This Blog Fell Asleep in Toronto and Woke Up in Windsor

So. After a slightly chaotic and blog-free summer, I thought I’d update with two things.  First, we moved to Windsor for some teaching work.  Second, I’ve added a page to keep track of forthcoming stuff.  I feel this may be a little optimistic, considering I only have a couple of short stories coming out.  That’s not actually a lot to keep track of.

I want to write about Windsor.  Or, to be more accurate, I want to write about staring across the river at the Detroit Skyline, which leads to a lot of contemplation, especially regarding those disaster-pornish photographs of decaying public buildings that flood instagram and facebook. In pop culture Detroit seems to exist exclusively as a dreadful-but-fascinating warning, a place for post-Fordist disaster tourism, rather than an actual community.  Creepy.  It’s shockingly beautiful from across the water, especially at sunset.

 As for the stories—I seem to have officially crossed some genre-line into the land of awesome known as contemporary Speculative Fiction, which was something I should have done a while ago, since Angela Carter, and Ursula K. LeGuin, and John Wyndham have always been important to me.  One of the stories is about an AI suffering from debilitating nostalgia, and the other is about a cyborg.  Fun!

First Reviews

I really didn’t want Where is Here? to turn into a Bunch of Links About That Book I Wrote, though that seems to be where it’s headed these days. Not forever, I hope.  I went to the Bicentennial “celebrations” for the Battle of Fort York last weekend, and I had a lot of thoughts, but they’ve mostly bypassed the blogging stage and leapt straight into the chapter about The War of 1812.

So, instead of my peculiar “insights” into military commemoration in Canada, here are some links about that book I wrote!  It was officially out yesterday (I confirmed this through a visit to the bookstore.  It’s definitely and for realsies out now) and it has collected two  reviews:

Laura Frey at Reading in Bed says some really smart things.

So does Kyla Neufeld at The Winnipeg Review.

In both cases I feel lucky that the readers approached the book so thoughtfully, and with such generosity.

Spring is Here (but it comes with ice pellets)

 

Yesterday when I came home there was a big box from NeWest waiting in the hallway outside our apartment– 20 copies, bound in this lovely, slightly nubbly coverstock. I’m still a little shocked to find that I’ve written an actual book. Unreal!  It almost makes up for the grotty weather, which seems to have regressed to some miserable day in early March.

I added a page with some info about the book, should anyone want to hear more.

Two Links Before I Go Back to Dissertating

The Last Temptation of Bond.  Kimmy Beach. 2013.  University of Alberta Press.

The Last Temptation of Bond. Kimmy Beach. 2013. University of Alberta Press.

My friend Kimmy Beach has a new book out this month called The Last Temptation of Bond (U of A Press).  She’s started a tumblr for some of the material she collected as she was writing it.  I’m looking forward to this book because I like the way Kimmy writes, but in this case her topic is also really intriguing to me.  I’m interested in how we talk about espionage & covert actions, whether it’s cold war paranoia, or pop culture, proxy wars, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy or The Prisoner.  Bond manages to contain both the trauma and absurdity of that era, especially in the most recent film– Skyfall. I’m pretty sure The Last Temptation of Bond will also be full of labyrinthine psycho-sexual issues and black humour, too, because that’s what Kimmy does best. Her work is always sexy and fun, and it draws on the iconography of 20th-cent pop culture without turning into a catalogue of temporary culture.  And did I mention “sexy”?  And “fun”?

And– the excellent book blog Slightly Bookist has an interview series called “The Three Rs.”  I’m the latest entry, over here.

The Paradise Engine. At last.

ParadiseCover-V2-page-001

The Paradise Engine by Rebecca Campbell. Forthcoming from NeWest Press May 2013.

So. Nearly four months away from this blog, which makes me sad, because I really like blogging.  I spent most of the winter swamped in the innumerable, seemingly-unfinish-able tasks that dictate how and where I spend my time. That means either marking, or writing academic stuff.  In happy news, I’ll be presenting a paper on Insurgency & Commemoration at Batoche for CACLALS this spring, at UVic. I haven’t presented a paper since 2011, so it’s about time.

I’m teaching an extra section of composition, too, for January – April, which means I have 70 students instead of the 30-something I had in the autumn.  For the most part this is good news (for four months we’ve cracked the poverty line!) but it means I have no time. And so much to do. I try not to do the infernal mathematics:  70 students x 12ish assignments each = what was I thinking.

Of course, there are bright things, too, and pleasant news.  One of them is that my novel is coming out in May.  It has a cover!  It’s very very pretty.  I feel so lucky that the people at NeWest— editors, designers, marketers, managers– understand what I was trying to do, and have designed something that reflects & expands on the story.  I’ve been thinking a lot about collaboration for the last couple of weeks, as I realize how many people have contributed to turning The Paradise Engine from a secret word document I kept squirreled away on my harddrive, to an actual, real book. That’s pretty exciting.

Report from a Re-Enactment II: Conversations with a Mohawk Warrior and a Damn Yankee

We Don’t Do First Person

One thing preoccupied me during the battle: what are they thinking?

What do they think while they’re marching up and down the field, and firing muskets at one another, or wandering in and out of the white canvas tents. Obviously, a lot of their attention would be taken up trying to figure out where you were supposed to be when, just because the choreography for a crowd that large has to be pretty demanding. But when they were in position, and taking aim at the opposing line, what did they think? Did they imagine themselves to be in 1812, representing a person who might actually have lived through the original version of that moment? In other words, if the battle was theatre, were they actors as well as re-enactors? Continue reading

Report from a Re-Enactment I: The Theatre of War in Four Acts

The Niagara River in its brightest season. October 2012.

Welcome to 1812

Reasoning that it qualified as dissertation-research (for me, that is), D and I drove down to the Niagara Peninsula last weekend to watch the re-enactment of the Battle of Queenston Heights. This event was part of a huge, national project to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812, with events planned all around Ontario and Quebec for the next two years.  There will be fancy-dress armies, historically-accurate food, tall ships, sea-battles, red-coats, poke bonnets. Laura Secord. Tecumseh. General Isaac Brock. The events are spectacular, and expensive, equal parts educational opportunity and vacation plan.

This event drew nearly a thousand re-enactors, many of them men who double as combatants in the Seven Years War, or the American Civil War. It lasted all weekend, with Saturday devoted to the battle, and Sunday to “Brock”‘s funeral, and a slow march in costume through Niagara-on-the-Lake. Continue reading

Prologue to a Series on Queenston Heights: What I Know About the War of 1812 I Learned from Johnny Horton

I was trying to remember when I first heard about the War of 1812, and I came up with two icons I must have encountered when I was very small, though I could not say exactly when: Laura Secord and Johnny Horton.  Laura Secord has a pretty obvious 1812 connection, so obvious she even has her own historica minute.  Johnny Horton might require an explanation.

When I was about seven I had Johnny Horton’s Greatest Hits on a beige audio tape, without a case, one that a neighbour kid left at our house when he moved. It was an unfortunate oversight on his part, one that has, sadly, informed my sense of American history as much as L.M. Alcott or Herman Melville or Frederick Douglass.  It’s a good thing I’m not an historian, because I’m pretty sure they’d take away my degrees for that.

So, as a seven year old I absorbed a peppy, post-war version of American history, much preoccupied with battles and heroic men:  Johnny Reb fights all the way through the Civil War, Ol’ Hick’ry defeats the Red Coats with a weaponized alligator, Davey Crockett strangles a bear and dies at the Alamo, and even the Bismarck is imagined in Texan terms, with guns as big as steers and shells as big as trees.  It’s Disney-history, nuggets of sepia-toned high adventure rendered as three-minute narratives in 4/4, with Horton’s band singing “Mush! Mush!” behind him, as Big Sam McCord goes north to Alaska (where the rush is on). Continue reading

The Yellow Staircase

 

A very, very bright yellow meme.

 

In the building there I work there is a cinderblock staircase painted a very bright, very penetrating shade of yellow. The concrete steps are painted grey; there are no windows, and for a number of turns and landings between the fifth and third floors there are no doors, either, so for a long stretch you circle around and around as you descend, and there’s no way out. This makes me, at least, think existential thoughts.

The upper flowers are solid yellow, with only a few calligraphic flourishes here and there, graffitied in black marker.  Drawings and words start to collect between the fifth and fourth, and by the time you’ve descended to the third the walls are full of images and words.

There are official-looking murals on a few walls, part of the Yellow Staircase Project,I assume. There are also a lot of Very Inspiring Quotes Meant to Inspire Students. That’s okay. Continue reading