Interview with the wonderful Rob McClennan

It’s always both exciting and nervous-making to answer questions about my writing life. But you know, as long as there’s a MST3K reference, it’s all right. Thanks, Mr. Rob McClennan!

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Slippery Landscapes

Derek Newman-Stille makes writing worth it, with reviews like this. So honoured!

Speculating Canada: Canadian Horror, Science Fiction, and Fantasy

A review of Kate Storey’s Blasted (Killick Press, 2008).
By Derek Newman-Stille

Steeped in the rich fairy lore of Newfoundland and a sense of longing for home, Kate Story’s Blasted is a novel about dislocation. Story’s stream of consciousness style of writing beautifully enhances the sense of temporal and special dislocation represented by movement through and slippage into fairy realms. Her poetic use of language adds to the depth of the landscape, it’s history, and the people upon it, reveling in the simultaneous beauty and terror embedded in the land.

Cover photo from Kate Story's "Blasted" courtesy of Cover photo from Kate Story’s “Blasted” courtesy of

Newfoundland, as an island landscape of harsh extremes, fog, snow, unclear edges… it is a perfect location for fairy stories and a tradition of wandering into the fairy lands and being lost. As a place that experiences a great deal of emigration – the loss of population to other locations out…

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Multiple Faces of Identity

Recently, the Aurora-award-winning Derek Newman-Stille reviewed my short story “Show and Tell” in Exile Edition’s Playground of Lost Toys (edited by Colleen Anderson and Ursula Pflug). It is an honour to have someone read so closely, and write so eloquently, about my work. Thank you, Derek! And Happy New Year to all.

Speculating Canada: Canadian Horror, Science Fiction, and Fantasy

A Review of Kate Story’s “Show and Tell” In Playground of Lost Toys (Exile Editions, 2015)by Derek Newman-Stille

School can be a horror story. It is a space where identity is controlled and regulated and where normalcy and conformity rein. Anyone who doesn’t belong is firmly aware that they are the school’s monster and those who enforce that normalcy treat those who don’t belong monstrously. In “Show and Tell”, Kate Story’s narrator was punished constantly as a child for daydreaming and was treated regularly as a social outsider. She was subjected to gendered expectations for women about “attractiveness”, having her facial features policed and told that certain facial features were unattractive and therefore inappropriate.

When Story’s narrator has to return to her school as an adult before the building is demolished, she collides with her own identity and the multiplicity of options her life could have taken. She finds her…

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Give A Book

It’s that time. It is that time of the year when many of us want to give from the heart. We want to show people we love them; we want to spread some goodwill in this torn and aching world; we want to believe, again, for a time, in magic.

Or we just want to run away to some place that has never spawned the hideous phrase “holiday giving” and be done with it forever. Can’t see me for dust.

However, if you are staying in this world and you DO want to give some things to some people, might I suggest…



I’ve had a wonderful year in publishing. Three new publications contain pieces I’ve written; and they’re collections of the short stuff, so even if you don’t like my story there’s lots of other stories to choose from, from – honestly – some of the best writers working today. And some of my oldsters are worth passing on. So, to make it easy, I’ve created a handy-dandy little reference with links and synopses and all that.

Happy times, and love, and books to all. That’s my chiefest wish.


Imaginarium 4: The Best Canadian Speculative Writing is a reprint anthology collecting speculative short fiction and poetry (science fiction, fantasy, horror, magic realism, etc.) that represents the best work published by Canadian writers in the 2014 calendar year. Put out by the fabulous CZPublications. Introduction by Margaret Atwood. That’s right. Margaret Atwood.

WHO THE HELL DOESN’T LIKE A BESTIARY??? The magic of bestiaries, or dictionaries of mythological creatures, has been captivating the human imagination since ancient times. Now, Stone Skin Press brings a fresh take on these compendiums of the fantastic with its latest anthology—Gods, Memes and Monsters. Featuring over sixty authors, this stunning international volume offers entries and short stories that range from the horrific to the humorous. The bestiary shed lights on familiar beasts that are coping in our modern era, including gorgons, minotaurs, and mantichores. It also introduces newly discovered creatures such as meme mosquitoes, trashsquatches, and urbantelopes that are thriving in the cyber age.

Playground of Lost Toys: a dynamic collection of stories that explore the mystery, awe and dread that we may have felt as children when encountering a special toy. But it goes further, to the edges of space, where the mind plays its own games. We enter a world where the magic may not have been lost, where a toy plays for keeps or computers and gods vie for the upper hand. Dolls, stuffed animals, wooden games of skill, ancient artifacts misinterpreted, and items that seek a life or even revenge; these lost toys and games bring tales of companionship, loss, revenge, hope, murder, cunning, and love, to be unearthed in the sandbox. Edited by Colleen Anderson and Ursula Pflug. A truly wonderful collection, people.

For the SF fans in your life: in Carbide Tipped Pens, over a dozen of today’s most creative imaginations carry on the grand tradition of such legendary masters as Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, and John W. Campbell, while bringing hard science fiction into the 21st century by extrapolating from the latest scientific developments and discoveries. Ranging from ancient China to the outer reaches of the solar system, this outstanding collection of original stories, written by an international roster of authors, finds wonder, terror, and gripping human drama in topics as diverse as space exploration, artificial intelligence, biotechnology, climate change, alternate history, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, interplanetary war, and even the future of baseball. Edited by Ben Bova and Eric Choi.

Kate Story’s debut novel Blasted is an unlikely marriage of Newfoundland’s oldest traditional lore with the contemporary urban world of St. John’s and Toronto. The result is raw and strange and hilarious and affecting. Ruby Jones—itinerant waitress, sometime nude model, budding alcoholic—admits early on that tenderness and rage are her “heart language.” Blasted offers both in spades. – Michael Crummey

Honourable Mention for the Sunburst Award: Canadian Literature of the Fantastic

(Sadly, Blasted has been remaindered! Order it while you still can. And you can contact me directly for copies too!)

Wrecked Upon This Shore: I fell in love with these characters: saintly and monstrous, wrecked but not lost —castaways all. Kate Story is one of those rare writers who can plumb the darkness and retrieve from the depths a jewel, a truth, luminous and redemptive. A magical and moving novel. Prepare to be transported. – Jessica Grant, author of Come, Thou Tortoise


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Ad Astra!

This year will be my third time attending Ad Astra, a wonderful gathering that bills itself “Toronto’s premiere SF and Fantasy Fan Convention.” For me, it’s a place to meet friends, connect with new people, and have my mind utterly blown by the diversity and quality and sheer intellectual and imaginative power in our speculative community. I am on some panels (glancing over them, I notice a theme: how impossible it is to do what we do, writing other worlds and other futures… good, then, let’s get at it) and look forward to the parties. Hope to see you there!

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Carbide Tipped Pens

Order this wonderful collection NOW!  Do not pass go, do not collect two hundred dollars, go directly to sci fi heaven.

My story “The Yoke of Inauspicious Stars” was tipped by Kirkus Reviews as “a hit”!

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The $750 Novel

Recently, one of my novels sold at an auction for $750.

Yes, that’s right; there was some hot bidding on Wrecked Upon This Shore and in the end the hammer came down on possibly the highest price ever paid for a paperback novel available for twenty bucks on Amazon.  Less if you go second-hand.

Now, there’s a brilliant cover by my friend Christopher Rouleau (; that’s worth a lot.  And a really, really nice shout-out on said cover by brilliant writer Jessica Grant, and a terrific quotation from the fabulous Robin McGrath as well.  But that’s not why it sold for $750.  The auction was in support of an international school I went to when I was sixteen, Lester B. Pearson College of the Pacific, and a good number of us had gathered, from all over the globe, for a reunion.  It’s one of several United World Colleges around the world, with the mission to “make education a force to unite people, nations and cultures for peace and a sustainable future.”  And the world needs this, more than ever.  So we raised funds for our alma mater, spirits were high, and I have never laughed so hard at a fundraising event in all my life.

But really.  $750?   That’s $3.81 a page.

I worked hard on those pages, of course.  Some I worked and reworked until I didn’t know how to find my way out, and my writing group had to remind me that “Stephen wouldn’t know about [important plot point X that I will not reveal], because of [important plot point Y that you’ll just have to read the novel to discover].  Oh.  Yeah.  Thanks, writing group.  Bailing me out once again.

I was writing a story about a young man discovering his grandfather for the first time, after a lifetime with a mother whose narratives are suspect at best.  So much in the story was not my own experience, and it was crucial that I get it right.  The main character, Stephen, is a sweet, dogged soul.  He never grabbed me by the throat the way Ruby (protagonist of my first novel Blasted) did – repeatedly.  But he wouldn’t leave me alone.  Please, please, tell my story.  So I did my best.

I wrote Stephen for all the smart, tender, f-ed-up souls out there who are doing the best with what they’ve got.  I wrote it for all the loneliness, the poverty, the survivors of cruelty and mind-games and neglect.  It was hard to write.  It took five years from first word on page to holding a copy of the book in my hand.  If Mouse hadn’t been in it – bringing a good dose of humour and strength and straightforward love – I am not sure either Stephen or myself could have borne it.  I like the book.  Sometimes I run into people who have read it and they like it too.  A young woman at the Peterborough farmers market yesterday morning told me at length that she’d just read it and loved it; she read it more and more slowly because she didn’t want it to end.

Yeah, that made my day.

At the reunion, I read out a section of the book at the Talent/No Talent show, a piece where Mouse is remembering being fifteen and hunting caribou in Newfoundland with her father.  It’s a nice section to read – funny, hard, and moving – because Mouse loves her father with all her heart.  The friend who laid down the big bucks for the novel mere hours before came up to me.  “Do you remember that I used to hunt with my father?”  That’s right, she had: wild boar in Germany.

Well, I hope she likes the book.  I hope every page brings on $3.81 worth of pleasure, and then some.

Books used to be worth piles of money, back when they were rare and most people didn’t know how to read.  Owning five or six books was a sign of status; they were valuable objects.  In some ways, the digital age has renewed the sense of the book as an artisanal object, a luxury, desirable and materially pleasurable, rather like vinyl records and typewriters.

But I want everyone to own books, and read them.  I don’t care if it’s on a screen or in the hand.   It’s definitely a wild and weird time to be writing and publishing books.  People will drop $27 on two tickets to a movie rehashing a movie that someone already made somewhen else – PLUS $20 on popcorn and a drink the size of your head – but when you say you’re a writer they get this nervous look in their eye.  Oh, no.  She’s a novelist.  She’s gonna want me to buy her book.  It’ll just sit on my shelf; I’ll never read it.  It’s probably depressing.  Twenty bux?  God, I could take my boy/girlfriend out to a movie for that.  Just smile and back away slowly.  Keep nodding, that’s it.  Don’t startle the writer.  And… exit!

We don’t have a huge Hollywood machine telling us that spending cash on books or going to libraries makes us cool, that reading opens a collective world of wonder to us.

But we know books do this, and more.

There’s lots of people and places demonstrating the laudable effects of reading, so I won’t go on about that here.  But while I wouldn’t want to price books out of range, I can think of any number of books I’ve read over the years that have brought so much more than $750-worth of pleasure and insight and joy to my life.  I don’t rank my own writing among those greats.  But I hope that my voice is adding to the collective good.  And that some day, people won’t get nervous when I say I have a new book out.  They’ll be happy.  And we will live in a world of peace and health and literacy.  Here’s to that: with all my heart.

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