Nalo Hopkinson is one of the most acclaimed science fiction and fantasy writers of our time. The Routledge Companion to Literature and Science calls her a luminary in the science fiction community. Her Afritopian career began with the late 20th Century breakout novel Brown Girl in the Ring, a dystopian science fiction adventure set in near-future Toronto featuring an African-Canadian heroine and the gods of Nigeria, Benin, and the Caribbean.
Hopkinson's career has ascended through books such as Skin Folk, Sister Mine, The New Moon’s Arms, and many more. She’s also a professor of Creative Writing at the University of California Riverside in the only dedicated SF writing programme anywhere in the English-speaking world.
Recently Hopkinson added another accomplishment to her dazzling career, as a comic book writer in Neil Gaiman’s DC-Vertigo Sandman universe on the series House of Whispers with artist Dominike Stanton. I knew that writing comics, with their extreme economy of words, was a special challenge for novelists, who revel in the luxury of whatever word-count they choose.
So I spoke by web video with Hopkinson on December 23, 2018, and we discussed:
For many Africans, comics were an excellent entertainment of our childhoods, but we still had to face that most comics creators pretended that we didn’t exist at all. The comics universes were places we could dream of visiting, but the on-page demographics made it clear we couldn’t become citizens.
Yet over time, North American culture has increasingly embraced being universal, so that Marvel and DC have added or enhanced numerous African characters, as well as Indigenous, Latin American, and Asian characters. But even though the Big Two have featured more African characters and hired more African creators, there still aren’t many of us on the inside and we don’t answer to African editors or publishers, so we still don’t control the fates of characters who look like us.
But thanks to creators and indie publishers such as Kelvin Nyeusi Mawazo, that’s changing. Mawazo is the creator of Black Sun, a science fiction-adventure series set in the futuristic world of Alkebulan, about an heroic group of people struggling to liberate their world from a devastating invading armada. The comics are amazing, and fans are loving them.
One production aspect of the comic that seems almost science fictional itself is that Mawazo doesn’t use pencils, pens, ink, or even paper to create the comic. Instead, he uses 3D digital models to create the art entirely inside his computer, and finishes the work in Photoshop. Since I’m producing a graphic novel myself using a similar approach, I was eager to find out how he does what he does. And fortunately, he’s posted video tutorials right on his website BlackSunComics.com.
I spoke with Kelvin Mawazo by web video on December 30, 2018. We discussed:
Along the way, Mawazo refers to PSDs, or Photoshop files, and I refer to rendering, which is the digital process of turn posed, virtual 3D objects into completed 2D images—kind of like taking and developing an old-fashioned photograph.
Daniel José Older probably saved lives working for a decade as a paramedic, but I’m sure he has elevated plenty of souls as a novelist.
He wrote the YA historical fantasy series Dactyl Hill Squad, which made him a New York Times bestselling author. He’s also penned the Bone Street Rumba urban fantasy series, Star Wars: Last Shot, and the award-winning YA series the Shadowshaper Cypher. That won him the International Latino Book Award and was shortlisted for the Kirkus Prize in Young Readers’ Literature, the Andre Norton Award, the Locus, and the Mythopoeic Award. Esquire put it on their “80 Books Every Person Should Read” list. He’s also a musician, and you can catch his music at danieljoseolder.net.
Years ago I needed some career advice and even though we’d never met, I emailed Older, and he immediately made time to speak with me by phone. Since then it was clear to me he was a righteous cat. So it was a real pleasure to speak with him by web video on December 23, 2018. We discussed:
Doug Drexler is an absolutely amazing artist in the magic of making movies and television. If you’re like me and grew up watching US science fiction and fantasy movies and TV, then you’ve definitely seen the make-up work of Doug Drexler in films such as The Hunger, Starman, Dick Tracy, and Star Trek: The Next Generation—he was the artist responsible for creating the decades-older Jean-Luc Picard in the classic episode “The Inner Light.” But even if you didn’t watch science fiction and fantasy, you probably saw his work in Manhunter, Liberace, Fatal Attraction, Three Men and a Little Lady, or The Cotton Club.
But unlike plenty of professionals who achieve expertise in their fields, Drexler chose to expand his range of excellence into other fields, thus ensuring his career longevity throughout changes in technology. He became a designer on shows including Deep Space Nine and Enterprise, and the movies Star Trek: Generations, First Contact, and Insurrection.
Then he went to work in visual effects, helping to create movies such as Starship Troopers and Defiance, and the TV series including Star Trek: Voyager, Battlestar Galactica, and Caprica, the pilot movie Virtuality, the Galactica web series Blood and Chrome, and the remastered director’s edition of Star Trek: The Motion Picture.
Drexler’s outstanding work won him a BAFTA, a Saturn Award, and an Oscar for Dick Tracy, two Emmy nominations for The Next Generation, and two Emmy Awards and a Visual Effects Society Award for Battlestar: Galactica.
Doug Drexler spoke with me by web video on December 21, 2018. We discussed:
LINKS THAT DOUG DREXLER HIMSELF PROVIDED:
Noam Chomsky is a pioneering linguist and political analyst who has been called the most important intellectual alive. He’s spent decades documenting the crimes of US imperialism and corporate power, and how the US government and corporate media engage in propaganda that he compares with totalitarianism. He risked prison in the 1970s by working with Daniel Ellsberg to release the Pentagon Papers, a document trove exposing massive US crimes in Southeast Asia that at least three US presidents had lied about or covered up.
He’s the author of more than 150 books on linguistics and politics. His latest release is Optimism Over Despair: On Capitalism, Empire, and Social Change.
I’ve been interviewing people a long time, but the first major interview I secured was through CJSR FM radio in Edmonton, and it was with Noam Chomsky back in 1993. To be completely honest I was extremely anxious. Like plenty of people in my circles I revered Chomsky for his accomplishments and his relentlessness. I was so nervous that when he answered my telephone call and asked me how much time I needed, I couldn’t bring myself to say “an hour,” so he kindly just offered an hour.
To put that in perspective, I some times struggle to get minor celebrities and authors no one has ever heard of to give a few minutes to help me promote their work. Chomsky, one of the most-interviewed scholars alive and one of the most quoted in history, had nothing to gain for himself by giving me an hour. I’ll always be grateful for his generosity.
When we spoke by telephone twenty-six years ago, we discussed:
The world has changed in uncountable ways in the twenty-six years since Noam Chomsky and I spoke by telephone. So, a few reminders about the changes, and some expressions:
Many Americans assumed that following the one-term presidency of George H.W. Bush, the US would become a less violent superpower. But even after the first US-Iraq War of 1990 to 1991, the US continued to bomb Iraq regularly to enforce its aerial occupation. Under Clinton the US attacked Somalia, waged war in the former Yugoslavia, invaded Haiti, and bombed Sudan and Afghanistan. But as Chomsky notes, these attacks were not in the style of its war against Vietnam.
The term “propaganda model” as created by Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman is the analysis of how corporate media works: through concentration of ownership among the super-wealthy, being subordinate to wealthy advertisers, and relying on government and corporate mouthpieces to present their claims about society to the exclusion of almost all voices that challenge US government and corporate power systemically.
“Intervention” means assassination, bombing, invasion, overthrowing governments, and even reducing countries to slavery, as France, the US, Canada, and others did to Libya when Barack Obama was the US president.
Chomsky also cited an earlier US attack against Libya, the 1986 US bombing code-named Operation El Dorado Canyon. Mobutu refers to Mobutu Sese Seko, the Western-backed dictator of Zaire, which is now the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Finally, I posed a question to Chomsky in which I said that because US invasions were declining, there would not likely be a case in which the US was overstretched due to fighting three simultaneous wars, or what Che Guevara called “three Vietnams,” but I hadn’t anticipated that under a then-unimaginable Obama presidency, the US would be engaged in five simultaneous wars and imperial occupation wars in 2011: against Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, and Somalia.
I apologise for whistling feedback during first 2 minutes; after that, the audio is pretty good, especially considering the technology we had in 1993.
Years ago I was working on a book about HBO’s police drama and social realistic epic The Wire as created by David Simon and Ed Burns. Through a range of ways, including the help of a friend, I got electronically introduced to a number of people who made the series as creators, writers, directors, and actors.
They were a remarkable group, and while for a range of reasons I had to put the book on hold, I have had the chance to share some of those interviews over the years; if you check the MF Galaxy archive, you can find my conversations with Sonja Sohn who played Kima Greggs, with Wendell Pierce who played Bunk Moreland, with director Ernest Dickerson, and with writer-director Joy Lusco-Kecken. There are still around a dozen more interviews that no one has heard but me.
Yet of all the ones I did, I think the most fascinating for me was with actor Robert Wisdom who played Baltimore City Police Department Major Bunny Colvin in Season 3 and then the same character but as a school consultant in Season 4. Interestingly enough Wisdom had auditioned for the role of Stringer Bell, a role that went to Idris Elba; but Wisdom was so piercing and iconic it’s now impossible to imagine him in any other role in The Wire.
Of course, as a flexible and superb performer, he’s occupied many other roles, including in Barbershop 2, Prison Break, Supernatural, Happy Town, Burn Notice, The Dark Knight, and Freedom Writers. He was also once a producer for All Things Considered which ran on the US network National Public Radio.
For me the most remarkable aspect of speaking with Wisdom was the depth and breadth of his analysis. I’ve interviewed many actors over the years, and while a few rose to Wisdom’s level of intellectualism, none ever discussed so many characters and situations that were not centered around their own work. That curiosity and generosity in sharing the spotlight was, in my experience, unique, refreshing, and instructive about the type of man he was and is.
We spoke by telephone on April 6 and 13, 2008, during the US election race between Barack Obama and John McCain, a race that affected all the interviews I did for that unfinished book on The Wire. We discussed:
I first met Tate Young back around 2004 when we were both giving readings at a local indie book store. We both had pseudonyms, we both had shaved heads, and we both produced often shocking writing, so we hit it off immediately.
Three years after that he was helming a literary game show called The 3-Day Novel Contest for which he invited me to be one the “celebrity” judges. The show was amazing. We even did a second season before he went to become a movie director and editor best known for the indie science fiction and fantasy features Haphead, Ghosts with Shit Jobs, and the recent short film Timebox, which he also wrote. And he did all this without going to film school.
I wanted to ask Young to explain how to make great indie films while treating cast and crew with respect, so he spoke with me by web video from his home in Toronto on October 31, 2018. We discussed:
Lyda Morehouse is pretty terrific. We first met at NorWesCon in Seattle when we were both finalists for the Philip K. Dick Award. She was totally down-to-earth, fun, funny, and welcoming. She was also an extremely accomplished author who by now has written at least twelve books, including the cyberpunk Archangel Protocol series, and under her pen-name Tate Hallaway, the Vampire Princess of St. Paul series.
Like most authors, Morehouse has had career lows and not just highs. But unlike most authors, she’s always been open about those difficult journeys through the valley of print. That’s the kind of generosity with vulnerability that makes it possible for other people to learn, and it makes me respect her all the more.
Lyda Morehouse spoke with me by web video on October 23, 2018. We discussed:
So you want to write mystery fiction, crime fiction, or detective fiction, but your characters don’t crackle, your plots don’t pop, and your mysteries don’t sizzle. What should you do? How’re you going make readers keep turning those pages?
You need to listen to mystery writer S.G. Wong.
Oh, there are other writers, right here in E-Town, who are admirable. We’ve got them in every form and genre, and they do amazing work. But there’s only a handful of people I know who are a combo of outstanding craft, outstanding teaching, and outstanding organising for the writing community. And standing tall inside that select group is S.G. Wong, the creator of the Lola Starke mystery novels featuring a hard-boiled but beautiful detective, a carefully-constructed alternate Earth in which the Chinese colonised what we know as Los Angeles to build Crescent City, and a crackling mixture of magic and ghosts.
Such imagination has gotten SG Wong shortlisted for the Arthur Ellis Awards in the Best First Novel and Best Short Story categories. Maybe speaking four languages is an asset to thinking widely and wildly. Wong is a member of the Writers’ Guild of Alberta and Sisters in Crime (National), and Past President of the Sisters in Crime—Canada West chapter. She’s organised numerous writer events, and taught and spoken more places than I can mention.
Recently SG Wong taught a Canadian Authors Association (Alberta Branch) workshop on crime fiction; she taught plotting, while EC Bell taught researching, and Jane Bernard taught creating voice. Wong and I spoke by web video on October 22, 2018, and we discussed:
If memory serves, I’ve known Craig DiLouie since 2008, and he immediately struck me as an artist with a gravitic commitment to the craft, business, and community of writers. I saw him giving a book trailer-making workshop at the World Fantasy Convention, held that year in Calgary, and right after that I checked his amazing videos, and later devoured his gripping, terrifying zombie novel The Infection.
DiLouie is the author of a whopping eighteen novels including One of Us, the Crash Dive series, Suffer the Children, and The Great Planet Robbery. His books cross numerous genres including horror, apocalypse, zombie, science fiction, fantasy, historical, and military fiction; his work has been translated into multiple languages and been nominated for major awards including the Bram Stoker and the Audie. Because he’s such a heavy-hitter, I always enjoying learn from him about artistic and career development.
So on October 18, 2018, DiLouie spoke with me by web video from his home in Calgary. We discussed:
John Jennings is an amazing cat. He’s a designer, illustrator, writer, and lecturer at Eye Trauma Comix. He’s the artist and co-adapter, with Damian Duffy, of the celebrated hit Kindred based on the novel by Octavia Butler. His other works include I Am Alfonso Jones, Black Kirby: In Search of the Motherboxx Connection, Blue Hand Mojo, The Blacker the Ink, and Artists Against Police Brutality. With Damian Duffy, he’s the co-editor of the celebrated showcases Black Comix and Black Comix Returns.
Jennings is also a professor of Media and Cultural Studies at the University of California at Riverside, the same institution where Afritopian trailblazer Nalo Hopkinson teaches in the department of Creative Writing.
And now, because of Jennings’ mega-success with Kindred, he’s starting a whole new career as the founding freelance editor for the Abrams graphic novel imprint Megascope. Megascope will feature works by creators of African, Indigenous, Latin American, Asian, and Oceanic backgrounds, with a special on focus on Africentric stories.
John Jennings spoke with me by web video on October 9, 2018. We discussed:
Alternative Radio is a concept, sure, but it’s also the name of a long-running talk-radio show that in Edmonton airs on CJSR FM88 and also runs around the world. It’s a weekly hour of speeches by and interviews with progressive organisers, thinkers, artists, and history-makers that corporate media almost entirely ignores. In these dangerous times, few hours on radio or the web will inform you as effectively as Alternative Radio about who’s making the world worse—and how they’re doing it.
Alternative Radio show has been running for more than 32 years, and the man behind it is David Barsamian. He altered the independent media landscape with his radio show and with his books featuring his interviews with Noam Chomsky, Eqbal Ahmad, Howard Zinn, Tariq Ali, Arundhati Roy, and Edward Said.
I spoke by telephone with David Barsmanian on February 25, 2012, just ahead of a speech he was to deliver at the Stanley Milner Library Theatre. As you’re listening to Barsamian list a vast number of US atrocities and the hundreds of military bases around the world that are the muscle of its violent global rule, remember that he’s speaking with me in 2012 while Barack Obama was US president. That’s my way of encouraging you to remember that no matter how evil and deranged Team Trump is, they are not the exception to US power, and that while US Democrats and Republicans rule differently at home on key issues, when it comes to global violence, their victims would have a difficult time telling them apart.
A few months before we spoke, the government of India deported Barsamian for his reporting on Kashmir and other revolts. In our conversation he discusses the sorry state of corporate journalism, the global economic crisis, and rebellions against it.
I’m a lifelong Albertan, and let me tell you, things are always crazy in my home province. We’ve usually had political dynasties that lasted decades each. The last one was the rule of the Progressive Conservatives, and it lasted more than 40 years.
In 2015 we finally elected the New Democratic Party, the somewhat social-democratic, increasingly centrist party that has delivered on plenty of its social-democratic promises but enraged its environmentalist base and many but not all First Nations supporters by pushing for new pipelines and getting into protracted verbal battles with the NDP government in British Columbia and promising to exit the federal government’s climate change plan.
And while all that’s happening, the two major right-wing parties in the province have transmogrified into a single, ultra-right-wing entity called the United Conservative Party or UCP, and to make things absolutely clear, many of its candidates are calling for the destruction of public medicare, and many members are connected with White nationalist media and White extremist movements.
To talk about Alberta politics on MF GALAXY, once a year I sit down with David Climenhaga, the “award-winning journalist, author, post-secondary teacher, poet, and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions at the Toronto Globe and Mail and Calgary Herald. He holds a Master’s Degree in Journalism from the Carleton University School of Journalism in Ottawa. His 1995 book, A Poke in the Public Eye, explores the relationships among Canadian journalists, public relations people and politicians.” Climenhaga blogs at AlbertaPolitics.ca.
Climenhaga and I met to talk about:
Keynote speech excerpts from The Good Fight 2018 Counter-Fascism Training Conference in Edmonton. Speeches by...
Daryle Lamont Jenkins, one of the founders of the antifascist organisation One People’s Project, is a former US Air Force man who's spent a lifetime fighting American neo-nazis, and was a pioneer of the early internet with innovative online tactics to fight Whitesupremacists. Today, in service of his cause he speaks across the United States. Liberal and conservative journalists try to smear him; Nazis try to fight him in the courts and lose.
Why do they fear him? Because he exposes the Nazis who are hiding in plain sight by investigating them and revealing their nazi identity to the world. But he also helps those people who want to leave the nazi movement. He fearlessly steps up to fascists such as Richard Spencer and Matthew Heimbach and simply mocks them, and even got Spencer thrown out of CPAC, the Conservative Political Affairs Conference which was teeming with Spencer's own fanatics.
Barbara Perry is Professor and Associate Dean of Social Science and Humanities at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology. She has written extensively on hate crime, including several books on the topic, among them In the Name of Hate: Understanding Hate Crime; and Hate and Bias Crime: A Reader.
She has also published in the area of Native American victimization and social control, including one book entitled The Silent Victims: Native American Victims of Hate Crime, based on interviews with Native Americans (University of Arizona Press). She has also written a related book on policing Native American communities Policing Race and Place: Under- and Over-enforcement in Indian Country (Lexington Press). She was the General Editor of a five volume set on hate crime (Praeger), and editor of Volume 3: Victims of Hate Crime of that set. Dr. Perry continues to work in the area of hate crime, and has begun to make contributions to the limited scholarship on hate crime in Canada.
Most recently, she has contributed to a scholarly understanding of anti-Muslim violence, hate crime against LGBTQ communities, and the community impacts of hate crime.
Dan David is Mohawk, Bear Clan, based at Kanehsatake Mohawk Territory, near Oka, Quebec.
After graduating high school, he was turned away from journalism school by Indian Affairs. He spent the next ten years as a construction labourer, a garbageman, and a printer at one of the first Indigenous community colleges in central Quebec, followed by a stint as a civil servant in Ottawa after the federal government closed the college.
Dan jumped at the chance to leave Ottawa to attend the Program in Journalism for Native Peoples at Western, an intensive one-year diploma course. After graduating top of his class, CBC recruited him for a stint in Whitehorse. After returning south, the CBC picked him up again for the its "Visible Minorities Program" meant to bring diversity to its newsrooms across Canada.
This led to him becoming one of a handful of CBC trainers invited by South African journalists to help them transform the South African Broadcasting Corporation from a state-controlled propagandist into an independent public broadcaster before their first-ever democratic elections in 1994.
Dan went back and forth for the next 7 years, working as a producer at TVOntario and Vision-TV before accepting a job at Ryerson University as the first ever Chair of Diversity at any school of journalism in Canada. Back in South Africa, he became the first ever Mohawk to be head of TV training at the Institute for the Advancement of Journalism in Johannesburg, South Africa. Dan's trained TV producers and reporters across Canada, Indonesia, and Azerbaijan.
He's earned two National Magazine awards writing about his home community before, during and after the 1990 Oka Crisis.
He's been working too long on a book about his home community, past, present and future. Soon, he plans to launch a literary journalism web site for Indigenous writers and journalists.
Join The Good Fight
In Canada, the threat posed by fascist, Whitesupremacist, and similar extremist groups is real, and growing.
The proudly Islamophobic Soldiers of Odin are active right here in Edmonton, and even the right-wing Daily Mail newspaper in England describes as them a neo-nazi group. The Proud Boys are also on the march, and the Southern Poverty Law Centre in the United States names them as a hate group. And then there are the Three Percenters, the Ku Klux Klan, and many others like them, supported by extremist Canadian media and aligned with one major federal party.
Alarmed by the rise of fascism in our midst, especially after the election of US president Donald Trump and the Nazi march and terrorist murder in Charlottesville, a group of Edmontonians banded together to produce this weekend’s training conference THE GOOD FIGHT.
Unlike far too many rallies, marches, and speeches which lack a specific agenda and any clear and measurable goals, The Good Fight brings together top national and international trainers to instruct participants in proven, peak-performance, innovative, and nonviolent methods to counter fascism and build justice.
Trainers include journalist Daniel David, counter-fascist investigator Daryle Lamont Jenkins who’s been a guest on MF GALAXY before, and Canada's leading hate crimes researcher, Barbara Perry.
She’s a Professor and Associate Dean of Social Science and Humanities at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, and is the author of In the Name of Hate: Understanding Hate Crime; and Hate and Bias Crime: A Reader, among others.
I spoke by telephone with Barbara Perry on September 11, 2018, and we discussed:
If you’d like to attend The Good Fight this weekend in Edmonton, September 14 – 16, 2018, register here. It’s pay what you can, so if you want to go, go! And if you want to donate, hit the donate button!
Today, the day I’m recording this, is August 14, 2018. Spike Lee’s movie Black Klansmen is new in theatres, released to coincide with the one-year anniversary of the neo-Nazi march on Charlottesville in which one Nazi terrorist used his car to kill anti-fascist activist Heather Heyer.
The nazis who marched, the same people who accuse humans with compassion of being “snowflakes,” brought their hateful temper tantrum to Charlottesville because they opposed the removal of monuments in honour of those who used violence to defend the racist colonial dictatorship that presided over a continent-wide rape gulag.
Those nazis said they were simply honouring their culture, the culture of the American South. But if they truly wanted to honour southern heroes, they could easily have honoured Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Francis Ellen Watkins Harper, Maria W. Stewart, Charles Osborn, or any of the 106 anti-slavery societies in the US South. But these people don’t honour history. They honour racial supremacy and genocide.
On August 12, 2018, just two days ago, US nazis marched on Washington to celebrate the anniversary of murdering Heather Heyer. The man who convened last year’s riot and this year’s event was Jason Kessler (whose own father denounced yelled at him to "Get out of my room!" during a livestream because the 34-year-old Aryan warrior had moved back home with his folks). Yet with a full year to prepare, they could muster only two dozen Whitesupremacists, according to The Atlantic. Black Lives Matter, anti-fascist, and other demonstrators vastly outnumbered them. According to The Atlantic, media alone outnumbered the nazis three to one.
But don’t be fooled. Just because their rally fizzled, their movement isn’t doomed. After all, White identity extremists hold power at every level of the US economy, military, media, educational system, and political structure, right up to the Oval Office. Those who ignore their power and their growth are doomed to follow in the train tracks of victims of Nazis past.
Enter Mike Stuchbery. He’s a Twitter commentator, popular historian, writer, and broadcaster based in Luton, England. He uses history and humour to challenge fascists online, delving into topics from Africans in Ancient Rome to George Orwell and why so many right-wingers love to claim that the Nazis of Germany were socialists, despite their deadly attacks on unionists, socialists, and communists in defense of Germany’s wealthiest people and corporations.
Mike Stuchbery spoke with me on April 13, 2018 by web video from his home in Luton. We discussed:
Just before I asked my first question, Stuchbery told me that while he was born in Australia, he’s lived in England and for a while lived in Germany, raising intriguing questions for me about his motivation for risking so much online to define what fascism is, and what it isn’t.
If you’re an artist, it’s almost a guarantee you’ve experienced the difficulty of getting your work noticed. No matter how much you care, it seems too many other people just don’t. Being ignored that way is always frustrating, but it’s worse when it’s in your hometown, and even more so when you’ve worked to promote the work of other artists around you and even get them work.
That’s been the experience of Matt Alden Dykes. He’s an outstanding actor and improvisor, with decades on the job, and he’s also an executive producer, writer, and actor on the sketch comedy show Caution: May Contain Nuts. And if that weren’t enough, he’s worked on the TV shows Tiny Plastic Men and Delmer & Marta, and is a long-time member of Edmonton’s Rapid Fire Theatre, the live improvised soap opera Die-Nasty, and the comedy troupe Blacklisted.
On May 1, 2018, we met at Simply Done Café in Edmonton’s Gallery District and discussed:
Cautiontv.com – Matt Alden
I taught junior high and high school English in Edmonton for a decade. I loved it; the job was demanding, but getting to know so many remarkable young people was a joy, and poring over stories, poems, and plays with them and exploring how to write about them and create their own was a blessing.
That being said, I was trained in a specific mode that hasn’t changed much in a long time. When I left public school teaching more than a decade ago, my distance from the classroom made me more capable of seeing my previous blindspots and the deficiencies of a traditional classroom.
In my experience since then, the most electrifying development in education has been gamification. You can find plenty of internet articles telling you why it’s a bad idea, claiming it amounts to bribing kids. Those people clearly don’t know what gamification is or can be, especially in the context of fantasy role playing games. It’s not simply handing out prizes for completion of tasks kids don’t care about—many parents and teachers have been doing that for ages even though research proves that doing so decreases enjoyment of the rewarded task.
Gamification is applying the process of games—what makes them fun, engaging, and addictive—to the experience of learning. Add in the aesthetics and imaginative story worlds and characters of role-play games, and you can create an immersive learning adventure that kids can’t wait to re-engage and which gives them reasons to learn content and skills that might otherwise bore them into failure. Gaming is a core human drive. While some other life forms play, we’re the only ones who make games, and we do so in every culture. Why not harness that essential drive?
To discuss how to gamify your classroom to help students learn more and love learning, I spoke with Scott Hebert. He’s the author of Press Play to Begin, a manual for teachers on how to implement game principles into their classes. He teaches at Our Lady of Angels in Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta, north-east of Edmonton. The Alberta Excellence in Teaching Awards named him a Top 20 Teacher in Alberta in 2013, and the World Gamification Congress honoured his work with its Best Gamification in Education Project Award in 2015. His website, mrhebert.org, contains videos and articles on gamification, and a link to buy Press Start to Begin.
We spoke by web video on May 22, 2018. We discussed:
So many people dream of being a children’s author, yet few take the plunge. Of those who do, far fewer decide the way to go is writing about a Muslim Somali girl and her family. Of the remainder, how many get national newspaper and CBC radio coverage? To my knowledge, only one, and she’s my guest today for the amazing success of her debut book, Muhiima’s Quest.
Rahma Rodaah came to Canada with her family from Somalia when she was eight years old. She’s lived in Quebec and Ottawa, and she now lives in Edmonton. Her path to children’s authorship was far from obvious: her degree is in international business, and she works for the Government of Alberta’s Ministry of Community and Social Services in Social Work and Income Support. While she grew up loving Anne of Green Gables, after she became a mother she grew concerned that most images aimed at girls pushed European standards of beauty, and no stories she could find embraced either her Somali heritage or Islamic faith. And taking a page from her business education, she saw a need and decided to fill that need herself.
The result was Muhiima’s Quest, illustrated by Daria Horb, the indie-published story about ten-year-old Muhiima and her delightful birthday bicycle adventure of self-discovery. After coverage on Omni TV’s Somali programme, the story of Muhiima’s Quest went national in the pages of the Toronto Star. Now a traditional publisher is courting Rodaah, and her second book, Little Brother for Sale, is already complete and just about to debut.
I spoke with Rahma Rodaah on June 26, 2018 at Simply Done Café in Edmonton’s Gallery District. We discussed:
African-Canadian Children’s Authors + Illustrators
Many people dream of making independent movies. I know I did. Back in the late 1980s and early 1990s I was so inspired by Spike Lee that I read all of his “making of” books and in 1995 wrote a screenplay called The Coyote Kings for which I actually shot some test scenes with a group of friends in 1997. Of course, it didn’t go anywhere.
But some people don’t stop at obstacles the way I did. They go around them or climb over them. Angie Zimaro is an Edmonton-based filmmaker went to film school at NAIT, the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology. She wrote and produced the post-apocalyptic indie film Dr. Plague.
Shot on location in Sherwood Park, Alberta and directed by her film school classmate Nathaniel Goselwitz, the film stars Edmonton Oilers and Montreal Canadiens legend Georges Laraque, and it won a Bronze Remi at WorldFest-Houston International Film & Video Festival 2018. Quite an achievement for a debut film!
On June 15 I met sat with Zimaro at the Simply Done Café in Edmonton’s gallery district to talk about making an award-winning debut short film. We also discussed:
While it’s known by a range of names, Africentric science fiction and fantasy imagines Africans exploring and changing the universe with technology, science, and mystical means in the past, present, and future. Artists employing Africentric science fiction and fantasy, or what I call Afritopianism, work in literature, film, music, comics, fashion, video games, and more.
Recently in the US, two academics, Reynaldo Anderson and John Jennings, convened convention/art shows called the Black Speculative Arts Movement. Their only non-American participant at any early event was my guest today, the African-Canadian visual artist Quentin Babatunde Vercetty.
The Montreal-based VerCetty is an award winning visual storyteller, art educator, and graduate of the Ontario College of Art and Design University; his Afritopian work engages immigration, decolonization, and “the lack of what he calls PDAA (Public display of Appreciation for Africa(ns).” His work has thrilled viewers around the world, including in places such as Mexico, Haiti, Peru, Australia, the United Arab Emirates, and Germany. He’s the founder of the Canadian chapter of the Black Speculative Arts Movement, and he’s been working to bring BSAM shows across the country.
VerCetty spoke with me by web video on May 7, 2018. We discussed:
We began by discussing his own strong identification with the African continent and its civilisations, and how that identification directly relates to his Afritopianism.
There is an infinite number of ways not to have a successful writing career, but not that many ways to have one. You can write your own original novels and if you’re in the luckiest one percent, you’ll find editors who understand and love what you’re doing, and who work with publicists who know how to promote your work with opinion-leaders who’ll also love your work. Your publisher will work with distributors who’ll get your books into the bookstores where staff hand-sell your work. If you’re less lucky, you’ll end up like 98 percent of writers, whose books get a sliver of shelf-space for three months and die in the discount bin or get pulped.
But there’s another lucky one percent. And when I say lucky, I don’t mean they’re not hard-working, because as you’re about to hear from today’s guest, hard-working in this case could mean writing six books in one year, and one book in eleven days. And by lucky, I also don’t mean devoid of skill and artistry, because today’s guest has won numerous awards proving he has the respect of fans and his peers.
No, by lucky, I mean getting asked to enter the world of writing other people’s characters from movies, comics, or video games in new novels, or existing comics, video games, or table top games. Insiders call it licensed writing; some refer to IPs or intellectual property. For decades fans simply called these works tie-ins. And today’s guest is a master of them.
I met Alex Irvine at San Diego Comic Con 2004 when Del Rey was launching my first novel, The Coyote Kings of the Space-Age Bachelor Pad, and his new book One King, One Soldier had just come out. We hit it off right away. Irvine has worked as a reporter at the Portland Phoenix and as an English professor at the Universities of Denver and Maine.
But he’s written far, far more than I have. If you include trade-paperback collected editions and all his original and tie-in books, he’s released more than thirty. He’s written novels based on Batman, Transformers, Pacific Rim, Supernatural, Tin Tin, Dungeons and Dragons, and Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot, and has written comics for Marvel featuring Iron Man, Damien Hellstrom, and Daredevil. He’s written Alternate Reality Games including The Beast and I Love Bees, and the Facebook game Marvel: Avengers Alliance. His original novels include One King, One Soldier, The Narrows, and the Locus and Crawford-winning A Scattering of Jades.
Alex Irvine spoke with me by web video on May 25, 2018 from his home in Maine. We discussed:
One of my favourite new TV series is the re-imagining of Lost in Space. It’s a great family show with rich characters and relationships, exciting adventures, and amazing depictions of future science discoveries. Plus, it’s got a great spaceship and a mysterious hulking robot. I’m hooked!
So imagine my delight when I’m watching the show and there onscreen is a friend from my old days at CJSR FM-88.5 campus-community radio at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. It’s Veenu Sandhu!
I’d always thought Sandhu was from Edmonton, but it turns out she’s from Dawson Creek, British Columbia. I also had no idea until recently that she’s a longtime fan-girl herself who knows more about Star Trek: Voyager than anyone I’ve ever met. She’s been on the superhero show Arrow, the science-fantasy series Fringe, the ABC dramas Somewhere Between and The Whispers, and in the movies Cop and a Half: New Recruit with Lou Diamond Phillips, and A Dog’s Way Home.
And now on Netflix’s Lost in Space, she plays astronaut Prisha Dhar, mother of young astronaut Vijay and wife of astronaut leader Victor. Once I saw Sandhu on Lost in Space, I knew I’d have to have her on the show. So on May 2, 2018 she spoke with me from her Vancouver home by internet video. We discussed:
Veenu Sandhu also runs workshops for actors seeking to beat audition anxiety. Her next one is in Vancouver on June 13, 2018. The cost is $50. To register, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
All humans face fear and sadness at times, especially when facing the stresses that are common to the human experience: potential job loss, alienation, illness, the death of loved ones, and more. But for some people, fear and sadness are present most or all of them time, and their power is overwhelming. Just five years ago, 3 million Canadians or almost twelve percent of us reported having a mood or anxiety disorder. About the same number will experience diagnosable depression at some point.
And yet for many, the stigma of mental illness is so strong that they can’t even use the phrase. They’ll say, “mental health issues” or “mental health challenges.” Among many new Canadian communities, the shame may be even greater, resulting in denial being number one coping strategy. But denial is no cure, and often makes people worse.
To discuss such problems and the strategies to help them, I recently spoke with Edmonton financial adviser, speaker, and author Odion Welch. She’s the author of Breakthrough: A Courageous True Story of Overcoming Depression and Anxiety. Each chapter of the book addresses a specific mental illness stressor such as familial and romantic relationships, careers, body image, and grief. We met at the Simply Done café in Edmonton’s gallery district on May 4, 2018. We discussed:
Humanity needs books. I don’t mean that everybody loves reading, because clearly that’s not true. But it is true that many of us do love books, not only for the remarkable ideas they make us consider, but for how they lift our morale above the mundanity and the cruelty of the world, and inspire our souls and our intellects to transform our societies for the better.
No genre is more devoted to such inspiration and transformation than science fiction. And that’s why the refusal of the science fiction publishing industry, for generations, to offer a racial, cultural, and gender palette that reflects the true range of humanity has been so galling. It has deprived the majority of the human race the comfort and provocation we seek, and deprived our species of the ingenuity that we would have unleashed had we been so inspired.
Fortunately, the last two decades in particular have seen the beginning of a change, with the rise of African writers winning major sales and the top prizes for science fiction and fantasy writing, and the emergence of my guest’s company, the multiracial SFF publishing house Rosarium.
Based in Washington DC, Rosarium publishes novels, graphic novels, and comics, beginning with the seminal anthology Mothership: Tales from Afrofuturism and Beyond. The house’s writers include Pan Morigan, Nisi Shawl, Sheree Renee Thomas, Maurice Broaddus, Damian Duffy, Jaymee Goh, Ed Hall, and John Jennings, among many others. If you check the MF GALAXY archive, you’ll hear my conversation with one of one of Rosarium’s authors, Eileen Kaur Alden, the writer of the Super Sikh comic.
Bill Campbell spoke with me online on March 03, 2018. We discussed:
Along the way, Campbell mentions “POD,” meaning “print-on-demand,” a system in which writers can get single copies of their books made for as little as a few dollars each, rather than having to pay to print, ship, and store hundreds of books at a time. Campbell also discusses his anthology Mothership and co-editor Ed Hall. In full disclosure, one of my stories is in that anthology.