Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

GUEST BLOG: Losing My Tesseracts Virginity In A Big Way

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Mark Leslie

Mark Leslie is a writer, and the newly appointed editor of Tesseract 16. In his guest blog, Mark tells us about the anthology and his inspiration for its next installment.

I recently blogged about how I “lost my virginity at 16” — I was, of course, referring to Tesseracts 16 — the award-winning science fiction anthology series published by Tesseracts Books/Edge Publishing. Not that long ago, I was announced as editor of the next installment in this series of Canadian speculative fiction. It is quite an honour for me, particularly since, over the years I have tried at least a couple of times to get a story into the anthology but haven’t yet made the cut.

Thus, I have certainly gone all the way when it comes to my Tesseracts virginity.

And, as I said, I couldn’t be more honoured.

The theme I have chosen for T16 is “Parnassus Unbound” — the idea of taking art, literature, music and culture as a central theme and blending in a science fiction, fantasy or speculative element to enhance that experience to a new extreme. Parnassus, of course, refers to Mount Parnassus from Greek mythology, the site of the fountain Castalia, whose waters could inspire the genius of poetry. The term Parnassus is thus often associated with poetry, music, literature and learning.

I was particularly enamoured of the use of Parnassus in the Christopher Morley novels Parnassus on Wheels (1917) and The Haunted Bookshop (1919) — the former concerns a traveling bookstore and the latter a bookstore whose ghosts aren’t supernatural but are, rather, the “ghosts of all great literature” that haunt bookstores and libraries. Throughout The Haunted Bookshop, Morley alludes to the incredible knowledge and wisdom to be gained from literature. It was shortly after discovering these novels that I wanted to edit an anthology chasing this type of central theme.

Tesseracts 16: Parnassus Unbound is an attempt to explore the “mirror held up to reality” from which good science fiction tales are born. I am looking for stories that are speculative in nature, but where art, music, literature or culture is integral to the telling of the tale. I’ll be considering not only stories and poems that are perhaps self-reflective in nature, but which also cast a light upon the manner by which today’s fiction, yes, even genre fiction, can be derived from and pay homage to elements from across the cultural spectrum.

Science fiction is often writing rationally and imaginatively about possible or alternative futures or pasts. Fantasy, on the other hand, typically involves supernatural elements or the existence of magic related to places, objects and creatures. Horror, of course, can often include supernatural elements, but tends to focus more on the darker side of the supernatural, highlighting emotions of fear and suspense (think of classics such as Dracula or The Picture of Dorian Gray for examples of that).

The goal, then, for Tesseracts 16: Parnassus Unbound, is to find a rich and diverse selection of writing from Canadian authors that not only embraces the breadth of stories from the speculative realm, but also pays homage (whether subtle or more obvious) to the elements associated with the muses who haunt Parnassus.

So far I have read some incredible submissions and I know that there are more waiting for me in the “to read” queue.

This journey, so far for me, has been decidedly magical and inspirational. I have read some truly incredible stories and even had to say no to several great pieces. So many great tales have already come in that I have already regretted the fact T16 can’t be two or three times its planned size.

But when it is all said and done, I’m certainly looking forward to sharing the final selected stories with the world, spotlighting the fact that so many of today’s speculative fiction writers are still figuratively sipping from Castalia’s fountain.

Tesseracts 16: Parnassus Unbound is currently accepting submissions. See here for details.

Mark Leslie is a writer, editor and bookseller who has worked for Indigo/Chapters Books and the McMaster University bookstore. He currently works at Kobo as Director of Self-Publishing and Author Relations. Apart from being published in numerous publications, he occasionally writes reviews and conducts interviews. He was the series editor for the North of Infinity sci-fi anthology series. Mark sits on the board of directors for BookNet Canada and is president of the Canadian Booksellers Association. As an active member of the book industry (both as a bookseller and writer), Mark regularly speaks at conferences, conventions and workshops about books, writing, and publishing. You can find a full biography and detailed listing of his written works on his website.

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