Airship Ambassador: Hi Dominik, thanks for joining us for this interview.
Dominik Parisien: Thanks for having me!
AA: You have quite a bit of published work behind you, including The Time Traveler’s
Almanac, and stories in Andromeda Spaceways and Imaginarium 2013: The Best Canadian Speculative Writing. Now you have edited a new anthology, Clockwork Canada: Steampunk Fiction. I suppose the key is in the title, but what is the book about?
DP: At its core, this is a book about showcasing alternate Canadas and Canadian history, focused through the lens of steampunk.
AA: What got this project started?
DP: First and foremost, I wanted to give Canadian authors and readers a chance to see their own stories told, as Canadians. There aren’t that many anthologies that focus specifically on Canadian authors and perspectives. The Tesseracts series has been great in this respect, but for Clockwork Canada I wanted stories set in Canada, in addition to featuring Canadian authors.
Exile Editions had already published other anthologies in this vein (Dead North and Fractured) and I felt steampunk/alternate history would make a valuable addition. There haven’t been any recent anthologies of alternate Canadian history in a few years, and I felt that steampunk offered a great balance wherein stories could be purely fictional and still set in Canada, or reimagine specific Canadian events in a steampunk light.
AA: Aside from sharing stories by Canadian authors, what is the goal for Clockwork Canada?
DP: Other than making a good book with engaging stories, my goal with Clockwork Canada is to encourage Canadian authors to look to local sources for inspiration in their storytelling, whether it be history or myths. Many Canadian authors often hesitate to incorporate Canadian elements in their stories. There can be various reasons for this, the biggest of which I think are: the idea that it won’t appeal to international (often American) markets, and because of a sense that Canadian history and myths are not as interesting as those of other countries.
Dead North and Fractured were both successful, and my hope is that Canadian authors will continue to write such stories, but will also submit them to other venues not specifically Canadian. In terms of readers, my goal is to show that genre fiction can be fascinating, engaging, and still have a distinctly Canadian flavour and that this can be appealing as much to Canadians as non-Canadians.
AA: I think it’s always great to see stories set outside of the typical locations. There’s the whole world of the 1800s to explore. Why specifically choose steampunk as the aesthetic and feel for these stories to tell?
DP: Steampunk was a natural choice because of the genre’s potential for thoughtful alternate history, engagement with issues of imperialism, exploration and adventure, and, of course, the importance of steam (specifically relating to the railroad for Canadian history). Also, I love steampunk, both as a literary mode and an aesthetic, and I wanted to see how Canadian authors would imagine steampunk in a Canadian way: which stories they would tell and what inventions they would come up with.
AA: There are fifteen authors contributing to this anthology, what can you share with us about their backgrounds, and what we can expect from them?
DP: The authors in Clockwork Canada vary widely in terms of their publishing experience. Some are award-winners and have multiple books published, others are emerging talents with only a few (but great) stories to their names. Some have been primarily published in literary magazines, whereas others are firmly established in genre. Several of them have published multiple steampunk works while others have made their first foray into the genre here. That kind of variety is, to me, exciting because it results in very different perspectives and approaches.
AA: How did you round up the group? Was there an open call and selection process?
DP: For the most part stories were selected from an open call, and some really extraordinary stories came in this way. I was pleased to encounter stories by authors whose work I was familiar with, and others who were completely new to me. I also solicited a few stories by authors whose visions I knew were in keeping with my own for this specific project. Once all the stories were in I made my selections, keeping an eye for certain themes and approaches I wanted to see represented.
AA: Without giving spoilers, what interesting things will readers find along the way?
DP: I’ll actually use part of the back cover for this!
Experience steam-powered buffalo women roaming the plains; join extraordinary men and women striking out on their own or striving to build communities; marvel as giant rampaging spirits are thwarted by a miniscule timepiece; cringe when a great clock chimes and the Seven O’Clock Man appears to terrorize a village in Quebec; witness a Maritime scientist develop a deadly weapon that could change the course of the American Civil War.
In addition to these, readers will encounter steampunk superheroes, terrifying creatures in the wilderness, artificial beasts, mechanical appendages, and, of course, airships.
AA: All of those are interesting things to grab once’s attention. Are there any objects or things which play a major role in telling a story?
DP: This is steampunk, so, absolutely! All manner of unusual devices play pivotal roles in the stories. These include things like: a life-detecting timepiece; a mechanical lion; steam-powered buffalo women; and an intricate contraption used by spiritualists to contact the dead, amongst many others.
AA: Any key historical figures or events?
DP: Yes! Three stories deal specifically with historical events and individuals. Terri Favro’s “Let Slip the Sluicegates of War, Hydro-Girl” reimagines both the heroine Laura Secord and General Isaac Brock in an alternate version of the War of 1812 where the conflict endured until the turn of the century. Kate Story gives us a haunted Sir Sandford Fleming, the famous surveyor and railway engineer, as he struggles to complete the first survey of Newfoundland using a mounted, spider-like theodolite. And finally, Rati Mehrotra reimagines the Komagata Maru incident in British Colombia, where Gurdit Singh and a boatload of his people were denied entry into Canada in 1914.
We’ll break here in talking with Dominik.
Join us next time when he talks about some of the stories in the anthology and initial feedback.
You can support Dominik and our community by getting your copy of Clockwork Canada here.