Apr 202016
 

Spring is here and the annual author migration from dark writing cave to fun-filled festival has begun!

Yes, once again I will be making the trek to the big city to take part in the amazing Creative Ink Festival in beautiful Burnaby, BC, Canada. If you didn’t make it to the sneak preview last year, WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?! There, there, you can still catch all the fun this year. Writers, readers, and artists, you do not want to miss this event. If nothing else, you will have the opportunity to watch me and a panel of lovable goofballs make up crazy stories with the help of audience suggestions on the Improv Storytelling panel–worth the cost of membership all on its own.

To learn more about the festival, here’s an interview with its creator Sandra Wickham, and here’s more words about the Real Life Superwomen panel, which is the kick-assiest panel I’ve ever had the privilege to sit on.

And here’s when and where to find me May 6-8, 2016…

Saturday May 7

1pm – Presentation: Creative Coupling on the Page

Sunday May 8

12pm – Panel: Improv Storytelling

1pm – Panel: Real Life Superwomen

2pm – Panel: Imposter Syndrome

As you can see, you’ll want to stick around right to the end on Sunday! I will also be manning the co-op author table at some point, where you can buy copies of Warpworld for all your friends, harass one half of the authors about when the fourth book will be out, and maybe even indulge in some free chocolate. As usual, look for the goofy grin, it’s hard to miss.

That’s the when and where, now here’s the what…

Creative Coupling on the Page with Kristene Perron
Kristene Perron, co-author of the award-winning Warpworld series, discusses the ups and downs of artistic collaboration for writers. She’ll take you behind the scenes of plotting, writing, editing and publishing novels with a partner (or partners) and explain how to keep the creative fire burning between friends without getting burned.

Imposter Syndrome (and the benefits of being terrified)

Lisa Voisin (M), Galen Dara, Aviva Bel’Harold, Rachel Greenway, Kristene Perron

If you’ve ever felt like you’re not good enough to create art, that you’re just playing at being talented, then you’ve experienced Imposter Syndrome. Join panelists as they discuss why it happens, what you can do about it and how to make it work for you, not against you.

Improv Storytelling

Kristene Perron (M), Adam Dreece, TG Shepherd, Mark Teppo, Bevan Thomas
Audience members participate in this live, improvised story time by submitting words for the panelists to incorporate into their on the spot tales. Panelists will tell a story, round robin style, using the audience suggestions. No one knows what will happen, though laughter is guaranteed!

Real Life Superwomen

Kristene Perron (M) Lisa Gemino, Sandra Wickham, JM Landels, Setsu Uzume
What do you get when you put an MMA fighter, a pro fitness competitor, a mounted combat expert, a warrior poet and a stuntwoman together on one panel? A rousing discussion about the realities of being a “strong woman” and how that compares with their portrayal in fiction. Join authors Lisa Gemino, Sandra Wickham, JM Landels, Setsu Uzume and Kristene Perron as they KAPOW the stereotypes and share the truth about the lives of superwomen.


There are so many other fantastic presentations and panels, it’s absolutely mind-blowing.

Hope to see you there!

Blood for water,

Kristene

 

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Mar 042016
 

You’ve been so patient, waiting for us to complete the fourth Warpworld novel, that Josh and I figured it’s time to release a new shadow story to say thanks.

Have you read Ghost World? Ever wondered how Mother, Majed, Gelsh and the Others came to find their home in the wasteland? Well, Place of Others has all the juicy–and sometimes bloody–details!

You can find our new story at Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, and Scribd. Best of all? It’s only .99 cents USD, (sorry, Canuck readers, we have to shell out an extra .30 cents, stupid economy). And once the story is up on our website there will be a free PDF version for those of you without e-readers.

Now I really must get back to work, so I’ll leave you with a teaser…

From monsters they came, and monsters they became.

Hidden in the Deathlands, a tiny band of escaped slaves battles for survival. Cannibal tribes, toxic water, savage predators, and the unnatural Storm threaten the Others’ fragile safety but the biggest danger comes from within.

Amid the swirling sands and lifeless wastes, Cur-Vijka tests her hope and good intentions against injustice and brutality. As the tribe of the Others grows, a deadly alliance forces Vijka to decide how far she is willing to go for freedom.

Place of Others Kristene Perron and Joshua Simpson Warpworld

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Nov 262015
 

Please Stand by sign

I wish this was the post where I joyfully share the news that Warpworld Volume 4 is with an editor and we are hard at work on the next installment. This is not that post.

Instead, this is the post where I thank all you readers for your patience as we continue to make Seg and Ama’s next adventure as perfect as possible. So…thank you.

2015 was a difficult year. As some of you may know, my sister and my father died within six weeks of each other. I spent a good portion of this year traveling back and forth between Nelson and Vancouver for hospital visits, and then another good portion between Nelson and Vancouver Island to deal with The Arrangements. At the end of September, I also moved from Nelson to Campbell River, BC, which was another massive upheaval.

You may have noticed that this blog has been quiet. With a dearth of writing time, I chose to focus on the current Warpworld manuscript and let this space sit and rest. The Comms likely won’t get much busier for a few more months but if anything thrilling happens you can be sure I’ll let you know.

Through all this, Josh and I have maintained as much of a routine as was humanly possible. And here I stop to thank my co-author for his patience and support.

Thanks, Josh, you’re the best.

There is some good news, though. We do have a shadow story for Ghost World that will be coming out in early 2016. If you’re curious about the Place of Others and want to know how everyone got there and how Mother seized power, you’re going to love this one!

And if you’re looking for something to read while you wait for us to finish volume 4, I have some suggestions.

Fire With Fire, by Charles E. Gannon is an edge-of-your-seat SF political thriller. Twists and turns abound and there’s no shortage of adventure and intrigue…and aliens.

For fans of the strange, Heart of Veridon, by Tim Akers will surely please. I’m not sure I would call this strictly steam punk but it’s got that vibe and then some. (This is not a new book but it was new to me.)

If you like your SF hard, climate change focused, and mixed in with action and demon polar bears, then definitely check out Reversal by Jennifer Ellis (this book is part of the Apocalypse Weird universe). Jennifer also has a YA series for the science-loving young folks in your family this holiday season…hint hint!

Noir SFF lovers must read The Ultra Thin Man by Patrick Swenson (I hear the sequel is in progress!). Most unexpected plot twist ever, in this author’s humble opinion.

I have not yet read Updraft by Fran Wilde but I’ve heard great things about, it and it’s next on my list. If you beat me to it, NO SPOILERS!

Finally, I will be attending and presenting at the Creative Ink Festival in 2016. This is going to be a kick-ass event and I’m stoked about the Real Life Superwomen panel I’ll be on with Lisa Gemino, Setsu Uzume, Sandra Wickham, and JM Landels. Read the description and tell me this isn’t going to be the coolest discussion ever…

What do you get when you put an MMA fighter, a pro fitness competitor, a mounted combat expert, a warrior poet and a stuntwoman together on one panel? A rousing discussion about the realities of being a “strong woman” and how that compares with their portrayal in fiction. Join authors Lisa Gemino, Sandra Wickham, JM Landels, Setsu Uzume and Kristene Perron as they KAPOW the stereotypes and share the truth about the lives of superwomen.

You do not want to miss that!

Thanks again for the patience everyone. Here’s hoping for a 2016 that is joyful, and only chaotic on the written page.

Blood for water

~ Kristene

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Aug 262015
 

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My second WorldCon has come and gone, leaving me excited for the next opportunity to hang out with my tribe. This con was a bit different from others I have attended as it was more about an escape from reality than any kind of networking or business opportunity. Because of the recent loss of my father and my sister, I had decided not to attend the 73rd World Science Fiction Convention but, thankfully, the Consortium of Ridiculously Kind Persons intervened and sent me on my way.

I was a bit sad that some of my favourite people were not able to attend. Andy Rogers, Sandra Wickham, Amy Sundberg, John Klima, and Chuck Gannon among them. I missed all of you! Ah well, next year perhaps?

This was the first time a big con was within an easy driving distance for me—and probably the last time too—and so I headed off to Spokane, Washington on Wednesday morning, eager for the festivities to begin. Just after noon, I arrived… at the wrong hotel. Who knew there were so many Davenports?

My terrible sense of direction would feature heavily through the entire con and I was grateful to make a new friend, Tanis O’Connor, who I latched onto as my human GPS whenever possible. I would like to blame the thick smoke blanketing Spokane for my problem but I managed to get lost both inside and outside the convention center sooooooo…thank you, Tanis!

It would take pages to give you the full WorldCon experience but I’ll share some of the day-by-day highlights.

Day 1 was spent reuniting with Breakfast Squad members Griffin Barber, Alistair Kimble, Rob Hicks, and Clint Lohse and drinking too many martinis and snort laughing. There was a LOT of laughing. If anything characterized this con for me it was the volume of much-needed, pants-peeing, soul-soothing laughter. I didn’t even know how much I needed that simple tonic until I was drunk on it.

Though I still don’t think my wallet is that funny. Velcro is practical!

Practical, timeless...velcro.

Practical, timeless…velcro

Oh, and Alistair brought his wife Tara along this time, so I was finally able to meet my fellow Facebook cat-aholic in person. By the way, if you look up the word “elegance” in the dictionary, you will see a picture of Tara. I am dead serious!

We ended the night with a tour of all the room parties being hosted by cities bidding for the 2017 WorldCon. I had already decided to vote for Helsinki but, hey, a party is a party.

If you’re wondering, Helsinki won. What can I say? I have excellent taste! Congratulations to my friend Nina Niskanen and all the hardworking members of the Helsinki bid crew. Now I have to start saving for 2017.

Day 2 began in the best way, when I ran into one of my very favourite people, Howard Tayler of Schlock Mercenary and Writing Excuses fame. By the way, if you’re a new or aspiring writer, then you need to start listening to the Writing Excuses podcast stat! After breakfast, I actually got around to attending some panels and talks, albeit with a slightly fuzzy head. The Writing for TV panel was fun, especially since I had worked on a few of the shows that the panelists had written for and it was cool to hear from Guest of Honor, David Gerrold, who wrote the famous Star Trek episode “The Trouble With Tribbles”.

The biggest highlight, however, was artist John Picacio’s slide show. He discussed his process and shared some of his work and work-in-progress with the crowd. Stunningly beautiful doesn’t begin to cover it! Picacio is re-imagining the famous Mexican game Lotería, with a set of cards that is each worthy of being framed and hung on a wall. Clint and I went halfers on his first set of 11 cards and Picacio signed each of our favourites.

This was mine.

El Pescado by John Picacio

El Pescado by John Picacio

I know, a fish, big surprise, eh?

Clint enjoys his "Minty Clint", made with Old Southern Predator

Clint enjoys his “Minty Clint”, made with Old Southern Predator

We ended the second day with a wonderful dinner at Steelhead, inventing a new cocktail, an animated group discussion about movies, and with more martinis for yours truly.

Day 3 was a mixed day for me. I was definitely feeling the effects of those martinis and despite my gregarious nature I am still an introvert and my batteries were in dire need of recharging. I attended a few panels. The panel on The Future of Government was noteworthy both for the quality of the discussion (thought provoking!) and for the gentleman seated next to me picking at his ankle skin and eating it (eeeewwwww!). I made it as far as dinner and then crashed early—did I mention I also started my trip with a cold? Boo!

Sadly, my early evening meant that I missed the Fairwood Press party, hosted by my friend Patrick Swenson with friend Tod McCoy also in attendance, but they know I love them. Right? RIGHT?!

00-00-01-54-17-20-1541720_578339The high point of this day was not at the con but at the nearby Boo Radley store, which Clint, Tanis and I stumbled into quite by chance. There were repeated cries of “Look at this!” followed by guffaws as we found one hilarious item after another. The three of us decided the Boo Radley store was our favourite panel.

I bounced back on Day 4 and this was the best day of all for programming because of Super Science Saturday. Along with some science exhibits and demos in the main area, there was also a series of talks given by experts in a variety of fields. My favourite was the macro-evolution talk, which was fun, enlightening, and made several references to the movie Avatar!

Note to SFF con organizers: more Super Science Saturday style talks, please!!!

We shall not discuss the Spintonics talk, which, though fascinating, was far far above my level of comprehension.

Tara is horrified by Mark's story, as were we all.

Tara is horrified by Mark’s story, as were we all.

I missed lunch with the gang, including the effervescent Jennie Faeries, but caught up to them in time to share our worst airplane stories. Though Mark Van Name’s story won, hands down, I will not repeat it lest you all wake up screaming in the middle of the night.

I attended the Writing About Controversy panel with some trepidation. Given the recent brouhaha in the SFF community, would this turn into a mudslinging competition? It did not and it was refreshing to see a civilized and thoughtful discussion for a change. Would that they could all be so.

Directly related, this was also the day that the Hugo Awards happened with all the attendant drama. My goal for this event was to be happy, so I kept a wide distance from all things Hugo. I will only say that I am sad for those that could and should have won awards and for SFF fandom in general.

I passed the not-attending-the-Hugos time with friends, including Mark Teppo and Lisa Gemino, discussing the plot for Breakfast Squad’s soon-to-be-best-selling novel about the blonde mafia. (You #totes don’t want to miss this one! #Iknowright?)

Kristene Perron at the Baen party at Worldcon

Back off! This is my party chair!

Post Hugos, I was welcomed to the Baen party, which was FANTASTIC! The room was, well, roomy, and Baen put out a great spread. I met some new and interesting people, found the best chair of the entire party, and may have enjoyed one or two more martinis.

On Day 5 I had to pack up and get ready for the smoky drive home. That left just enough time for one last laugh-filled breakfast and several goodbye hugs.

Oh and somewhere in all this I managed to exchange quick hellos with Dave Bara, Katrina Archer and Ron Friedman. WorldCon is just so damned big that it’s easy to end up not having enough time to spend with everyone you would like to spend time with. It was also a pleasure to meet Eric Flint for the first time. Eric is the founding father of the “Ring of Fire” universe, which begins with the alternate history novel 1632 and ripples outward from there.

The Biggest Thank You Of All Time…

Despite all the Hugo conflict and negativity that surrounded this year’s WorldCon, it will go down in history as one of my favourite cons. I say again: I did not know how desperately I needed this little vacation from reality—thankfully my friends did. I am forever indebted to the Consortium of Ridiculously Kind Persons, who paid for my entire trip–MY ENTIRE TRIP!– including a loaner car with a full tank of gas, (thanks, Helen!), and/or provided alternate offers of assistance. I still can’t believe they did that for me. *shakes head*

So, from the deepest depths of my heart and beyond I offer my forever thanks to my friends, family, peers, and fellow artists who made WorldCon 2015 a reality for me and returned a gigantic smile to a very sad face.

Griffin Barber, frequent purveyor of much-needed smiles

Griffin Barber, frequent purveyor of much-needed smiles

Thanks and galaxies of love to*:

Wendy Kelly, Anthony Sanna, Deryn Collier, Helen and Darcey Lutz, Nina Niskanen, Dana Romanick, Jonnie Broi, Deb O’Keeffe, Tim and Carrie Thurston, Jason Draginda, Partick Swenson, Lynn Krauss, Michael F Stewart, Tim and Becky Rippel, Erika Conrad, Lucas Myers, Laura Radrich, Jennifer Craig, Anne De Grace, Jane Byers, Verna Relkoff, Vangie Bergum, Rita Moir, Sarah Butler, Muse, Rae Greenaway, Glen Allison, Jasmine Georget, Reva Dawn Schmidt, Becky Perron, Nate Green, Amy and Derek Marcoux, and of course my fellow Breakfast Squad mates, who kept me grinning, even from afar…Griffin Barber, Alistair Kimble, Andy Rogers, Rob Hicks, and Clint Lohse.

*Apologies if I overlooked anyone, you know I love you right?

Blood for water

~ Kristene

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Apr 172015
 

From 2007 to 2009, I lived on Aitutaki, in the Cook Islands, and had the pleasure and challenge of experiencing a culture very different from my own. Hannah Williams is the daughter of one of the dear friends I made during that time. She has her own unique perspective on the two cultures she has inherited and the struggles of living in both those worlds.


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My own experiences with clashes of cultures started before I was even born, when my New Zealand born father made a fateful trip to the Cook Islands in 1989, where he met my Cook Island born mother. Ever since birth I have lived as a happy mixture of my parents Pacific (Cook Islands) and European heritage. I have also lived with the resultant stigma, stereotypes and conflict of my mixed heritage. The most common and pervasive of these conflicts is the eternal question: “But what are you, really?” Everyone loves boxes, we don’t admit but it is in our nature to compartmentalize, to analyse and to compare. I often find I am consistently affronted with being forced to choose an ethnicity, a culture and an identity on the spot by family, friends and even strangers. In a melting pot society such as we have here in New Zealand, it is even more important to those around you that you identify yourself, and early. This is not so easy for me, I am not “really” any one ethnicity or culture. Additionally, I’m a stickler for details and hate giving one-dimensional answers. In any case, how does one answer questions like “But what are you, really?”

Reality is a sphere we all inhabit. Reality is a spatio-temporal space that, for myself, I define using particular questions. I like to think of these questions as the great ‘Who-What-When-Where and Why’.

Who am I? What do I do? When am I? Where am I? Why am I? Who am I, really?

These questions help me to shape my reality; being of mixed heritage in an environment that always favours homogeny this has become increasingly necessary, as I’ve grown up. These ambiguous questions I ask myself act as a compass for my life and my ever-expanding capacity to self-define. The ambiguity of my form of self-definition actually provides me with stability and a propensity for growth that I cultivate and relish. My agency and capacity to self-define is a right that I defend and cherish constantly. Self-definition has long been necessary for me. I am ambiguity in one of its most conspicuous forms: an ethnically diverse, educated female born in a country far flung from the origins of both sides of my family.

People have always had an obsession with who and what I am. I apparently don’t sound, act or think like how I look. I have dark skin, hair and eyes but not the stereotypical accent or mannerisms of those who like me. I have the childhood, education and background of someone who wouldn’t typically look like I do. The clash of cultures that started when my parents met continues through my every action and interaction. It’s insufferable.

Stereotypes and generalisations have always run amok around me. It often leads to people remarking ignorantly “Oh, you’re not even as [insert generalization] as I thought you were/would be/should be!” People are consistently socialized into thinking homogenously, unilaterally and comparatively about others. We measure each other up, we use broad terminology and fixate on minutiae. This is even more complex and disturbing when you are, as I am, a half-caste. There exists an obsession over how much of this you are and how much of that you are. There exists constant checklist of how you measure up against each standard or stereotype which may be applied to you. Every person you meet may have different standards or stereotypes which they may wield at any given time, usually during polite conversation. I have been bombarded with accusations such as “where did you learn such good English?”, “how come you grew up where white people live?”, “how come your only half Cook Island?”. These are all consistent battles in the clash of cultures for those of mixed heritage.

So for this reason, rather than be consumed by everyone else’s questions about myself I have long chosen to instead ask my own.

  • Who am I? I am a young, female, atheist, New Zealand-born Cook Islander who has spent the better part of a decade studying evolutionary biology at the University of Auckland. I am a daughter, a sister, a grand-daughter, a niece. I am a friend. I am a reflection of my family and their values and experiences.
  • What do I do? I look after myself, I pay my own bills, I love and care for my family members, I defend my people, I support and celebrate my friends, I feed my cats, I love my boyfriend.
  • When am I? I am every day that my family has lived in New Zealand, I am every day that my family lived in the Cook Islands, I am every day that my parents lived in unison, I am every day since they parted ways, I am every day ahead of me and every night as well.
  • Where am I? I’m everywhere that someone I love has gone to, I am everywhere that my actions speak loudly, I am everywhere my two feet can take me. I am wherever my family is. I am wherever someone needs me. I am everywhere I can be at once.
  • Why am I? I don’t know, but I hope one day I won’t need to ask.

The list of things that I am not is shorter than that. I am not a reflection on you. I am not the embodiment of some aspect of society that you are upset with. I am not an example. I am not an excuse. I am not a referential point on a continuum. I am not plastic, not-real, not really x, disconnected, a fake or a phony. I am not a poor representation of [this] or [that].

My reality is shaped by questions I ask myself as I know I am the only who can answer them. I am the only person who defines me because I’m the only person with all the facts and all the tools that are required. I am the only person who is allowed to discuss Who I Am, What I Am and Why. That is my agency, the only thing that makes me different from

I have a lot of experience with people not understanding this. I think I know why; I do not fit clearly into pre-cut boxes. I require custom-made boxes. The reality here is that we all do. No one is the same as any other person. That is a simple fact; it is undeniable, cold, and clear. Where it becomes murkiest is when one of my custom-made boxes is similar to one of your custom-made boxes. That’s when people start getting animalistic and peeing around their version of their box. “You can’t be [x] because I am [x] and you’re not like me.”

That is ridiculous. The person who creates your custom-made box is you (and whoever you allow to help you). Even if our boxes seem similar, they are not. Even if they look, feel, smell, sound and taste the same, they at least mean different things to us.

At this point I should clarify my motivation for this post, and if anyone has made it this far down then you are no doubt tiring of my unfocused diatribe. I am referring to my experiences with being labelled as a ‘plastic’ Pacific islander. For those who are unfamiliar with this term, it refers to people who are of Pacific island descent that are seen (by others) to not fulfil an intangible ideal of what this ethnicity entails. ‘Plastic’ is specifically used to accuse Pacific people, who do not know their native language or do not follow traditional customs, as being unworthy of identifying as Pacific people. It is used most prominently by Pacific people to attack other Pacific people. It is commonly used to insult or offend afakasi (half-caste) Pacific people. It is not a light-hearted term of endearment as is often touted, it is mean-spirited and a reflection only of the user and never of the receiver.

I have often been labelled as a ‘plastic’ Pacific person. This no doubt stems from my inability to speak and understand Cook Island Maori (Maori Kuki Airani), my rejection of the Christian church, my non-Pacific heritage and my various mannerisms that show my relationship with my Pacific culture as being atypical. I have no apologies to be made for any of these characteristics. I view them all as being effects of my upbringing, family and life which, as my fingerprints, are unique to me. Furthermore, as I discussed earlier, I choose to define myself by the myriad of things that I am and not by things that I am I choose to value and define myself by my Pacific heritage – it is an aspect of myself that is undeniable both physically and emotionally. I am connected to my native land through my memories, my experiences and most importantly my family. I have a rich and fulfilling appreciation for my own brand of Pasifika culture, which feels very real to me. This is my reality. It is not plastic. I am, by self-definition, not plastic.

Any attempt to rob me of my self-definition is an attempt to rob me of my agency and capacity as an individual. Any attempt to label me as ‘plastic’ is an insult to the experiences and struggles of my family members, Pacific and not, who toiled to make my life a reality. Use of the word ‘plastic’ to injure, degrade or assert oneself over another is a blight on all Pacific culture and indigeneity as a whole. It is sad that I am consistently affronted with ‘plastic’ accusations, and it is almost sadder that I am almost so desensitised that I usually say nothing.

The most ironic and ridiculous part of this for me is that I commonly experience similar accusations from papa’a (European) communities also, upon my assertion that I am also of European descent. I am usually met with… “but you can’t be, you’re so [insert extremely awkward silence] tanned.” The awkwardness of my apparent ambiguity is a perpetual headache, as all mixed-race, bi-cultural people will understand.

This brings me full circle to the beginning of this post, my reliance on my own brand of self-definition. It dawned on me early in life that it is left to little-old-me to take control and dictate the terms of my definition. If I had listened to everyone I ever spoke to I would identify as neither Pacific nor European but as some unwanted middle-ground to be dealt with later. That isn’t right, or fair. And so I reject it, I reject the notion that I need to be evaluated by someone else. I instead choose to trust myself to ask the hard questions, Who am I, What am I, Where am I, When am I and Why? I encourage you to do the same, what you will find is something no one can take away.

That’s what is real.

1003713_10151737332817432_1503268261_nHannah Williams, is a 24-year-old New Zealand-born Cook Islander. She is a recovering student loan addict having just completed her Bachelor of Science, Postgraduate Diploma of Science and Master of Science (Biological Sciences) at the University of Auckland. She currently works for the Ministry of Social Development, in the Land of the Long White Cloud. Her brief stint of full-time employment will soon be terminated however as she will be heading for the U. S. of A to start an age-old kiwi rite-of-passage called the “Big O.E” (basically jetting off overseas and working dead-end service jobs in various countries).

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Apr 152015
 

It can be easy to see only the negative connotations of culture clash–fear, hatred, violence–but are there times when our cultural differences cease to matter? Times when our differences are beneficial? Today’s guest, author Alistair Kimble, has some answers to those questions and much more.


The Dirty Dozen cast

“I never went in for embroidery, just results.” ~ Major John Reisman, The Dirty Dozen

What I’m writing about today is culture clash. When I first received the topic, Boy George fronting The Clash cluttered my eyes and ears with discordant images and sounds. And while I don’t think Boy George and The Clash would have ever worked, the truth is, well, maybe they would have found a way if they had been forced to work together. Look at how successful the collaboration between Metallica and Lou Reed was–uh, never mind. But if you’re a masochist, look it up some time, the project was called Lulu.

But I’d rather write about the positive side of culture clashes. So, onward and upward. I’ve worked many different jobs since I was 15 years old and now, looking back at them at the ripe old age of 45, I wouldn’t have changed a thing since it’s all been material for my fiction. All the good times, bad times, arguments, happy hours, work trips, and getting to know a vast number of people who are not at all like me have all provided a life time of storytelling material.

Working with others, whether it be a mom and pop shop or let’s say a military force, is often a clash of cultures. I enlisted in the United States Navy back in 1993 as a 23 year old with a couple years of college under his belt. What does that have to do with culture clash? Plenty.

I enlisted, which meant I was going to be joining others who also hadn’t completed college, or even started college, or perhaps had no desire to go to college. But here is the clash, which is actually something the military gets right–taking men and women from diverse backgrounds, shoving them together, and forcing them to become a functioning and successful unit before graduating from boot camp.

As a 23 year old, I wasn’t the oldest in my boot camp company, but was close. The age range in my company was 17 to 26, which is quite a gap, and that alone can be a culture clash. There were guys (and there were also entire companies of women, even back in 1993) from all over the country and from all sorts of backgrounds. Some joined to escape bad situations and others joined to finish their education, while some sought the Navy as a career and others simply as a job until they figured out what they really wanted to do with their lives.

The first couple of weeks locked up within the confines of the Navy base housing the boot camp were especially rough, and understandably so: When a bunch of mostly immature males are tossed together the only absolute result is chaos. The first week the barracks were a mess, as if a gym locker full of sweaty clothes exploded on a daily basis. We spent hours simply organizing and cleaning so when the company commander kicked opened the door we wouldn’t be marched and/or exercised to death. Natural leaders within the company emerged and eventually the barracks resembled a livable space.

I’m happy to say that there were no race issues, class issues, education level issues, etc. Don’t get me wrong, when that many young testosterone laden men are thrown together there are bound to be some scuffles, but they were few and those were motivated by stress, fatigue, and well, there are times you just don’t like a person. The first few days, maybe even the first couple of weeks had guys of similar backgrounds hanging out, but once past the veneer we all found that the cultural differences didn’t mean a whole lot, we all pretty much wanted the same things, but most of all, we all wanted to conquer boot camp.

Eventually the differences melted, and the company realized working together, identifying individual strengths, and leveraging those strengths would overcome the problems thrown at us by the company commanders. Problems like middle of the night inspections, random physical fitness drills, and staying up to the wee hours despite the lights off policy simply to make sure everyone in the company would pass the barracks inspection the next day. It reminded me of the old comedy starring Bill Murray, Stripes (oh man, just writing that made me feel old). Anyway, the group of misfits in Stripes had to come together to get out of boot camp, but with hilarious effect. And then there is The Dirty Dozen–a different group of misfits, but they too, overcome, but–oh yeah, most of them died in the process. Anyway…both of those films were quite opposite of my experience at boot camp. Moving away from the military for a moment, we can take a television show like The Office and that group of people is beyond culture clash, but still somehow manage to sell paper products.

I think if you toss any group of people together (face to face–not an internet group or Facebook thingie or whatever) and they need to overcome an obstacle or achieve a goal they’ll put aside their differences and get it done. By the way, I don’t count politicians as a group of people you can toss together and expect anything great–that group is the exception to the toss together and work things out idea I’m putting forth here.

The bottom line is that there were 60 or so men in my company who did not know one another when we were marched from the processing center to the barracks, and it was scary and disorganized and messy. But a few months later we had transformed from 60 strangers all a unique culture of their own into a group of individuals who had learned how to work together.

author Alistair KimbleA long time ago Alistair Kimble enlisted in the Navy and performed search-and-rescue missions while dangling from a helicopter. He now works as a Special Agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and somehow finds time to write. Iron Angels, an urban fantasy novel with police procedural bones, co-written with Eric Flint, will be published by Baen Books. His short fiction has appeared in the Fantastic Detectives Issue of the Fiction River Anthology series and Eric Flint’s Grantville Gazette

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Apr 132015
 

In an attempt to accept diversity, we will often defend behaviour we find strange or unacceptable as a difference of culture. And while it’s generally good to embrace cultural differences, is there a line where culture ceases to be a valid defense? Today’s guest blogger, author Nathan Elberg, discusses culture and morality.


Internal compass culture and conflictSome things are disgusting.  Pedophilia for instance is considered intolerable, despite its being promoted by writers such as William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg.  Their advocacy for evil did nothing to harm their positions as cultural icons.  There are grey areas as to what constitutes a child.  Loretta Lynn, the famous country singer got married when she was fifteen.  Mohammed, the Prophet of Islam, consummated his marriage to Aisha when she was nine, setting the gold standard for Muslims.

Sex with animals is also considered impolite, but all the videos of Hamas and ISIS terrorists having sex with goats has not diminished their stature as liberation warriors, as cultural icons.

Sex with non-humans is disgusting, but there are grey areas as to species.  In 2008, the Spanish government passed a resolution according human rights to apes.  In the USA, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) compare Jews and chickens, saying both suffered a holocaust.  In Indonesia, a teenager was forced to marry a cow he had been caught having sex with (the bride was then drowned).

There are tribal hunters who try to seduce animals, but not for the sake of copulation.  Certain Siberian hunters will mimic an elk, try to make themselves appear as suitable mates, to encourage the animal to be available for killing.  There’s a danger to this, though.  Sometimes the seduction can go the wrong way, and the hunter lose his human status.  In such a case the human ends up living in the elk’s village, or, if things go really wrong, being killed by the elk.

For some Amazonian Natives, animals are people, or see themselves as persons.  The manifest forms of each species is merely an envelope, a clothing which conceals an internal human form, usually only visible to the eyes of fellow members of that species, or to shamans.  This is similar to a concept in Jewish mysticism, that skin and clothing make us appear to be what we are not, revealing what we want the world to know about us; revealing that something is being concealed.

These are deep, beautiful and mysterious thoughts.  They give the lie to the idea that all people are essentially the same, share the common way of understanding and responding to the  world.  Do these ideas legitimate sex with elk or goats, with young girls or boys?  If you’re even considering that thought, then you’ve missed the point.  A person with no values has no foundation, no perspective from which to understand another’s values.  You need a moral compass to navigate culture.

Author Nathan ElbergNathan Elberg has hunted and trapped with Indians and Eskimos, studied folklore, warfare, cannibalism, shamanism, Kabbalah, primitive art, and communications among other things.  All these form part of the Quantum Cannibals world.  He is doing a doctorate on the subject of popular beliefs in science and Judaism, is a member of SF Canada, and the Canadian Fantasy and Science Fiction Association.  He has just launched  Quantum Cannibals, a website and novel about science, progress, and culture.

Nathan’s recent short stories include:

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Apr 102015
 

Most stories, fiction or non-fiction, contain some kind of conflict–cultural or otherwise–but what about the actual medium itself? Author Nowick Gray considers the culture clash between corporate media and literature and what that means to society.


Book With KeyHunter's Daughter by Nowick GrayIn my recently published novel of the Arctic, Hunter’s Daughter (Five Rivers, 2015) the very basis of the plot, themes and character development is the clash of cultures. The era depicted (1964) is one of Inuit transition from traditional life on the land into settlements; and the story’s tension is driven by pressure from the bureaucracy of the South to conclude justice on its terms. While the clash of cultures is at the forefront in such a story, I want to delve further here into a more radical perspective of cultural confrontation between literature and mainstream society.

As editor of the online Alternative Culture Magazine, I once argued that literature, in a way, by definition is “alternative.” That is, it is designed to get the reader to think and/or feel deeply, to access unconscious associations and versions of reality, different species of truth. If not in direct contradiction to the stories peddled to us as fact by the mainstream news, at least creative narratives offer alternative perspectives.

In an age where, by virtue of the so-called alternative news channels on the Internet, we come to know, for a fact, that major news outlets are owned by a half-dozen corporate entities, and that for decades now these newspapers, magazines, networks and movie studios have been infiltrated and imposed upon to offer versions of important stories that are vetted or created by the CIA (in the US, at least) to conform to the operative script for so-called national security. Such collusion is also well documented in the case of the BBC. Even such supposedly liberal papers as The New York Times or the Guardian have to satisfy their megacorporate advertisers. (I haven’t done my homework on Canadian media control and influence but it surely plays in the same league, if not in the same ballpark.) The point here is that there are two cultures warring for control of our minds: mass media programming, and the one-on-one experience of the writer and reader.

In the shallow world of popular commercial media (call it fiction), the plots are linear, horizontal, ephemeral, chaotic. Contrast the world of the literate novel or creative nonfiction, where the effect is more of depth psychology, of archetypes and synchronicities, of resonance and innuendo. Where there is nothing claimed outright in bald, bold terms (like advertising or the latest headlines of violence), there is no point in counter-claim and disputation; the work stands alone, interpenetrating the felt (and thus uncontested) experience of the reader. Evidence accumulates through the texted encounter; and unlike at a court proceeding, the verdict here need not be unanimous, nor handed down by any judge, nor by a committee of one’s peers, nor even conclusive to a single simple outcome. The experience gestates as a whole, generating further truths percolating through the reader’s consciousness over time. The associations are not tied to chains of corroboration; they link as our brains discover. Meanings surface not as polls of policy debate, but as the weight of a breath, the knowing of action at the next opportunity.

This largely hidden clash of cultures surfaces when the worldly empire of ideas feels so threatened by the revolution of experienced truth, that it feels it must burn books, or censor them, imprison its writers and threaten their publishers. Otherwise, in a freer society where at least we can choose our sources of information and entertainment, it is our own choice and responsibility, which culture to be a part of. Will we parrot the news and opinions piped into the ears of millions wholesale by CBC or CBS, eat and regurgitate like fast food, empty calories—or browse selectively, read thoughtfully, question the authority and agenda of the writer and producer, and digest in harmony with our own internal ecosystem of moral enzymes; trusting our own sensors of taste, reserving our own judgment of quality?

The foregoing polemic notwithstanding, it’s a tricky business to confront the dominant culture head on, even at the height of one’s creative powers. Satire, of course, is an effective weapon/tool (witness Jonathan Swift, Joseph Heller, Tom Wolfe, Don DeLillo, Margaret Atwood, Dave Eggers, to name a few). Or, one can back away from the fray in a more ironic, purportedly self-effacing fashion: I’m thinking of the latest novel by British writer Tom McCarthy, Satin Island:

It’s not my intention, here, to write about the Koob-Sassen Project: to give an exegesis, overview, or whatever, of it. There are legal reasons for this:…stipulations protecting commercial, governmental and the level that comes one above that confidentiality; interdictions on virtually all types of disclosure. And anyhow, even if there weren’t, would you actually want to hear about it? It is, it strikes me, in the general scale of things, a pretty boring subject. Don’t get me wrong: the Project was important. It will have had direct effects on you; in fact, there’s probably not a single area of your daily life that it hasn’t, in some way or other, touched on, penetrated, changed; although you probably don’t know this. Not that it was secret. Things like that don’t need to be. They creep under the radar by being boring. And complex….Perhaps all projects nowadays are like that—equally boring, equally inscrutable….would this, in any way, illuminate the Whole? I doubt it. (2.1)

Yet here is the genius of art—that by skirting an issue which invariably is boring or disempowering when tackled head on, and couching it just so—in the sensibility of a real or fictional narrator, a human guide with a heart we can feel close to our own—it becomes appreciated, integrated, understood. In the reading experience we make that transition from the culture described, to the culture of the describer, the witness. And the larger truth we thus perceive sets us free.

author Nowick GrayNowick Gray has published a wide variety of fiction and nonfiction, most recently the mystery novel Hunter’s Daughter (Five Rivers, 2015). Much of Nowick’s writing draws from his two decades homesteading in the interior mountains of British Columbia. Other adventures include teaching for three years in Quebec Inuit villages, and indulging a lasting passion for West African drumming. Nowick currently works as a freelance copy editor and makes his home in Victoria, BC, with winter travels in warmer locations. Connect with Nowick via his website, nowickgray.com, or via Twitter or Facebook.

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Apr 092015
 

We interrupt our regularly scheduled blog series to tell you where you can find Kristene Perron on April 25 at the Creative Ink Festival…

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Hi everyone. I’m thrilled to be participating in the very first Creative Ink Festival in Vancouver, BC on April 25th! This year a preview for the big event, which will be a weekend long festival for writers, readers, artists, and fans of genre fiction. You can blame firecracker Sandra Wickham for all this fun and frivolity as this festival is her creation.

There’s a good chance you’ll spot me wandering around, being my usual chatty self, but here are the events I’m scheduled for:

10-11am – Blue Pencil Session

This is your opportunity to sit down with me (or other industry professionals) for fifteen minutes, to share your work and receive immediate feedback. Bring three pages of your best work (double-spaced). I will read your work and give you my input. You may also want to bring your questions about troubles you’re having with the piece. You need to sign up for this in advance. Email sandrawickham@live.ca to book your session!

2pm – Intro to Self-Publishing

So you’ve heard self-publishing is the best/worst thing to happen to writing since Gutenberg’s printing press and you’re wondering if it’s right for you? In this one hour, hands-on workshop, I will dispel the myths, exposes the scams, and shows what it takes to self-publish successfully. From first draft to first sale, you’ll learn the questions you’ll need to ask and the tools you’ll need to determine your publishing path. Topics include: * Timelines and budget * DIY vs self-publishing services * Formatting, editing, cover and interior design * Choosing the best publishing option * Self-publishing resource.

5pm – How to Market Yourself Panel: Danika Dinsmore, Peter Darbyshire, Kristene Perron, JP McLean

Whether you’re a writer or artist, indie or traditionally published, marketing yourself is vital to a successful career. What are the best tools out for getting your product out there? What should be avoided? What should your marketing budget look like? Are there any unique ideas left?

You can read about all the amazing programming here and you can plan your day here.

I’ll have copies of Warpworld Vol. 1, 2 and 3 on hand for sale. And you will find a special Warpworld goodie in your festival “swag bag”.

If you see me, make sure to say Hi, or even better…

Blood for water

~ Kristene

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Apr 082015
 

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When we put out the call for guest bloggers, Lynda Williams was a natural fit. Her Okal Rel universe is fraught with culture clash. In this post, she talks about the many sources of cultural conflict in her books.


Readers who like their culture clash played out through characters where no one is 100% right about anything, will enjoy spending time in the Okal Rel Universe.

Imagine politically sophisticated high-tech invaders clashing with biologically empowered tribal leaders, known as Sevolites, who are, themselves, the advanced technology. Or a conquering Sevolite warrior who can’t understand why “take me to you leader” means a planetary referendum for AI-enabled egalitarians from Rire. And these are just the political teasers.

Sexual politics between the neo-Victorian Demish and the free-flying Vrellish generates humor and drama in every book. But no group is without its own kind of norms. Instead, conflicting standards duke it out in the wider Sevolite cultural context of Okal Rel, in which genetic capital is tied to economics through a spectrum of religious beliefs about the rebirth of souls.

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The agnostic humanist culture of Rire, founded on egalitarian ideals, has yet another set of rule governing sexual relationships and, in particular, adult responsibilities for raising children. Reetions are horrified by Sevolite use of infants as political pawns. But then, most of us would be as well.

Perhaps the most controversial question of nature vs. nurture in the ORU is just how different a bio-engineered Sevolite is, biologically, from natural humans. Does this entitles them to behave differently? If so, to what extent? At what point should multicultural acceptance give way to war, again? Because the differences concerned aren’t trivial.

For example, Vrellish women have as much testosterone in their blood as Vrellish men. And the gentle sensibilities of Golden Demish rest on a genetic predisposition that never had to stand the test of viability in the evolutionary sense. The notion there is any validity to racial stereotyping offends moral thinkers from Rire, but Reetions do not hesitate to view themselves as culturally superior – even though the lack of personal privacy in their transparent society rankles on most Sevolites. And what Sevolites consider a legal means of resolving their differences through Sword Law is murder, pure and simple, to someone from Rire.

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Williams_Lynda 13finLynda Williams is the author of the ten-novel Okal Rel Saga and world mistress of the expanding Okal Rel Universe. She will be appearing April 25, 2015 at the first Creative Ink Festival event in Burnaby, B.C. http://www.sandrawickham.com/creativeinkfestival/  and publishes at http://facebook.com/relskim  By day, Lynda works for Simon Fraser University and teaches part-time for BCIT.

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