So many people talk about breaking into comics, New York publishing, or Hollywood, but most of the ones talking haven’t done it, and most of those who’ve done it aren’t talking.
Today’s MF GALAXY features people who can walk the talk and talk the walk, and who are going to give you specific, technical advice and steps to take your writing career forward, such as what magazines and websites you must read, how to manage your social media presence to avoid sabotaging your career, what point in your story to start writing your script, and some surprising realities about mentorship by big-name writers.
All of this episode’s rising-star writer-creators spoke at a panel called The Writers’ Journey at the 2016 San Diego Comic Con, which despite the name is probably the leading TV and movie entertainment convention in the US open to the general public but swarming with professionals.
The panel is moderated by Brandon Easton, a recurring guest on MF GALAXY. He’s a 2015 Disney/ABC Writing Program winner and 2014 Eisner Award nominee who worked on Marvel’s Agent Carter and IDW's M.A.S.K., among many other projects. Panelists include TV producer Geoffrey Thorne of Leverage and The Librarians, TV staff writer Ubah Mohamed of The Whispers, Gang Related, and Cold, and comics writer-creator Brandon Thomas of Skybound’s Horizon and Miranda Mercury.
Many thanks to DeWayne Copeland who recorded the video for this conversation. You can find the complete video online at MFGALAXY.org and a link to Copeland’s work, which includes my MF GALAXY conversation with him about his superhero web TV series CV Nation! And now on MF GALAXY, Brandon Easton, Geoffrey Thorne, Ubah Mohamed, and Brandon Thomas with the Writer’s Journey!
Art and activism—should they be friends? Hanging together like Kirk and Spock, Crockett and Tubbs, or Laverne and Shirley? Or should they be enemies like Luke Cage and Cotton Mouth, Avatar Aang and the Fire Lord, or Donald Trump and most of humanity?
Some people say that art and politics should never mix. Other people say that they always mix—but that people only protest those politics when they disagree with them. So if that’s true, what happens to society when people who define themselves as advocates and activists combine their views and ideas with their novels, paintings, plays, and more?
Those are questions that novelist SG Wong wanted answered. Wong is the inaugural featured writer of Capital City Press, a venture by the Edmonton Public Library. Wong is the creator of the Lola Starke hardboiled detective series set in Crescent City, California, in an alternate history in which China colonised North America. She’s also an Arthur Ellis Award-finalist and a tireless organiser in Edmonton’s literary scene. On March 27, 2017 Wong and the Edmonton Public Library convened a panel to discuss art and activism.
Kristen Hutchinson is an artist, independent curator, art historian, interior designer, and lecturer at the University of Alberta.
Matthew Stepanic is a poet and an editor at the Glass Buffalo and Eighteen Bridges literary journals, at the Tanner Young Publishing Group and at Where Edmonton magazine.
Dawn Marie Marchand is the Indigenous Artist in Residence for the City of Edmonton, and hails from the Cold Lake First Nation.
Aaron Paquette is a novelist, painter, speaker, and former federal candidate for the New Democratic Party
Marty Chan is a playwright, screenwriter, radio humourist, and YA writer.
In this episode of MF Galaxy, they discuss:
Because race-based privilege, power, and exploitation are facts of planetary life, almost any society can be expected to maintain mythologies about race. That mythology includes the belief that those who belong to the racial power structure are superior to those who are excluded from that racial power system. Some of the excluded are deemed intellectually equal or potentially superior, but lacking in physical prowess and, for lack of a better term, “natural rhythm.” But then there are other people excluded by the racial power system, and inside the racial mythology, they are deemed intellectually and morally backward, but physically superior.
The late Dr. Manning Marable, a Professor of History and Political Science and formerly the Director of the Institute for Research in African-American Studies at Columbia University, discussed in a 1991 column called “Racism and the Black Athlete” how the mythology of race affected athletics. He wrote,
“For generations, White athletes who excelled in any sport were described as “hard-working,” “diligent,” “dedicated.” African-Americans who achieved prominence in sports, by contrast, were known as “natural athletes” who did not have to train rigorously for their successes. Joe DiMaggio and Rocky Marciano were applauded by the media for their work ethic; Sonny Liston and Willie Mays were described as “naturally-gifted athletes.”
“The basic racist assumption beneath these statements was that Blacks were “animals,” not human beings. Anyone knows that a horse can outrun any person. A gorilla is more powerful than the strongest weightlifter. To be Black was to be closer to the physical world of beasts. And of course, Whites who displayed physical prowess were said to have achieved these accomplishments by their mental powers.”
“The argument is not only racist, it’s illogical in the extreme. Because in reality, success by any group in any avenue of human endeavour is largely determined by the factors of opportunity, availability of resources, and the levels of individual dedication.
“Why do African-American athletes dominate the NBA, but are virtually unrepresented in the NHL or the Professional Golfers Association? Build 5,000 ice skating rinks and public golf courses in the African-American community and create hundreds of training programs and incentives for Black elementary school children. Believe me, within 20 years you’ll have some Whites writing about the “natural ability” of Blacks in golf and ice hockey!
“Blacks excel in athletics because opportunities are still limited in professional and corporate circles for minorities and women. Expand job access and affirmative action enforcement, and fewer Blacks would go into sports.
“Racial discrimination is still rampant in college athletics. A recently released NCAA study indicates that the graduation rate after five years for Black athletes is only 26.6 percent, compared to 52.2 percent for Whites. More significantly, the vast majority of White athletes drop out of college during their early years, while nearly as many Black athletes leave school in their final years as in their first two. This implies that many coaches and academic officials are more concerned with eligibility rather than the goals of education and graduation, when it comes to Black athletes.”
“The NCAA study also indicated that when African-American and White athletes have the same SAT scores, Blacks graduate from college at higher rates than Whites. This shows that standardized tests are a poor indicator of future academic performance, and that Blacks with lower SAT scores shouldn’t be arbitrarily denied admission to higher education.”
Today we’re going to hear a Canadian’s take on the issue. Dr. Carl E. James
is a professor in the Faculty of Education and director of the York Centre for Education and Community. He’s cross-appointed in the graduate programs in Sociology and Social Work. He researches how marginalised youth experience school, sport, and society. The Royal Society of Canada inducted James as a Fellow, one of the highest honours a Canadian scholar can achieve in the Arts, Humanities, and Sciences.
He’s the author of the book Race in Play: Understanding the Socio-Cultural World of Student Athletes. The book examines the sociology of sport, youth, racism, and education, and how institutions such as public schools shape the career paths and educational future—or failure—of athletes based on race. In December 2005 James was in Edmonton for a conference on anti-racist education. We spoke at CJSR studios about how racism and athletics are tackling African-Canadian students.
A note: During this conversation recorded in December 2005, I remarked that racism against First Nations Canadians meant that they had no paths to sharing in the bounty of multicultural settler Canada. While I meant that as a critique of the settler colonial state of which I am a part, my statement blindly ignored the many First Nations Canadians who achieve excellence and even national and international influence in innumerable fields. We make far more progress not when we simply condemn what’s unjust, but when we by recognise and replicate success.
Marty Chan is one of E-Town’s most successful writers ever. He’s best known for his popular children’s and young adult books including Keepers of the Vault, Infinity Coil, and the award-winning The Mystery of the Frozen Brains. But he’s also a screenwriter who worked on the TV series Jake and the Kid and received a Gemini nomination for his TV pilot The Orange Seed Myth.
Chan's best-known play is the semi-autobiographical Mom, Dad, I’m Living With a White Girl, about the culture clash of being a Chinese-Canadian finding work and love in the arts in Edmonton. The play’s been produced across Canada and in New York. Chan was the first playwright in residence at Edmonton’s Citadel Theatre, Canada’s biggest and busiest regional performing arts centre.
In today’s episode of MF GALAXY, Marty Chan discusses:
Along the way I refer to The Memory Eaters, his unpublished novel he wrote for Book Television 3 Day Novel Contest reality TV series, season 1, for which I was a judge. The novel was a pre-Walking Dead zombie story that was uniquely from the zombie’s perspective and touchingly and profoundly addressed loneliness, isolation, social networks, and love. He also cites his opera The Forbidden Phoenix which incorporated the classic Chinese story of the Monkey King and Chinese Canadian experiences.
We spoke on June 23, 2008 at his home in Edmonton. This interview has never been aired before. And now on MF GALAXY, my conversation with Marty Chan.
If you listen to CBC Radio then you’ve almost certainly heard the comedy of Neil Grahn. He’s been a debater on The Debaters, but he’s best known as one of the sketch comics on and lead writer for The Irrelevant Show.
Years ago Grahn was part of a pioneering sketch comedy troupe in Edmonton called Three Dead Trolls in a Baggie which included Cathleen Rootsaert, Wes Borg, and the late Joe Bird, which was briefly a television show. He’s currently the writer/director/producer behind the Gemini Award-winning series Taking It Off, and he’s a documentarian with many films to his credit including one about Amber Valley, one of the earliest African towns in Alberta. He’s constantly busy writing pilots and hustling to put new work into gear. The man is a machine, with plenty of wisdom to share about making it in the business of comedy writing.
In today’s episode of MF GALAXY, Neil Grahn discusses:
He spoke with me at his home in South-West Edmonton on November 19, 2014. And now on MF GALAXY, my conversation with Neil Grahn.
If you’re a Canadian who loves books as much as you love radio, then it’s almost a guarantee that legendary broadcaster Shelagh Rogers has been in your life for a long time.
Rogers is the host and producer of CBC Radio’s The Next Chapter, Canada’s leading author-interview radio show focusing on indigenous and settler Canadian writers. She started at CBC in 1980, hosting music and current affairs programmes, and working her way up eventually became the permanent guest host on Peter Gzowski’s Morningside, the host of This Morning, and also of Sounds Like Canada.
She’s won a range of awards and honourary doctorates, and as a result of her work and advocacy, Native Counseling Services of Alberta gave her their Achievement in the Aboriginal Community Award, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada inducted her as an honourary witness, the Order of Canada elected her as an Officer, and the University of Victoria named her Chancellor.
Rogers was in Edmonton on February 28, 2017 to host the Edmonton Public Library’s Conversation about Reconciliation at the Ramada Inn on Kingsway. Before she took the stage, we spoke briefly about a range of topics, including:
And now on MF GALAXY, my conversation with Shelagh Rogers.
Shelagh Rogers provided EPL with a selection of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and children's books that explore residential schools, reconciliation, and Indigenous identity.
You ever dream of being a filmmaker? Maybe writing or directing television? Maybe you thought about it and figured that moving to Hollywood was out of the question, or even if you were willing to go, that climbing the ladder in Hollywood was too long a shot?
Or even if you were willing to try the long slog, you wouldn’t want men in suits ruining the stories you really want to tell by replacing all your egalitarian ideas with offensive stereotypes, or shoving all your most ingenious character creation, plots, and world-building into a blender to turn them into mass-market pablum? Because it takes millions of dollars to make a movie, which you could never raise on your own?
What if I told you that you could stay in your home town or even home country, tell the stories you want to tell and the way you want to tell them, and that it wouldn’t be Hollywood paying the bills, but your most loyal fans? Sound too good to be true?
It won’t sound that way to maverick indie filmmaker and pioneering crowdfunder Ben Dobyns, because that’s exactly what he’s done and doing.
Dobyns is a film producer, editor, cinematographer, composer, writer, and director, and one of the founders of Zombie Orpheus Entertainment, or ZOE. He also has a minor in Latin. He worked for years in Seattle and has now relocated to Vancouver BC. He and ZOE have just completed their third season of their indie-TV comedy-fantasy series JourneyQuest.
They’ve also produced Strowlers, a forthcoming series about a world in which magic is suppressed and regulated by a xenophobic, oppressive government.
In today’s episode of MF GALAXY, Ben Dobyns discusses:
We spoke by Skype on February 15, 2017, and began by discussing the critically-important question that a mentor asked him about what price he was willing to pay for success in filmmaking.
Ben Dobyns IMDb http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1389141/
Zombie Orpheus Entertainment YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/user/ZombieOrpheusEnt
Zombie Orpheus Entertainment is fan funded and creator distributed. Support them at Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/zombieorpheus
John Ware is the greatest Canadian legend you probably have never heard of. He was a 19th Century West African born into the American continent-wide rape-gulag that apologists call the Old South. He went on to become one of thousands of African-American cowboys, and he eventually moved to what is now Alberta to become a master bronco-buster, successful rancher, a founder of modern rodeo culture, and a man of near mythic proportions with the strength of Paul Bunyan and the power of a horse whisperer.
Ware earned the admiration of many of his fellow settlers on First Nations territory, although many Euro-Canadians called him, and please excuse the language, “Nigger John,” and after he died, used the N-word to describe Alberta landmarks associated with John Ware, names that remained until late in the 20th Century. His reconstructed cabin still exists—you can find it in Dinosaur Provincial Park.
While a few people have written books about John Ware, it’s possible that no one has done more original research than celebrated Alberta journalist, essayist, YA novelist, and playwright Cheryl Foggo. She’s written for Canadian Magazine, Reader’s Digest.ca, Avenue, AlbertaViews, Western Living, Sunday Magazine, and The Globe and Mail, among many others.
Foggo's play John Ware Reimagined premiered in Calgary in August, 2014, and the script won the Writers Guild of Alberta 2015 Gwen Pharis Ringwood Award for Drama. She’s currently developing a John Ware documentary with the National Film Board of Canada. Her many other projects include adapting Chinua Achebe’s classic novel Things Fall Apart, and Hiding Place, a history of African settlements in southern Alberta. Foggo also makes acclaimed multi-media presentations across Alberta, including Ranchers, Rebels and the Righteous, Creole, and Unlocking Sacred Codes.
In today’s episode of MF GALAXY, Cheryl Foggo discusses:
We spoke on February 14, 2017 at the Old Arts Barns in Strathcona, Edmonton, when she was in town to conduct a playwriting workshop. She began by discussing how when she was a girl she was a cowboy culture nerd. Please note that for the sake of historical clarity, I’ve left the use of the N-word in today’s podcast.
Souljah Fyah. They’re an outstanding reggae band. And that’s not just me saying it. Here’s what Shelly Gummeson from Earshot-Online says: “On and off stage...[lead singer] Sista J exudes a high voltage, positive energy. Unfettered without setting limitations is precisely the attitude and energy that has propelled Edmonton’s Souljah Fyah to become Canada’s top Reggae band.” They’ve won all kinds of acclaim: including a Juno nomination, two Western Canadian Music Association awards, and twice-declared the best reggae band in Canada by the Canadian Reggae Music Awards and the Reggae Music Achievement Awards.
So who’s in Souljah Fyah? The leader is Waymatea Ellis, better known as Sista J; she’s the lead singer, the lyricist, and she plays bass; she’s also a reverend with her own healing practice. Too Tall Paul Joosse sings and plays keyboard and bass. Stormin’ Norman Frizzell plays keyboard and megaphone, and the Original Tribesman plays percussion. The band is back with The Long Walk, recorded at Edmontone Studio in Edmonton and Mad Rebel Studios in Negril, Jamaica, and the album features the classic mix that made Souljah Fyah great: intelligent lyrics full of personal and social commentary, and music and lyrics as warm as the Caribbean sun.
In today’s conversation, Waymatea discusses:
Throughout today’s show you’ll hear tracks from the latest album, including “Inner Critic,” “Bigger Than Me,” “One More Chance” with guest singer Access, “Circle,” and “All is Still.” Waymatea spoke with me by Skype on February 14, 2017. We began by discussing the meaning of the title The Long Walk.
BUY THE LONG WALK
Thomas Wharton. If he decided to wear a ballcap that says “Winning” he’d have every right to do so. His first novel was Icefields, and straight out of the gate, it won the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize for Best First Book in the Canada/Caribbean division, and the first Banff Mountain Book grand prize. Then his second novel, Salamander, was short-listed for the Governor-General’s Literary Award and the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize. Then he up and gets his short story collection The Logogryph shortlisted for the IMPAC-Dublin Prize.
He also published The Perilous Realm, a YA fantasy trilogy. And his work’s been published in the US, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and many other countries. He teaches creative writing at the University of Alberta where he and I studied creative writing together way back in the early 1990s, and we had the chance to work together when I was the Writer in Residence at the U of A in 2014-2015. Tom’s also a down-to-earth cat who values rich language, numerous genres, and quality teaching.
In today’s episode of MF GALAXY, Wharton discusses:
We spoke in my then-office at the University of Alberta on January 5, 2015, and Tom begins by introducing himself.
TV killed radio, ebooks killed paperbacks, and video games killed board games, right? Wrong, of course. In fact, according to my guest on today’s show, we’re living in the golden age of board games.
When I was a kid, all I knew was Monopoly, checkers, chess, backgammon, Trivial Pursuit, and the Game of Life. Now walk into any board game store, or these crazy things called table top cafes, and you’ll see wall after wall lined with board games, and people paying cover charge to sit with their friends for hours playing them. What is the freaking deal?
To answer that question I spoke with Paul Saxberg, the community manager for Roxley Games Laboratory. Roxley is a Calgary developer and publisher of board games. Saxberg told me he wouldn’t be in gaming community management without years of experience with game design, theatre, book sales, stand up comedy, IT, and ADHD.
At this point you’re probably asking, “What is community management, and why does it sound so awful?” You’ll get answers to those questions and learn why it’s actually excellent. Saxberg and I discussed plenty, including:
Because Saxberg has a background in theatre, we began by discussing the link between stage and games, and why we’re living in the golden age of board games. We spoke by Skype on December 28, 2016.
Marc Taro Holmes knows an awful lot about art. I’m not just talking about last December when he up and got himself elected to the Canadian Society of Painters in Watercolour, or more than twenty years ago when he got his BFA from the Alberta College of Art and Design in Calgary.
I’m talking about his more than fifteen years as an Art Director and Concept Artist for tiny outfits you’ve never heard of, such as Electronic Arts, Microsoft, Disney, and BioWare where he worked on games such as Dragon Age Inquisition, Neverwinter Nights, and Baldur’s Gate. He’s still doing contract work for game design on characters, costumes, and fantasy-historical settings.
Back thirty years ago, he and I belonged to an informal group of young science fiction, comics, and fantasy artists in Edmonton that I nicknamed “The Sketchmen” because we were all so enamoured with Alan Moore’s and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen. That group included painter Jaemi Hardy, and cartoonists Adrian Kleinbergen and Nigel Tully.
Now Marc Holmes is the author of two books including The Urban Sketcher and Designing Creatures and Characters: How to Build an Artist’s Portfolio for Video Games, Film, Animation and More. That second book, his latest, is a gamified approach to getting into professional artistic design. Holmes’s spectacular art and engaging exercises offer a truly fun and competitive means to get good quickly.
In today’s show, Marc Holmes discusses:
We spoke by Skype on November 10, 2016. We began by discussing 1980s superstar Marvel artist John Byrne, best known for his work on X-Men and Fantastic Four, and why art in comic books has gotten better every generation.
During the last few years, the catalogue of online slurs has grown considerably, but none has been as disturbing to me as the rise of the word “hotep.” What does the word mean? What is its significance to those who prize classical African civilisations? How have two forces collided to degrade the word, and whose interests does that degradation serve?
Joining me to discuss the issue is C.R. Sparrow. She’s a writer and assistant editor at Black Girl Nerds.com, an Africentric website, podcast, and video series addressing pop culture, politics, feminism, and technology. Sparrow describes herself as “an avid fan of science fiction, fantasy, and afrofuturism… an alumnus of Temple University's School of Media and Communication [and a] Black Queer Woman in a world that frequently attempts to dehumanize each of these identities. She actively centers Black/queer/woman-ness in her lens as she looks out at the world.”
Sparrow recently wrote a powerful article for BGN called “Hotep is the Modern Day A.B.S. and It’s Not OK”. After I read it, I knew I needed to speak with her for MF GALAXY.
I appreciate how Sparrow reinforced for me that people’s self-description is profoundly personal, and not easily changed or wished-away. I’m strongly reminded of the lesson from Elijah Muhammad: Tell a man he’s drinking dirty water, and he’ll resent you and keep on drinking. Instead, simply put a clean glass of water next to his and he’ll figure it out himself and maybe even thank you. My own lesson: If people aren’t buying, change your product, change your marketting, or change your market—but whatever you do, don’t blame the customer. It’ll get you the exact opposite of what you want.
For Canadian listeners, Sparrow uses the African-American colloquialism “bougie,” meaning “bourgeois,” and cites Kim Burrell, a gospel singer and pastor who has preached from her pulpit that LGBTQ folks are “perverted” and will die in 2017 from what she called their “sin.” Before her remarks surfaced, Burrell contributed a song to the soundtrack for Hidden Figures, a docu-drama about African women mathematical geniuses who were indispensable to the success of the US space programme.
“Tololwa Mollel is a children’s author, dramatist and storyteller, who has written seventeen internationally published books, and several plays as well as stories that he created or adapted for performance. His books, which include award winning titles such as Rhinos for Lunch and Elephants for Supper, Big Boy, and My Rows and Piles of Coins have been published in Canada, the U.S., Australia, England and Tanzania where he was born. His work has been translated into various South African languages, into Korean, Spanish, Serbian, Norwegian and Finnish, and of course his native Kiswahili, Tanzania’s national language.
“In Tanzania, Mollel was a University lecturer and an actor and performer in a touring company that performed as far as Germany and Sweden. He continued performing in Canada but came to devote himself to writing and to the literary scene in Edmonton, serving as President of the Writers Guild of Alberta in the late 1990s.
“He does extensive work with schools and libraries, with literacy, arts and educational bodies, and with community organizations. In all this work, Mollel has presented, performed and conducted writing, storytelling and dramatic workshops and writer-in-residence programs in schools, libraries and communities across Canada and the U.S., as well as in England, Australia and Tanzania. Of his presentations and his work with schools, libraries and communities, Mollel says, “I aim to provide a feast of words – written and spoken – for the eye, the ear and the mind; as well as for the creative imagination, and for performance.” Through writing, storytelling and drama, Mollel hopes to empower the young, and others, with the gift of story — to write, tell, share and enjoy stories; to mentor them as he was mentored. Mollel has increasingly come to combine the arts of storytelling, story making and theater into story performance with music with collaborating musicians and artists. Click here to learn about Mollel’s childhood sources of inspiration for his love of story and story making.
“Available for presentations and work in schools, Mollel does author visits, young writers’ conferences, as well as workshops and residencies on writing, storytelling, storytelling with drama and story performance, and drama, in programs that he can adapt for all ages and various curricular needs, determined through his discussion with schools. He is available for writing and editing projects, such as student anthologies, stories for performance, memoirs, story making for movie scripts and for other purposes. He is also available to conduct workshops on writing and storytelling for teachers and librarians in schools, conferences and conventions. For details about Mollel’s presentations and work in schools, click here. You can view or download a summary of the details in a PDF brochure here. For additional details regarding school and library bookings and fees, contact Tololwa Mollel.”
Two words known by hundreds of millions: "Princess Leia." That's the legacy of the collaboration among Carrie Fisher, George Lucas, and hundreds of other filmmakers who worked on the Star Wars saga.
But without Fisher herself--the actor, the public personality, and the astonishing accomplished novelist, screenwriter, and memoirist--Princess Leia could never have become the icon she was.
MF GALAXY celebrates the life and legacy of Carrie Fisher and her most enduring role by speaking with authors Jennifer Marie Brissett, Krista D. Ball, and Sparkle Hayter, writer Mari Sasano, and director Zoe Hopkins.
To hear the patrons-only bonus content for Carrie Fisher + Princess Leia Remembered, visit mfgalaxy.org to click on the Patreon link to become a sponsor for a dollar or more per week.
Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Mpilo Tutu is best known for his work to end decades of European racial supremacy in South African politics and create electoral democracy. Because all previous Cape Town Anglican archbishops were European, Tutu was the first South African to be appointed to the post and the primacy of the Anglican Church of South Africa.
Following the retirement of formal apartheid, Tutu led the country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission which granted amnesty from prosecution to anyone who confessed crimes to maintain or fight the Whitesupremacist regime. But it was his early struggles for justice that won him, in 1984, the Nobel Peace Prize.
Tutu continues to speak for peace and justice, including about ecological devastation in Alberta’s tar sands, the occupation of Palestine, and the international campaign to cure HIV/AIDS and help all afflicted by the disease. He’s the author or co-author of nine books, including No Future without Forgiveness, God is Not a Christian, and God Has a Dream.
Tutu and his wife Leah founded the non-profit Desmond Tutu Peace Centre, which works to create “a society that nurtures tolerance and understanding amongst all people and is guided by … the building blocks for sustainable peace: Love, Hope, Tolerance, and Courage.”
He spoke in Edmonton at the Jubilee Auditorium for the first annual University of Alberta Visiting Lectureship in Human Rights on November 29, 1998. He discussed the horrors of apartheid, the racial divide in US culture, the link between racism and homophobia + sexism, and the power of youth to change the world.
If you’re listening to MF GALAXY on radio, you can download the full-length version of the podcast right now. Just go to MF GALAXY.org, iTunes, Stitcher, iHeartRadio, Player FM, or patreon.com/mfgalaxy.
A warning: the beginning of Tutu’s comments includes a disturbing description of police torture and murder during apartheid.
Review the film with me—as recorded live at Happy Harbor Comics—are Suzette Chan, the Features Editrix for SequentialTart.com (a webzine by women who are fans of comics and pop culture), and Stephen Notley, a game designer at PopCap and the creator of Bob the Angry Flower.
This reviews contains MAJOR SPOILERS.
“Shawna Lemay is the author of the recently released novel, Rumi and the Red Handbag which made Harper’s Bazaar’s #THELIST (must-reads for Fall 2015), the “Most Anticipated” list on the popular Canadian book website, 49th Shelf, and was selected for Maria Shriver's fall reading club. Nathalie Atkinson chose Rumi and the Red Handbag for Fall's Must-Read Fashion Books in the Globe and Mail.
“She has also written six books of poetry, a book of essays, and an experimental novel titled, Hive, which is about the possibility of the existence of a woman art forger. All the God-Sized Fruit, her first book, won the Stephan G. Stephansson Award and the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award. Calm Things: Essays was shortlisted for the Wilfred Eggleston Award for Non-Fiction. She has an M.A. in English from the University of Alberta. She writes a weekly blog titled, Calm Things.
“Rumi and the Red Handbag follows the lives of Shaya and Ingrid-Simone, working together one winter at a second- hand clothing shop. Theodora’s Fine Consignment Clothing shop becomes a small world where Shaya, an academic who abandoned studying the secrets of women writers, finds in Ingrid-Simone a reason to begin writing again, on scraps of paper and post-its. Fresh, unique and intelligent, Rumi and The Red Handbag is a journey to the Museum of Bags and Purses in Amsterdam, a journey to find Rumi, the soul, and the secret hidden in a red handbag.”
Lemay joined me live onstage at Authorpalooza 2 at Cha Island Tea Company in Edmonton’s Old Strathcona district on December 2, 2014. She talked about:
But we began by discussing poetry as a daily practice and why she is compelled to create verse. And now on MF GALAXY, my conversation with Shawna Lemay.
SF can attempt to predict the future, but since Jonathan Swift invented SF with Gulliver’s Travels, an adult political satire that I’d call the original Star Trek, SF has delivered its most enduring and provocative works by analysing the ethical content of the present. But Star Trek became so dominant on US TV through reruns and then resurrection as Star Trek: The Next Generation that it became a force stifling creativity.
The boldest, most innovative, and most influential counter to Star Trek dominance was Babylon 5, the 1993 to 1998 series that introduced the longform story arc with a predetermined beginning, middle, and end to US television. Set in the twenty-third century, the story was of the fifth and final Babylon station, a galactic UN created to end the cataclysmic wars and colonisations in which the cerebral and spiritual Minbari had nearly annihilated Humans, the humanoid Centauri whose empire was in advanced decline, and the reptilian and vengeful Narn who had thrown off Centauri subjugation.
Also involved were two mysterious races: the Vorlons, so alien they could barely be understood, and a shadowy race whose existence was unknown to most species, even while their power soon would be. Mixed into the five-year story arc were queer characters, old and new human religions, a Jewish funeral, a species change, political assassinations, allegories for racism, and the rise of fascism on Earth.
Babylon 5 offered stakes that Star Trek never had, and better yet, played them out for five seasons to results that television had never attempted. It was a long-overdue revival of science fiction TV.
From 1987 to 1994, Star Trek: The Next Generation had presented a 24th Century humanity that, by means unexplained, had stripped itself of its most enduringly toxic social and individual problems. In the Next Generation world, humans didn’t wage war against other humans, did not practice labour, racial, or sexual oppression or exploitation, or destroy ecosystems. The Next Generation presented a future in which “we”—the assumed Euro-American audience for whom the show was created—could do no wrong as a society; only aberrant individuals could cause suffering.
So the major sources of misery, degradation, and tyranny were alien societies. Given that Star Trek’s major social allegory was that the Federation, or at least humanity, was the United States, and that the Klingon Empire was the Soviet Union, the view that it’s always the aliens’ fault is an inherently xenophobic, jingoistic, and racist vision of the real world.
But Babylon 5 didn’t accept such simplistic and ugly ideas, and the space epic shows that followed B5’s lead, especially Farscape and Battlestar Galactica, seem to have taken its lessons, including by having more female main characters who actually drove the plot and had significant backstories that also drove the story’s direction.
In the episode “By Any Means Necessary,” Babylon 5 presented labour struggle on its station a decade before Battlestar Galactica dramatised the issue; similarly, B5 presented its military personnel wearing civilian clothes when they were off-shift, which virtually never happened in Trek, but later happened in Battlestar Galactica.
B5 presented not just a multiracial but a multireligious future for humans and aliens. Commander Sinclair studied under Jesuits; Lt. Commander Susan Ivanova was not religious but culturally was Jewish-Russian, and after her father’s death, sat Shiva with her family rabbi in the episode “TKO.”
In today’s episode of MF GALAXY, you’ll hear my conversations with two key figures behind B5: Joseph Michael Straczynski, and Mira Furlan. Joe Straczynski, or just plain JMS was a successful television writer on shows such as Murder, She Wrote before he launched B5. Before the days when creative producer/head writers were called show runners, JMS single-handedly wrote 92 of the series’ 110 episodes, and drafted the overarching plot for the entire five-year epic before the first frame was shot. He later co-created Sense8 with the Wachowskis, and wrote the screen stories for World War Z and Thor among other works.
Mira Furlan is the celebrated Yugoslavian stage and screen actor who played the Minbari Ambassador Delenn, after Furlan left her war-torn homeland. She’s best known in North America for playing Rousseau in Lost, and she’s also appeared on NCIS and Law & Order: LA.
Twenty-two years ago in 1994, JMS spoke with me by telephone from his production office in Los Angeles, just before season 2 began airing, and we recorded the call at CJSR FM88 in Edmonton. Mira Furlan spoke with me at the Earth Station Convention in 1997 in south Edmonton just before she left for the airport.
You’ll notice throughout today’s discussion, that JMS and I both say variations on the phrase “in other SF shows” when the SHOW THAT MUST NOT BE NAMED was definitely Star Trek. That deliberate phrasing was just as common in the Making of Babylon 5 half-hour special that aired when B5 launched, so as to avoid stoking the Trek-Always-and-Only kneejerk reaction of some fans.
While today it might seem laughable, twenty years ago SF screen fandom was infected with tribalism. Many fans couldn’t wrap their brains around the idea that you could publicly state that you liked two different story worlds at the same time. Maybe that began with Stan Lee hyping Marvel versus DC, as if liking DC was akin to pledging allegiance to a national enemy, or at least a group of stodgy idiots. But even now, of course, some of that lunacy remains. In fact, as Gamergate and the Hugo Wars demonstrated, it actually got worse. Some might say it metastasised into the US presidential election.
We began with JMS about why he wanted Babylon 5 to fall where it did on the predictive versus allegorical scale of science fiction.
To hear more than an hour of bonus content for this episode, including more discussion with JMS and Mira Furlan, and my feature-length conversation with Bob the Angry Flower cartoonist Stephen Notley—because he and I were both big fans of B5 when it came out--visit mfgalaxy.org to click on the Patreon link to become a sponsor for a dollar or more per week.
And hey, with Christmas coming, how about sharing some of that holiday generosity by becoming a sponsor of MF GALAXY? Just go to MF GALAXY.org and click on the Patreon link to become a sponsor for 99 cents or even 25 cents per show. You’ll be supporting my weekly work to bring you outstanding interviews with amazing authors, academics, activists, actors, avengers, artists, and Africentrists! And for a buck a show, you’ll get access to scores of extended editions of the show with tons of great advice for new and mid-career writers seeking to up their game. This holiday season, help a brother out!
If you’re not from Alberta, you may not know that the province has been, functionally, a one-party state for decades at a time. Thirty-six straight years of Social Credit rule collapsed to forty-four straight years of Progressive Conservative control.
2015 saw the unexpected election of the New Democratic Party under the leadership of Rachel Notley, leap-frogging over the right-wing splinter party Wild Rose led by former Conservative MP Brian Jean, and crushing the PC party led by former Conservative MP, the late Premier Jim Prentice.
But no one expects the NDP to continue the tradition of four decades of rule, whatever its ambitions. And if party turn-over remains a reality, then Alberta will at last have become a modern Western democracy.
It’s been a rough ride for the NDP, despite the enormous popularity of Premier Notley, herself the daughter of the former provincial NDP leader Grant Notley. After the election honeymoon was over, the reality of low oil prices, a high deficit, and the handling of Bill 6 have threatened the party’s chances of re-election.
Bill 6 sought to protect farm workers by granting them Workers Compensation Bureau coverage and thus freeing farmers from liability, but the Bill 6 consultation and communications plan met widespread criticism spearheaded by the Wild Rose opposition. The defeat of the federal NDP, the former official opposition at one point seen as the next government, further dampened hopes for the provincial party.
But it’s not only the NDP facing a difficult future. The Alberta Liberal Party was reduced to a single seat and the defeat of its former leader Raj Sherman, himself a former PC. The former PC leader Jim Prentice immediately resigned and then died in a plane crash in 2016. Wild Rose leader Brian Jean’s attempts to discipline his own MLA Derek Fildebrandt seemed to have backfired and weakened his own position.
Worse still for Brian Jean is the former Conservative MP and Stephen Harper lieutenant Jason Kenney leaving federal politics to seek the leadership of the ailing provincial PCs to collapse it into the Wild Rose, topple Jean, and become the leader.
The only two women in the PC leadership race, Donna Kennedy-Glans and Sandra Jansen, both quit after being targets of what Jansen called “Trump-style politics” from Kenney supporters, whose harassment included calling Jansen a “baby-killer.” Jansen said:
“My social media has been filled with filth, my domain name purchased to direct people to smear pieces on me and … the final straw… Insults were scrawled on my nomination forms. Volunteers from another campaign chased me up and down the hall, attacking me for protecting women's reproductive rights, and my team was jeered for supporting children’s rights to a safe school environment.”
The result of such intimidation? Jansen crossed the floor to join the NDP.
Joining me to analyse all the above is David Climenhaga.
From his official bio: “David J. Climenhaga is an 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 Masters 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 is also a 4th-degree black belt in Uechi-Ryu, a traditional style of karate from Okinawa, and during the course of our conversation he and I both make reference to the Eastern martial arts.
We spoke last week on November 25 at Climenhaga’s office in downtown Edmonton to discuss the present for Sandra Jansen, the legality and morality of floor-crossings, what Climenhaga calls “sleazy” tactics of the Kenney campaign, and how in his opinion the NDP is failing to put its star player on the field in the Grey Cup of provincial politics, possibly at the cost of its own future.
Full disclosure: I have volunteered for the provincial and federal New Democratic Party, and have also provided paid public speaking training for some of its members.
Etymology of Tory: http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=Tory
Called “Violent, poetic and compulsively readable” by Maclean’s, science fiction author Tobias S. Buckell is a New York Times Bestselling writer born in the Caribbean. He grew up in Grenada and spent time in the British and US Virgin Islands, and the islands he lived on influence much of his work.
His Xenowealth series begins with Crystal Rain. Along with other stand-alone novels and his over 50 stories, his works have been translated into 18 different languages. He has been nominated for awards like the Hugo, Nebula, Prometheus, and the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Science Fiction Author. His latest novel is Hurricane Fever, a follow up to the successful Arctic Rising that NPR says will ‘give you the shivers.’
He currently lives in Bluffton, Ohio with his wife, twin daughters, and a pair of dogs. He can be found online at
Buckwell spoke with me about:
Anthony Q. Farrell is an amazing cat. He’s from Toronto, went to actual comedy school, and ended up writing for one of the most influential US comedy series ever, The Office on NBC, which is also one of my favourite shows.
He wrote two of its most enduring episodes: “Casual Friday,” in which Dunder Miflin former district manager Michael Scott returns to his old job with also former-ex-employees Pam Beesley and Ryan Howard, and the emotional “Employee Transfer,” in which Michael Scott breaks up with Holly Flax, the love of his life, during a road trip to her new home.
Farrell also served as the Canadian culture consultant on “Business Trip,” in which Michael Scott, Andy Bernard, and Oscar Martinez go to Winnipeg.
In addition to having written for two years on The Office including the Office short films “Taste the Ice Cream” and “Money Trouble,” Farrell wrote for The Thundermans, Originals, In Gayle We Trust, and was the series creator of Dwelling and The Secret Life of Boys. He also wrote and was executive story editor for the CBC sitcom hit Little Mosque on the Prairie.
Did I mention that Farrell is an African-Canadian? And given that there aren’t many African-Canadian writers who’ve hit it big in Hollywood, as soon as I knew Farrell existed, I was determined to hear what he had to say.
In today’s episode, Farrell speaks with me about his career in comedy television, including:
Farrell spoke with me by Skype on June 10, 2016.
We begin with Farrell discussing how attending comedy school gave him the training and the contacts he needed to build an outstanding career.
Brandon Easton is a super-accomplished creator. In addition to having made the must-see documentary Brave New Souls about African-American writers and artists in science fiction and fantasy novels, comics, and movies, he’s also a:
Easton has received the 2015 Disney-ABC Writing Program, a 2014 nomination for the Eisner Comic Industry Award for Best Single Issue or One Shot, and four Glyph Awards. He was also a semi-finalist for the 2013 Hollywood Black Film Festival's Project Stargazer, which was a collaboration with NASA to find and develop science-fiction writers of color.
Easton spoke with me on June 27, 2016 by Skype, about:
While I mention that we’ll be talking about writing for Marvel, that’ll be coming in a future episode of MF GALAXY, so keep subscribing.
Buy Brandon Easton’s Brave New Souls documentary on African-American science fiction and fantasy film makers, authors, and comic creators. It’s a great doc and it’s only 8 bucks.
Culture commentator Robert Monroe Jr. joins me to discuss the film, its historical and political content and context, the campaign against the film, and the controversy about its writer, director, and star Nate Parker.
The Birth of a Nation – HD Trailer
The Birth Of A Nation Cast Discuss The Film | BUILD Series
Gabrielle Union & Birth Cast Defend Nate Parker's Powerful Film
Gabrielle Union Turns Her Back On The Birth Of A Nation Film & Nate Parker
Anderson Cooper vs Nate Parker
Nate Parker’s Alleged Sins Won’t Keep Me from Seeing ‘The Birth of a Nation’
For decades, black people have been fed a Disney-fication of our struggle. So, even as a sexual-assault survivor, I am going to see Parker’s film.
Nat Turner by Kyle Baker
Julie Dash’s Daughters of the Dust – Trailer
Sylvia Feketekuty has written for Mass Effect 3 and Dragon Age: Inquisition, two of the most successful video games in history. Craig DiLouie is an author of popular thriller, apocalyptic/horror, and sci-fi/fantasy fiction, and the acclaimed novelist of numerous zombie novels. Each spoke at Authorpalooza in Edmonton.
Free video game writing tool: https://twinery.org
For the rest of DiLouie’s conversation, download the extended edition from the MF GALAXY Patreon page, where DiLouie discusses:
Craig DiLouie book trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BdYgy8vYayU