As 2018 begins, there is a reinvigorated sense of excitement that permeates those looking forward to a new year and those eager to leave the last one behind. On January 8th I attended the Brockton Writers Series, a monthly reading series that emphasizes diversity and offers a variety of writers the chance to share their work in a safe space (for more information about their mandate, check out Jess Taylor’s interview with co-curator Farzana Doctor here on the Town Crier). This month, I was pleased to discover a handful of writers that took on the challenge of transforming established genres, modes, and narratives to create some unique work that surprised as much as it intrigued me.
The first reader of the evening was J.M. Frey, a science fiction and fantasy author who is also a “fanthropologist.” Her fan and pop culture expertise were put to good use in her latest short fiction collection Hero is a Four Letter Word (published by Fast Foreward) from which she read the story “The Maddening Science.” The story opens with incredibly visceral exposition: “bullets fired into a crowd,” and children screaming. Frey narrates the story, however, from the point-of-view of a bystander, albeit not an entirely innocent one. Ollie is a reformed super-villain that, at the outset of the story, has to decide whether or not he should save the injured woman the police have failed to notice (and risk his incognito identity) or leave her there to die. While the story’s plot is very enticing, I most appreciated J.M. Frey’s capacity for character building. Ollie’s OCD tendencies, which manifest themselves in bullets totaled, seconds counted, escape routes planned and re-considered, colour the story in such a way that notions of victim, bystander, and hero become very complicated. Frey also has a very humorous side and the description of a sports car as a “sleek penis replacement on wheels” was one of many funny moments.
Following Frey, Michael Mirolla (co-owner of Guernica Editions) took the stage and read from his collection The Giulio Metaphysics III, published by Leapfrog Press. Mirolla explained that the book deals with the fluidity of identity, and so the reader cannot be certain if the Giulio is the same person from one story to the next. Mirolla read “A General Introduction to Pure Phenomenology” and took the audience on an exciting journey in and out of the thoughts and memories of his titular character. Giulio and Pagan sit in a café and argue over butterflies, whether they like to be chased or not, while the audience is suddenly transplanted into a barn where Giulio and his lover are having a roll in the hay. As the story flickers between the past and present the narrator inserts his authorial position into the story, writing, “there’s Pagan in the room,” as though we are conflicted between following Giulio’s scattered remembrances and the permeating eye of the narrator. Philosophical, whimsical, and very well written, The Giulio Metaphysics III ought to satisfy the reader’s hungry for some out-of-the-ordinary fiction.
Katie Boland read next from her debut collection Eat Your Heart Out published by Brindle & Glass. Her story “Swelter” tells the story of a teenage girl whose friend Colin “died in the most badass and tragic way.” Although one would expect a tale of a young man’s untimely death to be utterly devastating, Boland countered the norm through her main character’s self-deprecating and at times selfish reactions to the events going on around her. When she sees Seb at the funeral she thinks, “fuck, he looks good in a suit,” and Boland uses etiquette mistakes and awkward fumblings to demonstrate that life can and does goes on after the death of a loved one.
The final reader of the evening was Sherwin Sullivan Tjia, a Montreal-based writer and illustrator that hosts a Queer Slow-dance with “designated dancers for the shy to turn wallflowers into perennials.” Tjia read from You Are a Cat in the Zombie Apocalypse, the sequel to You Are a Cat, both published by Conundrum Press. The You Are a Cat books put the reader in the perspective of Holden Catfield and as you get to live his life (or nine lives, as the case may be) you also choose your own adventure. Many people will have fond childhood memories of choose-your-own-adventure books that transplanted authorial power onto the reader and Tjia’s offering is equally enjoyable for adults. At one point Tjia even burst into laughter during his reading saying: “it’s weird reading this book.” The second-person perspective, I believe, is often the hardest to both write and read. Tjia, however, successfully employs the narratorial point-of-view to create a book that is funny, silly, and very detailed (especially in terms of feline behaviour).
The Brockton Writers Series, as well as having readers, includes a segment about the world of publishing provided by an industry professional. As a result, it is an ideal place for burgeoning writers eager to flex their creative and business muscles and enjoy the community’s diverse offerings.