Our Better Nature: Why Good People Do Bad Things
stories in this collection are more concerned with the everyday
events which try our values, the choices we are faced with
on a daily basis which are not featured in Hollywood movies
or famous novels, but nonetheless prove to exercise our
ethical selves. Like anyone else, these characters are confronted
by moral choices even as they are torn between following
their own selfish desires or the urge to perform an altruistic
act. As diverse as the people who make up our world, the
characters ask themselves if they should cheat on their
spouse, steal money or goods, lie to a friend, think only
about themselves, or give others the benefit of the doubt.
along as people you recognize are faced with choosing between
good and evil. That most essential human exercise of our
moral selves defines whether we are merely slaves to another's
rules or sociopaths who heed none.
Storied Winnipeg: Fables and Local Legends
of Winnipeg are as varied as the city itself. Caught in the middle
of the continent by the amber of its past glory and its current
penury, Winnipeg occupies a rare and beautiful place in the Canadian
in the collection, like unsettled commuters on the buses that
ply the unploughed streets, are the Mutes and Norms Newsletters,
which detail either the deterioration of a person's mind or some
vast city-wide conspiracy. There are also tales of live-in maids
in Tuxedo mansions, wheelers and dealers in the real-estate trade,
ghostly presences who understand something special about the city,
love stories with strange Winnipeg twists, and tales of escape
only to return. There
is a vortex that draws us, some lodestone against which we feel
ungovernable attraction and a wary repulsion.
is about that tension, the taut grasp and thrust that is the largest
city in Manitoba, its nodes of the two universities, its religious
fanatics who write angry Jesus in the snow and on dirty windows,
the many crushed faces of its poor, the backroom dealings that
give rise to shoddy infrastructure and corrupt city council.
A city of
extremes, Winnipeg is only slowly coming into words, and those
words are abrupt and sprawling, glittering and soiled, ecstatic
Stories, or What Christmas Means to Me
Season - Why don't we value Grinch and Scrooge for themselves
instead of the presents they bring? A lighthearted look at materialism
and the media.
Tree Embargo - What if Canada cut off trees to the United
States? Follow the chaos and delight that comes about as a result
of the Christmas tree embargo.
on Christmas - The story of a Christmas in-law visit gone
horribly wrong in the breathless voice of the late Dr. Hunter
S. Thompson. This is as much a treatise on North American Christmas
celebrations as it is a story about a particularly cold mother-in-law
and the frigidity of the northern winter.
in the Holiday Season - A plea from that most endangered species,
the penniless professor. A tongue and cheek look at contract work
in the paper mines.
Dreaming of a Non-White Christmas - What if Aboriginal people
in Canada woke up on Christmas morning with the greatest present
of all? A story as much about our history as it is about our present.
World: Signs of the Apocalypse
is modifiable through cheap and dubious online kits, and the VR
technology of the rich allows them to visit even the most dangerous
slums. Lying in bed in secure buildings, and using hologram projectors
that allow them to be both present and invulnerable, they stalk
the dismal streets looking for ever more exciting carnage, a child
splayed under the wheels of a truck, the bodies of Ebola victims
and the carnage of the resource wars.
beings drift along the hundred terabit trunklines, since they
cannot substantiate far from a data source. If they pay enough
for the protocols, and their VR gear is comprehensive, then their
substantiation is stronger, and even modifiable, and they can
hear and smell. Hackers flood to where avatars are the thickest,
however, cracking firewalls and into the code stream. They wreak
havoc with the imagery, but also hack along the line, getting
to the source, which is the reclining meat body which controls
so much of the wealth of the society.
want to hack, old people want to use the system to their advantage,
and groups set up events where code reality is mixed with what
they call real. Anything is possible if you have a high data line
and money and the willingness to take risks.
looked like it was going to radically change the world. But if
it managed to bring people together as they commiserated about
their common fear, it also let loose a shuddering flood of suspicion
and generosity, xenophobia and acceptance, hatred and tenderness,
superstition and investigative potential.
it to the 1918 Spanish Flu, but without the internet those who
had been affected a hundred years earlier didn't know they were
part of a vast suffering community. With COVID-19, people from
around the world watched other communities cope and fall apart,
their favourite celebrities break down on screen, and conspiracy
fantasies proliferate. Such was the temper of the times that the
words of mad people online began seem as valid as the statistics
of the disease, and statements from health authorities seemed
to be laced with fear and suspicion.
maelstrom of dread and mayhem, a small group of people found their
lives shredded or enhanced, as they struggled to survive the new
circumstances of widespread fear, contagion, and government crackdowns.
With the internet to fuel their doubts and delights, they sought
for answers from a system which had been built more for entertainment
than scholarly pursuit. Seeking to learn when the pandemic would
end, they didn't know if they were constructing a new community
from strangers or would be greeted by snarling dogs at their door.
Long ago Glooscap
promised to return if his people were in need, but it was only
when he learned of the destruction of the Atlantic Provinces that
he made the journey back to the Minas Basin. There, learning about
the mines and clear-cuts, the factory farms and failing fisheries,
and woken by the Jackie Vautour standoff in Kouchibouguac Park,
and inspired by the Burnt Church Rebellion, he has returned with
a plan that will return the provinces to a prosperity they have
not seen in over three hundred years.
With the help
of the otter and the whale, the butterfly and the frog, as well
as some Aboriginal people and even whites, he sets a series of
events in motion that have implications that even he cannot predict.
on this story that outlines what could be a viable proposal to
make the Maritimes the beautiful provinces they deserve to be.
and Survivors: Stories of Resilience
and Survivors began as a collection of stories about hardy, tenacious
people and how they overcome their grueling circumstances. It
quickly ballooned as I became aware that I was drawn to the notion
of self-reliance and the ability to endure. I respect those who
keep their empathy even while everything is taken from them. In
this collection people endure mental instability, find everything
they know to be true is wrong, and yet still reach out tenderly,
even though the world hands them stones on their cracked plate.
Lost in the
immense sweep of the Manitoba prairie, forgotten by thousands
in the faraway city of Winnipeg, the people of Ashton live a simpler
life. Here Jesus appears and walks the dusty town roads, aliens
hover over the water tower, a simple name enacts a life-long curse
and nine churches struggle to save the townspeople's reluctant
a main street with a post office and a grocer, a rink and the
police station where Eddy Prosser tortures Aboriginal kids, Ashton
is bounded by the dump to the south, where the Frisians live,
and the reserve to the west, where no one goes. To the north,
farmer Lohmer owns a spread so vast that the town registry has
lost count of his holdings, and from the east come the storms.
the Apocalypse: Dystopias and Doomsdays
the Apocalypse is a short story collection which attempts to plumb
both the depths of human depravity and our profound ability to
feature protagonists who have endured terrifying ordeals and still
retain their humanity, while others show our ingenuity when we
encounter a seemingly impossible obstacle. Four of the stories
from this collection feature the four riders of the apocalypse
as they ride on the wings of death, while others ponder the future
of our technological prowess or shift us into the age of unpolished
stories about people we recognize faced with impossible choices
and unenviable tasks. These thought experiments in solitude and
resourcefulness show us how much of what we think of as humanity
can be preserved when faced with the destruction of our world.
Bloody History of the Fertile Crescent
have a grave and exhilarating rhetorical power. Even those who
claim they have been raised without the benefit of church have
not entirely evaded scripture; when they hear the familiar tales
of the Ark, Garden, and Jesus on the cross, the expression on
their face betrays an understanding, on almost a visceral level,
of the biblical narratives.
stories that traditional tellings have avoided, that hover just
behind the prevailing interpretation, are some of the most interesting
of all. These stories remained untold because the characters were
seen as uninteresting or unpopular and therefore no place was
reserved for them in the dominant record. There are also buried
stories secreted within the main figures, their more obscure motivations
and hidden wishes.
Read here of Ismael and Isaac's unusual connection, to see how
Jesus came to be the son of God, how Satan and God's relationship
deteriorated, how Jonah fared in the whale, and why Adam and Eve
left the garden. Read to find out why Job was punished, what happened
to Sodom and Gomorrah, where Joseph got his coat, and the origins
of Mary's fantastic explanation. Learn what Moses did with the
first set of commandments, why Cain slew Abel, why the Tower of
Babel faltered, and Jesus' advice about talent. Read this alternative
bible so this ancient text can fulfil its original project: The
Bloody History of the Fertile Crescent.
Waits' Music to Stories Series
and Wounded: Narrative in Tom Waits' Songs
unearths the stories that run parallel to those of Tom Waits'
early songs. They do not retell as much as push the envelope wider,
strain the meaning of a few lines, and stretch the place the song
occupies so that the river rats and abandoned dogs, crying children
on the street and shifty-eyed suits, salesmen with their patter
and hobos with their rags, can shoulder out a space. Searching
for the American dream and distracted by a promise, a woman tosses
pennies into liquor bottles in a half moon bar, a fast car leaves
the parking lot with the radio on full, even while a knife fight
wounds the street and an old man pumps quarters into a one-armed
tell the story of a man who carries the Midwest on him like a
ring he can't get off, who rattles on the wide streets of the
American west like a tin can tied to a junkyard dog and crowds
in the eastern cities where the brownstones spill out onto the
broad steps of long afternoons. Refusing to be caught by the despair
of the endless nights, he jockeys for dollars with the sell-outs,
fishes for the glisten of silver among the litter in the alleys,
and sleeps under the bridge on a rainy night.
When You Dream:
Narrative in Tom Waits' Songs
volume of my Narrative in Tom Waits' Songs series follows the
shifts in his music as Reagan's eighties tumbled into the nineties.
The narrative voice shifts with his music as the stories drift
outside the personal to examine the world around him just as much
as it does his reactions to it. Tom
Waits' middle period is much more experimental than his early
work. The piano-playing hard-drinking and smoking Waits of The
Heart of Saturday Night and Nighthawks at the Diner settled down
into the much stranger magician and carnival roustabout of the
volume of my Narrative in Tom Waits' Songs series is
an attempt to tell the story of his later period beginning
with the dark tapestry of tales and stripped-down guttural
roar of blues rock in Bone Machine. Released in 1992,
in many ways that album was the hollering inbred cousin who
didn't find enough room on Rain Dogs. Within a year
The Black Rider tells its listeners-in case we have
forgotten from earlier albums-that "There's a lot of things
in this world / you're going to have no use for." The anodyne
to this is not the roustabout drinking of his earlier period,
however, for "when you get blue / And you've lost all your
dreams / There's nothin' like a campfire / And a can of beans."
The campfire and the can of beans do not cure the world's
ills; there is just nothing like them.
After the Collapse
of this collection is to present a series of documents from the
post oil crash period, some two hundred years ago now. Although
many written records remain from that chaotic time, and anthologies
of this type have, arguably, been produced, we contend that court
records, government documents, and the more questionable newspaper
boards do not give a valid impression of the common people's felt
experiences of the subsequent chaos. We have endeavoured, with
that attempted veracity in mind, to collect a series of texts
that we contend are representative of the Canadian experience
in particular, and the post-oil crash world in general.
We use the
expression scattered skills a lot of the time when talking about
disability, and I have come to embrace that idea. Some people
are good at math. I am not. I have a good spatial sense. Others
do not. I have begun to think about this spectrum of human skills,
all the way from Kim Peek to the dullness we call normality as
the true range of human ability. In our technological future we
will perhaps ameliorate this somewhat with electronic fixes, but
in the meantime we are left with the delightful variation that
is humanity, the confines of our biology and the cultural attempts
to constrain our minds.
in this collection represent more than just tear-jerking accounts
of overcoming adversity, although I've told a few of those too.
I'm more interested in exploring the potential of what we consider
to be dis and ability through characters who are constrained by
circumstance and societal expectation even as they fight against
use this description to label these characters further, I would
say instead that the reach of the human intellect, the intransigence
of human dignity, the rough multiplicity of circumstances with
which we are confronted, are no match for the fortitude and insight
of the one who wants to escape.
criminal fought harder to carve a prison wall than someone trapped
by a story about their abilities and no escapee on a welcoming
shore felt more a sense of achievement than one whose diagnosis
was stretched and then broken.