Last night my wife and I attended the CHI reading series, hosted by ChiZine Publications, which is Ottawa’s only speculative fiction reading series (as far as I’m aware). It was held at Maxwell’s Bistro downtown – an excellent restaurant, if you’ve never been – and overall was a great introduction for me to the spec fic scene here in the capital.
The night opened with Sandra Kasturi, reading from a selection of yet-unpublished poetry. I haven’t explored spec fic poetry too much, but I thought the material Kasturi read was brilliant. She covered topics from retired lions, to the last words of a cowboy, to the pre-history of whales, alternating between the darkly humorous and the deeply insightful. Her last poem, concerning a Boris Karloff comic of the Chameleon Monster, was absolutely chilling in the way it described the monster’s abilities and the possibility that the monster doesn’t actually exist – it’s just all in our minds. If you’re a poetry-minded individual, and you like horror/weird stuff, then I highly recommend Kasturi’s work. You can check out her website here.
I’m not going to say much about the second reader, Alison Sinclair, who has been publishing science fiction since the mid-1990s. Not to diminish her work at all – which blends her extensive background in medicine with elements of space opera and adventure – but it wasn’t quite my cup of tea. The excerpt she read sounded excellent for anyone interested in medical-based sci-fi, and you can check out more about her work here.
My favorite of the night was the last reader, award-winning horror writer Ian Rogers. He read a short story titled “Possession is Nine-Tenths of the Law,” which focused on Jerry, a real estate broker who only sells haunted houses. Jerry was apparently a supporting character in Rogers’s collection SuperNOIRtural Tales (dare you to pronounce that properly the first time), which is a series of short stories focused on Felix Renn, a Toronto-based private investigator in a world rife with the supernatural. What we heard from “Possession” was just awesome – excellent humor in the form of Jerry’s thoughts and his banter with Felix, and chilling horror in the form of a girl whose been possessed by some sort of spirit. I plan on picking up a copy of Tales as soon as I can, and after I do I’ll be sure to mention some more thoughts here. In the meantime, if you want more details about Ian Rogers, check out his website.
All in all, my first outing to the CHI series was excellent – really talented writers, and a community that clearly cares about promoting speculative fiction here in Ottawa. It’s a fledgling movement for now, but expect it to grow over the next few years. I’ll be contributing to that as much as I can as I gear up for the next reading in this series, which should be held sometime in June.