Leah Van Dyk

Re-Visioning Through Story: Storytelling in Thomas King's The Back of the Turtle

Cherokee scholar Thomas King’s The Back of the Turtle reads as a powerful social critique of climate destruction, capitalism, and past and current colonial relations with the Indigenous peoples of Turtle Island. Set in the not-too-distant future, an ecological disaster has laid waste to the Kali Creek Reserve and the surrounding areas of the coast of British Columbia, and those affected by this tragedy are forced to redefine their lives and community. While King resides within the complexities of climate grief, guilt, and greed, he also notes that “tragedy has a trick of bringing folks together” (226). In this presentation, I seek to explore storytelling and its relevancies in this community formed in answer to ecological devastation, particularly examining the interweaving of time and place in King’s narrative, as the text subverts — or perhaps is unconcerned with — temporal and spatial formations through its stories.

Leah Van Dyk (she/her) is a doctoral student and Killam Laureate in the Department of English at the University of Calgary. She gratefully researches and studies as a settler on the traditional territory of Treaty 7, with her primary research interests located around the environmental humanities and radical revisionings of being in community — both pedagogically and practically — as a model of literary practice.

Brian Cotts

George and the Raven(s): Hope and Reconciliation in Harold Johnson's Corvus

One day, to bolster his flagging spirits in a post-apocalyptic La Ronge, George Taylor purchases an ORV Raven, a biomechanical “Organic Recreational Vehicle” grown in part from raven DNA. While using the ORV to explore La Ronge from the air, George develops a spiritually sophisticated relationship with both the wider world and the ORV, which through a cybernetic link also begins to change alongside him. Through his journey, George intersects with two other ravens, a Thunderbird he sees during a storm and later in a dream, and Raven, a bird who inhabits two worlds, and who serves as the novel's ethical anchor. Both Ravens' wary, bemused approval of George and the ORV, as well as the Thunderbird’s distant approval, reinforce Johnson’s reconciliation theme: that seeming opposites — the world of matter and spirit, technology and the natural, “us” and “them” — can unite, and that through this unity new life can spring.

Brian Cotts is a sessional lecturer at the University of Saskatchewan. His interests include the intersection of technology and popular culture, the intersection of science fiction and theology, and animation studies. He has delivered conference papers on Philip K. Dick, Gene Wolfe, and Japanese anime at the International Conference for the Fantastic in the Arts.

Miasol Eguíbar-Holgado

Beyond Colonial Legacies: Empathy and Reciprocity in Black and Indigenous Speculative Fiction

The purpose of this paper is to illustrate how colonialism and its legacies of racist practices have affected relationships among different Othered groups. I will analyze speculative fiction by black and Indigenous writers, paying special attention to relationships that transcend these legacies. The analysis will focus on Zainab Amadahy’s The Moons of Palmares (1997); Nalo Hopkinson’s Midnight Robber (2000); Jill Robinson’s short story “BLACKout” (2004); and Andrea Hairston’s Mindscapes (2006). Critical accounts comparing black and Indigenous groups tend to emphasize their existing disparities, rather than points of convergence. It is certainly true that past histories and present agendas constitute important limitations which may be partially irreconcilable. However, by looking specifically at stories that foreground reciprocity, empathy, and accountability, this paper seeks to explore the productive conversations that may be established between black and Indigenous writings of spec-fic.

Miasol Eguíbar-Holgado holds a degree in English Philology from the University of Oviedo, Spain. In 2011, she earned a Master’s Degree in American Literatures at Trinity College, Dublin and she was awarded her PhD in 2015 from the University of Oviedo. She currently works as Assistant Lecturer in English in the same university. Her research focuses on Afro-Canadian literature and postcolonial speculative fiction.

Kai Orca McKenzie

"Like a Starving Person with a Swollen Belly": Representations of Hunger and Fulfillment in kai cheng thom's Speculative Fiction Novel Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars: A Dangerous Trans Girl's Confabulous Memoir

In kai cheng thom’s novel Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars: A Dangerous Trans Girl’s Confabulous Memoir, hunger is used to express the sense of lack that a young diasporic Chinese-Canadian trans woman experiences through imposed shame and abjection, as her parents’ fears and needs prevent her from satisfying her own desires for fulfillment. Culturally situated themes of desire and haunting speak to affective and material forms of exclusion and abjection as projected onto gender-non-conforming embodiments and practices, as well as to possibilities for relational healing. My essay draws upon affect theory to explain how the gender-diverse characters in this novel respond to systemic exclusions and projections, where experiences of shame drive them toward new positions and new understandings. Transgender literary theory, building on queer theory, positions the rage resulting from the internalization of society’s projections of monstrosity as a source of transformative power.

Kai Orca McKenzie (they/them/theirs) is a scholar, writer, and teacher working in and with transgender literature. Kai is currently a Dean’s Scholar in the English Department at the University of Saskatchewan, working on a dissertation featuring representations of hunger in novels by Canadian Two-Spirit and transgender authors. Kai also maintains a website to share lesson plans, curriculum ideas, and readings in Two-Spirit and transgender literature with students, teachers, parents and children.

Note to attendees:

  • Presentations are copyright of the authors. Permission is required from the writer or speaker before you screen capture, copy, quote from, or otherwise reproduce any materials from presentations or discussions.
  • Off-topic, disrespectful, and discriminatory comments will be removed.