 1997, 141). All outsiders are enemies, mainly the “latinos” and the “ussans”—an evocation of Latin America and the United States. Thus Vilvèq, an abbreviated version of the French “Ville de Québec,” is located next to a “fleuve” (the toxic river), and thus appears to be a future version of French-speaking Québec City, isolating itself in fear of its southern neighbors’ hegemony. However, Vilvèq is not a self-sufficient community and needs the Voyageurs to


supply essential commodities, the same way the first colonies in Québec imported supplies from Europe, and current international trading partnerships still prove essential to the region’s economic development today. In Vilvèq, the reader meets a young Nelle, the frequent victim of intolerance and disrespect from her peers and authority figures. Rejected from mainstream society because of her constant quest for knowledge, her curiosity about the outside world and the Others, she will be forced to move to the ghetto, a shantytown inhabited by underclass people and “éfans.” The “éfans,” an elephant-like species, were enslaved by humans despite their proven intelligence. But as Nelle quickly discovers, “la tolérance ne s’avérait pas plus courante parmi les plus misérables habitants du ghetto” (Pelletier 1997, 162; tolerance was also rare among the wretched ghetto dwellers). Befriended by Devon, Nelle seems to have more respect for the éfan than any human. The second book, Samiva de Frée, takes the reader to Sarion, which is another far-future version of the reader’s actual Earth, in a universe parallel to that of Vilvèq. The Voyageurs actually exchange commodities between these two parallel universes, taking natural resources from less environmentally devastated Sarion to help Vilvèq. Although a number of different collectivities peacefully cohabit on one continent of Sarion, I will focus on the “Fréens,” a small population living on an isolated island off the main coast. What sets them apart from the inhabitants of Vilvèq is that they have learned to be self-sufficient, guided by their instinct of survival, after they colonized this deserted island over 300 years ago. Coming from far away and wanting to preserve their distinct cultural identity, they chose to isolate their settlement and, as a result, have forged their own solitude. As were the darztls in Bérard’s novel, the Fréens are reminiscent of First Peoples, an association established by their appearance (darker skin and longer hair), their beliefs, and their founding myth, as well as their way of living in harmony with nature (e.g. fishing and gathering their food). For some Continentals, “Frée représente un idéal de vie dans l’humilité et le dépouillement” (Pelletier 1998a, 93; Frée is a model of humble and simple living). Refusing the advanced technologies and knowledge offered to Sarion by the Voyageurs means, for example, that some Fréens are dying because of lack of medical care widely available on the Continent. While some embrace the principles of simple living, others, including Samiva, consider them old-fashioned. She notes that: “Les Fréens courbaient l’échine, se pliaient aux lois anciennes et aux



rites absurdes, enfermés dans leur île comme dans un enclos à bétail” (Pelletier 1998a, 24; Fréens accepted everything, and abided by old laws and ludicrous rituals, enclosed in their island like animals in a pen). The author thus presents the reader with two different perspectives on the isolated island, with the positive and the negative aspects clearly shown. Resenting the old traditions of her society, Samiva leaves her island to follow her quest for freedom and knowledge, and to be the first Fréen “fad’i” (military) officer. In this position, Samiva becomes responsible for Nelle’s safety during her stay on Sarion. During their initial contacts, Samiva becomes aware of how limited her knowledge of other cultures is: “Les fad’is se plaignaient souvent de ne rien comprendre non plus aux Terriens… Tant d’ignorance de part et d’autres!” (Pelletier 1998a, 52; Fad’is were often complaining of not understanding Earthlings… So much ignorance on both sides!). Samiva’s ignorance misleads her at first, as she initially believes that the Voyagers are on Sarion only to enslave people. Most inhabitants of Sarion have limited trust in these outsiders, whom they nickname “horsars,” meaning “à tenir hors de Sarion, hors du monde connu. À rejeter” (Pelletier 1998a, 27; to keep out of Sarion, out of the known world. To be rejected). People from Sarion are ready to accept the Voyageurs’ technology, but reject the people bringing it— an interesting paradox. So far, we have focused on two distinct enclaved populations, with a third one being the Voyageurs, presented in more detail in the third book of the series, Issabel de Qohosaten. Issabel explains the closing of Qohosaten by selfishness and fear: There was a time when our community was open to the desert, welcoming survivors looking for help and shelter. […] Then, with time, we have selfishly withdrawn within our walls, closed our doors. Some started to fear desert people, calling them rebels… […] This isolation was the result of fear, a fear we should all be ashamed of. (Pelletier 1998b, 359)3

Located on the same world as Vilvèq, Qohosaten went from being a welcoming society to an isolated nation. Considered god-like, the elders of this group are the Voyageurs, kept alive via suspended sleep mode, only briefly woken up when their decision-making abilities are required. They exert an imperialist control over the other cities/nations, helping some populations more than others, and gaining benefits from these exchanges of commodities.


The contact between the three populations (Vilvèq, Frée, and Qohosaten) is eventually re-established through the three novels’ three female protagonists (Nelle, Samiva, and Issabel), driven by their insatiable intellectual curiosity, their open minds, and their tolerance. Traveling and talking together allows them to offer an outsider’s point of view on each other’s nations, an attempt to bridge cultural gaps. For example, Samiva notes that: And what should I say to my people to convince them to come back to Earth? Should I describe how you isolate Vilvèq to punish them for a war with no winning side? Should I talk about ussans? or Rinnie imprisoned as a result of your intolerance? Or should I tell them how the so-called “rebels” living in the desert were killed when all they wanted was to be free? (Pelletier 1998b, 337)4

Because of prior wars, each population stays apart from the others, despite the drawbacks of this solitude. Reconciliation or pluralism do not appear to be options. Moreover, Pelletier reminds us that war makes more victims than winners and causes intolerance and discrimination against anyone considered “different.” Misconceptions and fears are passed down from generation to generation, as all three groups transmit only carefully selected knowledge and history to their youngsters, voluntarily keeping most residents in the dark, allegedly to protect them. If her trilogy offers an allegory or reflection of current Québec society, then the message is strongly against isolationism; on the contrary, it promotes bridging the solitudes to build a pluralistic nation.

A Wind of Change in the Desert Both Pelletier and Bérard, through the voices of their protagonists, eventually condemn the human/Other dualism created in a postcolonial context, reflecting, as well, an implied rejection of the Québécois pure laine/ Other opposition. If both of the sfq narratives discussed here contain countless examples of human cruelty, discrimination, and xenophobia, they also both contain a glimmer of hope, alluding to the contemporary ideology of pluralism in a Québécois society which, according to historian Béatrice Richard, affirms that “violent solutions are not in their best interest” (qtd. in Robitaille 2006).5 With time the three female protagonists of Pelletier’s trilogy— Nelle, Samiva, and Issabel, as well as the secondary character Rinnie,



representing the ussans—learn to know and respect one another. They each represent their nations of origin, each becomes an ambassador of her culture, building bridges across their various solitudes, working together to peacefully unite all. Their goal is to break down the barriers, to mend the gap between nations, and to favor commercial and cultural exchanges, in other words to create the equivalent of a pluralist society. To achieve this result, the protagonists have to work hand in hand because “un vent de changement souffle sur Qohosaten et nous avons aujourd’hui le devoir de regarder vers l’avenir” (Pelletier 1998b, 360; a wind of change is blowing over Qohosaten and we now have to look ahead). They are aware of numerous difficulties associated with asking people to change, and they believe that the dedicated efforts of everyone will be required to improve the world they live in. In order to create harmonious relationships, people will need to welcome Others into their culture, to learn from them, and also provide them assistance when needed. For example, Issabel asks Samiva for her help with “la reconstruction de cette planète défigurée par la guerre et la folie des hommes” (Pelletier 1998b, 355; rebuilding this planet disfigured by war and humans’ madness). What she really hopes for is that “Les Fréens sont accoutumés à une rude existence. Et l’existence est rude dans la Désolation. Crois-tu que les tiens accepteraient de nous apporter leur aide, leur expertise en quelque sorte, pour réimplanter une communauté humaine dans le désert?” (Pelletier 1998b, 355; Freens are used to living a rude life. And it is tough living in the “Désolation.” Do you believe that your people would agree to help us with their advice and expertise to re-establish a human colony in the desert?). Recognizing that each group has its own strengths, she suggests sharing this knowledge for the benefit of all. For example, she proposes that scientists from Vilvèq and from Qohosaten work jointly with the Fréens to develop genetically engineered solutions to transform areas of the desolated land, to erase once and for all the old remnants of wars and man-made disaster, and turn it back into a flourishing space. And this can only happen by “encouraging exchanges between cultures and closer relations between communities” (Immigration), one of Québec’s core values mentioned above. While each group at first opted for isolation to protect their culture, their identity, their nation, it should not be forgotten that they are all humans—and so are we, the readers! Archaic social structures need to be put aside to abolish xenophobia; thus, in the end, there should be only people helping people to build a better world (Pelletier 1998b, 366).


But let’s not forget that humans are not the only intelligent species. Nelle wishes to go back to Vilvèq to open my city to the desert and try to improve life for éfans […] and all my fellow citizens. Vilvèq is not that different from Qohosaten, overall. People stay confined within its walls, while the world outside is coming back to life. (Pelletier 1998b, 341–42)6

Nelle hopes that not only humans will benefit from this wind of tolerance and respect, but that the pluralistic society may also include other species such as the enslaved éfans. If in Le sable et l’acier (the title “sand and steel” reflecting the importance of the sand in the story) the desert is first depicted by Pelletier as a symbol of “Désolation,” of rupture and wars between nations, in the trilogy’s conclusion it becomes a place of reconciliation and reunification. Meanwhile, in Of Wind and Sand, the desert is also presented as a harsh place for humans to survive, but not for the indigenous darztls. Nevertheless, the desert is where a pluralist society forms, where the two solitudes meet with the creation of the Village, “an entire free world where humans and darztls lived in peace” (Bérard 2009, 288). Bérard shows that despite the violence that has divided the groups in the past, it is still possible to live together in harmony. Mielk, a human whose mind has been transferred into a darztl body at his own request, explains his decision to change bodies to Marie, a former human slave recently brought to the Village: I no longer wanted to belong to the world of humans […] because I was tired of a system in which the weakest is subjugated by the stronger, where those who are more numerous overwhelm those who are isolated. […] So my solution had been to take on the form of the strong and help the weaker. […] it was the most effective means for me to help our little community […]. I was a living human in the body of a dead darztl, rescuing humans whom the darztls had tried to kill symbolically. But that was in keeping with the world we were trying to build. A world patched together from what we found on site. Mixing old and new, human and darztl, true and false, free and not free. Just like in real life. (Bérard 2009, 302–303)

Mielk undergoes a body transformation to help improve his society, which reflects the changes that people and societies sometimes have



to undertake in order to evolve. Marie, in her case, must progressively change the way she perceives darztls to adapt to her new life in the Village: cruelly treated by slave masters, she has to learn slowly to trust any darztl. When asked if she believes that former slave owners could stop dehumanizing humans, she answers, “If slaves can change, then I guess masters can as well” (290). Individual or societal change is possible only when people are given time to accept it. Mielk and all other Villagers hope that “One day, we might be able to convince them [darztls and humans] to live otherwise” (303), to stop fighting. Mielk would like to convince slave supporters and human mercenaries to give up violence to bring back peace. The Villagers’ power of action is unfortunately very limited, and therefore they can act only on a small scale; they have to transmit their message and convince people one person—human or darztl—at a time. Communication and education are their weapon of choice, a slow process that has the benefit of being pacific. To create a harmonious relationship across the two species, a little tolerance and an open mind are needed, and leaving behind prejudices and discrimination based on physical appearance is a must. Changing a society means convincing one person after another, and this is exactly what the Québec Immigration website is trying to do.

Plurality and Diversity in Québécois Literature After a close reading of these two stories, my conclusion is that humans’ sense of their own superiority over Others and their refusal to consider them as equals leads to war and destruction. On the other hand, accepting and respecting the Other provides a better living environment for everyone. Moreover, the human/alien relationship can be seen as a metaphor of the pure laine/Other dualism. By “Other” Québécois, we mean people who either arrived more recently or First Peoples, and I suggest that these two sfq narratives are the reflection of their authors’ support for a pluralistic collectivity. Imaginary or fictional world narratives are great tools for analyzing interethnic relationships. Timothy Clark believes that “any study of a text on the non-human always becomes a study of humanity in some sense” (2011, 187). Thus, in Québécois science fiction literature, just as in English-language science fiction, imaginary beings, creatures, or aliens can be read as metaphors to depict interethnic interactions. Ransom proposes that:

288  I. FOURNIER we are curious about others. However problematic it may be, this is a primary goal of science fiction: to imagine the possibility of the existence of others in the universe and to work through, often in some symbolic or allegorical way, our relationships with the others that surround us here on Earth. Likewise, science fiction from Québec shares this aim. (2009, 209)

Science fiction writers often try to raise awareness and feed debates about current societal issues observed in society. In a Québec in full evolution and transformation, sfq literature is a place for questioning and talking about potential solutions to improve all relationships. Sfq novels can teach us about avoiding conflicts and assimilation in pluralistic societies and inspire us to be more respectful and open to others in a way that promotes their integration. Xenophobia and discrimination create useless devastating conflicts. The ongoing and ever-present clashes in both narratives reveal what the authors were trying to avoid and condemn. Bérard and Pelletier may have gotten their inspiration from their own reality, from their fears, from cases of discrimination presented daily in the news in Québec. For example, heated debates about First Peoples’ rights or reasonable accommodations for recent immigrants have been at the forefront of newspaper headlines for over two decades, culminating with the Bouchard-Taylor Report, Building the Future: A Time for Reconciliation (2008). At the conclusion of a government commission on reasonable accommodation, it suggests ways to improve the integration of immigrants and lower inequalities and discrimination, and to learn about diversity and interculturalism (Bouchard and Taylor 2008). Given the persistence of racial controversies in Québec, it seems that all Québécois are, unfortunately, still not conferred with equal value and dignity, as advocated by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (Government of Canada [1982] 2017). Of Wind and Sand and Le sable et l’acier invite all Québécois r­eaders to rethink their relationships with one another. The underlying m ­ essage is that the time has come to focus on plurality and ethnic diversity. Contemporary Québec, despite its heavily pro-French linguistic and cultural traditions, must accept and respect the Other, advocating for harmonious relationships and cultural diversity, in order to undertake a socio-cultural metamorphosis deemed necessary by official government bodies (as seen in the Immigration document and the Bouchard-Taylor report) and by sfq authors such as Bérard and Pelletier. Just as these two authors do, we readers should use our imagination, and envision



new opportunities for Québec’s future to avoid the negative consequences associated with isolationism, xenophobia, and discrimination. Intercultural models should be developed to bridge the gaps between all the solitudes, models that encourage tolerance and respect for people ­living not only in Québec but everywhere on Earth.

Notes 1. Readers will recall that Homo sapiens migrated to North America around 15,000 B.C. 2. This and subsequent translations from the French in this chapter are by Isabelle Fournier, unless an official published translation is acknowledged in the References list; “le récit [… propose] des conjonctures inverses, où il y a le sentiment d’étrangeté face à ses semblables et le sentiment de proximité face à autrui” (Serruys 2012, 123). 3. “Jadis, notre communauté était ouverte au désert, accueillante envers les survivants qui souhaitaient trouver refuge en nos murs. […] Puis, avec le passage du temps, nous nous sommes égoïstement refermés sur nousmêmes. Certains en sont même venus à craindre les gens du désert, les traitant de rebelles… […] Cette fermeture était le résultat de la peur, une peur dont nous devons avoir honte” (Pelletier 1998b, 359). 4. “Et que dirai-je aux miens pour les convaincre de revenir sur Terre? Leur décrirai-je Vilvèq, tenue dans l’isolement par votre désir de punir ses citadins pour une guerre qui n’a fait que des perdants? Leur parlerai-je des ussans, de Rinnie que votre intolérance a fait mettre en prison? Ou bien raconterai-je le massacre des gens du désert que vous qualifiez de rebelles parce qu’ils veulent vivre en toute liberté?” (Pelletier 1998b, 337). 5. “les solutions violentes ne sont pas dans leur intérêt” (qtd. in Robitaille 2006). 6.  “ouvrir ma ville au désert et essayer d’améliorer le sort des éfans […] et de tous mes concitoyens. Vilvèq n’est pas différente de Qohosaten, en fin de compte. On y reste enfermés entre ses murs, alors qu’au dehors le monde commence à renaître” (Pelletier 1998b, 341–42).

References Bérard, Sylvie. 2009. Of Wind and Sand. Translated by Sheryl Curtis. Calgary: EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing. Originally published 2004. Terre des Autres. Québec: Àlire. Bouchard, Gérard, and Charles Taylor. 2008. Building the Future: A Time for Reconciliation. Québec City: Gouvernement du Québec.

290  I. FOURNIER Césaire, Aimé. [1955] 2000. Discourse on Colonialism. Translated by Joan Pinkham. New York: Monthly Review Press. Clark, Timothy. 2011. The Cambridge Introduction to Literature and the Environment. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Government of Canada. [1982] 2017. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Immigration, Diversité et Inclusion. 2016. “Sharing Common Values.” Gouvernement du Québec. Last modified November 30, 2016. http://www. html. Kincaid, Paul. 2008. “Review of Of Wind and Sand.” SF Site: Reviews. https:// Pelletier, Francine. 1997. Nelle de Vilvèq. Québec: Àlire. ———. 1998a. Samiva de Frée. Québec: Àlire. ———. 1998b. Issabel de Qohosaten. Québec: Àlire. Ransom, Amy J. 2009. Science Fiction from Québec: A Postcolonial Study. Jefferson: McFarland. Robitaille, Antoine. 2006. “Le pacifisme, maladie ou vertu Québécoise?” Le Devoir. September 23. Serruys, Nicholas. 2012. “Problématiques de l’identité et de l’altérité dans Terre des Autres (2004) de Sylvie Bérard.” Nouvelles Études Francophones 27 (1): 115–129.


Bridging the Slipstream: Generic Fluidity in Canadian Speculative Fiction


Holes Within and Bridges Beyond: The Transfictions of Élisabeth Vonarburg and Michel Tremblay Sylvie Bérard

Literary research tends to be insular: scholars often adopt a writer, a national literature, a genre, a form, and they tend to remain within the generally prescribed limits of their object. This is true, especially when it comes to the study of genre vs. mainstream literature. Science-fiction writers and “mainstream” Québécois writers, for instance, are usually not studied in the same essays, even when their authors’ works intersect in a number of ways. Writers like Élisabeth Vonarburg and Michel Tremblay, for example, are not read by the same audience and do not often meet in critical studies. However, although they seem superficially quite different, a cross-reading of their corpus suggests that they have in common many themes and narrative strategies. In the mid-nineties, I started exploring the many significant c­ onnections that Québec science fiction writer Élisabeth Vonarburg makes between her various fictional texts, first focusing on her then uncollected short stories, then the collections L’œil de la nuit (1980; The Eye of

S. Bérard (*)  Trent University, Peterborough, ON, Canada © The Author(s) 2019 A. J. Ransom and D. Grace (eds.), Canadian Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror, Studies in Global Science Fiction,


294  S. BÉRARD

the Night)1 and Janus (1984), and her novel Reluctant Voyagers (1995; Les voyageurs malgré eux, 1994) (see Bérard 1995, 1998). A couple of years later, she appeared to have strayed from the parallel universes she had described in her previous works. And yet, her new pentalogy Tyranaël (1996–1997; Dreams of the Sea, 2003 and A Game of Perfection, 2006) drew from previously published short stories, opening another branch of her “arbre-à-univers” (universe tree), an expression Vonarburg uses for the first time in the short story “The Knot” (2000a; “Le nœud,” 1980) (see Bérard 1998). Vonarburg is a prolific writer. Since 1996, besides the five novels of the Tyranaël cycle, she published the Reine de mémoire [Queen of Memory] cycle of five fantasy novels (2005–2007), one other novel (Hôtel Olympia, 2014), and six short story collections (some containing revised versions of previously released other short texts). Also in the mid-nineties, two books were released on Québec playwright and novelist Michel Tremblay: an anthology, Le monde de Michel Tremblay (David and Lavoie 1993; The World of Michel Tremblay), covering all sixteen plays published by Tremblay to that date, and JeanMarc Barrette’s L’univers de Michel Tremblay. Dictionnaire des personnages (1996; The Universe of Michel Tremblay. Dictionary of Characters), covering all Tremblay characters, regardless of genre (for, as Barrette says, Tremblay’s works create an indissociable whole). In the decades since, both of these books have been revised and/or expanded (David and Lavoie 2003, 2005; Barrette and Bergeron 2014). In his review of the dictionary, Michel Bélair explains how fecund a writer Tremblay is: Since 1996, when the first edition of this dictionary was published, p ­ rolific author Michel Tremblay wrote fifteen novels and a dozen plays. […] The 2000 new characters of all types that they contain justify a new edition. Around 5000 characters, fictional or real, of the universe of Michel Tremblay […] can be found in his book. (2014)2

Although working in very different genres, Élisabeth Vonarburg and Michel Tremblay share a similar approach to literary world building, proceeding by addition, ramification, amplification, and sometimes revision, drawing from the same fictional and autobiographical sources. However, because Vonarburg is famous for her science fiction and fantasy (in spite of having practiced poetry, for instance), while Tremblay is considered a mainstream playwright and novelist (although two of his first three books can be viewed as science-fictional), they don’t usually find their



works analyzed together. Tremblay’s fantastic influences are sometimes studied (Boisvert 2003; Arino 2007; Brochu 2002), but for the most part, scholars have failed to document the many resemblances between their two corpuses. This chapter uncovers the unexpected similarities between Vonarburg’s and Tremblay’s fictional strategies. In accordance with this volume’s emphasis on Canadian sf and fantasy, I focus on Vonarburg’s works that clearly reference Québec and Tremblay’s texts with fantastic content. This eloquent meeting of these two writers suggests that Vonarburg’s science fiction and fantasy (sff) is anchored in the genre in both a transnational and specifically Québécois fashion, and that Tremblay’s intrinsically Québécois world has always been connected to the fantastic. One interesting topos that these writers share is the notion of holes within their fictional worlds and in their writing process, holes that we could also call wormholes, hollow spots in their fictional worlds, but also conduits between their fictions.

(Worm)Holes in the Plateau Tremblay’s first book, Contes pour buveurs attardés (1977; Stories for Late Night Drinkers, 1966), is a collection of fantastic tales, apparently disconnected from the rest of his fictional universe, but presenting many of his familiar themes. One tale describes a supernatural phenomenon through a “tiny little hole.” The “petit trou de rien” (literally, “little hole of nothing”), in context, is an interesting example of nihilization, both rhetorically (the erasure of the object) and psychoanalytically (the fear of disappearing). It curiously describes the way the writer will build his fictional universe for the next fifty years, from The City in the Egg (1999a; La cité dans l’œuf, 1969), to the partial closure of the loop in Le trou dans le mur (2006b; The Hole in the Wall). At the center of the corpus are a series of six novels known collectively as the Chroniques du Plateau Mont-Royal (1976–1997; Chronicles of the Plateau Mont-Royal), presenting a largely realist series of fictions, sometimes with a fantastic twist. The fantastic tone of Tremblay’s texts has occasionally been associated with magical realism (e.g., Rochefort 2001; Nadeau 2005): the presence, within a single work of fiction, of two levels of reality, natural and supernatural, that create an antinomy; the lack of resolution of the antinomy in the narration; the absence of a discourse on the disconcerting antinomy (Chanady 1985). In Tremblay’s Chronicles, dreams, visions, new stories, and also mental illness erupt from holes in reality.

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In the first pages of the Chronicles, in the novel The Fat Woman Next Door Is Pregnant (1981a; La grosse femme d’à côté est enceinte, 1978), dreams come to the “Fat Woman” from sitting in a hole in the sand. The novel The First Quarter of the Moon (1994; Le premier quartier de la lune, 1989) also originates from a hole: summer is described as “an absence of sound, a hole” (Tremblay 1994, 7). The whole story starts with this moment of nothing, or, as Pierre Popovic says, on a background of general stillness (2005, 51). During this story, which transpires over the course of a single day, the Fat Woman’s child, aka Jean-Marc, starts daydreaming about “[a] hole in the ceiling of his classroom” (Tremblay 1994, 89). Holes, in this novel, are thus connected to escape and fiction. There is also another kind of hole, less literal, connected to fantasy. In The Fat Woman Next Door, the titular Fat Woman’s nephew Marcel begins to see Florence and her three daughters Rose, Violette, and Mauve on the balcony of an apartment believed to be empty. At the end of the novel, Marcel’s favorite cat Duplessis dies and yet remains alive on Florence’s lap, still visible to Marcel. The alternate reality depicted in The Duchess and the Commoner (1999b; La duchesse et le roturier, 1982), is also connected to a hole: Marcel watches Florence and her daughter through a “watery magnifying lens” (Tremblay 1999b, 14), i.e., the frost of the window warmed up with his hand. This is evocative of Alice in Wonderland’s looking glass, just as François Rochon (1999) points out, the cat Duplessis could be connected to the Cheshire cat. The First Quarter of the Moon also tells how the Fat Woman’s child discovers his own imaginary world, while his cousin Marcel gradually loses his ability to see the four women and even his cat Duplessis. Suddenly, and this is one of the rare moments when their universes meet, for Marcel, and even for his cousin who can briefly perceive it, the cat itself becomes full of holes: “Without knowing the source of the sentence that was emerging from his wicked mouth, the Fat Woman’s child said to himself in Marcel’s voice, a counterfeit Marcel’s voice: ‘The holes ate up Duplessis, now all I see is his eyes!’” (Tremblay 1994, 42). The child can see three layers of Duplessis: the whole, beautiful, enticing cat, then the punctured cat (1994, 42; “as if something were eating him from inside”), and then only the eyes of the cat with a few hairs, a muzzle, and two ears, another likely reference to Alice in Wonderland. When Marcel sets Florence’s house on fire, which sends all the visions definitely away, he chooses to keep the cat anyway, and this is when he moves from perceiving the



supernatural to mental illness: “He was only holding the cat of a madman who thinks he has a cat” (Tremblay 1994, 231). There is a perpetual movement, throughout Tremblay’s Chronicles, between “seeing things” and seeing nothing. In The Duchess and the Commoner, Marcel’s grandmother Victoire refuses to see the cat and paradoxically chases him away calling him a ghost. There is a discussion in which Victoire’s brother wants her to admit seeing things just like he does but she keeps denying this. However, as she is about to die (with Florence and her daughters as ushers), she joins her grandson in his visions. Her daughter warns her against going to the house where Marcel sees Florence and her three daughters and tells her, “Don’t go there, mom, there’s nothing,” but Victoire replies: “It’s in our house that there’s nothing, Bartine!” (Tremblay 1999b, 247). A few times, sharing visions and telling stories are described negatively as “filling (people’s) head” (Tremblay 1981a, 241). In Thérèse and Pierrette and the Little Hanging Angel (1996; Thérèse et Pierrette à l’école des Saints-Anges, 1980), Marcel’s mother Albertine ranks being a poet lower than being crazy: “If I have given the world a fool I will do everything to cure him, but if I gave the world a poet I’m afraid there is no cure, then I will never forgive myself!” (Tremblay 1996, 125). As he grows up, the son of the Fat Woman wants to see what his cousin Marcel sees. Once in a while, he catches a glimpse of the supernatural universe, but has to realize that he cannot access it. The Duchess and the Commoner ends with the realization that he is not “worthy” of Marcel’s visions. The fact that, for the Fat Woman’s child, those “ideas” are desirable is also a statement in favor of fiction, especially when elsewhere in Tremblay’s corpus, we learn that the Fat Woman’s child is also JeanMarc, Tremblay’s autobiographical alter ego (Barrette and Bergeron 2014), thus a writer. What Marcel sees will always remain elusive to the Fat Woman’s child, and perhaps this is the reason why the latter will become a writer—to fill up the holes? “This is how the child of the Fat Woman is getting prepared to become a writer,” says Tremblay specialist André Brochu (2002, 234).3

Bridges Over Troubled Holes Holes are the starting point of Vonarburg’s Reluctant Voyagers. Catherine, the main character, is pushed into her quest because she needs to fill in the blanks in her memory: in French, blanks or, in the

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novel, “memory gaps” are called “trous de mémoire,” literally “memory holes”: “That time lapse this morning, and now these memory gaps […]. Perhaps there was a link between this morning’s incident and the vision, but she never remembered hearing that visions might be accompanied by vertigo” (Vonarburg 1995, 29). There are actually two movements affecting Catherine: on the one hand, she’s forgetting or confusing elements of the Québécois society in which she lives and her European background; on the other hand, in these holes in her reality, she’s seeing another reality. This novel is set in the fictional context of Vonarburg’s Bridge cycle, a reference to a fictional device that allows travel between parallel universes. This cycle cannot be approached chronologically, for the stories do not follow a linear timeline, but rather the logic of travelling between parallel worlds, which is described as subjective, following the Voyager’s subjectivity. The cycle revolves around a set of characters just as Tremblay’s stories do, but those characters are scattered in an infinity of parallel universes and have doubles in most of them with varying name spellings, such as “Catherine,” “Kathryn,” “Katrin,” or “Catrine.” The earliest stories featuring the Bridge were published in the author’s first short-story collection, L’œil de la nuit (1980; The Eye of the Night), and the most recent one, “Terminus,” is, according to Vonarburg, probably the last of the series (Vonarburg 2009, 335–36). The title of “Cold Bridge” (1987; “Le pont du froid,” 1980), featuring a character called Catherine, refers to the coldness of the Bridge. Vonarburg gives a visual description of the device in this story and a few others. In “The Slow Engine of Time” (2000b; “La machine lente du temps,” 1984), the narrator describes the inside of the Bridge: “Once in the capsule, the Voyagers are put to sleep. Submerged in a cryogen and brought close to absolute zero. Then the Voyage begins” (Vonarburg 2000b, 120). In Reluctant Voyagers, the Bridge is described as a “triumph over a nothingness” (Vonarburg 1995, 440). “See Kathryn Run” (2005b; “La course de Kathryn,” 2003;) insists on the unavoidability of the Bridge: “there was always a Bridge” (Vonarburg 2005b, 123). All these descriptions, along with the notion of absolute zero, the temperature required for the Voyage, connect the Bridge to the image of what I would call an unavoidable void, thus to Tremblay’s “little hole of nothing” (Tremblay 1977, 60–61). All through the Bridge cycle, Voyagers reflect on the Bridge, on its immanent or transcendent meaning, what Nicholas Serruys describes



as a “quest for meaning” (2014, 113). Thus the cycle’s conclusion, “Terminus,” creates an interesting symbolic hole in the series: the absent/elusive meaning. The short story describes the journey of Catrine, a Voyager, who repeatedly meets her doppelgängers in various parallel universes at the very moment when they commit suicide; she tries to prevent them from dying, but to no avail. The narrator wonders: “Est-ce que le Pont me dit que je ne devrais pas exister, alors?” (Vonarburg 2009, 346; Is the Bridge telling me that I shouldn’t exist then?). The end of the story is quite eloquent: after failing to save one last double of herself, Catrine is the one who attempts suicide, and when she fails, she sends herself back to her original universe. When she gets there, she realizes that, for those observing her in the Bridge, she just flickered for a week, disappearing and reappearing, but gradually aging, to a point where, a week later, her husband finds a spouse suddenly twice his age. In the conclusion, she decides to destroy the machine that she created (in that universe, she is the inventor of the Bridge), justifying her decision with the argument that the Bridge has no real use (“Il n’a pas vraiment d’utilité;” Vonarburg 2009, 371). And not only will she destroy the Bridge, but her memory of it, and of all her Voyages, so nobody in her world will ever learn about it. She is literally burning Bridges just as Marcel, in Tremblay, burns the house where Florence and her daughter lived.

Dotted Genres Interestingly, both writers have their version of a story where all stories potentially meet. For Vonarburg, Reluctant Voyagers is a novel in which all characters from the Bridge cycle converge (Janelle 1994; Bérard 1998). Similarly, Le trou dans le mur (2006b), featuring the same central character as his early novel The City in the Egg, constructs a bridge between all of Tremblay’s stories.4 More than three decades after his adventures in The City in the Egg, François Laplante Jr. gains access to an array of characters through the hole in the wall of a famous Montréal landmark, the Monument National hall: Gloria, whom we met for the first time in Sainte-Carmen of the Main (1981b; Sainte-Carmen de la Main 1976), Jean-le-Décollé from The Black Notebook (2006a; Le cahier noir, 2003), Toothpick from many plays and novels by Tremblay, etc. As a result, The City in the Egg, which, for a long time, did not seem connected to any of Tremblay’s other stories, suddenly becomes part of

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Tremblay’s small world because it now shares its main character with Le trou dans le mur. Furthermore, François Laplante is revealed as another version of Marcel, a more adult and balanced version, and one that would not have been excluded for the parallel world where Florence and the other knitters of The Fat Woman Next Door live. For both writers, topoï travel across texts, cycles, and genres. As Barrette and Bergeron’s dictionary reveals, his characters travel from fiction to fiction and onto the stage. Marcel and other names from the Chronicles either first appeared in early plays like Les belles-sœurs (1968) and En pièces détachées (1975). Furthermore, he recycles a limited number of places that he recreates for each new story: Montréal (the Plateau, the Main, Outremont, the Latin Quarter), Key West, the province of Saskatchewan, the village of Duhamel, the Atlantic Ocean, Paris. Additionally, the topos of the hole vs. fantasy recurs in Tremblay’s other fictions, such as The Driving Force (2005; L’impératif présent, 2003), in which Claude, a character that the author’s audience met in The Real World? (1988; Le vrai monde?, 1986) says that the death of his father would leave a hole in his soul. Similarily, Tremblay’s latest play, L’oratorio de Noël (2012; Noël’s Oratorio), begins with a long dialogue about the holes in the main character’s memory (he suffers from Alzheimer’s). Themes and topoï also move freely from texts to cycles to genres in Vonarburg’s corpus, suggesting that her fantasy and science-fiction stories are just two aspects of one greater narrative. For example, in the sf novel Reluctant Voyagers, there are two baby messiahs, and both Jesus and her sister Lilith are represented in the Christmas crib, while in the fantasy series Reine de mémoire (2005–2007; Queen of Memory), the New Testament is based on the existence of two holy gemini (twins), Jesus and Sophia. Just as the supernatural hole is not limited by Tremblay to the Chronicles, images of wormholes or entry gates to another plane of reality are not limited to the Bridge cycle and can also be found in Vonarburg’s fantasy, like the “monde perpendiculaire à l’hôtel” (world perpendicular to the hotel) in Hôtel Olympia (2014, 177) or the “Entremonde” (Middleworld) in Reine de mémoire. The latter’s starting point resembles that of Reluctant Voyagers, as the question of its child protagonists, Senso, Pierrino, and Jiliane, is launched by a “fenêtre-­ de-trop” (Vonarburg 2005a, 4), an extra window that suddenly appears on the outside wall of their house. They postulate the existence of a



corresponding door that they call a “porte-en-moins” (ibid.; missing door) inside, a hint to missing pieces in the family history and, more globally, in the political history of this world. After those discoveries, Jiliane stops talking, and describes her mutism as a protective skin, using another metaphor connected to holes: “Il ne faut quand même pas infliger trop de trous à la peau intérieure, même si c’est sa punition” (Vonarburg 2005a, 357; She wouldn’t want to inflict too many holes to her inner skin, even though it’s her punishment). The last of the cycle’s five novels ends with an image that could remind the reader of the reality as perceived by Tremblay’s character Marcel: Jiliane looks through the window and sees a landscape, but “[e]lle ne sait jamais si elle voit par cette fenêtre le vrai paysage ou son reflet dans l’Entremonde, un Entremonde de sa propre création” (Vonarburg 2007, 458; [s]he never knows whether she sees through this window the actual landscape or its reflection in the Middleworld, a Middleworld that she created). Hôtel Olympia is also based on this kind of dotted fictive past and fictional holes: Danika, after inheriting a hotel in Paris, discovers the mystery of her family life, origin, and identity. At the beginning of the novel, when she learns that her mother has disappeared and she must return to the family hotel, she uses the metaphor of a hole: “Elle a comme un trou dans la poitrine et pourtant, ça pèse lourd (Vonarburg 2014, 15; She’s got like a hole in her chest, and yet, it feels heavy). At the end of the novel, once she has uncovered the secret of her semi-divine origins, she chooses to live as a mortal and leaves the hotel with her mortal husband. His memory has been wiped of what happened in the hotel, but “Il doit déjà commencer à combler sa mémoire de faux souvenirs” (Vonarburg 2014, 591; He must already be filling the gaps of his memory with false reminiscences). Just as Reine de mémoire depicts a very logical world where magic happens to exist, Hôtel Olympia is a very rational representation of a fantasy world. This blurring invokes definitions of magical realism, further connecting her work with Tremblay’s universe. For example, Florence, Rose, Mauve, and Violette of the Chronicles are neither ghosts nor hallucinations. As with Danika’s divine family, they are closer to deities, and this is why in some studies they have been associated with the Moiras of the Greek mythology. Magical realism, as opposed to the fantastic defined by Todorov (1970) as a hesitation, is about an unresolved conflict, an antinomy between two codes: realism and fantastic (Chanady 1985). There is, indeed, a clash of two codes in both bodies of fiction: the natural and the supernatural. The supernatural

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presence of Tremblay’s or Vonarburg’s characters is not questioned within the world of the fictional Fabre Street or Hôtel Olympia, although not all characters acknowledge their existence. Vonarburg and Tremblay also have similar approaches to poetics and storytelling. Narratologically, the two writers take advantage of holes in their existing fictions. Richard Saint-Gelais develops the notion of the “transfiction,” which refers to two or more otherwise independent works of fiction, written by the same or different authors, that are connected by the repetition of characters or setting (Saint-Gelais 1999, 346). In an interview with Natasha Vas-Deyres, Vonarburg agrees that “transfictions” is “a very good way to describe” her fiction (Vas-Deyres 2014). For Tremblay, the starting point is the idea, the topic, the problem he wants to raise in a fiction, and it can take awhile before he knows which set of characters will embody them (Lafon [1993] 2005, 121). As for Vonarburg, the nodal point is the subject, and before anything can happen, there has to be an intimate resonance. Otherwise, she says, the characters will never exist. In any case, they seem to agree that their fiction revolves around their own subjectivity (Vonarburg 2018).

Hollowed Critique Because of the insularity of literary research, similarities between Tremblay’s and Vonarburg’s corpuses have heretofore gone unnoticed. First, both corpuses acknowledge their debt to sf and the fantastic. Although Tremblay has mainly been studied as a realist author, anchored in the Québécois context, he makes clear references to the fantastic and quotes Belgian fantasy writer Jean Ray in epigraph to his first novel: “Mysterious things can only be explained by things that are even more mysterious” (Tremblay 1999a, 6). Furthermore, Le trou dans le mur, the novel that closes the loop with The City in the Egg, contains a reference to British science fiction and fantasy writer Michael Moorcock (Tremblay 2006, 19). Conversely, in Reluctant Voyagers, the acknowledged sf and f writer Vonarburg associates fantasy with the paradigm of French realism, Balzac (Vonarburg 1995, 284). Also, given their propensity to create cosmogonies-in-progress, it should be no surprise that both writers display more than a passing interest in mythology. The link between Tremblay’s theater and Greek theatrical codes is well established (Cambron 1989, 125–145), and Greek mythology and archetypes also appear in his fiction. For instance, François



Rochon suggests that Tremblay’s knitters (Rose, Violette, Mauve and their mother) in the Chronicles are similar to the Moiras in Greek mythology (Rochon 1999, 377). In the Tyranaël series by Vonarburg, the “Ekelli” play a similar, divine part, but there is an even closer connection with Tremblay in Hôtel Olympia: Vonarburg too has her knitters or Moiras, the three “très vieilles sœurs d’Olympia” (Vonarburg 2014, 23; Olympia’s very old sisters). Perhaps there is even an allusion to Tremblay’s world in Hôtel Olympia: when Danika, the main character, exits the Hotel Olympia at the end of the novel, she notices that the name of the café across the street is “Chez Albertine” (Vonarburg 2014, 591). Albertine is an important character in French writer Marcel Proust’s fictional world but, as we know, it is also the name of Marcel’s mother in Tremblay. In Tremblay, fantasy and narration are embodied in the character of Josaphat-le-Violon, Marcel’s great-uncle. As a storyteller and a fiddler, he is a relay between the supernatural and the realistic worlds. In La grosse femme, he tells the traditional tale “La Chasse-galerie” (“The Flying Canoe”), and Marcel is his audience. While Victoire, his sister, denies her own gift, Josaphat accepts his ability but does so by using it to tell stories, walking explicitly on the thin line between fantasy and insanity. Similarly, Tige Carrigan in Dreams of the Sea (Vonarburg 2003) draws on the French-Canadian diminutive “Ti-Jean,” a clear reference to the old Québec folktale featuring a little boy with extraordinary powers. Furthermore, the name invokes a famous real-life fiddler Jean “Ti-Jean” Carignan, thus to Tremblay’s Josaphat-le-Violon, both pay homage to Jos Violon, the storyteller of French-Canadian folktales in Louis Fréchette (1974). In some way, Tige too is a storyteller, although his greatest fantasy is about himself and his multiple identities: from Jean to Tige to John Carigan. More generally speaking both Tremblay and Vonarburg tell stories about family legends and storytelling, and feature characters who are alter egos for themselves, such as Tremblay’s Jean-Marc and Vonarburg’s variations on the name Élisabeth (Bérard 1999). Not surprisingly, maternal figures who mirror their own mothers are pervasive in the work of both writers. This is obvious in Tremblay’s For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again (1998b; Encore une fois, si vous permettez, 1998) but also noticeable in Vonarburg’s corpus with the presence of mothers who live overseas, or with mixed European-Asian ascendancy (Gravel 2007). In her poetry collection Le lever du récit (1999; The Rising of the Narrative), there is a mention of her mother in relation with the author’s

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writing: “ses livres mes livres/elle n’a jamais lu ceux où je parlais d’elle” (Vonarburg 1999, 7; her books my books/she never read those in which I was talking of her).

The Niches and the Worlds The fact that Élisabeth Vonarburg and Michel Tremblay are both extremely prolific writers is not their only common feature, although it is indicative of the tentacular aspect of their world creation process. They have much more in common than reading separate studies about them could lead one to believe. Michel Tremblay is (also) a magical realist who happens to draw abundantly from a Québécois background. And Élisabeth Vonarburg’s universe, besides pertaining to science fiction and fantasy, is much more connected to a Québécois context than most studies might have suggested. The two authors have surprisingly many similar themes, from the image of the writer to mythological figures to Québécois folktales, in common. Studying how parallel fictional worlds are introduced in both corpuses through the topos of the (worm)hole shows how these two writers manage their imaginary universe, how they rationalize the connections they make between their narratives, and how their characters travel from story to story. But it also reveals how they, themselves, move not only from genre to genre, but also from a more realistic to a more fantastic or science-fictional mode of storytelling, sometimes in the same narrative and certainly throughout their fictional cycles. Although they write fictions that are unquestionably different from one another, all things being equal, they share writing strategies and similar ways to relate with realism and fantasy or science fiction, as well as to the Québécois context. They seem to share a similar rapport with the natural and the supernatural, and even their most science fictional fictions (this part is much more extensive in Vonaburg’s corpus, though) can be linked to their fantasy through common characters, or fabulas. Finally, they are both creators of transfictional universes. This study also leads to another realization: how much the insularity of literary research can be limiting sometimes. Authors like Vonarburg and Tremblay are not read by the same scholars, and, more generally speaking, science fiction and fantasy are not studied by those who specialize in mainstream literature or the literary canon. This deprives the history of literature of a more general perspective, but also deprives



writers of the benefits of a comparative approach within a national context. Of course, readers, just as writers, sometimes favor “niche genres,” always going back to familiar pieces of fictions. It is true both for genre readers and writers and for mainstream readers and writers. But ideas and literary practices don’t live under the rocks of a single genre. They travel. And, sometimes practitioners and even fans are unfaithful and do get out of their niche. Or, as is the case with slipstream or magical realism, they have mixed practices that scholars need to acknowledge.

Notes 1. An unitalicized translation of a French title indicates that no published translation is available. 2. “Depuis 1996, alors qu’était publiée la première édition de ce dictionnaire, le prolifique Michel Tremblay a écrit une quinzaine de romans et une dizaine de pièces de théâtre. […] Les 2000 nouveaux personnages de tout type qui s’y déploient justifient la réédition. C’est donc quelque 5000 personnages, fictifs ou réels, de l’univers de Michel Tremblay […] que l’on trouve ici” (2014). My translation. 3. “c’est ainsi que l’enfant de la Grosse Femme se prépare à devenir écrivain” (Brochu 2002, 234). My translation. 4. La cité dans l’œuf and Le trou dans le mur share similar structural elements: an epigraph containing a few quotes, prologue, an epilogue, and even the syntax of their titles. The epigraphs in both novels, quoting authors such as Jean Ray and Michael Moorcock, are eloquent metadiscursive comments by the author on the hybridity of those two novels. The novel also revisits a genre, a hybridation between science fiction and fantasy that John Clute called “equipoisal” (Clute 2017).

References Arino, Marc. 2007. L’apocalypse selon Michel Tremblay. Bordeaux: Presses universitaires de Bordeaux. Barrette, Jean-Marc. 1996. L’univers de Michel Tremblay. Dictionnaire des personnages. Montréal: Presses de l’Université de Montréal. Barrette, Jean-Marc Barrette, and Serge Bergeron. 2014. L’univers de Michel Tremblay. Dictionnaire des personnages. 2e éd. Montréal: Leméac. Bélair, Michel. 2014. “L’univers de Michel Tremblay. Dictionnaire des personnages, 2e édition, Jean-Marc Barrette-Serge Bergeron.” Le Devoir (December 13). Bérard, Sylvie. 1995. “Les nouvelles d’Élisabeth Vonarburg ou la nouvelle au-delà du recueil.” XYZ. La revue de la nouvelle 43 (Fall): 69–84.

306  S. BÉRARD ———. 1998. “Fictional Arborescence and Allusive Coherence in Élisabeth Vonarburg’s Universe.” In Perspectives on the Canadian Fantastic: Proceedings of the 1997 Academic Conference on Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy, edited by Alan Weiss, 35–46. Toronto: ACCSFF. ———. 1999. “Venues, vues, vécues: Entre le sujet science-fictionnel et l’auteure science-fictive.” Dalhousie French Studies 47: 115–132. Boisvert, Donald L. 2003. “Heavenly Signs from Below: A Religious Reading of Michel Tremblay’s Chroniques du Plateau-Mont-Royal.” Literature and Theology 17 (2): 141–55. Brochu, André. 2002. Rêver la lune. L’imaginaire de Michel Tremblay dans les Chroniques du Plateau Mont-Royal. Montréal: Hurtubise. Cambron, Micheline. 1989. Une société, un récit. Discours culturel au Québec (1967–1976). Montréal: L’Hexagone. Chanady, Amaryll Beatrice. 1985. Magical Realism and the Fantastic: Resolved Versus Unresolved Antinomy. Shrewsbury: Garland Press. Clute, John. 2017. “Michel Tremblay.” SFE: The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. June 13. Accessed February 21, 2018. entry/tremblay_michel. David, Gilbert, and Pierre Lavoie, eds. 1993. Le monde de Michel Tremblay, des Belles-Sœurs à Marcel poursuivi par les chiens. Montréal et Carnières: Cahiers de théâtre Jeu/Éditions Lansman. ———. 2003. Le Monde de Michel Tremblay: Tome 1: Théâtre. New Rev. ed. Carnières: Lansman/Cahiers de théâtre Jeu. ———. 2005. Le Monde de Michel Tremblay: Tome 2: Romans et récits. New Rev. ed. Carnières: Lansman/Cahiers de théâtre Jeu. Fréchette, Louis. 1974. Les contes de Jos Violon. Montréal: L’Aurore. Gravel, Anne-Marie. 2007. “Ni d’ici… ni d’ailleurs.” Progrès-dimanche, 18 February, B3. Janelle, Claude. 1994. “Le roman postmoderne de Vonarburg.” Lettres québécoises (74): 34–35. Lafon, Dominique. [1993] 2005. “Les personnages de Tremblay: de la généalogie à la genèse.” In Le monde de Michel Tremblay. Tome 2: Romans et récits. New Rev. ed., edited by Gilbert David and Pierre Lavoie, 119–52. Carnières: Lansman/Cahiers de théâtre Jeu. Nadeau, Amélie. 2005. Une passerelle entre le réel et l’imaginaire: l’univers musical dans les Chroniques du plateau Mont-Royal et L’Oratorio de Noël de Göran Tunström. Montréal: Presses de l’Université du Québec. Popovic, Pierre. 2005. “La Rue Fable.” In Le monde de Michel Tremblay. Tome 2: Romans et récits. New Rev. ed., edited by Gilbert David and Pierre Lavoie, 45–61. Carnières: Lansmann/Cahiers de théâtre Jeu. Rochefort, Linda. 2001. “Le réalisme magique dans l’œuvre de Michel Tremblay.” MA thesis, Université de Montréal, Montréal.



Rochon, François. 1999. “Fatalisme et merveilleux chez Michel Tremblay. Une lecture des Chroniques du Plateau Mont-Royal.” Voix et Images 24 (2): 372–95. Saint-Gelais, Richard. 1999. L’empire du pseudo. Québec: Nota bene. Serruys, Nicholas. 2014. “Revisiting and Revising History Through Subjectivity in Élisabeth Vonarburg’s Bridge Cycle.” Translated by Amy J. Ransom. Science Fiction Studies 41 (1): 93–119. Todorov, Tzvetan. 1970. Introduction à la littérature fantastique. Paris: Seuil. Tremblay, Michel. 1968. Les belles-soeurs. Montréal: Holt, Rinehart and Wilson. ———. 1975. En pièces détachées. Translated by Allan Van Meer. Vancouver: Talonbooks. Originally Published 1970. Montréal: Leméac. ———. 1977. Stories for Late Night Drinkers. Translated by Michael Bullock. Vancouver: Intermedia. Originally Published 1966. Contes pour buveurs attardés. Montréal: Éditions du jour. ———. 1981a. The Fat Woman Next Door Is Pregnant (Volume 1 of Chronicles of the Plateau Mont-Royal). Translated by Sheila Fischman. Vancouver: Talonbooks. Originally Published 1978. La grosse femme d’à côté est enceinte. Montréal: Leméac. ———. 1981b. Sainte-Carmen of the Main. Translated by John Van Burek. Vancouver: Talonbooks. Originally Published 1976. Sainte-Carmen de la Main. Montréal: Leméac. ———. 1988. The Real World? Translated by John Van Burek and Bill Glassco. Vancouver: Talonbooks. Originally Published 1986. Le vrai monde? Montréal: Leméac. ———. 1994. The First Quarter of the Moon (Volume 5 of Chronicles of the Plateau Mont-Royal). Translated by Sheila Fischman. Vancouver: Talonbooks. Originally Published 1989. Le premier quartier de la lune. Montréal: Leméac. ———. 1996. Thérèse and Pierrette and the Little Hanging Angel (Volume 2 of Chronicles of the Plateau Mont-Royal). Translated by Sheila Fischman. Vancouver: Talonbooks. Originally Published 1980. Thérèse et Pierrette à l’école des Saints-Anges. Montréal: Leméac. ———. 1998a. A Thing of Beauty (Volume 6 of Chronicles of the Plateau MontRoyal). Translated by Sheila Fischman. Vancouver: Talonbooks. Originally Published 1997. Un objet de beauté. Montréal: Leméac. ———. 1998b. For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again. Translated by Linda Gaboriau. Vancouver: Talonbooks. Originally Published 1998. Encore une fois, si vous permettez. Montréal: Leméac. ———.1999a. The City in the Egg. Translated by Michael Bullock. Vancouver: Ronsdale. Originally Published 1969. La cité dans l’œuf. Montréal: Leméac. ———. 1999b. The Duchess and the Commoner (Volume 3 of Chronicles of the Plateau Mont-Royal). Translated by Sheila Fischman. Vancouver: Talonbooks. Originally Published 1982. La duchesse et le roturier. Montréal: Leméac.

308  S. BÉRARD ———. 2005. The Driving Force. Translated by Linda Gaboriau. Vancouver: Talonbooks. Originally Published 2003. L’impératif présent. Montréal: Leméac. ———. 2006a. The Black Notebook. Translated by Sheila Fischman. Vancouver: Talonbooks. Originally Published 2003. Le cahier noir. Montréal: Leméac. ———. 2006b. Le trou dans le mur. Montréal: Leméac. ———. 2012. L’Oratorio de Noël. Montréal: Leméac. Vas-Deyres, Natacha. 2014. Natacha Vas-Deyres s’entretient avec Élisabeth Vonarburg. November 15. Accessed January 29, 2018. http://www. fx09.12/907. Vonarburg, Élisabeth. 1980. L’œil de la nuit. Longueuil: Le Préambule. ———. 1984. Janus. Paris: Denoël. ———. 1987. “Cold Bridge.” Translated by Élisabeth Vonarburg and Jane Brierley. In Invisible Fictions: Contemporary Stories from Québec, edited by Geoff Hancock, 267–97. Toronto: House of Anansi. Originally Published 1980. “Le pont du froid.” In L’œil de la nuit, 43–74. Longueuil: Le Préambule. ———. 1995. Reluctant Voyagers. Translated by Jane Brierley. New York: Bantam. Originally Published 1994. Les voyageurs malgré eux. Montréal: Québec/Amérique. ———. 1999. Le lever du récit. Montréal: Les Herbes rouges. ———. 2000a. “The Knot.” In Slow Engines of Time, edited by Élisabeth Vonarburg, translated by Aliosha Kondratiev and Élisabeth Vonarburg, 104– 13. Edmonton: Tesseract Books. Originally Published 1980. In L’œil de la nuit, 127–40. Longueuil: Le Préambule. ———. 2000b. “The Slow Engine of Time.” In Slow Engines of Time, edited by Élisabeth Vonarburg, translated by Howard Scott and Élisabeth Vonarburg, 114–57. Edmonton: Tesseract Books. Originally Published 1984. “La machine lente du temps.” In Janus, 63–116. Paris: Denoël. ———. 2003. Tyranaël 1: Dreams of the Sea. Translated by Élisabeth Vonarburg and Howard Scott. Calgary: Edge. Originally Published 1996, Tyranaël 1: Les rêves de la Mer. Beauport: Alire. ———. 2005a. Reine de mémoire 1: La Maison d’oubli. Lévis: Alire. ———. 2005b. “See Kathryn Run.” Translated by Élisabeth Vonarburg and Howard Scott. In Tesseracts 9, edited by Geoff Ryman and Nalo Hopkinson, 93–140. Calgary: Edge. Originally Published 2003. “La course de Kathryn.” In Le jeu des coquilles de nautilus, 77–138. Lévis: Alire. ———. 2006. Tyranaël 2: A Game of Perfection. Translated by Élisabeth Vonarburg and Howard Scott. Calgary: Edge. Originally Published 1996, Tyranaël 2: Le jeu de la perfection. Beauport: Alire. ———. 2007. Reine de mémoire 5: La Maison d’équité. Lévis: Alire.



———. 2009. “Terminus.” In Sang de pierre, edited by Élisabeth Vonarburg, 335–73. Lévis: Alire. ———. 2014. Hôtel Olympia. Lévis: Alire. ———. 2018. CVS: Centres-villes de Saguenay. 17 March. Accessed April 27, 2018.


Tropes Crossing: On Some Québec SF Writers from the Mainstream Sophie Beaulé

“In the twenty-first century, science fiction is no longer a novelty. […] Literature itself no longer questions the appropriateness of making space for Michel Houellebecq’s anticipation novels, for postapocalyptic stories […] or for futuristic climate fictions such as Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam trilogy” (Trudel 2017, 133).1 In her most recent novel, Une sorte de nitescence langoureuse (A sort of langorous luster), writer and critic Sylvie Bérard provides a (counter) echo to the sf writer and critic Jean-Louis Trudel’s claim. Bérard’s narrator, sf writer Françoise Préfontaine, says about Louise-Andrée Landreville, her mainstream “façade” in the literary milieu, that “after all those months spent carefully cultivating the split between science fiction and respectable literature, she became so clever in this little game that it was almost scary” (Bérard 2017, 158).2 Far from contradicting each other, these citations illuminate two aspects of contemporary Québecois literature: its “porosity” (Dion and Mercier and Mercier 2017) and a transformation Translated by Amy J. Ransom S. Beaulé (*)  Saint Mary’s University, Halifax, NS, Canada © The Author(s) 2019 A. J. Ransom and D. Grace (eds.), Canadian Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror, Studies in Global Science Fiction,


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of institutional discourses about the popular. The migration of science-­ fictional tropes into the literary mainstream, accompanied by a range of stylistic and narrative strategies, plays a role in this literary “porosity,” and it invokes varied responses on the part of critics. Despite its simplicity, such an affirmation calls for an analysis that goes beyond the scope of this article. Mainstream writers’ choice of tropes borrowed from transnational sf, their treatment in the fiction itself, and these works’ reception involve the entire current state of Québécois society and its literature. Our goal here is to offer a preliminary analysis, based on a corpus of mainstream works published since the year 2000. In order better to understand this bridging of genres, we will first take a look at some discourses concerning the non-canonical, then at the evolution of the literary field at the moment when the subfield of Québécois science fiction (sffq—the acronym includes the fantastique) developed. To limit this discussion of what I call “mainstream sf,” I have chosen recent works that address the problems of time (la temporalité), combined with (or not) technology, as well as the postapocalyptic: Mathieu Blais and Joël Casséus’s Once Upon a Time in the Egg duology (2010, 2013b), Jean Simon DesRochers’s Demain sera sans rêves (2013), Nicolas Dickner’s Tarmac (2009; Apocalypse for Beginners 2010), Alain Farah’s Pourquoi Bologne (2013; Ravenscrag 2015), Karoline Georges’s Sous béton (2011; Under the Stone 2016), Serge Lamothe’s Les Baldwin (The Baldwins 2006), Bertrand Laverdure’s Comment enseigner la mort à un robot? (2015), and Josée Marcotte’s Les Amazones (2012). The significant proportion of these novels that were quickly translated into English (50%) is partially indicative of their positive reception by the Canadian literary institution.

“Border Policing” Whether or not we define sf as a genre, a sub-genre of the romance, or even as a form or an aesthetic mode, its origin “outside” literature (Angenot 2013) has determined its position within the literary field, hence our adoption of Roger Luckhurst’s (1991) expression from his seminal article on postmodernism and sf. A quick review of Frenchlanguage research on sf will help draw out the ideological dimensions of boundaries, transgression, and “bridging” as these apply here. The “popular” was the first term used to designate non-canonical literature, in its various sub-genres, from the nineteenth through the early twentieth centuries. The epithet indicates either a readership, the social



origins of the writer, or the content or format of the text. In the 1960s the term “paralittérature” emerges in an attempt to valorize the study of popular works, its prefix (para = beside) marking the contiguity of the two literary fields. Critics soon rejected this term for its ongoing negative connotations, adopting the expression “littératures de genre” or returning to the original term, “popular,” which encompasses the production of all time periods. Among these, we note the existence of “genres frontière” (Dubois 2010), border genres, considered closer to the canonical mainstream because of their narrative devices and aesthetics. The proximity of these two circuits leads to institutional operations of distinction that seek to reduce or cover up the forms of bridging that exist between the mainstream and the popular. Yves Reuter (1992) divides these into complementary categories, strategies of “désancrage” (de-anchoring), which accentuates the distance between the literary and the popular, and porosity. With de-anchoring, the non-canonical is attributed an explicit economic dimension, or an original non-canonical work is transformed into a legitimate object of study. Porosity, in which the mainstream writer recuperates popular production, traditionally operates to the second degree. Critics typically associate the postmodern with a generalized generic hybridity, which may be (but is not necessarily) parodic. Reflections surrounding the slipstream (among other terms) bear witness to bridgings that occur between the mainstream and sf (or other non-mimetic genres by sf or non-sf writers) or between popular genres themselves (Latham 2011). This phenomenon is certainly not new; avant-garde movements like Surrealism and the French Nouveau Roman dipped into this literary “outside.” Bakhtin traces this strategy even further back in literary time, arguing that the novel is an ever-developing genre which consistently parodies and adopts other literary and extraliterary genres due to its close contact with contemporary reality (1981). The Russian formalists, for their part, indicate that poetic evolution is a shift within a regularly ordered hierarchical set of artistic devices. The change affects not only the genre itself, but also hierarchical relationships between genres and the artistic devices they each display. Roman Jakobson addresses the relationship between literature and other forms of verbal messages (such as travelogue), which as “transitional genres,” comprise elements absent from canonical genres. Therefore, what was considered “imperfect, dilettantish, aberrant, or simply wrong or that which was considered heretical, decadent, and worthless may appear and, from the perspective of a new

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system, be adopted as a positive value” (Jakobson 1987, 45). Similarly, postmodern hybridity would have permitted a new redistribution of formal, linguistic, and generic elements; the migration of sf tropes into mainstream literature thus participates in a reconfiguration of the literary. But how has this occurred specifically in Québécois literature?

Sf and the Québécois Literary Field Sf has existed in Québec since the nineteenth century,3 but it has only been since the 1960s that a self-conscious local production developed, parallel to a burgeoning mainstream literature marked by reflections on (national) identity and artistic invention (Biron 2012, 52). In keeping with the international context of the counterculture and formalism, sf topoï soon entered Québec’s avant-garde, formal experimentation occurring, resulting in an “éclatement des genres,” an explosion that blows apart the borders that formerly allowed for clear-cut classifications (Beaulé 1992). The development of the subfield of sffq in the mid-1970s thus coincides with research on the literary institution, the popular, and genre theory, as well as with a national literary field in transformation. In the 1980s, the literary market in Québec grew and diversified. Now characterized by what the critics call its decentering, mainstream literature no longer holds the central place reserved for it in the 1960s, and the new diversity leads to the absence of a dominant voice (Biron 2012, 74–75). Various axes that begin to develop (pluralism, Americanicity) continue into the subsequent decades, but changes appear in the 1990s. The “Québec renaissance” (Beuve-Méry 2008) marks the twenty-first century, with the appearance of new publishing houses and a new generation of writers. Furthermore, if heterogeneity constitutes a legitimate narrative practice still present in Québec, porosity appears more significant than ever. Robert Dion and Andrée Mercier see this as a process of the inter-influence and generic permeability that distances itself from the rejection of homogeneity or unity prevalent in 1980s Québécois literature (2017, 24–25). Going forward, writers are seduced by “the power of fiction within a very broad-spectral intergeneric and intertextual multiplicity” (Huglo 2017, 217).4 We could see here a shift in the meaning of the term porosity: while Reuter signals the parodic operation traditionally at work in mainstream circuit, Dion and Mercier leave aside any ideological component. The diversification of the market in the 1980s also signifies the transformation of the popular sector. The best seller appears in Québec,



particularly in the form of the historical novel. Despite the fragility of its instances of production, the sffq milieu develops rapidly, thanks to the work of its stakeholders. Sffq has its golden age in the 1980s and 1990s, then retreats on the eve of the new millennium, but then sees a slight increase again after 2000. Even more than in previous decades, some sffq is produced by mainstream publishers, where it becomes “un ensemble digne d’attention” marked by experimentation (Trudel 2017, 137; a noteworthy set), remaining distinct from genre sffq writers who form a distinct milieu. For their part, fantasy and horror carve out a place for themselves in the 1990s, joined by the detective novel in the 2000s. Thus, we observe in Québec a tendency seen by Bakhtin and the Russian formalists: a period of literary reconfiguration which began with a certain playfulness in form in the 1970s, then later exceeded these strategies of parody, only the better to integrate aspects of the popular into the broader literary field.

Time and Technology Our corpus derives from a new generation of writers and smaller publishing houses founded in the twenty-first century. Sf seems to have interpellated writers on the margins or who have adopted a subversive position (ludic or not) in the 1970s and 1980s; in the twenty-first century, it has simply become part of the fiction writing tool box, in synch with the penetration of sf tropes in audiovisual media. Publishers open to accept such works are also more apt to signal—whether it be overtly or not—the presence of sf in the peritext and the paratext of these works. Certainly, borrowings from sf (sometimes quite superficial) vary from author to author, but several tropes of transnational sf appear in our corpus: immortality, technology, temporal distortion, and a postapocalyptic setting. More generally, what we are calling “mainstream sf” (a hybrid form distinct from the “genre sf” produced by writers of the sffq milieu and published by Alire and other specialized presses) falls into the categories of dystopia and political and social allegory. According to Trudel, it diverges from popular production and reveals the various angsts of Québécois society (2017, 137). Finally, mainstream critics generally note its sf component without elaborating; critics from within the specialized sffq milieu, however, can be both more inclusive and incisive. The halfamused, half-ironic viewpoint that Bérard develops in Une sorte de nitescence langoureuse reveals well the persistence of an institutional discourse which is, at the same time, fading away.

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Genetic manipulation and the desire for a form of immortality subtend two novels by young writers, Jean-François Beauchemin’s Le projet Éternité (2016, The Eternity Project) and Daniel Grenier’s The Longest Year (2017), but their treatments of these sf tropes remain largely superficial. In contrast, the full power of genre sf thrives in Under the Stone (2016) by Karoline Georges, a respected multidisciplinary artist in the province. Finalist for the 2012 Prix des Libraires (Booksellers’ Prize), Sous béton was also reissued in France, a sign of legitimacy for a Québécois publication. Supported by a poetic style and a well-chiseled form, the novel depicts the concentration camp-like world of the narrator, known only as “the child,” and her parents in a Building of thousands of stories made of “Total Concrete.” Mistreated, lacking affection, the child nonetheless frees herself, as voices coming from a crack in the wall lead to her prise de conscience, an epiphany about her own “singularity.” Her father kills her because of this awakening—but she has also escaped by means of the crack itself; the narrative remains somewhat uncertain as to the cause–effect relationship of the two events. But her “immurement” (“107”),5 her incorporation into the walls of Total Concrete, becomes an initiatory experience with philosophical dimensions. This variation on the trope of immortality effaces the division between life and death, joining other sf tropes like that of depersonalization and thought control (Raud 2012, 27). The novel blends Freud’s Unheimliche with philosophical reflections inspired by Teilhard de Chardin, among others. The result is “un OVNI littéraire” (Lalonde 2011; a literary UFO), in other words, a work in which the sf potential is reinforced by borrowings from other generic and stylistic components in order to offer a reflection on the current state of our society. Another meditation on death and memory, Jean-Simon DesRochers’s Demain sera sans rêve (2013, Tomorrow Will Be Dreamless), is linked more closely to space and time travel. The novel begins with the suicide of Marc Riopel, a doctoral candidate crushed by the aporia resulting from his research on time. As he is injecting himself with a fatal drug overdose, he receives messages from his brother Carl and friends who, communicating from the future, reveal their destinies. “Le temps est un labyrinthe” (88; Time is a labyrinth): Carl has completed his brother’s theory, which allows for the transmission of memories, as well as access to immortality, thanks to a parallel world. This classic sf trope is accompanied by other genre elements, including various fictional motifs and climate change, in support of the themes of memory, friendship,



and resilience. Above all, sf’s estrangement is motivated by the work’s experimental form, including truncated chapters, a purified style, narrative voices in which the formal “vous” dominates, as well as ellipses which discreetly create an effect of Marc Angenot’s “absent paradigm.” Some reviews noted the use of sf, but minimized it, stating, for example, that the work “comes closer to poetry than to science fiction” (Guy 2013).6 In the sffq milieu, critics were divided between regret at seeing the genre reduced to a “simple gadget” (Allard 2013, 151) and praise: “the hybridization between ‘general’ literature at its poetical margin, and ‘popular’ literature is in it the most accomplished one that I have seen so far and that it seems to me to foretell an […] interesting future for the mutant writer of the twenty-first century” (Vonarburg 2014, 142).7 Technologies related to artificial intelligence and the cyborg are the basis for Comment enseigner la mort à un robot? (2015, How to Teach Death to a Robot?) by Bertrand Laverdure. This poet and novelist, who has enjoyed a favorable critical response and an earlier novel, translated as Universal Bureau of Copyright (2014), proposes a reflection on death, the perennial nature of art, and the effects of technology when placed in service of capitalism. In 2115, the new generation of conscious robots is preparing to replace humans, all the while reproducing their doxa, and aggravating social regression. In order to reverse this situation, cyborg writers teach death to robots because it stimulates creativity and provides the basis for humanity. Comment enseigner constitutes the introduction to a manual written for a robot of this new series T******-******-879. The lesson, with its notes and appendices, invokes science (Alan Turing), philosophy (Descartes, Socrates), and literature (Eminem and Asimov, for example). This “one of a kind essay, a very strange creature” (Laporte 2015)8 works with genre sf very effectively; almost more essay than novel, its plotline is minimal. Beyond the use of sf tropes, it achieves the cognitive estrangement that Darko Suvin attributes to the best sf (1979), lending a certain force to its meta-reflection on the finality of art and the call for a political consciousness raising. Laverdure thus pushes his genre borrowing farther than some other writers considered here. This reflection on literature as an act of liberation returns with force in Pourquoi Bologne (2013; Ravenscrag 2015) by the versatile Alain Farah. This novel has garnered significant attention; beyond analyses and reviews, it was a shortlisted nominee for two major awards. Its narrator, named Alain Farah (a clear avatar of the author), is a professor of literature at McGill University, attempting in vain to write a novel. He

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believes that he has become a target of the CIA and soon finds himself in conflict with Dr Ewen Cameron, who directed experiments for the CIA’s “project MK-Ultra” at the Allan Memorial Institute. In his mind, two parallel lives play out, one in 2012 and another in 1962, with aspects of the family novel. The exploded structure of the novel, with its French New Novel aspects, follows the shape of the narrator’s delirium. This “autofiction” (autobiographical fiction) blurs the true and the false, Greek culture, the Gothic novel, and the thriller, with theoretical considerations and a well-developed intertextuality, as well as humor. Sf works as a ludic element here, hence the tv space opera cited in the incipit or references to movies such as The Matrix. But the classical tropes of virtual reality, mind control, and the paranoid mode of Philip K. Dick enrich the theme of madness. Furthermore, the treatment of temporality indirectly invokes French sf writer Michel Jeury’s Chronolytique trilogy (1973–1976). The genre contributes, then, to the central concept of the novel, the thesis of literature as resilience, as a way to “become aware of the stories told to us in an attempt to repattern us. […] The only thing to do is to say No” (192–93), but critics remained divided as to the novel’s genre. Nonetheless, references to its sf aspects appear both in institutional literary critics’ assessments—a “false sf novel, but real tour de force” (Desmeules 2013)9—and those from the sffq milieu—“I give the benefit of the doubt to works such as Ravenscrag by Alain Farah by including them in sf” (Trudel 2016).10 It should be noted that it was nominated for two sf awards, the Québécois Prix Jacques-Brossard and the Canadian Sunburst Award. CBC radio also listed it on its must-read Canadian sf (CBC Books 2017).

Apocalyptic Fictions The secular apocalypse has seen great success in the twentieth century from the point of view of sf, occupying a predominant place in various media sectors today and engaging the ecological, ethical, and sociological questions for the planet. In Québec, the sub-genre develops in particular in the late 1960s, but as elsewhere, it has appealed to a number of mainstream writers since 2000. Generally speaking, their interest has been fleeting but fruitful, as seen in Catherine Mavrikakis’s Oscar de Profundis (2016), analyzed by Patrick Bergeron in the present volume.



Serge Lamothe develops a postapocalyptic setting infused with the fantastic in The Baldwins (2006) and its (as yet untranslated) sequel Les enfants lumière (2012, The Light Children), influenced by Kafka and Antoine Volodine (Laforest 2005, 89). The Baldwins takes the form of a scientific report, which contains thirty-nine portraits of “Baldwins” drawn by “récitantes” (reciters), individuals who had been in contact with these apocalypse survivors sharing the same last name. However, the Baldwin Institute, which publishes the report centuries later, finds these “recitations” unreliable and refuses to state clearly the nature of these (perhaps human) creatures whose desperate existence is disputed. Uncertainty prevails, as well, in regard to the temporal dimension, in which empirical reality fuses at times with a future that follows a “post-history,” as well as a contradictory space marked by the spectral: ruins, wastelands, deserts, ice fields. All of this resists the search for meaning undertaken by the various Baldwins: “The landscape […] provided no formal structure by which it could be deciphered. The landscape mocked Lothar; it recoiled from him” (37).11 Sf and formal experimentation also serve a reflection about collective heritage, “turbocapitalism,” memory, and language, all of which prove problematic. Like The Baldwins, Les Amazones (2012; The Amazons) by blogger Josée Marcotte adopts the fragmented, Volodinian structure of “narrats.” The action occurs in a postapocalyptic space that is vaguely Québécois, and in which men and women live separately. Although the Amazons can reproduce themselves using mud, men must capture a woman for procreation. Forty-seven fragments of about two pages each, titled with the name of an Amazon, allow the reader to understand this society, which was founded in opposition to the capitalist, patriarchal past, but which also develops an oppressive structure which will bring about the death the community and the environment. The two female survivors understand that only by opening themselves up to the Other can they go beyond the power struggles: “how did we manage to die for such a long time?” (90).12 Its critique of any form of ideological rigor (be it patriarchal, capitalist, or feminist) is coupled with a ludic style and significant intertextuality. Far from getting lost in meta-literary games or formalistic experimentation, the episteme proper to sf serves Marcotte’s goals well. Collaborators Mathieu Blais and Joël Casséus leave behind the formal experimentation of writers previously examined here for their Once Upon a Time in the Egg duology comprised of Zippo (2013a) and

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L’esprit du temps (2013b; The Spirit of Our Times). The former presents a millenarian tale mixed with a detective novel framework. In an anomic future, a journalist covers the Zippo Summit in Villanueva, a fictional North American city named in reference to the shooting of the young Hondurian immigrant Fredy Alberto Villanueva, in 2008, by a Montréal policeman. Leaders meet there to decide the economic future of the planet in spite of the imminent arrival of a comet. Carried forward by a poetic, syncopated language, the narrative relates the final instants of its characters over the backdrop of social violence and personal dereliction. Critics—largely those from the sffq milieu—underscore the text’s affinity with the work of Hubert Aquin (Jacob 2011, 97) or oppositional French sf from the 1970s and 1980s (April 2011). For its part, L’esprit du temps had a more limited reception, even though it was a finalist for Québec’s annual sf award, the Prix Jacques-Brossard. If it corresponds more clearly with the classic postapocalyptic narrative, its borrowing from Aztec myth lends it a sacred dimension. Indigenous characters John Huemac and Thithuwa, accompanied by a white sociopath, cross the United States devastated by seismic activity. Throughout the course of their initiatory journey toward Aztlán, in the Yucatán, they witness different social, political, and religious vicissitudes: “[A]s with the entire planet, they were wandering inside a cosmic egg surpassing them since the origins of the world” (Blais and Casséus 2013b, 151).13 At the end of the story, the white man dies, and Huemac commits suicide; they represent a world that must be erased so that Newtown, a utopian space founded by Thithuwa, daughter of the goddess Pachamama, can bloom. Nicolas Dickner’s Apocalypse for Beginners (2010) does not really constitute a postapocalyptic story, but rather a reflection on the imaginary of the endtimes: “The list of perils looked more and more like the ingredients printed on a package of ramen – an implausible inventory. […] We had been expecting the end of the world for so long that it was now part of our DNA” (Dickner 2010, 232). A finalist for the Archambault literary prize, the novel is carried forward by a “mélancolie en mode mineur” (Gagnon 2015; melancholy in a minor key), which includes a bittersweet irony. Dickner examines this strain of the imaginary from various angles. The protagonist, Mickey, is shocked when he meets Hope Randall, a new arrival in Rivière-du-Loup who speaks so directly about Hiroshima. Hope is of Acadian descent, and just as Acadia as a whole survived its “end of the world”—the Great Deportation of 1755–1764—every Randall experiences “his” or “her”



end-of-the-world date. Hope will soon leave the small Québec town for the US and then Japan, hoping finally to understand why “her” end-of-the-world, a date she chose at random, has been transformed into a troubling sequence of coincidences, a form of synchronicity. The novel also incorporates a “savoir de l’inessentiel” (Riendeau 2017, 103; knowledge of the inessential), such as the calculation of the number of lemons needed to make an atomic bomb, which fuels the novel’s central obsession. Finally, the notion of apocalypse appears in the novel’s formal structure. Set between 1989 and 2001, the diegesis becomes dislocated, whereas the narrative improbabilities and an opening onto the fantastic disrupt the realist framework. At its conclusion, Mickey waits to board a plane for Japan where he will meet Hope; love substitutes for the personal apocalypse; Hope’s amenorrhea ends, signaling a familial and collective unblocking; and, travelers will leave behind Montréal’s Mirabel Airport, which is destined for closure, a metaphor for an invitation to changing paradigms.

Preliminary Conclusions Let’s return once again to Bérard’s fictional sf writer Françoise Préfontaine and her mainstream literary double Louise-Andrée Landreville. The play of mirrors, both (meta)fictional and (meta)critical, proposed by Bérard in Une sorte de nitescence langoureuse does not end there, because the writer is publishing this autofiction—a mainstream genre par excellence—with Alire, at the heart of the sffq milieu. Such a text bears witness to, among other things, the complexity surrounding this literary bridging between the mainstream literary canon and genre writers and writing in Québec. Tropes from transnational sf have migrated into Québec’s literary mainstream because of their capacity for explaining the ideologemes present in the contemporary world; this corpus broaches the question of time and its variations, technology, and, above all, apocalyptic fiction. But these texts remain connected to the context of Québec, to which they refer directly or indirectly. Certain tropes seem to resonate with the current axes of literary production, such as filiation, memory, and selfreflexivity about literature. Moreover, more than half of these novels take place on Québec soil, or evoke it. Finally, let’s add that these largely “mainstream” works reveal a clear interest in socio-political critique, an axis that is on the wane in contemporary sffq.

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If hybridity characterizes the texts studied here, only one writer employs sf in a parodic manner. We see here a sign of the progression in porosity as defined by Dion et Mercier (2017), thus confirming the Bakhtinian perspective on the novel’s evolution. Porosity is available in relation to various contents. The mainstream text can, more or less successfully, embrace the genre’s conventions, or simply use it as a minor mode; the spectrum extends from the mere sf accessory to texts that achieve Suvin’s cognitive estrangement. The logic of the field14—or its heritage in the context of cultural and media transformation—still influences the mechanism of porosity, although more fluidly than ever. Institutional criticism demonstrates the link between belonging (or a refusal thereof) to a sector of the literary field and an esthetic posture. Critics from the sf milieu underscore first and foremost that these works from the mainstream do not adhere to the sf tradition because of their lack of scientific content or speculative reflection (Janelle 2013, 15). Mainstream critics more frequently mention the sf component without really developing it, whereas those in the sffq milieu remain on the lookout for works that can be incorporated into the sffq corpus or debate whether or not they belong to the genre. Vonarburg concludes her review of Bérard’s novel with this exclamation: “Is it fiction? Yes. No. Maybe, all of these answers. Is it SF? No. Yes. Maybe (… ‘but I don’t give a damn!’)” (Vonarburg 2018, 136).15 This comment summarizes well the development of this form of bridging, a contemporary fluidity that is still riddled with turbulence.


1. “Au vingt et unième siècle, la science-fiction n’est plus une nouveauté. […] La littérature elle-même ne s’interroge plus sur l’opportunité de faire une place aux romans d’anticipation de Michel Houellebecq, aux récits post-apocalyptiques […] ou aux fictions futuristes qu’incarne la trilogie de MaddAddam signée par Margaret Atwood.” Unless a published translation is cited in the list of References, all translations from the French are by Sophie Beaulé and/or Amy J. Ransom. 2. “[…] après tous ces mois passés à cultiver soigneusement le clivage entre la science-fiction et la littérature respectable, elle était devenue si habile à ce petit jeu que cela en était presque inquiétant.” 3.  See also, among others, Claude Janelle (1999, 2006), Michel Lord (1995), Amy J. Ransom (2009), and Jean-Louis Trudel (2017).



4. “la puissance de la fiction au sein d’une multiplicité intergénérique et intertextuelle à large spectre.” See also Pierre-Luc Landry and MarieHélène Voyer (2016, 47–63). 5. The English translation inverts the pages of Chapter 5, with pages in quotation marks and blank pages, to accentuate the passage from the narrator’s corporeal life to his existence as consciousness. 6. “nous rapproche plus de la poésie que de la science-fiction.” 7. “l’hybridation entre littérature ‘générale’ à sa marge poétique et littérature ‘de genre’ y est la plus réussie que j’aie rencontrée pour l’instant et qu’elle me semble présager un avenir… intéressant pour les écrivains mutants du XXIe siècle.” 8. “essai à la forme unique en son genre, une bien drôle de bibitte.” 9. “faux roman de science-fiction, mais vrai tour de force.” 10. “j’ai aussi accordé le bénéfice du doute à des ouvrages comme Pourquoi Bologne d’Alain Farah en les assimilant à la science-fiction.” 11. “Le paysage […] n’offrait aucune grille qui eût permis de le déchiffrer. Le paysage narguait Lothar: il reculait.” 12. “comment avons-nous fait pour mourir si longtemps?” 13. “[C]omme toute la planète, ils erraient à l’intérieur d’un œuf cosmique qui les dépassait depuis les origines du monde.” 14. See Andrew Milner (2014) for an excellent discussion of Bourdieu’s concept of the literary field. 15. “Est-ce de la fiction ? Oui. Non. Peut-être, toutes ces réponses. Est-ce de la SF? Non. Oui. Peut-être (… ‘mais je m’en fous !’).”

References Allard, Jérôme-Olivier. 2013. “Jean-Simon DesRochers. Demain sera sans rêves.” Solaris 188: 151. Angenot, Marc. 2013. Les dehors de la littérature. Du roman populaire à la science-fiction. Paris: Honoré Champion. April, Jean-Pierre. 2011. “Anticipation libertaire du monde.” À bâbord. Revue sociale et politique 41. Bakhtin, Mikhail. [1895–1975] 1981. The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays. Edited by Michael Holquist and Translated by Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist. Austin: University of Texas Press. Beauchemin, Jean-François. 2016. Le projet Éternité. Montréal: Leméac. Beaulé, Sophie. 1992. “L’utilisation du mode SF chez quelques auteurs mainstream québécois.” Solaris 99: 46–54. Bérard, Sylvie. 2017. Une sorte de nitescence langoureuse. Lévis, QC: Alire.

324  S. BEAULÉ Beuve-Méry, Alain. 2008. “Renaissance québécoise. Le nouveau dynamisme des éditions canadiennes francophones.” Le Monde des livres. November 27. Biron, Michel. 2012. Le roman québécois. Montréal: Boréal. Blais, Mathieu, and Joël Casséus. 2013a. ZIPPO—Once Upon a Time in the Egg. Translated by Kathryn Gabinet-Kroo. Toronto: Exile Editions. Originally Published 2010. ZIPPO—Il était une fois dans l’œuf. Montréal: Leméac. ———. 2013b. L’esprit du temps – Il était une fois dans l’œuf. Montréal: Leméac. CBC Books. 2017. “10 Canadian Science Fiction Books You Need to Read.” August 30. CBC Books. Desmeules, Christian. 2013. “Alain Farah, pilote d’ovni.” Le Devoir. August 23. DesRochers, Jean-Simon. 2013. Demain sera sans rêves. Montréal: Les Herbes rouges. Dickner, Nicolas. 2010. Apocalypse for Beginners. Translated by Lazer Lederhendler. Toronto: Vintage Canada. Originally Published 2009. Tarmac. Montréal: Alto. Dion, Robert, and Andrée Mercier. 2017. “Introduction. La littérature québécoise du présent est-elle une insondable nébuleuse?” In Que devient la littérature québécoise? Formes et enjeux des pratiques narratives depuis 1990, edited by Robert Dion and Andrée Mercier, 9–33. Québec: Nota bene. Dubois, Jacques. [1987] 2010. “Genre frontière et expérience des limites.” In Sociologie, Institution, Fiction, edited by Jean-Pierre Bertrand and Anthony Glinoer. Farah, Alain. 2015. Ravenscrag: A Novel. Translated by Lazer Lederhendler. Toronto: House of Anansi. Originally Published 2013. Pourquoi Bologne? Montréal: Leméac. Gagnon, Evelyne. 2015. “Chronique d’une apocalypse ordinaire. L’Amérique mélancolique de Nicolas Dickner ou comment survivre avec les rognures de la civilisation.” Temps zéro 10. document1418. Georges, Karoline. 2016. Under the Stone. Translated by David Homel. Vancouver: Anvil Press. Originally Published 2011. Sous béton. Montréal: Alto. Grenier, Daniel. 2017. The Longest Year. Translated by Pablo Strauss. Toronto: House of Anansi. Originally Published 2015. L’année la plus longue. Montréal: Le Quartanier. Guy, Chantal. 2013. “Jean-Simon DesRochers: l’avenir en accéléré.” La Presse. March 2.



Huglo, Marie-Pascale. 2017. “Dépaysement intérieur. Deux récits québécois à la lisière du conte: Frères de David Cerson et Oss d’Audrée Wihelmy.” In Que devient la littérature québécoise? Formes et enjeux des pratiques narratives depuis 1990, edited by Robert Dion and Andrée Mercier, 199–219. Québec: Nota bene. Jacob, Carmélie. 2011. “Derniers lus: Zippo. Il était une fois dans l’œuf de Mathieu Blais et Joël Casséus.” Brins d’éternité 28: 96–97. Jakobson, Roman. [1935] 1987. “The Dominant.” In Language in Literature, edited by Krystyna Pomorska and Stephen Rudy, 41–46. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Janelle, Claude, ed. 1999. Le XIXe siècle fantastique en Amérique française. Beauport, QC: Alire. ———. 2006. La décennie charnière (1960–1969). Beauport: Alire. ———. 2013. “De la force centripète à l’attraction centrifuge: la science-fiction québécoise.” Reflets (December): 15. Laforest, Daniel. 2005. “Pour une cosmologie de l’après-coup.” XYZ: La revue de la nouvelle 82: 89–92. Lalonde, Catherine. 2011. “Karoline Georges—Forcément Sublime.” Le Devoir. September 3. Lamothe, Serge. 2006. The Baldwins. Translated by Fred A. Reed and David Homel. Vancouver: Talonbooks. Originally Published 2004. Les Baldwin. Montréal: L’Instant même. ———. 2012. Les enfants lumière. Montréal: Alto. Landry, Pierre-Luc, and Marie-Hélène Voyer. (2016). “Paratexte et mentions éditoriales: brouillages et hapax au cœur de la ‘Renaissance québécoise’.” Études françaises 52 (2): 47–63. Laporte, David. 2015. “Comment enseigner la mort à un robot?” Nuit blanche 140. Latham, Rob. 2011. “Introduction.” Science Fiction Studies 38 (113): 1–5. Laverdure, Bertrand. 2014. Universal Bureau of Copyrights. Translated by Oana Avasilichioaei. Toronto: Bookthug. Originally Published 2011. Bureau universel des copyrights. Chicoutimi: La Peuplade. ———. 2015. Comment enseigner la mort à un robot? Montréal: Mémoire d’encrier. Lord, Michel. 1995. La logique de l’impossible. Aspects du discours fantastique québécois. Québec: Nuit blanche. Luckhurst, Roger. 1991. “Border Policing: Postmodernism and Science Fiction.” Science Fiction Studies 55. luckhurst55art.htm. Marcotte, Josée. 2012. Les Amazones. Montréal: L’Instant même.

326  S. BEAULÉ Milner, Andrew. 2014. Locating Science Fiction. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press. Ransom, Amy J. 2009. Science Fiction from Québec: A Postcolonial Study. Jefferson: McFarland. Raud, Pascale. 2012. “Claustrophobes s’abstenir.” Lettres québécoises 145: 26–27. Reuter, Yves. 1992. “Littérature/paralittératures: classements et déclassements”. In Les mauvais genres, edited by Jacques La Mothe, 37–47. Liège: Éd. du C.L.P.C.F. Riendeau, Pascal. 2017. “Savoir romanesque et parcours axiologique dans Tarmac de Nicolas Dickner et Mayonnaise d’Éric Plamondon.” Québec Studies 63: 99–117. Suvin, Darko. 1979. Metamorphoses of Science Fiction: On the Poetics and History of Literary Genre. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. Trudel, Jean-Louis. 2016. “Historique du Prix Jacques-Brossard (1984–2016).” Culture des Futurs. December 17. http://culturedesfuturs.blogspot. com/2016/12/historique-du-prix-jacques-brossard.html. ———. 2017. Petit guide de la science-fiction au Québec. Lévis: Alire. Vonarburg, Élisabeth. 2014. “Nicolas Tremblay. L’invention de Louis. JeanSimon DesRochers. Demain sera sans rêves. ” Solaris 189: 141–42. ———. 2018. “Sylvie Bérard. Une sorte de nitescence langoureuse.” Solaris 205: 35–136.


Transculture, Transgenre: Stanley Péan’s Fantastic Detective Fiction Kathleen Kellett

In Zombi blues (2007) and Bizango (2011), Stanley Péan weaves together horror fantasy and detective fiction to critique structures of power and corruption in Haiti and Québec. Unlike other noted Haitian-Québécois writers such as Dany Laferrière and Émile Ollivier, Péan experienced Haiti primarily through the words of his parents and grandparents and his readings in Caribbean literature. Born in Haiti in 1966, he emigrated with his parents to the Saguenay-Lac Saint Jean area when he was only a year old. Since his first short story collection, La plage des songes (1988), he has become well known in Québec as an author and a jazz afficionado. Amy Ransom describes Péan’s writing as “le fantastique métissé,” a “hybrid” work, using Homi Bhabha’s term, a genre that bridges Québécois, African-American, and Haitian traditions, while expressing the unease and disorientation of exile (Ransom 2010, 299–302). Péan perceives similarities between Québécois and Caribbean literatures arising from their shared condition as the products of colonization

K. Kellett (*)  Ryerson University, Toronto, ON, Canada © The Author(s) 2019 A. J. Ransom and D. Grace (eds.), Canadian Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror, Studies in Global Science Fiction,



(Olivier 1992, 8). He has published a number of reflections on what he describes as “le fantastique maléfique” or horror fantasy. He defines the fantastic as a narrative in which the supernatural appears as a “grain de sable dans la machine bien huilée de la réalité objective” (a grain of sand in the well-oiled machine of objective reality), an “aberration” that he refers to as an “implausibilité irréductible” (irreducible implausibility) inextricably linked to and dependent on the real (Péan 1990, 162).1 The tale of horror also draws on the Manichean fight between good and evil, and implies social transgression. Péan’s “fantastique maléfique” proposes an inverted world – a dark side, based on George Romero’s expression – in which unconscious impulses take revenge on the codes of the real world, where outbursts of sublimated violence overcome the restrictive norms dictated by society. (Péan 1990, 169)2

The themes of racism, alienation, marginalization, and violence pervade Péan’s writings. He draws on the traditional motifs of the fantastic, most notably that of the fictional double or doppelgänger that threatens the sense of self and traditionally signals imminent death (Coates 1988, 32), but he also uses elements specific to Haitian mythology. Péan makes it clear that syncretic religions such as voodoo allow for “la ­représentation simultanée de la résistance au colonisateur et du métissage de deux cultures supposées antagonistes” (Péan 1992–1993, 58; s­imultaneous representation of resistance to the colonizer and the mixing of two ­supposedly antagonistic cultures): European and African.3 Horror fantasy provides a vehicle for postcolonial critique. The association that Péan establishes between horror fantasy and impulses of violence escaping the constraints of sublimation evokes the concept of the abject. Julia Kristeva perceives the origins of the abject in the anxiety raised by the most primordial of borders; that is, the original distinction between the self and the maternal body, between self and Other: “The abject has only one quality of the object – that of being opposed to I” (Kristeva 1982, 1). The compulsion to maintain boundaries is also triggered by apprehension of the tenuous divide between the living and the dead, subject to putrefaction: “It is thus not lack of cleanliness or health that causes abjection but what disturbs identity, system, order. What does not respect borders, positions, rules. The in-between, the ambiguous, the composite” (Kristeva 1982, 4). Crime itself, particularly premeditated crime, is abject because it underlines the fragility of



the law and thus of social order (Kristeva 1982, 4). The human capacity to commit murder undermines a traditional view of humans as moral beings, distinct from animals: The abject confronts us, on the one hand, with those fragile states where man strays on the territories of animal. Thus, by way of abjection, primitive societies have marked out a precise area of their culture in order to remove it from the threatening world of animals or animalism, which were imagined as representatives of sex and murder. (Kristeva 1982, 12–13)

Faced with the abject, the individual reacts viscerally: “A massive and sudden emergence of uncanniness, which, familiar as it might have been in an opaque and forgotten life, now harries me as radically separate, loathsome” (Kristeva 1982, 2). Indeed, the abject is at the heart of the detective novel, horror fantasy, and postcolonial critique in Péan’s fiction featuring Lorenzo Appolon, a detective in the Montréal Police Services. Péan creates a narrative that: (1) explores the relationship between power, abjection and zombification; (2) illustrates the complementarity and the tension between the role of the detective as representative of community, law and order and that of the supernatural avenger4 who favors vigilante justice; and (3) underlines the necessity of containing abject evil, while recognizing the impossibility of its eradication.

Power, Abjection, and Zombification Péan’s use of detective fiction to cast a critical eye on power in postcolonial society may appear problematic. In the subgenre of the police procedural, even a detective from a marginalized background is an instrument of state-sanctioned power. As Kathleen Klein and other critics have pointed out, given the genre’s conventional drive to bring the criminal to justice and thus to restore law and order, radical social change and detective fiction appear profoundly incompatible: “Police […] are bound by bureaucracy, hierarchies, and politics. Historically, they are paid by a system which inhibits individual action and decisions; they are assigned to cases, bound to standard investigative behavior, and responsible to the state’s vision of justice” (Klein 1988, 6). The traditional police procedural implies a social and moral order disrupted by the act of murder, a disruption that the detective must repair by identifying murderers and bringing them to justice. Part of the attraction of contemporary detective fiction is the opportunity to thwart readers’ expectations by


underlining the intersectional impact (see Crenshaw 1989) of ethnicity, race, sexuality, and gender in relation to hegemony and hierarchy. Péan’s horror fantasy detective fiction sets into motion a Manichean narrative that can only end satisfactorily with the triumph of good while recognizing that evil will continually re-emerge. Many of the social evils that plague the Haitian community, as described by Péan, emerge from the consequences of a colonialist past: the inequality between elites and the poor, the rise of noirist ideology, and the brutal regimes of François Duvalier and his son Jean-Claude Duvalier that precipitated the flight of many Haitians into diaspora.5 In relative safety in Montréal, exiled Haitians face the discrepancy between the expectations of immigrant parents and the reality of limited job opportunities, discrimination, and racial profiling experienced by their children in the diaspora. As immigrants or first-generation Québécois facing discrimination, the younger generation hover between this world and that of their parents; the most vulnerable of them are susceptible to “zombification,” subjugation to the will of the powerful and corrupt who seduce, mislead, and dominate. Péan’s supernatural creatures, drawn from Haitian mythology, are the embodiment of the abject in their blurring of the line between human and inhuman; however, abjection has broader implications as well for both villain and victim. Ransom points out the significance of the zombi as a symbol of alienation in Haitian and Haitian-Canadian literature, evoking the human condition in a postcolonial, postmodern world that defies the familiar dichotomies of Western thought (Ransom 2009, 73). In Péan’s novels, zombification plays an important role in provoking the sense of the abject, as the desire to oppress the Other is realized through the subjugation of the will, compelling individuals to mindless obedience. Zombi blues illustrates this process most directly but the second novel, Bizango, whose eponymous supernatural character is a telepathic shapeshifter, also links zombification and exploitation. The paratext of Zombi blues offers a dictionary definition of “zombi” that recalls its African origins as a Kongo term meaning “ghost” or “revenant”: “En Haïti, individu à qui l’on a administré une drogue qui induit un état similaire à la mort, et qu’un sorcier vodou exhume pour le mettre à son service” (Péan 2007, 9; In Haiti, an individual to whom one has administered a drug that induces a state similar to death and whom a voodoo sorcerer exhumes to place him in his service). A powerful symbol in Péan’s novels, the zombi participates in the abject as it hovers between



life and death, between its own latent will and its subjugation to the will of the powerful. In Zombi blues, the precipitating factor in a wave of violence in Montréal is the arrival of Barthélémy “Barracuda” Minville, a brutal figure from the former Duvalier government, whose presence provokes protests from the exiled Haitian community. Here, Péan alludes to the 1987 visit to Quebec of Roger Lafontant, former minister of the Interior under the bloody dictatorship of Jean-Claude Duvalier (Coates 1998, 1091). Maître Minville seeks to regain power by creating a cohort of zombis via a serum distilled by the greatest houngan (voodoo priest) in Haiti, Dieubalfeuille Grospoint. Having obtained the serum, Minville kills the houngan but is not able to capture his daughter Alice, who flees. He coerces a young woman to give him her twin sons to raise under the effects of the serum but is thwarted when she returns, steals one back and escapes, wounded. Before dying, she gives the child to the wife of a diplomat returning to Canada. As Ransom points out (2009, 76), the Canadian couple are described in a way that evokes zombification; having lost their biological son Daniel, they are “morts-vivants perdus au pays de l’ombre” (the living dead lost in the country of shadows; Péan 2007, 22) and hope to assuage their grief by adopting the Haitian child. The murders carried out in Haiti will have repercussions for the community in exile. Like other members of his community, detective Lorenzo Appolon is angered by the cordial welcome extended to Minville by the Canadian authorities. However, as a police officer, he must maintain order, and he advises his close friend Ferdinand Dauphin to refrain from harming Duvalier’s acolyte even though Dauphin wishes to avenge his brother Hector, murdered by Minville’s order. Appolon makes it his responsibility to counter corruption brought about by Minville’s greed and desire for power. Zombification is far more than a horror fantasy motif or an evocation of Haitian folklore. It is inevitably associated for Péan with exploitation of the vulnerable by the unscrupulous. In Zombi blues, the twin that Minville subjugates with the serum is an albino named Caliban. Hideous, malevolent, endowed with superhuman strength, and the ability to heal quickly, but severely limited in speech, this creature evokes the Caliban of Shakespeare’s Tempest and of Aimé Césaire’s rewriting of the famous play—the Indigenous inhabitant of the isle much despised by the colonizing Prospero (Dorsinville 1974, 12–15). The text makes explicit Caliban’s resemblance to a zombi: “on jurerait un zombi” (you’d


swear he was a zombi; Péan, 2007, 143). Caliban is obsessed with the desire to kill his Haitian-Canadian twin brother Gabriel D’ArqueAngel. According to C. F. Keppler, in many cultures, twins are associated with the abject as their appearance blurs the line between self and other. In certain societies, one or both twins may be killed, sometimes along with the mother (Keppler 1972, 16). As Linda Dryden points out, in the context of Gothic horror, the double is associated with death (2003, 38). From a postcolonial perspective, Paul Coates observes the prevalence of the double figure in authors such as Joseph Conrad and Oscar Wilde who are “suspended between languages and cultures” (Coates 1988, 32). In Mythologie haïtienne, Maximilien Laroche emphasizes the specific context of the “marassa” or twin in voudou mythology: “Et comme ces esprits sont des enfants capricieux et susceptibles, facilement irritables et vindicatifs, ils représentent l’imprévisibilité de la subjectivité et l’irrationalité de l’Histoire” (Laroche 2002, 11; And since those spirits are capricious and sensitive, easily irritated and vindictive, they represent the unpredictable nature of subjectivity and the irrationality of History). In Zombi blues, the word “marasa” haunts Gabriel D’ArqueAngel, although he does not know its meaning. The name “Gabriel D’ArqueAngel” is an obvious reference to the biblical Archangel Gabriel, emphasizing the opposition between the evil and the good twin. Still, Gabriel D’ArqueAngel participates in the abject by his association with blood and incest. When Caroline Reynolds takes him from his dying mother, his mouth drips with his mother’s milk and her blood. A strange scarlet light in his eyes betrays him as well, although he generally hides behind dark glasses. A scene of oral sex emphasizes his pleasure in the copious menstrual blood of his lover. His semi-incestuous relationship with his adoptive sister Laura, which must remain hidden from their parents, also signals the abject. Although Gabriel too received an injection of the serum as a baby, his adoptive mother’s use of alcohol to soothe him as a child along with his lavish use of alcohol as an adult has counteracted the effects of the serum. In the twins’ battle, Gabriel emerges the winner, using his inhuman strength to defeat his brother Caliban. He recognizes that Caliban represents pure evil and must be annihilated. In this fight, Gabriel has the assistance of Alice Grospoint, the daughter of the murdered houngan who created the serum. She injects Caliban with alcohol to end his assault on her daughter Naïma, ensuring that Gabriel will fight a diminished opponent.



Killing Minville’s own personal zombi does not eliminate the problem of zombification, which can only be solved if humans are able to walk away from the bargain in which they have exchanged control over their destiny for power. Minville’s henchman Faustin is such a case; as the allusion to the Faust of German legend suggests, figuratively he has sold his soul to the devil in exchange for power and protection. He has witnessed Minville’s heinous acts, but one of the most egregious is the brutal rape and murder of a young Haitian girl who had the audacity to challenge Minville during the collapse of the Duvalierist regime. In Montréal, Faustin’s conscience leads him to abandon Minville after he witnesses the murder of Jacynthe Roussel and realizes the danger to Alice Grospoint and her daughter. He challenges Minville and Caliban in order to allow the two women to escape at the cost of his own life. If Caliban’s subjugation as a zombi borders on caricature, it is clear that Gabriel has also approached zombification through his use of alcohol and his studied lack of awareness of his Haitian origins. After giving Laura the serum to help her heal from Caliban’s attack, Gabriel resolves to return to Haiti to support his beleaguered homeland. Symbolically, as Paul Coates explains, “The Double is born of what Sartre would term the bad faith with which one disowns half of one’s life, which then carries on living in the guise of a self condemned as other” (1988, 36). In reclaiming his Haitian identity, Gabriel rejects the bad faith of his unawakened life. Jazz and political activism will allow him to bridge the distance between his Haitian origins and his Québec upbringing. In Bizango, the primary villain, a gangster and music producer, Venel Jean-Paul, also known as Chill-O, is, like Minville, a character who thrives by subjugating others to his will. Chill-O uses drugs and the lure of money to exploit others. In Péan’s novels, unscrupulous individuals entice women into sexual exploitation and zombification through what we might call the fairy-tale trap. In Zombi blues, Minville seduces Jacynthe Roussel, at first treating her like a princess. Disillusioned and terrified by his subsequent brutality, she asks herself: “Que faire? Appeler le flic en bas, lui hurler de la délivrer de ce sombre donjon, elle, princesse prisonnière du Roi Nègre?” (Péan 2011, 139; What to do? Call the cop below, cry out to him to deliver her, princess prisoner of the Roi Nègre, from this somber dungeon?). Eventually, he kills the lover that she calls like a knight to her rescue and later strangles her: “Le conte de fées s’achève et la princesse voit s’esquisser un triste dénouement”


(Péan 2011, 167; The fairy tale ends and the princess sees before her an unhappy ending). The fairy-tale trap is a peculiarly female form of zombification but here takes on an intersectional dimension (Crenshaw 1989). Gender, race, age, and social class all have an impact on the individual’s susceptibility to exploitation. In Bizango, the princess motif is evoked throughout the novel through a central character, Gemme (nicknamed Domino), and often by Gemme herself: “J’adore ma vie. Quand je suis off-duty, je vis en princesse, dans une maison grande comme un château de conte de fées. Et mon nègre à moi est l’un des plus importants producteurs indépendants de la scène hip-hop” (Péan 2011, 52; I adore my life. When I am off-duty, I live like a princess, in a big house like a castle in a fairy-tale. And my Black lover is one of the most important independent producers of the hip-hop scene). Having run away from the home where she lived as a “restavek” (literally “stay with”), sent by her mother to a bourgeois family in the hopes of a brighter future, Gemme is seduced by Chill-O, who grooms her as a dancer and prostitute, luring her into addiction, drugs being a potent tool in modern zombification. When she disappears with the bizango, Chill-O is certain that she will return due to her addiction. Frustrated, he is determined to assert his authority: “Il est grand temps que la princesse réintègre le palais!” (Péan 2011, 113; It is high time that the princess came back to the palace!), but the bizango will use his supernatural powers to free her from addiction. At the same time, however benign the bizango may appear to be as a hero, he is in fact a creature who straddles the line between human and inhuman, thus participating in the abject. Often, his vigilante justice against the representatives of evil leads to murder and mayhem, with secondary characters becoming collateral damage.

The Detective and the Supernatural Avenger Less familiar than the zombi, the bizango is also drawn from Haitian mythology and defined for the reader in the paratext as a “membre d’une société secrète doté du pouvoir de se dévêtir de sa peau humaine et d’adopter toute autre forme de son choix, le plus souvent celle d’un animal volant ou rampant” (Péan 2011, 9; member of a secret society possessing the power to remove his human skin and adopt any other form of his choice, most often that of a flying or crawling animal). In Péan’s novel, the telepathic shapeshifter approaches the abject by his



ambiguous identity, his ability to assume the features of any human. Like the doppelgänger, he is both self and Other. His true features recall the salamander, although more ferocious; he is associated with fire, and his motto is “Nutrisco et extinguo” (Péan 2011, 275; I nourish and I extinguish). The allusion is historical: the emblem of the sixteenth-century French king François I displayed a salamander in the midst of flames with the aforementioned motto interpreted as: “I feed the good flames and I extinguish the bad” (Erlande-Brandenburg 1976, 69). The bizango has the power to save but also to kill. At the outset, he seems benign, rescuing a senior citizen from a fire, preventing a young Italo-Québécois journalist from being trampled at the site of the fall of the Twin Towers in New York. He is a supernatural hero, moved by compassion, but he is also an avenger, using his camouflage to destroy members of Chill-O’s gang and eventually Chill-O himself. When he confronts Chill-O in person, he assumes the gangster’s own features to terrify him, driving him into a catatonic state. The true face of the bizango is terrifying: “Et, pendant une seconde, Steel crut apercevoir le véritable visage de l’abomination qui s’apprêtait à le tuer, un visage reptilien avec une gueule démesurée où s’alignaient une quantité invraisemblable de crocs acérés” (Péan 2011, 281; And, for a second, Steel thought he saw the true face of the abomination that was getting ready to kill him, a reptilian face with an enormous jaw equipped with an incredible quantity of sharp fangs). Although he is a hero to the vulnerable, his vigilantism has its dark side. Many years previously, in confronting a woman who, as a child, was responsible for the death of another, the angry avenger inadvertently triggered a conflagration that menaced the guilty woman as well as his business partner; although he saved both, his partner was injured and scarred for life. Similarly, in attempting to protect Gemme, he provokes confrontations with Chill-O’s gang, which leads to the deaths of gang members while setting off a cycle of violence that harms innocent people, including a much venerated houngan, a police officer, and an elderly friend. His form of justice may destroy the criminals who introduce the abject into society, but it comes at a high price. While tempted by vigilante justice, as a police detective, Appolon represents the aspiration toward law and order. Unlike the bizango, he is constrained by the rules of his profession: “même aux dépens de la justice humaine” (Péan 2007, 42; even at the expense of human justice). Balancing justice and the dictates of the law presents a major conflict for Appolon. In Bizango, Appolon refers to a real-life controversy in 2008


after an unarmed young man from Honduras, Fredy Villanueva, was shot by Montréal police (Péan 2011, 39), whose subsequent acquittal sparked rioting in Montréal. The death of Villanueva at the hands of police is a reminder of the consequences of abuse of judicial power. Unlike the bizango, Appolon is caught between the demands of his personal ties in the Haitian community and his professional responsibilities as a police detective. Péan demonstrates through Appolon the painful inbetweenness of being part of a marginalized group in Québec. In Zombi blues, his partner Paul-Émile Boivin is friendly but persists in making racially stereotyped jokes. Appolon openly deplores the over-representation of young black men, his “compatriotes d’exil” (Péan 2011, 135; compatriots in exile), in Québec prisons. At the same time, as a police detective, Apollon is mistrusted by the Haitian community, where he is often referred to openly as “Msye Oreo, celui qui n’est noir qu’en surface’, ‘le traître’” (Péan 2011, 43; Mr. Oreo, black only on the outside, the traitor). Members of the Haitian community automatically identify him as “mulâtre,” a light-skinned Haitian, typically associated with the educated elite despised by many. On seeing him for the first time, Alice Grospoint describes him as a “mulâtre” with straightened hair (Péan 2007, 228) and observes disparagingly: “Probablement un de ces bourgeois qui monopolisent les médias québécois dès qu’il est question d’intégration de la communauté haïtienne, mais qui se gardent bien d’envoyer leurs enfants étudier dans les mêmes écoles que ceux de la classe ouvrière” (Péan 2007, 228; Probably one of those bourgeois types who monopolize the Quebec media when it’s all about Haitian integration into the community, but who choose not to send their children to study in the same schools as working class children). Caught in a racial divide, he tries to bridge two communities but finds that his skin color attracts the mistrust of both groups. A common culture is not enough to permit Appolon to elicit information from Haitian witnesses: “Aux yeux d’une partie non négligeable de la communauté haïtiano-montréalaise, son insigne du SPVM marquait son appartenance à un autre camp, faisait de lui un étranger, yon blan.” (Péan 2011, 186; In the eyes of a non-negligible part of the Montréal Haitian community, his Montréal Police Services badge signaled his belonging to another camp, made him a foreigner, a white guy). In the pursuit of justice, Appolon must harden himself to the prejudice he meets from his fellow officers and from his community.



Nevertheless, Appolon’s Haitian ties allow him to pursue leads that his colleagues cannot. At the same time, these ties make his desire for justice a very personal one. In Zombi blues, his friend Ferdinand Dauphin alerts him to the danger represented by Minville. Haunted by the murder of his brother in Haiti, Ferdinand tries to kill Minville but is instead destroyed. The gruesome violence practiced by Caliban and Minville places Péan’s work in the category of “body horror” (Williams 2003, qtd by Ransom 2013, 159). In Bizango, Appolon remembers the death of his ex-wife’s goddaughter Shaïna, who was seduced and abused by Chill-O and who, because the police could not protect her, committed suicide. Over and above his professional duty, Appolon has personal reasons to seek revenge. In Zombi blues, he betrays his principles by giving into this desire; at the end of a struggle, while Minville lies unarmed on the floor, overcome by this villain’s long series of atrocities, Appolon empties his revolver into Minville. In Bizango, he remembers this crucial moment and deplores succumbing to the temptation to kill. While the bizango destroys first the members of Chill-O’s gang and then Chill-O himself, in an effort to protect Gemme and to avenge the death of the innocent, Appolon concentrates on protecting society by containing the unleashed violence to the best of his ability. It is only too clear what damage comes about through the bizango’s unbridled actions: although the gang is destroyed, many innocent people are as well. In this blend of horror fantasy and detective fiction, the expulsion of the abject through the restoration of social order requires more than a simple confrontation between good and evil. The villains from this particular plot may be vanquished, but the potential for zombification persists. Although the detective’s work is facilitated in some ways by the actions of supernatural creatures, Apollon’s moral values clearly come into conflict with vigilante justice. Remorseful over his own vengeful execution of Minville, he finds himself in the paradoxical situation of defending one of Chill-O’s gang members from the bizango: he remembered his own confrontation with Barthélémy Minville, alias Barracuda, who embodied in his eyes pure Evil, and his unjustifiable decision to proclaim himself judge, jury and executioner, that had almost cost him his career in the police. (Péan 2011, 81)6


Not unsurprisingly, the bizango does not heed Appolon and chooses instead to kill the multiple murderer Edner Alceste, alias Steel. Appolon reflects that the bizango has meted out biblical justice: “L’Haïtien demeurait pétrifié, le regard fixé sur Steel qui avait péri comme il avait vécu, comme le voulait cette désuète formule des Écritures qui avaient bercé l’enfance du détective.” (Péan 2011, 282; The Haitian remained petrified, his regard fixed on Steel who had died as he had lived, just like the old-fashioned formula from the Scriptures from the detective’s childhood.) The ancient law of an eye for an eye does not meet the police detective’s vision of justice. Appolon has discovered a more measured approach beyond vigilantism. He has learned from Minville’s mocking reflection that there is no end to evil, that to kill an evildoer is pointless since evil itself is like the hydra of Greek mythology: if you cut off the head, several more grow back (Péan 2007, 311). In Bizango, reflecting on Chill-O’s career, Appolon asks himself if Haiti is not genetically predisposed to produce a despot each generation (Péan 2011, 112). However, while Appolon is inclined to accept Minville’s statement that evil can never be eradicated, Péan’s novels suggest a more nuanced insight into the problem of evil, making it clear that zombification thrives in a climate of oppression such as that faced by postcolonial Haiti and by racialized immigrant communities in Montréal. Péan’s horror fantasy detective novels demonstrate that many of the gang members and the individuals they exploit have chosen crime as an alternative to the difficult lives of their immigrant parents. A producer of hip-hop, Chill-O takes advantage of aspiring musicians and singers. In exploiting a girl band, which he proposes to name the KKK Bitches, he counts on their desire to escape poverty to make them more malleable: “enfants de l’immigration exclus d’une société de consommation qui prônait l’uniformisation des esprits et la négation des différences” (Péan 2011, 177; children of immigration excluded from a consumer society that promoted the uniformization of minds and the negation of differences). Clearly, these young minds are ripe for zombification. The center for runaways where Gemme finds refuge is a “terrain de chasse” (Péan 2011, 33; hunting ground) for Chill-O’s gang members. Unable to fulfill the dreams that their parents had for them, the gang members choose the glorified violence of gang life: “C’était de notoriété publique: pour intégrer le clik et grimper dans sa hiérarchie floue, il fallait se montrer plus cruel, plus sanguinaire, plus michan gason que les



autres” (Péan 2011, 35; It was a well-known fact: to join the gang and climb its vaguely defined hierarchy, it was necessary to be more cruel, more bloody, more ‘bad boy’ than the others). When reminded of their vulnerable childhoods, they react with violence. Chill-O’s henchman Steel kills the houngan who reminds him that he was born Edner Alceste, raised with hope by impoverished immigrants. As members of the Haitian community, Appolon and his spouse Marie-Marthe participate in a fundraising event to counter the effects of youth unemployment by building the Jean-Jacques Dessalines Arena, named in honor of the Haitian revolutionary. While Chill-O also exploits this event to raise his profile and to launder money, such initiatives do raise the possibility of fighting evil at the community level rather than on the supernatural plane. If the cause of crime is poverty and despair, then perhaps social change can stem the abjection caused by social disorder and brutal exploitation. This does not figure into the bizango’s more rudimentary philosophy of vigilante justice.

Conclusion: A Higher Level of Justice In this blend of horror fantasy and detective fiction, the expulsion of the abject through the restoration of social order requires more than a simple confrontation between the forces of good and evil. Zombification itself must be contested. If Péan’s supernatural avengers offer catharsis by violently eliminating criminals, their methods are at odds with the social critique emerging from an awareness of the impact of postcolonialism and diasporic angst. The two novels derive their plots from Haiti’s violent history, from its early economy based on slavery to the slave revolts that led to the creation of the first independent republic in the Caribbean in 1804, to the long history of exploitation by France and then the United States, the emergence of Duvalierism based on a noirist ideology in opposition to the light-skinned elites, and the Haitian exodus during the Duvalier regime. The violent condemnation of Minville by Appolon and the rest of Montréal’s Haitian community emerges in reaction to the bloody Duvalier dictatorship. Appolon does not see retributive murder as a long-term solution to violence: “Pour rompre le cycle de la violence, il fallait d’abord que chacun consente à refuser la tentation de prendre justice entre ses propres mains” (Péan 2011, 281; To break the cycle of violence, it was first necessary for each person to agree to refuse the temptation to take justice into their own hands). Although the bizango’s


more simplistic approach may give a sense of closure to the novel, it denies the lessons learned by Appolon. With the reminder of the death of Fredy Villanueva at the hands of the police, it is clear in the context of this novel that the basic principles of justice are necessary to protect against potential abuses by advocates of violence, including certain police officers. In insisting on the personal history of the gang members and the failed dreams of their immigrant parents, Bizango emphasizes the social context of crime, making it clear that the execution of corrupt individuals such as Minville and Chill-O is an ineffective means of eradicating evil. In Zombi Blues and Bizango, Péan innovatively renews the genres of horror fantasy and detective fiction. His version of these genres allows for an exploration of the phenomenon of the abject. The classic detective novel insists on closure, as Charles Brownson expresses it: “The detective formula is not comfortable with transgression and is constructed so as to suppress it as quickly as possible, whereas the literary novel values transgression as the generator and prolongs it as long as possible” (Brownson 2014, 83). Péan’s horror fantasy detective fiction with its metaphoric zombification hints at the latent abject that threatens continually to re-emerge. Although both novels insist on the impossibility of the eradication of evil, they also provide the traditional closure of detective fiction—crime is contained, the criminals are punished, the community is protected—for now at least. The supernatural creatures of Péan’s novels are inspired by Haitian folklore, but it is clear that they emerge from a very ancient thirst for vengeance. Appolon’s values serve as a reminder that evil has a more mundane face, that it is not to be identified with specific individuals who can be destroyed or incarcerated; in fact, evil is largely systemic. The factors that lead to zombification, or the subjugation of the human spirit, are not the result of the will of a single evil mastermind such as Minville or Chill-O; rather they have their roots in social inequality and the desire of the powerful to maintain social inequality by guarding their own place at the top of the power structure.

Notes 1. All translations mine. 2. “un monde inversé – a dark side, selon l’expression consacrée de George Romero – où les pulsions de l’inconscient prennent leur revanche sur les codes du réel, où les débordements de la violence sublimée éclipsent les normes contraignantes dictées par la société” (Péan 1990, 169).



3.  For an analysis of the use of the “hoodoo” motif in African-American detective fiction, see Soitos (1996, 24–51). 4. For the role of the avenger in detective fiction, see Blanc (1991, 129, 258). 5. Regarding Duvalier, noirisme and the history of Haiti, see Deibert (2017). 6.  “il se rappelait sa propre confrontation avec Barthélémy Minville, alias Barracuda, qui incarnait à ses yeux le Mal pur, et son injustifiable décision de s’autoproclamer juge, jury et bourreau, qui avait failli lui coûter sa carrière dans la police” (Péan 2011, 81).

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Excerpts from A Glossary of Non-essential Forms and Genres in English-Canadian Literature Jordan Bolay

The struggle for power in a culture is often not a struggle for individual legitimation but for institutional affiliation. (Frank Davey, Canadian Literary Power)

Foreword Like any good glossary of literary terms, this one keeps the collection of Canadian literary forms and genres “current with innovations in critical views and methods;” it “defines and discusses the terms, as well as the critical theories and viewpoints, that are used to classify, analyze, interpret, and narrate the history of works of literature” (Abrams 2012, vii). However, unlike traditional glossaries, which contain the most essential labels from throughout literary history, this one is concerned with the non-essential, the peripheral, the popular. There are many forms and genres that do not make the “essentials” list but are nonetheless very important to the Canadian literary tradition, such as magic realism and J. Bolay (*)  University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, Canada © The Author(s) 2019 A. J. Ransom and D. Grace (eds.), Canadian Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror, Studies in Global Science Fiction,


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conceptual poetry, and these would certainly be found in a complete Glossary. However, the excerpts that follow are primarily concerned with those labels given the least attention within Canadian critical discourse. As Frank Davey notes in Canadian Literary Power: “For the first six decades of this [twentieth] century, literary power in Canada was usually mapped in terms of oversimplified binary oppositions – the published and the unpublished, […] the centre and the margin, mass-art and ‘serious’ art” (1994, 7). Examining this dismissal of popular media, this reluctance to canonize, this persistence of the high/low binary, is the central focus of this non-essential glossary. It uses post-structural thought to problematize the hierarchism of the canon and, to use Raymond Williams’s terminology, to introduce emergent culture into a dominant ideology. This approach bridges the gap between literary studies and the popular forms and genres of comics, concept albums, science fiction, steampunk, and videogames. Case studies found under each term demonstrate how the ignorable labels of Canadian literature not only engage with, but intersect with essential ones, including (post-) colonial, (post-)modern novels, and prose-poems, etc., illustrating the ideological constructedness of the academic canon, the illusive hierarchies of terminology, and the interconnectedness of arts—high and low. * * * Canon According to A Glossary of Literary Terms, the “literary canon has come to designate […] those authors who, by cumulative consensus of critics, scholars, and teachers, have come to be widely recognized as ‘major’” (Abrams 2012, 41). The canon uses academic institutional clout to conceal and justify hierarchies of representation, and therefore functions ideologically. Lynette Hunter writes in Outsider Notes that “Ideology uses the medium of state institutions to imply that there is a norm, a convention, a natural state. […] The rhetoric of the nation state structures its ethos simultaneously to build a norm as an artificial construction, and then to forget that it is artificial” (1996, 16). And while “the educational institution has privileged a literary and a critical canon heavily biased to thematics” (28), Davey argues that Canadian criticism is also “heterogeneous and conflicted” with a “new focus on specialized ‘canons’”



and therefore “Canada has a network of competing canons” (1994, 57, 59, 69). The problem is that these canons, and the idea of the canon, remain fundamentally ideological; they create hierarchies and contribute to discourses of privilege and exclusivity. However, it is not the aim of this entry or this Glossary to undo the canon or ideology, but instead to “outgrow the view that evaluation is the end of criticism, instead of its incidental by-product” since, as Northrop Frye writes in his famous “Conclusion,” the “evaluative view is based on the conception of criticism as concerned mainly to define and canonize the genuine classics of literature” (1971, 213). It is time that we, as Canadianists and literary scholars, read texts in relation to their cultural movements and discourses rather than against a constructed standard of classicism. Scholars have taken to debating shifts in the perceptions and functions of canons rather than their formations or historical boundaries. Davey writes that “catalogues have relied on a discourse of canonical certainty and domination […] together with a discourse of simplicity” and these “reductive discourses […] classify and simplify literary history into highly organized, unproblematical, monolithic constructions” (1994, 63). Hunter expands on this deconstruction: “On the one hand [canons] may become rigidly defining and be tightly linked to the education program of the nation. On the other hand they may begin to be seen more widely for the limited representations of culture that they are” (1996, 18). Canonical texts are paradoxical; they “are deeply implicated in ideology while critical of it, and yet as canonical, they can be ‘heard’ by the empowered who are often deaf to other sound” (ibid.). Herein lies the problem of shifting the academic canon. While canonical texts can be ironically and self-reflexively critical of the canon, those in control of the doxa must recognize a text, genre, or form as canonical before it affects the dominant ideology. According to Hunter, “Canons are made up of works which address issues perceived to be relevant, in a generic mode appropriate to their status, and have to be accessible to the reading practices of the public” (19), and yet many of the most accessible forms and genres—popular ones—are the least canonized. This discrepancy is due to the key phrase “appropriate to their status.” Works within the academic canon must be worthy of it as well as relevant, and thus the definition of “accessible” changes with the audience. This question of status and audience is why canonical works are those “most kept in print” rather than those most frequently printed (Abrams 2012, 41). Hunter claims that popular culture often “inadvertently underwrites what it sets

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out to critique” (1996, 21). However, this is the very paradox that she identifies in canons, which, she says, “become a primary device for educating the populace into the ideology of the nation state” (Hunter 1996, 18). Because of this relationship between canonicity and ideology, popular works have the power to shift academic perspectives on labeling even though their contents may be as ideological as those of canonical texts. But for such a shift to take place, those works must be given a voice within literary critical discourses. * * * Comics “Comics” is an umbrella term that encompasses “graphic narrative,” “graphic novel,” and “sequential art,” which Abrams describes as “works, intended for adults and often nonfiction, in which extended narratives are told through a series of illustrations” (2012, 152–53). However, most people understand “comics” as entertainment for children, despite the genre’s canonization of novelesque works that conform to Abrams’s definition (e.g. Art Spiegelman’s Maus [1980–1991]). In Canada, comics became an established form during the Second World War when a ban on foreign comics “as a wartime economy measure” (Walker 1971, 5)—and perhaps as a way of preserving nationalist literary identity in the early days of globalization—incited a boom to profit from and fill the gap in children’s entertainment. From the late 1980s onward, a strong movement more akin to the graphic novel emerged in Eastern Canada with creators like Chester Brown and Seth. Martin Vaughn-James, however, remains an outlier—his works were published by a small press for avant-garde poetry and engage directly with critical discourses of narratology while intersecting with primary movements, labeled “essentials,” of the Canadian literary tradition such as (post-)modernism and the garrison mentality. Case Study:  Martin Vaughn-James’s The Cage (1975). The Cage is an enigma. Seldom reprinted, “No work has been as widely discussed by scholars and critics while remaining so overwhelmingly unknown,” for “the comics world as a whole has not yet bought into the idea that it is an important work, at least in part because so much of



this critical work remains untranslated” (Beaty and Woo 2016, 67, 72). The Cage is barely recognizable as a “comic;” it reads like an art gallery or photobook from the High Modernist movement, like a graphic prose poem, an illustrated counterpart to Elizabeth Smart’s By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept (1945). This analogy is confirmed by the textual sounds and feelings that parallel the images rather than describing or explaining the visuals themselves, exemplified by the narration of a cacophonic symphony that runs on tape from pages 46 to 60 and is later reintroduced visually (Vaughn-James 2013, 132–33). Within the Canadian literary tradition, The Cage engages directly with the poetics and “aesthetics of difficulty in the grand tradition of twentiethcentury modernism” (Beaty and Woo 2016, 69). Robert Kroetsch has infamously said that he does not “see much Modernism in our [Canadian] literature […]. Modernism was a product of high urban civilization and we just didn’t have any” (1982, 111). But one need only read P. K. Page’s poetry, Claude Gauvreau’s drama, or Smart’s prosepoem to realize this quotation has been oversimplified by critics keen on challenging or rallying to Kroetsch. The Cage is highly imagistic, containing complex and defamiliarizing illustrations, such as a crumbling pyramid with a road marked by ink blot signs (Vaughn-James 2013, 24–25) or the unusable recording studio, filled with a bed skewered by metal rods (132–33). The Cage contains no characters, only traces of characters: a made bed, casually tossed jacket, and a reference to “a modest cubicle” (Vaughn-James 2013, 38–39). Like the voice in Phyllis Webb’s Naked Poems (1945), the cage “people[s]/this room / with things” (1965, “Your Blouse” ll. 1–3); the comic personifies objects, which act out the work’s surrealist drama. Beaty and Woo summarize Baetens’s and Groensteen’s acclaimed readings of The Cage within the context of “the critical intervention of the French Nouveau Roman movement” (2016, 69); however, within the Canadian cultural context of its publication, Vaughn-James’s work engages with the complex paradox of anti-pastoralism and postindustrialism exemplified in P. K. Page’s “After Rain” and theorized in Frye’s “Conclusion.” The cage itself is cold, surrounded by a barren wasteland (Vaughn-James 2013, 186–91). In one instance, it contains vines, skewered by metal rods, and wrapped in barbed wire (180–81), reflecting the rejected pastoral depicted in Page’s poem through the “garden of green lace”—the “garden abstracted” (2000, ll. 1, 9). Page uses the imagery of modern garments to distort the Edenic just as Vaughn-James uses

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the cage. And yet, both works are also post-industrial. Page’s speaker is unable to bring order or scientific formula to the abstracted garden: “geometry awash- / an unknown theorem argued in green ink” (ll. 9–10). Even the symbolically pastoral greenness has been mulched and extracted into an ink, scribbled for scientific purposes on mechanically produced paper. Comparably, The Cage appears to be set in a post-industrial, perhaps even postapocalyptic world. The cage destroys the bedsheets and the armoire as much as it does the vines (Vaughn-James 2013, 176–80); the bedroom and buildings are consumed by sand (38–45; 182–83); and ink floods the halls, the streets, the sky, and the self-reflexive diegetic images of the comic (88; 154–55; 158–61; 164–69; 174–75). These images exemplify Canadian poetry’s “tone of deep terror in regard to nature,” which Frye argues “is not a terror of the dangers or discomforts or even the mysteries of nature, but a terror of the soul at something that these things manifest” (1971, 225). The Cage is a rejection of pastoral poetry and its idyllic depiction of nature. But it is simultaneously an existential response to modernity, the modern world’s impact on nature, and its inability to explain, contain, or prevent nature’s reclamation of the industrialized West. Frye discusses “civilization conquering the landscape and imposing an alien and abstract pattern on it” (246). The Cage imposes the abstract patterns of modernist comics on the natural world, the metropolitan world, and the “natural” literary world through images of natural and human-made objects, the destabilizing non-sequential presentation of those images, and the dissociation between those images and their accompanying text. This commentary on the modern condition is also introspective, examining the production of the work’s own text and images. The Cage is a meta-narrative about creative process, representing the difficulties of composition: “a dense and unrelenting din […] but ­neither does this barrage of noise evolve, even for an instant, into a single sound” (46–47). The images throughout the comic are metaphorical depictions of this struggle; the work’s engagement with modernity is as much an engagement with a modern text, i.e. itself. Exemplifying this is the two-page spread of a gallery containing blank books, a typewriter, other recording devices, and images from within the text (110– 11). These pages depict the comic’s engagement with its own confused, distemporal order and the disconnection between its words and images. The work further examines its own construction through the ink that



flows across the pages, filling in blanks, ruining images (106), driving the “action” and shifting the field of view (76). The ink, an active, moving focal point, determines what we are shown, just as the author’s ink on the page does; it is an allegory of the scriptor’s putting-into-words and the monstrator’s putting-into-images.1 This self-reflexivity and VaughnJames’s “place[ment] in a tradition of concrete and visual poetry” (Beaty and Woo 2016, 70) may be paralleled with the poetry of bpNichol, who himself produced arthouse comics. The Martyrology textualizes and comments on the phonological play by which it is composed. The speaker writes/says: “i name me anew / claim my signs / my me / m a r t / in the word mart / the word m art / yr ology” (bpNichol 1982, [9]).2 Thus, The Cage is as much an engagement with the modern Western world as it is with the condition of the modern author, a condition of turmoil and isolation. Frye writes that “isolated communities surrounded with a physical or psychological ‘frontier’” are “bound to develop […] a garrison mentality” (1971, 225), and Vaughn-James’s comic allegorizes this mindset. The Cage is both the physical and psychological frontier for the scriptor and monstrator—isolated hands unable to convey their own meaning and confined to the comic—and the cage is a metaphor for that frontier. “The real terror comes when the individual feels himself becoming an individual, pulling away from the group,” Frye elaborates. Within metropolitan society the garrison is first ideological and then revolutionary because “garrison mentality is that of its officers: it can tolerate only the conservative idealism of its ruling class” (231; 236). The Cage is an illustration of the terror the individual feels within a metropolitan garrison, within a ruling conservative idealism of literature and canonicity only shaken by Frye a decade earlier. While the more recent “rising reputation of comics as a whole attests to the erosion of a strict hierarchy of art forms […] it does not imply that forces internal to those fields have been toppled” (Beaty and Woo 2016, 66). The Cage exists and was produced largely in isolation, an individual emerging within the garrison. Resultantly, this outlier comic, which blurs the lines of popular form and avant-garde genre within its own canon, has the potential to shift the ideology of the larger dominant group—the wider Canadian canon. * * *

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Concept Album Concept albums are a type of musical album “unified by a theme, which can be instrumental, compositional, narrative, or lyrical,” causing the album to shift “from a collection of heterogenous songs into a narrative work with a single theme” (Shuker 1998, 5). The concept album is the extended narrative form of a song—a long poem or story cycle in contrast with single, individual, short pieces. Romina Cucchiara notes that a “forefather of this album type can be found in the nineteenth century, with the popular genre of the song cycle or Liederkreiss” (2014). More recent concept albums further broaden and complicate the form through intertextuality and multi-media, often being accompanied by art books or spawning additional interconnected texts (Cucchiara 2014). Thus, the concept album blurs the boundaries between “serious” writing and popular culture and between neatly categorized forms and genres. In Canada, concept albums have experienced a resurgence and a growing popularity with indie rock groups in recent years, but the form’s national pinnacle rests with Rush. Case Study:  Rush’s Clockwork Angels (2012a). After decades at the forefront of the Canadian rock scene, Rush is fully immersed in contemporary movements of science fiction, Marxism, and multi-modal narrative with their latest, and, it would appear, last album, Clockwork Angels. The concept album features many of the aesthetics of steampunk—airships powered by “coldfire” and the titular automatons—and embodies Atwood’s coinage “ustopia” from her book of sf criticism In Other Worlds (2011). “Utopia can’t exist because fallen human nature does not permit it” Atwood argues, and thus “ustopia” is a hybrid of utopia and dystopia, for “each contains a latent version of the other” (2011, 85, 66). In Rush’s “world lit only by fire” (2012a, 1),3 the spectral “Watchmaker rule[s] from Crown City” and teaches his citizens that “All is for the best / Some will be rewarded / And the devil will take the rest” (2). The Watchmaker—a clear Christian allusion—in his attempts to regulate and ensure that “everything was well ordered” (2), has created an ustopia. The narrator notes that “For a boy, life on the farm was idyllic, but for the young man [he] became, that very peace and predictability were stifling, unbearable” (1). As in The Cage, the pastoral and the industrial clash, this time through the juxtaposition of rurality and urbanity. Like the anarchist, whose “missing part of [self] […] grows



around [him] like a cage” (4), the narrator feels trapped by his lack of agency, by the Edenic fatalism of the Watchmaker’s attempts at creating “the best of all possible worlds” (2). The narrator becomes disillusioned with the ustopian nature of his world through his pursuit of joy, wealth, and adventure, resulting in a commentary on ideology. He falls “In love with illusions” consistently (6): “the floating globes” of “Chronos Square” (3) and the “Seven Cities of Gold” from his childhood dreams (7)—an allusion to the Spanish myth of “our world.” Finally, as his ship is scavenged by wreckers, the narrator understands “a miracle too good to be true” (8), an allegory for both his journey and the rich life of the city. However, despite sharing the anarchist’s envy of the Crown City citizens’ “smiles” and “diamonds” (4), the narrator does not follow the radical and turn against the Watchmaker in an act of terrorism (5). Instead, he returns home to his former life, quoting a “story from another timeline” by Voltaire: “Now we must tend our garden” (12). It is through this response to disillusionment that the album engages with the Marxist notion of ideology, which “hovers between ‘a system of beliefs characteristic of a certain class’ and ‘a system of illusory beliefs’” (Williams 1977, 66). Ideology conceals the disparity between classes and the hegemonic function—the “domination [of] relations between social classes”—of the “values and beliefs which a dominant class develops and propagates” (108, 110). The Watchmaker is clearly a hegemonic force whose slogan, “All is for the best,” is the very embodiment of ideology through its ability to pacify most the population (Rush 2012a, 1–2). Rush notably and simultaneously “represents and wrestles with its suburban, middle-class identity” (McDonald 2009, 4). The trio does not embody “the musical culture of the lower classes” which seem “more exciting and authentic, especially for those who subscribe in some way to the Marxist idea of a revolutionary subject springing up from the underclass” (4–5). However, in Clockwork Angels the narrator’s return to his assigned social position demonstrates the extent to which he, and by extrapolation the population of a parallel world, has been indoctrinated. The narrator is not only disillusioned of his world’s ustopian nature, but of the middle-class “central belief […] that the individual’s hard work, innovation, and initiative will lead to material gain, satisfaction in life, and personal distinction” (6). Poignantly, the return to a prescribed position is validated by a reference to high literature, the predominant source of ideology during the Victorian period (Eagleton 1983). While the album itself, as a set

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of songs sung and stories told by the narrator, may be read as counterideological, it is diegetically only being told a “lifetime” later (Rush 2012a, 12). This delay demonstrates Williams’s notion that within a capitalist system emergent culture will gradually either be eliminated or assimilated by the dominant culture to ensure the propagation of the ruling class’s ideology (1977, 121–27). Clockwork Angels also uses the form of the concept album to muddy the lines of genre and artistic category. As Cucchiara notes, “the unison between the songs on a particular album has now been expanded into a broader field of visual and artistic design and marketing strategies that play into the themes and stories that form the album” (2014). Clockwork Angels’ album booklet contains additional narrative in the form of prosaic flash fiction, which introduces each song but is not present on the album’s audio, as well as concept art for the steampunk world designed and illustrated by Hugh Syme. Thus, as with the video­­games of yore and the recent award-winning concept album-comic hybrid Secret Path (2016) by Gord Downie and Jeff Lemire, both the booklet (textual-visual) and the CD (audio) are required for a complete narrative experience of Clockwork Angels. The album refuses categorization, resting somewhere between artist’s book, prose-poetry, and song cycle. This rejection of literary hegemony parallels the narrative’s treatment of ideology. Finally, like Arcade Fire’s Neon Bible (2007) and other “performative” concept albums (Cucchiara 2014), Clockwork Angels has proliferated beyond the boundaries of the individual work, taking intertextuality and multi-modality a step further. It echoes the band’s seminal 2112 through the clock on the album cover that reads 9:12, or 21h12; the album has also been novelized and adapted into a comic. During Rush’s Clockwork Angels Tour, the concerts’ opening and intermissions featured short films that depict a bureaucrat attempting to meet with the Watchmaker, who is impersonated by three dwarves and seemingly exists only as an idea (2012b). Meanwhile, in Kevin J. Anderson’s novelization, the Watchmaker is a very real character who has found the key to immortality and uses it in a genuine attempt to create a perfectly ordered utopian world (Anderson and Peart, 2012). The works that evolve out of Clockwork Angels form a site of aporia in which the Watchmaker simultaneously does and does not exist, in which the most canonical form— the novel—arguably has the least canonical depiction: the Watchmaker only ever exists as ideology on the album, and his sub-textual hegemonic domination is far more sinister. Thus, Clockwork Angels complicates and



subverts institutionalized hierarchies of literary form through popular genres and mobilizes a multi-modal narrative to re-examine and re-contextualize Marxist literary criticism. * * * Science Fiction Science Fiction (SciFi, sf) is a genre of speculative fiction containing works that “represent an imagined reality that is radically different in its nature and functioning from the world of our ordinary existence” (Abrams 2012, 356). It is defined by Darko Suvin in as “the literature of cognitive estrangement” in which the “attitude of estrangement […] has grown into the formal framework of the genre” (1979, 4, 7–8).4 Suvin elaborates that modern sf “presupposes more complex and wider cognitions: it discusses primarily the political, psychological, and anthropological use and effect of knowledge, of philosophy of science, and the becoming or failure of new realities as a result of it” (14–15). Central to sf is the novum, a “cognitive innovation” that “is a totalizing phenomenon or relationship deviating from the […] norm of reality” (64). A novum must be plausible and therefore “ensuing radical estrangements can, no doubt, be anticipated in a chronological future, but they cannot, scientifically speaking, be extrapolated” (28). More recently, sf theory has focused on post-humanism, artificial intelligence, galactic politics, and identity politics, especially imperialism and (post-)colonialism (Kerslake 2007). Sf first appeared in Canada with James De Mille’s A Strange Manuscript Found in a Copper Cylinder (1888), an incomplete novel somewhat resembling Poe’s The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket (1838). Since then, major Canadian sf authors have included William Gibson, whose transnational identity as an Americanborn Canadian author and whose cyberpunk sub-genre defining novel Neuromancer (1984) have blurred the lines of national literary identity and the definitions of sf, as well as Margaret Atwood, who has reluctantly accepted the label of sf with the success of The Handmaid’s Tale (1985) and the MaddAddam trilogy (2003–2013). Despite these literary successes, sf “offers unusually fertile grounds for an examination of [the] continuing process of literary canonization and marginalization” for it has been “one major bone of contention in academic arguments over the

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canon” (Westfahl 2002, 1–2). Canadian sf explores some of the genre’s theories and central tenets, but also engages with major Canadian critical discourses of space, race, and literary form through works produced in outlier media such as videogames and concept albums. Case Study:  Drew Karpyshyn’s Mass Effect (2007), see VIDEOGAMES. Steampunk Steampunk is a subgenre of science fiction, often considered an offshoot from cyberpunk that features the aesthetics and technology of Victorianism and industrialism and is characteristically set in an alternate history where steam, rather than electricity, is the primary power source (Latham 2014, 439). Steampunk entered the literary mainstream with William Gibson and Bruce Sterling’s novel The Difference Engine (1990). The emergence of the genre has invited new readings of Victorian themes, particularly class, gender, history, and industrialization. In Canada, steampunk fiction is heralded by Kenneth Oppel, whose young adult novel Airborn won the Governor General’s Award for children’s literature in 2004, and the band Rush’s concept album Clockwork Angels, which is set in an alternate universe driven by steam-powered clockwork machinations. Case Study:  Rush’s Clockwork Angels (2012a), see CONCEPT ALBUM. * * * Videogames Videogames are interactive audio-visual and often also textual computer programs primarily designed for entertainment. However, evolving parallel to these ludic programs are narrative videogames. This variant emerged with titles such as The Bard’s Tale (1985), which includes extradiegetic narration through the user manual and diegetic narrative through the six songs written by designer Michael Cranford and “sung” (textually) by the Bard. Eventually, experimental video­ game narratives evolved, including Dan Pinchbeck’s Dear Esther (2012), an interactive audio-visual story almost devoid of action. M. L. Ryan



argues that narrative is “not coextensive with literature,” and popular ­literature (in which I include videogames) “is usually more narrative than avant-garde fiction” (2001). But this justification reinforces a hierarchy between avant-garde literature and popular narrative texts, suggesting videogames cannot be formally and/or narratologically radical because they are popular or because they have too much narrative. Dominic Arsenault and Louis-Martin Guay note that Canada’s geographic, economic, and political position provide a unique environment to produce videogames (2015, 105–106). When asked “whether the Canadian games market had any distinctive traits, industry executives typically responded ‘borders don’t matter,’” and yet the Canadian Video Game Awards exist “to celebrate Canadian-made video games talent” (ibid.). The form’s Canadian identity has been further thrown into debate by foreign developers’ purchase and consolidation of smaller developing companies (109–11). However, award-winning Edmonton-based developer BioWare had managed to continue a tradition of videogames that contributed to Canada’s discourses of narratology and contemporary critical-literary questions until their acquisition by Electronic Arts (Mascarenhas 2016). Case Study:  Drew Karpyshyn’s Mass Effect (2007). BioWare’s Mass Effect is a role-playing videogame written by Drew Karpyshyn; it engages with discourses of sf, narratology, and text-reader relations through its novum, interactivity, and hypertextual intratexts. The titular effect, being the game’s novum, occurs when “the rare material dubbed element zero, or ‘eezo,’” is “subjected to an electrical current, […] emit[ting] a dark energy field that raises or lowers the mass of all objects within it. This ‘mass effect’ is used in countless ways,” but “is most prominently used to enable faster-than-light space travel” (Codex 2007). The mass effect and its possibilities regarding travel estrange players’ notions of place, encouraging new considerations of our (humankind’s) role and identity on a galactic scale rather than a terrestrial one, reiterating and recontextualizing Frye’s famous assertion that our (Canadian) question of identity is “less […] ‘Who am I?’ than […] ‘Where is here?’” (1971, 220).5 However, in sf this question is always dependent on the “notion of ‘out there,’” which “is a fabrication essential in the self-identification by Western writers of the West as the centre” (Kerslake 2007, 18). In Mass Effect, the player-character’s xenophilic/phobic interactions that arise from encounters with other

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sentient lifeforms facilitated by faster-than-light travel question, but also reiterate, modern ideas of exploration and (post-)coloniality: “the Other is either adored or despised but rarely accepted on the middle ground; the contemporary Eurocentrism of the technologically advanced northern hemisphere has, quite simply, been extrapolated into SF” (ibid.). Suvin writes that because of sf’s inherent estrangement, the “aliens […] are a mirror to man just as the differing country is a mirror for his [the author’s] world. But the mirror is not only a reflecting one, it is also a transforming one” (1979, 5). Thus, while Mass Effect embodies the extrapolation of coloniality into sf, the act of playing the game incites critical reflection and transformation in the reader through a cognitive estrangement of imperialism. Through the explicit use of the novum, Mass Effect not only intersects with, but also innately shifts critical discourses on technology, identity, and colonialism within Canadian and Western culture, given the narrative’s post-national setting and the videogame industry’s trans-nationality. Videogames—especially role-playing games—implicate their readers/players in the actions of the narrative, and Mass Effect augments player complicity with its dialogue and choice system. The game gives players control over everything from the playable protagonist’s service history and psychological profile to their military tactics, which results in the loss or preservation of the governmental Citadel Council at the game’s end. In the latter case, the culmination of the player’s previous decisions determines whether the new Council is entirely terran—as the previous one was—or interspecific, contributing greatly to the game’s cognitive estrangement of racial politics and colonialism. More specifically, the “choice to embrace the society of the Other (the alien) means that the individual, of necessity, rejects his or her own centre (Earth)” (Kerslake 2007, 15). The videogame’s narratological features apply the affective implications of choose-your-own-adventure children’s books to complex discourses facilitated by the text’s genre and medium. It may be argued, as Michael Wellenreiter has done, that in choice-based narrative videogames, players become co-authors of the narrative (2015, 343–44). While readers fill in the gaps of other media’s narratives, such as the life of the absent artist in The Cage, players directly determine the plot in Mass Effect’s. They are implicated in the game/text’s politics and their own post/colonial worldview is reflected back at them, for the Council’s outcome is not an active decision but rather an effect extrapolated from countless decisions made over many hours of narrative/play.



The interactivity of Mass Effect expands not only the game’s narratological and critical possibilities, but also its textual ones. Within the videogame is the Codex, an intratext accessed via diegetic computer terminals, containing subcategories that “define different areas of interest within the game that are key to the storyline” and others that “are not critical to the storyline of the game,” but “do help expand the perceivable universe that the game encompasses” (“Codex”, n.d.). The Codex is a collection of largely optional hypertexts—essentially erasable from the larger text—paralleling it with Gibson and Ashbaugh’s Agrippa (2005), a self-erasing book and self-encrypting digital poem. The selectability of the Codex’s text, and the player’s role as co-author, relates the player’s textual function to Erin Mouré’s composition of Pillage Laud (1999), which “selects from pages of computer-generated sentences to produce lesbian sex poems” (1999, [v]). The archival nature of the Codex and its dependence on player interaction to produce text further parallel it with Mouré’s text. Pillage Laud uses word banks and algorithms to compose the texts from which the poems’ lines were selected, just as Mass Effect composes a narrative using mathematical formulae based on the choices and actions of the player-character. Thus, BioWare presents a digital, interactive, and widely distributed companion to recent trends in Canadian post-modern and conceptual literature. The popularity of the game and its engagements with Canadian literary and critical discourses present an opportunity to bridge the gap between the academic canon and the works, genres, and forms that are often dismissed as non-essential. * * *

Afterword Northrop Frye describes the Canadian literary tradition as an “imaginative continuum”: “beyond the merits of the individual works in it, is the inheritance of the entire enterprise” (1971, 250–51). It is time for the academic canon of Canadian literature to inherit the “entire enterprise” of texts produced in Canada that engage with relevant discourses. Shifting focus from the “classics” and the “major periods” to the issues at hand within all works, periods, forms, and genres will destabilize the hierarchy of labelling and the binary of Literary/Popular. Only by examining the canons of the “non-essential” do we recognize the inessentiality of “canon.”

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Notes 1. “Monstrator” is a comics theory term for the hand that puts a comic’s images onto the page (Groensteen 2010). 2. This page number is projected based on the start of “1”; the quote is not blocked for the sake of space. 3. Because the album’s booklet contains both lyrics and prose—which will be discussed shortly—parentheticals will simply reference song numbers. 4. All italics are original unless otherwise stated. 5. Canadianist Peter Kuling expands on the discussion of Canadian identity in Mass Effect’s second sequel, Mass Effect 3, in his article “Outing Ourselves in Outer Space” (2014).

References Abrams, M. H. 2012. A Glossary of Literary Terms. 10th ed. Boston: Wadsworth Cengage Learning. Anderson, Kevin J., and Neil Peart. 2012. Clockwork Angels. Toronto: ECW. Arsenault, Dominic, and Louis-Martin Guay. 2015. “Canada.” In Video Games Around the World, edited by Mark J. P. Wolf, 105–18. Cambridge: MIT Press. Atwood, Margaret. 2011. In Other Worlds. Toronto: Signal. Beaty, Bart, and Benjamin Woo. 2016. The Greatest Comic Book of All Time. New York: Palgrave. bpNichol. 1982. The Martyrology, Book 5. Toronto: Coach House. Codex. n.d. Mass Effect Wiki. Accessed July 29, 2016. http://www.masseffect. Codex. 2007. “Element Zero (‘Eezo’).” In Mass Effect, edited by Drew Karpyshyn. Edmonton: BioWare. Cranford, Michael. 1985. Tales of the Unknown: The Bard’s Tale. Interplay. 5¼-inch Floppy Disk. Cucchiara, Romina. 2014. “The Concept Album as a Performative Genre.” Popmatters. November 10. Accessed May 22, 2017. http://www.popmatters. com/feature/186925-the-concept-album-as-a-performative-genre/. Davey, Frank. 1994. Canadian Literary Power. Edmonton: NeWest. De Mille, James. [1888] 2001. A Strange Manuscript Found in a Copper Cylinder. Toronto: Bakka. Eagleton, Terry. 1983. Literary Theory: An Introduction. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Frye, Northrop. 1971. The Bush Garden: Essays on the Canadian Imagination. Toronto: House of Anansi. Groensteen, Thierry. 2010. “The Monstrator, the Recitant and the Shadow of the Narrator.” European Comic Art 3 (1): 1–21.



Hunter, Lynette. 1996. Outsider Notes. Vancouver: Talon Books. Karpyshyn, Drew. 2007. Mass Effect. BioWare. Compact disk. Kerslake, Patricia. 2007. Science Fiction and Empire. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press. Kroetsch, Robert. 1982. Labyrinths of Voice. Edited by Shirley Neuman and Thomas Wilson. Edmonton: NeWest. Kuling, Peter. 2014. “Outing Ourselves in Outer Space.” Canadian Theatre Review 159: 43–47. Latham, Robert. 2014. The Oxford Handbook of Science Fiction. New York: Oxford University Press. Mascarenhas, Hyacinth. 2016. “EA Worldwide Studios: BioWare. EA Mobile and Maxis merged.” International Business Times. Retrieved March 16, 2019. McDonald, Chris. 2009. Rush: Rock Music and the Middle Class. Indianapolis: Indiana University Press. Mouré, Erin. 1999. Pillage Laud. Toronto: Book Thug, 2011. Page, P. K. 1956. “After Rain.” Canadian Poetry Online, 2000. Accessed July 27, 2016. Pinchbeck, Dan. 2012. Dear Esther. Brighton: Thechineseroom. Rush. 2012a. Clockwork Angels. Anthem. Compact disk. ———. 2012b. Clockwork Angels Tour. Performed by Rush. Credit Union Center, Saskatoon. September 28. Ryan, M. L. 2001. “Beyond Myth and Metaphor: The Case of Narrative in Digital Media.” Game Studies. Accessed July 28, 2016. Shuker, Roy. 1998. Key Concepts in Popular Music. New York: Routledge. Suvin, Darko. 1979. Metamorphoses of Science Fiction. New Haven: Yale University Press. Vaughn-James, Martin. 1975. The Cage. Toronto: Coach House, 2013. Walker, Alan. 1971. “Historical Perspective.” In The Great Canadian Comic Books, edited by Michael Hirsh and Patrick Loubert, 5–21. Toronto: P. Martin Associates. Webb, Phyllis. 1965. Naked Poems. Vancouver: Periwinkle Press. Wellenreiter, Michael. 2015. “Screenwriting and Authorial Control in Narrative Video Games.” Journal of Screenwriting 6 (3): 343–61. Westfahl, Gary. 2002. “Introduction.” In Science Fiction, Canonization, Marginalization, and the Academy, edited by Gary Westfahl and George Slusser, 1–6. London: Greenwood Press. Williams, Raymond. 1977. Marxism and Literature. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


0-9 2112 (album), 354 A Abenaki, 153 Aboriginal cultures, 135 Aboriginal peoples. See Indigenous peoples Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace (AbTeC), 153 Abrams, M.H., 345–348, 355 “absent paradigm”, 317 Acadian, 320 Aeneid, The, 120 Affinities, The, 16, 84–97 Against the Grain, 103, 105, 106, 114 A Game of Perfection, 294 Agrippa, 359 Airborn (novel), 356 Air (novel), 97, 356 Aizura, Aren, 212, 213 Algonquin Park, 262

Alice in Wonderland, 296 alienation, 69, 120, 126, 193, 211, 276, 328, 330 aliens, 20, 53, 54, 56, 60, 78, 79, 191, 196, 287, 358 Alighieri, Dante, 119 Allard, Jérôme-Olivier, 317 Allen, Chadwick, 152 Almeida, Sandra, 193, 194 alternate history, 3, 18, 356 Amazones, Les, 312, 319 America, 34, 40, 70, 84, 93, 155, 228, 230, 251, 276 American black bear (Ursus americanus), 261 Anders, Günther, 102 Anderson, Benedict, 124, 125 Anderson, Kevin J., 354 Anderson, Poul, 64 Angenot, Marc, 312, 317 Anglo-Canadians, 5, 11, 45, 258 Anglophones, 2, 14, 15, 32, 34, 42, 45, 108, 114, 170, 242, 252, 259

© The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019 A. J. Ransom and D. Grace (eds.), Canadian Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror, Studies in Global Science Fiction,


364  Index Anishinaabe, 153 Annabel (novel), 19, 203–205, 208, 210, 211 Anthropocene, 20, 228, 259, 267, 269 Aoki, Ryka, 215 apocalypse, 22, 84, 102, 103, 106, 108, 109, 111–114, 158, 222, 231, 318, 319, 321 Apocalypse for Beginners, 312, 320–321 April, Jean-Pierre, 320 Aquin, Hubert, 320 Arcade Fire, 354 Arino, Marc, 295 Aristotle, 92 Armstrong, Jeannette, 148 Arsenault, Dominic, 357 artificial intelligence, 317, 355 Ashbaugh, Dennin, 359 Ashcroft, Bill, 32 Asimov, Isaac, 52, 53, 70, 317 assimilation, 33, 135–140, 154, 156, 161–163, 277, 288 Assu, Sonny, 153 Attebery, Brian, 120 Attebery, Stina, 151, 153, 161–163 Atwood, Margaret, 5, 11, 18, 20, 21, 83, 123, 169, 170, 239–253, 259, 311, 322, 355 Aubin, Napoléon, 4, 6 Aztec, 320 Aztlán, 320 B Backcountry (film), 20, 258, 259–261, 262, 266, 267, 269, 270 Back Ship, The, 17 Baetens, Jan, 349 Baker, Neal, 11, 171 Bakhtin, Mikhail, 313, 315

Baldwins, The, 312, 319 Ballade d’Ali Baba, La, 102 Balsamo, Anne Marie, 189 Balzac, Honoré de, 8, 42, 302 Bammer, Angelica, 172, 182 Banerjee, Suparna, 11 Banita, Georgiana, 32 Bard’s Tale, The (video game), 356 Barnaby, Jeff, 18, 136–139, 141, 145–147, 151–163 Barrette, Jean-Marc, 294, 297, 300 “Barrier of Dread”, 55 Barthe, Ulric, 31, 39–41, 45, 46 Bassmann, Lutz, 110 Bates Island, 262 Baudelaire, 105, 106, 115 Baxter, Gisèle, 11 Bear, The (novel), 20, 258, 259, 262–265, 269 bear attacks, 258, 260–262, 265, 266 Beard, William, 12 Beaty, Bart, 12, 349, 351 Beaugrand, Honoré, 13 Beaulé, Sophie, 10, 11, 13, 22, 23, 314, 322 Beaulieu, Natacha, 14 ßehemoth, 71, 222, 234 Bélair, Michel, 294 Bellemare, Andrea, 211 Belles-sœurs, Les, 300 Bennett, Donna, 32 Bérard, Sylvie, 13, 20, 21, 171, 177, 275, 278–282, 284, 286–287, 288, 294, 299, 303, 311–312, 315, 321, 322 Berger, Carl, 32 Bergeron, Patrick, 11, 13, 16, 106, 318 Bergeron, Serge, 294, 297, 300 Bergman, Bear, 212 Berlant, Lauren, 186, 198 Bersani, Leo, 187


Better to Have Loved, 65 Beuve-Méry, Alain, 314 Biron, Michel, 314 Biskaabiiyang, 18, 143, 145, 146 Bizango, 327, 330, 333–340 Blackfoot Trail, 258 Black Notebook, 299 Black Ship, 136, 139–140, 142, 143–144 Blade Runner, 188, 190–192, 198 Blais, Matthieu, 22, 312, 319, 320 Blanc, Jeal-Nöel, 341 Blindsight, 67, 68, 75–78, 80 Blish, James, 52 Bloch, Ernst, 120 “body horror”, 337 Boisvert, Donald L., 295 Boivin, Aurélien, 8, 13 Bök, Christian, 252 Bolduc, Claude, 14 Bombardier, Cooper Lee, 215 Bonabeau, Eric, 92, 96 Bono, James J., 234 borders, 6, 7, 39, 55–57, 73, 93, 94, 102, 123, 125, 129, 157, 204, 212, 221, 223, 278, 313, 314, 328, 333 Borg, the, 135 Botte, Jim, 10 Bouchard, Gérard, 288 Bouchard, Guy, 8 Bouchard-Taylor Report, 288 Boundaries, 14, 16, 19, 21, 63, 73, 127, 152, 154, 155, 162, 172, 190, 191, 213, 221, 227–230, 248, 249, 312, 328, 347, 352, 354 Bouson, J. Brooks, 11 Boym, Svetlana, 127, 128 Bozzetto, Roger, 8 bpNichol, 351 Bradbury, Ray, 110


Bradley, Marion Zimmer, 64 Bradley, Nicholas, 270 Braidotti, Rosi, 259 Braun, Michele, 16, 234 Brave New World, 108, 170, 197 Brecht, Berthold, 120 Bretnor, Reginald, 60, 64 Bridge cycle, the, 297–300 Bridge of Years, A, 84 bridges, 2–6, 11, 14–17, 19–22, 39, 40, 51–55, 57, 58, 63, 64, 67–69, 73–80, 84, 91, 95–97, 102, 105, 111, 114, 130, 136, 137, 144, 147, 148, 151, 152, 154–156, 163, 171, 172, 175, 178, 182, 200, 203, 204, 208–211, 216, 222–224, 227, 240, 246, 247, 249, 259, 260, 263, 265, 284, 285, 289, 298, 299, 327, 333, 336, 346, 359 “bridging the solitudes”, 147, 277, 284 British Empire, 14, 31, 34–36, 38–41, 44, 45, 241, 276, 277 Brochu, André, 295, 297, 305 Broege, Valerie, 8 brown bear (Ursus arctos), 261 Brown, Chester, 348 Browning, Mark, 12 Brownson, Charles, 340 Brulotte, Gaétan, 13 Bryant, Anita, 185 Brydon, Diana, 32 Burdekin, Katherine, 170 Bureau of Indian Affairs, 161 Burwell, Jennifer, 10 Bush Garden, The (book), 5 Butler, Judith, 190, 192 By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept, 349 Byrd, Jodi A., 151, 155

366  Index C Cage, The, 348–351, 352, 358 Cahier noir, Le, 299 Caliban, 331–333, 337 Calvin and Hobbes, 110 Cambron, Micheline, 302 Cameron, Claire, 20, 258, 262–265 Campbell, John W., 53, 61 Canada, 1–5, 7, 8, 12, 14–17, 20–23, 31–35, 37–45, 51, 52, 61, 64, 68, 72–74, 81, 83, 94, 95, 97, 109, 112, 113, 120, 125, 135–138, 140, 141, 147, 148, 153, 154, 157, 177, 193, 203, 211–213, 216, 222, 228, 230, 239, 241–243, 251, 252, 258, 260, 261, 276, 331, 346, 348, 352, 355–357, 359 Canadian Gothic, the, 12 Canadian studies, 259 capitalism, 3, 35, 42, 71, 74, 89, 91, 197, 243, 317, 319, 354 Caribbean literature, 327 Carleton, Sean, 153 Carr, Emily, 153 Carrie (1976), 146 Carter, Angela, 190, 199 Casali, Ariana, 21, 240 Casséus, Joël, 22, 312, 319, 320 Cassin, Barbara, 119 Cawsey, Kathy, 121, 122 Centennius, Ralph, 31, 34–36, 38 Césaire, Aimé, 276, 279, 331 Chalykoff, Lisa, 77 Champetier, Joël, 7, 14 Chanady, Amaryll Beatrice, 251, 295, 301 Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, 278 Charter of the French Language, 277 “Chasse-galerie, La”, 303 Children of Earth and Sky, 119

Christine (1983), 146 Chronicles of the Plateau Mont-Royal. See Chroniques du Plateau Mont-Royal Chroniques du Plateau Mont-Royal, 295–297, 300, 303 Chronoliths, The, 84 Ciel de Bay City, Le, 101 cisgender, 197, 204, 209 Cité dans les fers, La, 31, 43–44 City in the Egg, The, 295, 299–300, 302 Clarke, Arthur C., 53, 239 Clark, Timothy, 104, 113, 269, 287 climate change, 95, 221, 245, 259, 267, 270, 316 Clockwork Angels, 352–355, 356 clones, 162, 189, 190, 197, 199 Clute, John, 9, 121, 305 Coates, Carrol, 331 Coates, Colin M., 33 Coates, Paul, 328, 332, 333 Code noir, Le, 281 cognitive dissonance, 136 Coleman, Daniel, 32, 251, 263 Collins, Suzanne, 169 Colombo, John Robert, 4, 6–9 colonialism, 14, 15, 44, 45, 153–155, 159, 163, 276, 278–280, 330, 355, 358 colonization, 17, 20, 32, 53–57, 59, 60, 120, 123, 144, 145, 153– 155, 159, 163, 177, 227, 228, 275–277, 279–282, 327, 331 colonizers, 32, 142, 145, 153, 159, 163, 177, 247, 328 Colony, The (2007), 154, 156 Comment enseigner la mort à un robot?, 317 community, 1, 9, 12, 17–19, 21, 22, 32, 45, 57, 73, 84, 87, 91, 92, 95, 96, 102, 114, 124, 125, 136,


137, 141, 145, 146, 152, 154, 170–174, 176, 180, 204–207, 211–213, 215, 216, 252, 277, 281, 283, 286, 319, 329–331, 336, 338–340 Connelly, William E., 267 Conrad, Joseph, 332 Contes pour buveurs attardés, 295 Cooper, James Fennimore, 42 Cottom, Daniel, 127, 130 Coyote, Ivan, 212 Craig, Terence, 32 Cranford, Michael, 356 Cree, 139, 144, 145 Crenshaw, Kimberlé, 330, 334 Crockford, Susan J., 20, 258, 259, 267–270 Cronenberg, David, 12, 14, 23 Cronin, Justin, 110 Cucchiara, Romina, 352, 354 Cummins, Elizabeth, 60–62 Curlew, Ryan, 86 cyberpunk, 156, 161–163, 355, 356 “Cybervania”, 204, 215 cyborg, 136, 189, 191, 193, 199, 317 D Damned, The, 112 Darkest Road, The. See Fionavar Tapestry, The “Daughters of Earth”, 54, 56–57, 59, 60, 62–63 Davey, Frank, 346, 347 David, Gilbert, 294 Davies, Paul, 223 Dawkins, Richard, 223, 224, 227, 228 Deacon, Terrence W., 85, 86, 93 de-anchoring, 313 Dear Esther (video game), 356 Death in Venice, 112 decadence (literary movement), 106


de Chardin, Tielhard, 316 decolonization, 18, 137, 147, 153 de Gaspé, Philippe Aubert, fils, 12, 13 dehumanization, 111, 113 Deibert, Michael, 341 Deleuze, Gilles, 90 Demain sera sans rêve, 312, 316–317 de Man, Paul, 231 de Maupassant, Guy, 8 De Mille, James, 6, 31, 44, 45, 355 Demon Theory (2006), 155 Denman Island, 109 Department of Indian Affairs, 154 Descartes, René, 92, 317 Deschenes-Pradet, Maude, 213 Deshane, Evelyn, 19, 210 Desmeules, Christian, 318 Després, Elaine, 102 DesRochers, Jean-Simon, 22, 312, 316 detective fiction, 104, 327, 329, 330, 337, 339–341 Diary of a Lost Girl, 112 diaspora, 124, 330 Dickason, Olivia Patricia, 137 Dickner, Nicolas, 312, 320–321 Dick, Philip K., 191, 318 Difference Engine, The, 356 Dillon, Grace L., 2, 18, 21, 143, 152 Dion, Robert, 311, 314, 322 Discourse on Colonialism, 276 Divergent, 169 diversity, 32, 95, 161, 177, 212, 214, 240, 246, 276, 277, 288, 314 Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, 191 Dobson, Kit, 32 Doctorow, Cory, 4 Doctor Who, 110 “Dominion in 1983, The”, 31, 34–36 doppelgänger, 299, 328, 335 Dorigo, Marco, 92

368  Index Dorsey, Candas Jane, 11 Dorsinville, Max, 331 Doughty, Terri, 121 Downie, Gord, 354 Dreams of the Sea, 294, 303 Driving Force, 300 Dubois, Jacques, 313 Duchess and the Commoner, The, 296, 297 Duchesse et le roturier, La, 296 Dumas, Alexandre, 103 Dupuis, Gilles, 32 Duvalier, François, 330 Duvalier, Jean-Claude, 330, 331 dystopia, 3, 16, 22, 104, 105, 108, 110, 157, 162, 169–171, 177, 179, 182, 191, 230, 239, 240, 242–244, 248–250, 252, 315, 352 E Eagleton, Terry, 353 Eaten (novel), 20, 258, 259, 267–269 Echopraxia, 68, 78 “éclatement des genres, l’”, 314 Edelman, Lee, 185–188 Edwards, Justin, 12 Egan, Greg, 83 Elgin Theater, 103, 109 Eliot, T.S., 70, 130 Eminem, 317 Émond, Maurice, 8, 13 Empire Writes Back, The, 32 Encore une fois, si vous permettez, 303 End of This Day’s Business, The, 170 Engélibert, Jean-Paul, 102, 106, 110 England Swings SF, 61 En pièces détachées, 300 environment, 9, 55, 71, 75, 79, 93, 105, 187, 211, 224, 228, 229, 240, 241, 243, 244, 248, 250,

258, 259, 267, 270, 276, 278, 287, 319, 357 epidemic, 104, 111, 268, 269 Erlande-Brandenburg, A., 335 Esprit du temps, 320 Eugenides, Jeffrey, 205 exiles, 17, 40, 113, 119, 120, 122– 124, 126–131, 181, 327, 330, 331, 336 extraterrestrials. See aliens F Fahrenheit 451, 110 Fanon, Frantz, 153 fantastique, 7, 312 “fantastique maléfique”, 22, 328 “fantastique métissé”, 327 Farah, Alain, 22, 312, 317–318 Fat Woman Next Door Is Pregnant, The, 296 Female Man, The, 170, 199 feminism, 18, 19, 57, 60, 170–172, 177, 178, 187, 191, 194, 196, 198, 199, 205, 239, 266, 319 Ferron, Jacques, 13 File Under Miscellaneous, 18, 151, 153–154, 156, 161–163 film noir, 115 Fionavar Tapestry, The, 119, 121–123 first contact, 79, 143, 275, 278 First Nations. See Indigenous peoples First Quarter of the Moon, The, 296 Fitzpatrick, Cat, 215 Flowers of Evil, 105 Fogo Island, 267 Forbidden Planet, 197 For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again, 303 Foucault, Michel, 75, 76 Foundation (novel), 70 François I, 335


Francophones, 45 Frankenstein, Victor. See Frankenstein Frankenstein (novel), 190, 193, 194, 250 Frankenstein’s creature. See Frankenstein Fréchette, Louis, 13, 303 Freedman, Carl, 76 Frehe, Carola, 262 Freitag, Gina, 12 French Canadians, 33, 34, 40–43, 258 Freud, Sigmund, 265, 316 Friedan, Betty, 58 Fritzsche, Peter, 128, 129, 131 From Cherry English, 156, 162 frontier, 9, 57, 60, 65, 252, 259, 351 Frow, John, 225 Frye, Northrop, 5, 12, 241, 242, 259–261, 347, 349–351, 357 Fuchs, Michael, 20, 262 Fu, Kim, 205 Futurians, The, 65 G Gagnon, Evelyn, 320 Gamow, George, 53 garrison mentality, the, 12, 241, 348, 351 Gate to Women’s Country, The, 170 Gauthier, Éric, 14 Gauvreau, Claude, 349 gender, 14, 15, 18, 19, 51, 57–59, 62–64, 85, 89, 95, 170, 171, 173, 177, 178, 187, 190–194, 196, 199, 203–216, 330, 334, 356 genocide, 135, 139–142, 155, 275 Georges, Karoline, 22, 312, 316 Gerson, Carole, 73 Gespe’gewa’gi, 153 ghoul, 145, 158, 159


Gibson, William, 4, 11, 12, 83, 355, 356, 359 Gilbert, Melissa, 195 Giles, Paul, 228 Gilman, Charlotte Perkins, 170, 199 Glaz, Adam, 68 globalism, 3 globalization, 32, 73, 107, 113, 278, 348 global warming, 102, 267, 269 Goethe, 162 Goldman, Marlene, 12 Gordon, Joan, 92 Gorjup, Branco, 5 Gothic, 11–13, 20, 115, 157, 160, 163, 259, 318, 332 Gotlieb, Phyllis, 15 Goto, Hiromi, 5, 18, 19, 186, 187, 189–196 Gouanvic, Jean-Marc, 7 Grace, Dominick, 11, 15 Grant, Michael, 12, 121 Gravel, Anne-Marie, 303 Great Britain, 1, 32, 34, 39, 45, 276 Great Lakes, 17, 103, 113 Gregersdotter, Katarina, 258 Grenier, Daniel, 316 Griffiths, Gareth, 32 Groensteen, Thierry, 349, 360 Grojnowski, Daniel, 106 Grosse femme d’à côté est enceinte, 296 Grosz, Elizabeth, 261, 266 Grubisic, Bret, 11 Guattari, Félix, 90, 97 Guay, Louis-Martin, 357 Guy, Chantal, 317 H Hagood, Charlotte, 58 Haisla, 152

370  Index Haiti, 2, 22, 327, 328, 330, 331, 333, 334, 336–341 Hållén, Niklas, 258 Handling, Piers, 12 Handmaid’s Tale, The (novel), 169, 170, 239–240, 252, 355 Handmaid’s Tale, The (series), 170, 239, 252 Haraway, Donna, 187, 189, 193, 199, 225 Hayles, N. Katherine, 96 Heidegger, Martin, 92 Heinlein, Robert A., 65 Hensch, Mark, 93 Herland, 170, 199 hermaphroditism, 206 “Hero’s Way”, 58 Herrero, Stephen, 261 heterotopia, 75, 76 Higgins, Andrew, 261 Highway, Tomson, 5, 148, 251 hip-hop, 143, 334, 338 Hiroshima, 320 history, 6–8, 12, 17, 18, 23, 34, 37, 42, 57, 61, 63, 64, 68, 71, 95, 102, 106, 110, 114, 123, 125, 126, 128, 136, 142, 145, 147, 152, 155–158, 162, 172, 178–181, 186, 195, 196, 208, 223, 228, 247, 258, 261, 281, 284, 301, 304, 332, 339–341, 345, 347, 356, 358 “historiographic metafiction”, 158 Hitler, Adolf, 162 Hofstadter, Douglas R., 227 Höglund, Johan, 258 holes, 295–298, 300–302 Hollinger, Veronica, 83, 96 Hopkinson, Nalo, 5, 11 horror, 3, 7, 11–14, 20–23, 136–139, 145–147, 151, 155, 156, 159, 160, 163, 190, 206, 214, 258,

260, 262, 263, 266, 315, 327–332, 337–340 Hôtel Olympia, 294, 300–302 Houston, Houston, Do You Read?, 170 Hoyle, Fred, 53 Huftier, Arnaud, 11 Huglo, Marie-Pascale, 314 Hugo Award, 16 human-animal relations, 258 Hunger Games, The, 169 Hunter, Lynette, 346, 347 Hurley, Michael, 12 Hutcheon, Linda, 32, 158, 242, 243 Huxley, Aldous, 108, 115, 170, 197 Huysmans, Joris-Karl, 103, 105, 106 hybridity, 194, 199, 305, 313, 314, 322 I immigrants, 4, 32, 36, 39, 93, 94, 120, 188, 195, 210, 212, 259, 277, 288, 320, 330, 338–340 Impératif présent, l’, 300 imperialism, 43, 64, 121, 279, 281, 283, 355, 358 Incident at Restigouche, 153 inclusion, 18, 57, 171, 176, 181, 243 Indian Act, 17, 138, 154, 157 Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission, 136 Indigenous futurism, 2, 17, 21, 143, 152, 158 Indigenous peoples, 1, 2, 21, 94, 136, 137, 140–142, 144, 147, 148, 152–155, 163, 194, 195, 241, 242, 247, 279 Initiative for Indigenous Futures (IIF), 153 injustice, 19, 22, 108, 137, 178, 179, 243 In Other Worlds, 352


interconnections, 270 intersex, 19, 186, 203–210, 212, 213, 215, 216 intertextuality, 105, 108, 158, 318, 319, 352, 354 Inuit, 94 Is Canada Postcolonial?, 32 Issabel de Qohosaten, 283 Ivison, Douglas, 11 I’ve Got a Time Bomb, 19, 204, 213 J Jackson, Lisa, 18, 136, 138–139, 143–145 Jackson, Michael, 18, 142 Jacob, Carmélie, 320 Jakobson, Roman, 313 Jakubauskas, Raymond, 262 Janelle, Claude, 7, 8, 299, 322 Janus (short story collection), 294 Johnson, Mark, 75 Johnson, Peter, 76 Johnston, Nancy, 10 Johnston, Susan, 17, 128 Jones, Stephen Graham, 155, 156, 159 Jordan, Mark, 260 Joshi, Anu, 93 Joyless Street, 112 K Kafka, Franz, 319 Kakadu National Park, 266 Kaldera, Raven, 205 Kamboureli, Smaro, 32, 252 Kappa Child, The, 18, 19, 186, 188–192, 194, 196, 198, 200 Karpyshyn, Drew, 356, 357–359 Kay, Guy Gavriel, 2, 11, 17, 119–131 Keppler, C.F., 332


Kerslake, Patricia, 355, 357, 358 Ketchersid, Larry, 86, 87, 98 Ketterer, David, 4–9, 23, 211, 239 Kidd, Virginia, 51, 52, 57, 64 Kincaid, Paul, 279 King, Stephen, 13 King, Thomas, 148 King Lear, 103, 108, 109 Kiss of the Fur Queen, 148 Klein, Kathleen Gregory, 329 Knabe, Susan, 193 Knight, Damon, 57, 65 Kocmarek, Ivan, 8 Kolbert, Elizabeth, 102, 268, 269 Kornbluth, Cyril, 52, 65 Kristeva, Julia, 178, 328, 329 Kroetsch, Robert, 349 Kuling, Peter, 360 Kulyk, Christine, 7, 9 L La Bossière, Camille R., 10 Labrador, 204, 267 Lafon, Dominique, 302 Laforest, Daniel, 319 Lai, Larissa, 5, 18, 19, 187, 188–192, 194, 196–200 Lai, Paul, 190, 199 Lake Opeongo, 262 Lakoff, George, 75 Lalonde, Catherine, 316 Lamb, Sybil, 19, 204, 213–216 Lamont, Victoria, 57, 59, 60, 65 Lamothe, Serge, 22, 312, 319 Landais, Clotilde, 14 Landry, Pierre-Lue, 323 Laporte, David, 317 Laroche, Maximilien, 332 Last Night in Montréal, 101 Last Year (novel), 84 Latham, Robert, 356

372  Index Latimer, Heather, 189, 199 Latin America, 251, 281 Latour, Bruno, 70, 71, 261, 269 Laverdure, Bertrand, 317 Lavoie, Pierre, 294 Lawrence, W.H.C., 31, 36–38, 41, 46 Lee, Dennis, 32 Lee, Tara, 11, 199 Lefebvre, Henri, 76 Left Hand of Darkness, The, 62, 193, 196 Léger, Tom, 214 Le Guin, Ursula K., 62, 188, 193 LeMay, Pamphile, 13 Lemire, Jeff, 354 Lemire, Maurice, 41 Lerberg, Matthew, 262 Leroux, Jean-François, 10, 11 Létourneau, Jocelyn, 120, 125, 126 Lever du récit, Le, 303 Lévesque, François, 14 Lévy, Pierre, 90 Lewis, Jason Edward, 115, 152, 163 Ley, Willy, 53 Liang, Bridget, 215 Ligwilda’xw Kwakwaka’wakw, 153 liminality, 172, 178–181, 191–194, 199, 200, 208 Lions of Al-Rassan, The, 121, 127– 128, 129 Listuguj, Québec, 153 literary field, 230, 312–315, 322, 323 L’influence d’un livre (de Gaspé), 12, 13 Literary History of Canada, 257 littératures de genre, 313 Little House on the Prairie, 188 Logan, Robert K., 86 Loiselle, André, 12–14 Loki, 211 Lola Quartet, 101 Lone Ranger, 163 Lord, Michel, 8, 13, 322

Lovecraft, H.P., 7, 13, 21 Lowndes, Bob, 52 Lowry, Sassafrass, 212 Lucas, Alec, 257, 258 Luckhurst, Roger, 158, 312 Ludwig, 112 Lutts, Ralph, 257 M Macdonald, John A., 33 Machinal, Hélène, 102 Maclean, Katherine, 65 MacLennan, Hugh, 1, 2, 16, 68, 69, 72–75, 77, 241–243, 258, 276 MaddAddam trilogy, 20, 240, 243–250, 268, 311, 355 Maelstrom (novel), 71, 222, 224–227, 228, 230, 231–234 Maerlande Chronicles, The, 18, 171–182 Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, The, 53, 64 Magic Weapons, 148 mainstream literature, 63, 293, 304, 314 “mainstream sf”, 312, 315 Malzberg, Barry, 60, 61, 63 Mandel, Emily St. John, 16, 17, 101–105, 108–114 Manlove, Colin, 120 Mann, Thomas, 106 Mansbridge, Joanna, 199 Maracle, Lee, 137, 148 marasa, 332 Marcotte, Josée, 312, 319 Mardollsdottir, Laine, 211 Mardorossian, Caroline M., 120, 127, 130 Markham, Edwin, 56, 65 Marriott, Mike, 270 Martin, Emily, 199 Martyrology, The, 351


Marvel Science Fiction, 53 Mass Effect (game), 356, 357–359, 360 master narratives, 159, 163 matriarchy, 181 Matrix, The, 318 Maus (graphic novel), 348 Mavrikakis, Catherine, 16, 22, 101–115, 318 McCarthy, Mary, 122 McCord Museum of History, 112 McDonald, Chris, 353 McGill University, 317 McGregor, Gaile, 12 McKay, Don, 270 McKegney, Sam, 141, 148 Meanwhile, Elsewhere: Science Fiction and Fantasy from Transgender Writers, 215 Medak-Saltzman, Danika, 152 Mehan, Uppinder, 5 memory, 17, 71, 79, 113, 123–126, 129, 130, 140, 156, 160, 180, 193, 214, 232, 297–301, 316, 319, 321 Mendlesohn, Farah, 121, 131, 156 Mercier, Andrée, 311, 314, 322 Mérimée, Prosper, 8 Merril, Judith, 6, 15, 21, 51–65, 240, 250 Métis. See Indigenous peoples Meynard, Yves, 5 Michel, Johnny, 52 Miller, Bruce, 240 Mill, John Stuart, 171 Milnes, Stephen, 44, 45 Milosz, Czeslaw, 109 Ministry of Immigration, 277 Minor Angels, 110 Missinaibi Lake Provincial Park, 260 Mitschuldigen, Die, 162 Mi’gma’gi, 153


Mi’gMaq, 146, 151, 153, 157–159, 162 Mi’gMaw, 18, 145, 146, 153, 154, 157, 159–162 Mohr, Dunja M., 20, 251, 253, 268 Monde de Michel Tremblay, Le, 294 Montaigne, Michel de, 159 Montréal, 2, 6, 21–23, 101, 104, 106–108, 112–114, 153, 241, 299, 300, 320, 321, 330, 331, 333, 336, 338, 339 Moorcock, Michael, 61, 302, 305 Morano, Marc, 270 Morin, Lise, 13 Morris, Robyn, 190, 196–198 Moskowitz, Sam, 8, 65 Moss, Laura, 32 Mouré, Erin, 359 Mourier-Castile, Pascaline, 104 Moylan, Tom, 240, 250 Mullen, R.D., 6 Muller, Adam, 127, 128 multiculturalism, 2, 20, 22, 199, 241, 243, 251 Muñoz, José Esteban, 187, 188, 190 Murphy, Graham J., 16, 92 Murray, Noel, 4 mutation, 172, 179, 181 mythology, 19, 121, 147, 188, 189, 191, 192, 194, 203, 204, 206, 208, 210, 211, 215, 216, 301, 302, 304, 328, 330, 334, 338 N Nadeau, Amélie, 295 Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, The, 355 nation, 1, 2, 14, 15, 17, 21, 22, 32, 35, 37, 39, 40, 42, 51, 55, 68, 72, 104, 113, 123–125, 129, 131, 136, 140, 155, 177, 186,

374  Index 196, 221, 228, 241–243, 276, 278, 283–285, 346–348 nation-state, 9, 16, 77, 125, 136, 138, 147, 152, 154, 155, 171, 228 Nayar, Pramod K., 19 Nelle de Vilvèq, 281 Nelligan, Émile, 107, 108 neocolonialism, 161, 163 neoliberalism, 3, 89, 91, 199, 229, 244 Neon Bible (album), 354 Neruda, Pablo, 161 Neuromancer, 355 Newell, Dianne, 57, 59, 60, 65 Newfoundland, 267 Newman-Stille, Derek, 210, 213 New Wave, 60, 61, 63 Nietzsche, Friedrich, 235 Nineteen Eighty-Four (novel), 170 Niven, Larry, 65 North America, 11, 15, 32–34, 41, 56, 93, 101, 102, 110, 113, 152, 213, 215, 221, 228, 229, 279, 289, 320 Northey, Margot, 12 Nouveau Roman, 313, 349 novum, 16, 355, 357, 358 O Obomsawin, Alainis, 153 Odyssey, The, 120 Œil de la nuit, L’, 293, 298 Of Wind and Sand. See Terre des autres Olivier, Nathalie, 104, 328 Once Upon a Time in The Egg, 312, 319–320 Ontario, 2, 18, 33, 41, 44, 108, 186, 260, 262 Oppel, Kenneth, 356 oppression, 20, 42, 124, 153, 158, 171, 172, 175, 180, 189, 210, 275, 338

Oratorio de Noël, 300 Orwell, George, 108, 170, 230 Oryx and Crake. See MaddAddam trilogy Oscar De Profundis (Mavrikakis), 16, 17, 102, 103, 104, 105–108, 109, 110, 111–112, 113, 114–115, 318 Other, 92, 124, 210, 258, 275, 276, 280–282, 284, 285, 287, 288, 319, 328, 330, 335, 358 Other Canadas (Colombo), 6, 9 Ottawa, 10, 177 Oziewicz, Marek, 240 P Pabst, G.W., 112 Page, P.K., 349, 350 Pandora’s Box, 112 Paquin, Ubald, 31, 43–44, 45, 46 Paradis, Andrea, 9 Paralittérature, la, 313 parody, 313–315, 322 Passage, The (novel), 110 Passion of New Eve, The, 190, 199 patriarchal, 170, 172, 178, 188, 189, 200, 239, 249, 319 Pattern Recognition (Gibson), 83 Patterson, Christopher B., 191 Paxson, James, 232 Péan, Stanley, 14, 22, 327–341 “Peeping Tom”, 54, 58–59 Pelletier, Francine, 20, 275, 281–286, 288, 289 Pelletier, Lise, 13 Perry, Jaqueline, 260 Phoenix (mythological bird), 211 Pillage Laud, 359 Pinchbeck, Dan, 356 Plage des songes, La, 327 plague, 102–104, 108, 113, 129, 330


Plett, Casey, 203–205, 207–209, 212, 214–216 Plumwood, Val, 266, 267 pluralism, 276, 278, 280, 284–286, 314 Poe, Edgar Allan, 13, 106, 355 Pohl, Frederik, 52 Pohl-Weary, Emily, 52, 57, 62, 63, 65 polar bear (Ursus maritimus), 20, 261, 267–270 Poltergeist (1982), 146 Popovic, Pierre, 296 porosity, 251, 311–314, 322 postapocalyptic fiction, 102, 103 postcolonial literature, 177 posthumanism, 243 postmodern, 158, 190, 208, 242, 313, 314, 330 post-national, 14, 15, 88, 89, 176, 243, 244, 358 Pour la patrie, 31, 42–43 Pournelle, Jerry, 65 Pourquoi Bologne, 317–318, 323 Premier quartier de la lune, Le, 296 Prix des Libraires, 316 Prix Jacques-Brossard, 318, 320 progress, 9, 12, 38, 70, 106, 144, 172, 175, 176, 178, 179, 181, 190, 195, 206, 215, 216, 268, 302 Prosser, Jay, 213 psi. See telepathy Pure laine, 276, 284, 287 Q Québec, 2, 4, 6–8, 10, 11, 13, 14, 18, 21–23, 32, 33, 39, 42–45, 68, 73, 74, 97, 108, 120, 125, 177, 251, 275–279, 281, 282, 284, 285, 288, 289, 293, 294, 303, 314, 315, 318, 320, 321, 327, 333, 336


Queer theory, 188 Quiet Revolution, the, 39, 73, 177, 277 Quinn, Norm, 262 Quinney, Charlotte L., 155, 159, 160 R race theory, 19 Rachilde, 106, 115 racism, 136, 140, 153, 154, 177, 188, 328 Radiant Terminus, 110 Ransom, Amy J., 5, 7, 10, 11, 13, 23, 115, 177, 280, 287, 322, 327, 330, 331, 337 Rapatzikou, Tatiani G., 12 Raud, Pascale, 316 Ravenscrag, 312, 317, 318 Ray, Jean, 302, 305 Real World, The, 300 Rebecca (film), 112 reconciliation, 94, 136, 137, 140, 141, 147, 178, 242, 284, 286 Reid, Síân, 10 Reine de mémoire, 294, 300–301 Relf, Jan, 172, 178, 179, 181 Reluctant Voyagers, 294, 297–300, 302 reproductive status, 174 reservation, 145, 157, 161 residential school, 3, 17, 18, 135–148, 154, 156–158 resistance, 3, 33, 42, 142, 145, 147, 158–161, 190, 211, 240, 244, 328 Reuter, Yves, 313, 314 Rhymes for Young Ghouls, 18, 136, 138, 139, 141–142, 145–147, 151, 153–154, 156–161, 163 Richard, Béatrice, 284 Richardson, John, 12 Riches, Simon, 12

376  Index Rieder, John, 151, 161 Riendeau, Pascal, 321 Rifters trilogy, the, 71, 72, 77–78, 79–80, 221–235 Rilke, Rainer Maria, 241 rite of passage, 178, 181 Rivière-du-Loup, 320 Robinson, Eden, 5, 152 Robitaille, Antoine, 284, 289 robots, 53, 317 Rochefort, Linda, 295 Rochon, Esther, 11 Rochon, François, 296, 302 Roddenberry, Gene, 70 Rodenbach, Georges, 107, 115 Rollinat, Maurice, 107 Roman Catholic Church, 33, 277 roman noir, 115 Ross, Mary Ellen, 13 Roth, Veronica, 169 Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, 148 Rubin, Henry, 205 Rublowsky, John, 53 Ruffo, Armand Garnet, 148 Runté, Robert, 7, 9, 212, 213 Rushe, Dominic, 95 Rush (rock band), 352–355, 356 Russell, Hilary, 109 Russian formalists, 120, 313, 315 Russ, Joanna, 170, 199 Ryan, M.L., 356 Ryman, Geoff, 97 S Sable et l’acier, Le, 20, 275, 276, 281–286, 288 Sagan, Carl, 53 Saguenay-Lac Saint Jean, 327 Said, Edward, 258 Sainte-Carmen of the Main, 299 Saint-Gelais, Richard, 10, 23, 302

Salerno, Rob, 186 Salomon, Roger, 258 Salt Fish Girl, The, 18, 19, 187, 189–190, 191, 197–200 Samiva de Frée, 282 Sandlos, John, 269 Santoro, Miléna, 11 Sarantine Mosaic, The, 2 Sargent, Lyman Tower, 162 Sartre, Jean-Paul, 333 Sauble-Otto, Laurie Gwen, 182 Savage (film), 18, 136, 138–139, 142–143, 144–145 Sawyer, Robert J., 4, 10 Schild’s Ladder, 83 science fiction, 3, 5, 7, 8, 11, 15, 17–19, 21–23, 31, 34, 52, 53, 57, 59–61, 63–65, 70, 76, 83, 96, 97, 102, 136, 137, 151, 163, 188, 190, 191, 198, 206, 215, 240, 275, 278, 287, 288, 293–295, 302, 304, 305, 311, 312, 317, 346, 352, 355, 356 science fiction from Québec (sfq), 4, 5, 7, 11, 23, 177, 275, 276, 284, 287, 288 Scott, Duncan Campbell, 148, 154 Scott, Ridley, 191 Scott, Sir Walter, 42 Secret Path, 354 Sedgwick, Eve Kosofsky, 187 self, 3, 12, 75, 126, 188, 208, 225, 252, 258, 328, 332, 333, 335 Senécal, Patrick, 13, 14 Separate Notebooks, The, 109 Serano, Julia, 210 Sernine, Daniel, 7, 11 Serruys, Nicolas, 10, 11, 177, 280, 289, 298 Seth (cartoonist), 348 settlers, 12, 14, 32, 140, 143, 144, 147, 148, 154, 177, 241–243, 248, 257, 276, 281


Shadow on the Hearth (Merril), 55 Shakespeare, William, 17, 103, 108, 109, 111, 114, 190, 197, 199, 331 Sheldon, Alice, 170 Shelley, Mary, 191, 194, 250 Shklovsky, Viktor, 120 Shkovskii, Josef, 53 Shraya, Vivek, 212 Shuker, Roy, 352 Silent City, The, 211 Silver, I.A., 42, 43 Similia similibus, 31, 39–41, 42 Simmel, Georg, 155 Simpson, Leanne, 137, 143, 147 Singer’s Gun, The, 116 Siourbas, Helen, 123, 124 Sixth Extinction, The, 268 slavery, 275, 339 Sleigh, Charlotte, 92 Slemon, Stephen, 32 slipstream fiction, 5, 305, 313 Smart, Elizabeth, 349 Smart, Patricia, 177 Snow, C.P., 16, 69–72, 77, 78 Socrates, 317 Soitos, Stephen F., 341 Soja, Edward, 76 So Long Been Dreaming, 5 Song for Arbonne, A, 121, 124–125, 126–127, 128 Soper, Ella, 270 Sous béton, 312, 316 speculative fiction, 19, 21, 34, 35, 42, 136, 137, 141, 143, 151, 152, 177, 203, 204, 207, 209–213, 216, 239, 240, 243, 250, 253, 355 Spehner, Norbert, 4, 7 Spencer, Hugh, 8 Spiegelman, Art, 348 Spin trilogy, the, 84 Spirit of Our Times, The, 320


Spoon, Rae, 212, 216 Starfish (novel), 71, 79, 222, 228– 230, 231 Star Trek, 70, 111, 135 Star Trek: The Next Generation, 135 Star Trek: Voyager, 111 Station Eleven, 16, 17, 102–105, 108–113 steampunk, 346, 352, 354, 356 Sterling, Bruce, 162, 356 Steven, Lawrence, 129 Stewart, Susan, 231, 235 Stine, Harry G., 53 Stories for Late Night Drinkers, 295 Storm of ’92, The, 31, 36–39 Strange Manuscript Found in a Copper Cylinder, A, 6, 31, 44–45, 355 Sugars, Cynthia, 12, 146, 251 Sullivan, Rosemary, 260, 267 Sullivan, Walter, 53 Summer Tree, The. See Fionavar Tapestry, The supernatural, 12, 13, 139, 141, 194, 205, 206, 214, 295, 297, 300, 301, 303, 304, 328–330, 334, 335, 337, 339, 340 surrealism, 313, 349 survival, 9, 20, 39, 91, 111, 124, 141, 157, 158, 211, 224, 230, 231, 235, 241, 243–245, 248, 252, 259, 260, 268, 270, 282 Survival (book), 20, 243 “Survival Ship”, 62 Suvin, Darko, 7, 76, 120, 317, 322, 355, 358 Swain, Molly, 153 Swastika Night, 170 Syme, Hugh, 354 syncretism, 171 T Take Us to Your Chief, 153

378  Index Taliesin West, 112 Tardivel, Jules-Paul, 4, 31, 42, 43 Tarmac, 312 Taylor, Charles, 258 Taylor, Dena, 27 Taylor, Drew Hayden, 153 Taylor, Sharon, 10 technology, 9, 16, 19, 35, 53, 54, 57, 58, 61–63, 69, 70, 90, 109, 111, 152, 171, 172, 189, 190, 194, 196, 204, 215, 222, 224, 227, 235, 240, 243, 260, 280–283, 312, 315, 317, 321, 356, 358 telepathy, 53–55, 65 Telling It Conference, 148 Tempest, The (play), 115, 190, 197, 331 Tennyson, Alfred, 128 Tepper, Sheri S., 170 Terre des autres, 20, 275, 276, 278–281, 286–287, 288 Tesseracts (anthology series), 15, 64 Thaler, Ingrid, 152 “That Only a Mother”, 55, 62 Theis, Mary Elizabeth, 170, 172, 182 Theraulaz, Guy, 92 Thérèse and Pierrette and the Little Hanging Angel, 297 Thérèse et Pierrette à l’école des SaintsAnges, 297 Thom, Kai Cheng, 212 Thomine, Camille, 103 “Thriller” (music video), 18, 142, 143 Tiffin, Helen, 32 Tigana, 119, 121, 123–126, 128 Tiptree, James Jr., 170 Tiresias, 210, 211 Titley, E. Brian, 154 Todorov, Tzvetan, 13, 301 Tolkien, J.R.R., 120, 122 Toomey, David, 223 Topside Test, the, 214–216

Toronto, 16, 64, 84, 85, 101, 103, 109, 113, 213, 263 totalitarian, 113, 123, 153, 162, 230 transitional, 172, 252 Transnational Canadas (Dobson), 32 Trask, R.L., 235 trauma, 3, 17, 71, 135, 137, 146, 148, 151, 155, 156, 163, 262, 265 Treaty of Paris, 276 treaty rights, 137, 140 Tremblay, Michel, 13, 21, 293–305 tribalism, 113 Troeung, Y. Dang, 191 Trou dans le mur, Le, 295, 299, 300, 302, 305 Trudeau, Justin, 94–96, 98 Trudel, Jean-Louis, 5, 10, 11, 23, 311, 315, 318, 322 Trump, Donald J., 84, 93–97 Truth and Reconciliation Commission, 137, 148 Tuan, Yi-Fu, 76 Tuck, Simon, 81 Turcotte, Gerry, 12, 146 Turkle, Sherry, 227 Turner, Victor, 178 Twenty Years After, 103 Two Solitudes (novel), 1, 68, 72, 78, 154, 241–242, 251 Tyranaël, 294, 303 U Under Heaven, 121, 129–131 Under the Stone, 312, 316 Une sorte de nitescence langoureuse, 311, 315, 321–322 Unheimliche, 316 United States (US), 4–8, 16, 33–39, 42, 44, 45, 51, 57, 64, 65, 68, 84, 93, 94, 97, 169, 182, 211,


222, 228, 230, 240, 242, 243, 251, 252, 261, 270, 281, 320, 321, 339 Universal Bureau of Copyrights, 317 Univers de Michel Tremblay, 294 utopia, 3, 5, 8, 11, 16, 35, 44, 45, 84, 89, 91, 95–98, 143, 169–172, 177–179, 182, 187, 188, 191, 196, 199, 239, 240, 242, 246, 250, 252, 320, 352, 354 V Vacante, Jeffrey, 73, 251 vampires, 76, 77 Vance, Jack, 65 van Gennep, Arnold, 178 van Regenmortel, Marc H.V., 223 van Vogt, A.E., 4, 9 Vas-Deyres, Natacha, 302 Vaughn-James, Martin, 348–351 Vertigo (film), 146 Villanueva, Fredy, 320, 336, 340 Vint, Sherryl, 19, 90, 266 violence, 12, 44, 71, 74, 113, 139, 153–155, 160, 163, 174, 186, 209, 214, 224, 245, 286, 287, 320, 328, 331, 335, 337–340 Visconti, Luchino, 112 Volodine, Antoine, 110, 319 Voltaire, François Marie Arouet de, 353 Vonarburg, Élisabeth, 2, 4, 5, 7, 10, 11, 18, 21, 171–177, 178–182, 211, 293–305, 317, 322 von Trier, Lars, 112 Vowel, Chelsea, 137, 138, 140, 147, 153 Voyageurs malgré eux, Les, 294 Voyer, Marie-Hélène, 323 Vrai monde, Le, 300


W Wacousta (Richardson), 12 Walker, Alan, 348 Walking the Clouds, 152 Wall, Clare, 227, 295 Walsh Matthews, Stephanie, 13 Waltonen, Karma, 11 Wandering Fire, The. See Fionavar Tapestry, The Watterson, Bill, 110 Watts, Peter, 16, 19, 20, 67–72, 74–81, 222, 224–235 Webb, Phyllis, 349 Weiss, Allan, 4, 8, 10, 14, 32, 34, 44, 46, 215 Wellenreiter, Michael, 358 Western civilization, 259, 261 Western ideology, 162 Westfahl, Gary, 356 Westmount, 112 “When It Changed”, 199 “Where the Borg Are”, 148 “Whoever You Are”, 54, 56, 59 Wilcox, Fred, 197 Wilde, Oscar, 105, 106, 115, 187, 332 Wilder, James, 261 Wilder, Laura Ingalls, 188, 195, 196 William, Gerry, 17, 136, 139, 140, 142–144 Williams, Linda, 260 Williams, Raymond, 22, 346 Williamson, Jack, 65 Williston, Bryon, 265 Wilson, F.P., 108 Wilson, Robert Charles, 16, 84–97 Wilson, Scott W., 12 Winter, Kathleen, 19, 203–216 witches, 156 Wollheim, Donald, 52 Womack, Jack, 4 Woman in the Trees, The, 142–144, 148

380  Index “Woman’s Work Is Never Done” (Merril), 58 Wong, Rita, 199 Woo, Benjamin, 349, 351 Woolf, Virginia, 57 Wormholes, 295 Wretched of the Earth, 153 Wright, Frank Lloyd, 112 Y Yaszek, Lisa, 57, 58, 62 Year of the Flood, The. See MaddAddam trilogy

Yucatán, 320 Z Zimmer, Carl, 223 Zippo. A Dark Futuristic Novel, 319 Zissman, Danny, 52 Zissman, Merril, 52 Zombi blues, 327, 330–334, 336, 337, 340 zombies, 18, 22, 136, 138, 139, 142, 143, 145, 156, 158, 159, 163, 215