Read part one here.
Airship Ambassador: What are some of the ideas presented about Alternate Canadas which you are really glad to see in the book?
Dominik Parisien: I was particularly pleased to see a representation of aboriginal steampunk in Charlotte Ashley’s “La Clochemar”, where the dominant culture is Anishinaabe with European influences. I was hoping to see interesting representations of Canada in which aboriginal and European interactions took a different turn, and Charlotte delivered with a thoughtful alternate history story combined with pulpy adventure.
Kate Heartfield’s story “The Seven O’Clock Man” is also one which I was very glad to include, in part because it takes a myth with which I grew up, the titular Seven O’Clock Man who is essentially the French Canadian boogeyman, and brings him to life. Using mechanical and magical elements, Kate gives flesh to a myth that perfectly illustrates the horrifying historical subjugation of members of the aboriginal population. The contrast between these two stories is valuable, I feel, because both explore indigenous characters and cultures in Canada in vastly different ways.
In addition to these, I was pleased to see radically different representations of Canada, such as Terri’s aforementioned story “Let Slip…” which showcases a Canada where technology and religion are one and the same. Her worldbuilding perfectly weds existing history with radically different politics and religion derived from the technological nature of her world, and this results in a Canada that really highlights a steampunk world.
AA: There’s only so much room for so many stories, and the ones above sound pretty interesting – how many more stories were there which just couldn’t be squeezed into the final book?
DP: That’s always a question difficult answer. I rejected a number of truly excellent stories, some because they weren’t quite a fit with the project, others because they were simply too similar to another story I was publishing, and others yet because they were too long. There were at least 3-4 stories I would have liked to publish, but for X reason they just couldn’t make it in.
AA: Any plans for a sequel?
DP: Not at this time. If there was sufficient interest I might consider a sequel, but in general I feel like the book accomplished what it set out to do. I’m also working on a few other projects and I wouldn’t want to do a follow-up just yet.
AA: As editor, did you have to be very selective to have a balance of the stories?
DP: As selective as any editor, really. You want a balance in terms of length, style, subject matter, etc. That means turning down some very fine stories that may be too long or similar to others. One thing that did have a certain influence was geography: geographical representation was important to me, so I tried to select stories set in multiple provinces, by authors hailing from different parts of the country. We have an author based in the Yukon writing a Yukon story, a writer originally from Newfoundland writing a Newfoundland story, two authors based in the Maritimes with stories set in the Maritimes, others from the West Coast, the Prairies, Central Canada, etc. Striking a balance in terms of geographical representation meant that in some cases I turned down good stories when I had too many tales set in the same area. In order to give a good portrait of Canada it felt important to me to showcase different regions and perspectives.
AA: What is some of the early feedback which you’ve heard about?
DP: The book received two really lovely blurbs from Hugo, World Fantasy, and British Fantasy award winning editor Ann VanderMeer and World Fantasy Award-winning author Helen Marshall. Ann said the book gives readers “a wonderful new way to look at not just Steampunk, but also some of the best new Canadian fiction being written. Full of adventure, surprise, unusual inventions and, of course, steam; this anthology will make you remember why you fell in love with Steampunk in the first place.”
And Helen wrote that “This is Canadian fiction like you’ve never seen it before: a buzzing, crackling, supercharged assemblage of thrills and derring-do, secret histories, incredible machines and fantastical creatures. Prepare yourself for a wild ride through a landscape that’s somehow recognizable and utterly, gloriously strange.”
I’ve also been told that some positive reviews will be appearing online shortly. So far the general response has been positive and people appear very receptive to the Canadian angle and the broad approach the book takes with steampunk.
AA: As the editor, what was your publishing experience like for Clockwork Canada?
DP: While working on Clockwork Canada I was also co-editing another anthology, The Starlit Wood: New Fairy Tales with Navah Wolfe, and the contrast between the two was interesting. Exile Editions receives government publishing grants, and one of the conditions is that 90% of the material comes from Canadian authors, and that 90% of the overall material must be original to the anthology. Those kind of parameters made the experience very different.
For example, there was a great story that I was hoping to reprint, but the story was so long it would have exceeded the allowable word count for reprint material. As I mentioned earlier, most of the material came from the open call. For Starlit Wood, all of the stories were solicited, so that creates a different dynamic. Starlit Wood is also being published by Saga Press, a division of Simon & Schuster which is a very large publisher, whereas Exile Editions is a Canadian small press. That necessarily means the scale is quite different (print run, budget, management, etc). Because of Exile’s smaller size, working on Clockwork Canada was also much more hands-on in terms of cover selection, contacting reviewers, working on the marketing, etc.
We’ll break here in talking with Dominik.
Join us next time when he talks about the process of creating the anthology and the writing process.
You can support Dominik and our community by getting your copy of Clockwork Canada here.