Happy birthday, Philip K. Dick!

Happy birthday, Philip K. Dick!

Call him mad, praise him as a genius- Philip K. Dick will never fail to mesmerize and entice. It is now twenty five years since his passing, and there is still talk of this author. Compelled by the eternal duality between real and fake, human and android, he continually asked an essential question: What is real? What is Human? Complex questions dealing with human-ness abound in his works. In "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?", beings may only appear human when they lack a soul or compassion.

What most (understantably) love about his work is the recurring notion of the impossibility of one reality. “All of his work starts with the basic assumption that there cannot be one, single, objective reality”, wrote Charles Pratt, science fiction author. When he was attending university, Dick proclaimed himself a “acosmic pan-entheist”, perceiving the world as an extension of God. After investigating Plato’s works, he came to the conclusion that the world is not really real and that, moreover, we are incapable of ever telling if it is real or not.

Look for blatant Jungian references and beautifully twisted plots.

Americana and mythology- why we love it

We celebrate you, Neil Gaiman!

Winner of the Newbery and Carnegie Medals and author of the groundbreaking Sandman series as well as the novels Stardust, American Gods, Coraline and The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman stands out in the novelist world for his gift for writing graphic novels and for his use of classical English humor at its very best.

The following showcases his quirkiness at its prime: "Books have sexes; or to be more precise, books have genders. They do in my head, anyway. Or at least, the ones that I write do. And these are genders that have something, but not everything, to do with the gender of the main character of the story."

A heavy mixture of Americana, fantasy and classical mythology, American Gods tells a story of an ex-convict plunged into a maelstrom of conspiracy and magic. The novel puts forth that gods and mythical creatures exist due to the fact that people believe in them. It logically follows that the traditional deities are being replaced by America's new idols: technology, media and drugs. But the Old Ones won't go down without a fight ...

American Gods is a great book to explore for its deft use of mythology and for its complex plot. Read it to discover what happens to the protagonist's wife, Laura. You won't be dissapointed.

Evening's Empire

Written by Etienne Domingue
I will not tell you what it was I did Before, but will only assure you, insofar as such assurance is needed, that it was not a life of obvious discontentment. I had no sordid vice, no great misfortune – neither indigence nor sickness, least of all any unrequited love – that I might have sought escape from in nepenthe. My education had been neither too liberal nor too practical, and therefore I had no cause, whether from want or excess of fancy, to seek sustenance or solace in dreams.

Thus my transition began not tragically or precipitously, as is the case with the wretched wraiths you have undoubtedly encountered in nightmares, but gradually, over the course of years. The regular business of living irritated me in a way as to make sleep hard to find: I had taken to imbibing a bitter concoction which a reputable apothecary made for me from the essences of agrimony and poppy. The soporific provided such release from my worries that I was soon addicted, not for the benefits to my waking life, but for the clarity it afforded to my sleeping mind. The fog of the Valleys of Mist was lifted: their ancient, empty streets made such an impression upon my memory that I was able, over the course of many nights, to explore every part of Olam ha Tiqvah1 accessible to the nocturnal visitor. Had I a more prosaic disposition, I would have been content with this increased breadth of experience; more poetically minded, I might have craved new sights so as to overdose and drift into the dark, deep dream of Death without the lore to keep the soul from aimless wandering. Instead I was only inquisitive enough to seek a glimpse of certain private places: of the halls where young gods dwell, the capitals of evening’s empire, the gardens of respite where the souls of the Dead wait to be called back to the living realms.

There were not many in Olam ha Tiqvah who could tell me how to open the gates of the gods. The legions of the Phantasms are mute save for their generals; the latter are not amicably disposed and the former delight in confusion. (It is they whom you encounter most frequently in your sleep, taking the guise of all manner of things inanimate or animate.) From other dreamers I could learn but little. Olam ha Tiqvah is so vast that one seldom encounters another living soul; moreover, sojourners can rarely keep their wits about them without the help of some elixir. As for the Dead – who sleep soundly, and therefore have more of a mind with which to discuss – they all abide in the gilded halls to which I was denied access; all, that is, save the suicides, who are condemned to roam until they have forgotten their sorrows. Ghosts such as these give no help.

In my wandering I acquired new senses. My mind grappled with things it never could before; my sight did not merely dart from object to object, but also wrapped around them so that a glance could follow the moonbeam up to its source. My range of hearing expanded to include the vague tinkling of cogitation. Such powers did not vanish with the coming of dawn and I was continually shocked by the vile stray thoughts of acquaintances.

In the night I continued my explorations. I was fortunate enough, having spied on one occasion a concourse of nymphs, to hear rumours of a rare and dangerous Bough with which I might pass the borders into the regions of the Dead. I offered myself on the altar of Sleep as wholly and as frequently as possible, doing as little work as I could get away with, and neglecting all other pursuits of waking life in favour of the quest for the Bough. I sought my prize in high and low places. On the beaches of the Ocean of Oblivion I met a wailing ghost, or rather more of a wail than a ghost: a shade so pressed down by nameless sorrow that she was stranded in the silver sand, screaming out of reach of the waters that would save her. With my newfound talents I took the scream from her – I listened it out her throat, out of her pale gaunt frame. Freed from her burden of grief, she plunged into the still, black sea at the edge of Olam ha Tiqvah. In like manner I have rescued many souls, and so the sleeping and the Dead have sometimes called me Racham, which means Mercy, and is one of the names that most pleases me.

Atop the bleak Peaks of Sekel an errant glass giant confided the Bough is called the Finger of Bahalath, which is to say that it was named after the dead god who created the Phantasms before the cosmos was put to order. The ancient giant – Mutu was his name – did not willingly give away lore, and would only let the wind whistle through his lips (for this is the only way for such creatures to speak) so as to sing in a trite and irritating fashion while shaking a rusted tambourine. I knew from having travelled widely that the giants possess all manners of secrets. Wishing to learn more concerning the Bough, I threatened Mutu with the strident scream of the shade by the ocean; when he came near to breaking on account of the sound, the giant pleaded for mercy and answered my questions.

It would be unfair and inaccurate to pretend that I found the Bough – for one might just as easily say that it found me. Bahalath’s Finger is aptly named: the tree on which it grows is the black hand of the dead god, still possessed of some primordial power. On the barren barrows of Midnight it beckoned to me; fearing that I might wake at any moment from the excitement, I answered its summons without regard for my safety. I cannot tell you how it is that Bahalath’s hand spoke, nor the exact terms of the compact into which I entered then. I suppose such things are too horrible for the minds of most sleepers to conceive. Needless to say, I had to offer a sacrifice in exchange for the flesh of the god, and the stipulations made it certain that my soul would never again inhabit my mortal body.

Grim prophets now deplore that dead Bahalath, wearing my skin, clandestinely roves the living world, spreading blasphemous lore. As for myself, I have parted the waters of the moats of the palaces of the High Ones – I have penetrated their barriers of blue flame – using only the finger of the god. No place in Olam ha Tiqvah is barred to me, the most powerful of the Dream Lords. Though I only come to observe, every soul fears me, like an evil omen. I have escaped Hazavel and Hagiael.2 I am free and contented: even the greatest marvels of the impermanent world pale in comparison to the commonplace occurrences of the Dream from which I shall never wake.

1Literally, the Age of Hope; the Afterworld.
2Death & Rebirth, respectively.

The Nightmare

Written by Simon Smart
The nightmare is a clever thing with all kinds of tricks and traps. Your demons always close enough to touch, salvation forever just out of reach, vines to tangle your feet, water to drown and endless expanses of falling.

The nightmare knows your memories. It hones a blade from the moment you knew the car wouldn’t stop. It wears the face of the man with the knife. It weaves a body of spiders, snakes, blood and bones. The nightmare knows you. Is you. You cannot escape it any more than you can escape from yourself.

You believe that when you wake the nightmare sleeps, and that is the nightmare’s greatest trick. The nightmare is awake, here and now, waiting to catch you one more time.

Dry and cracked underbelly

Written by Chris Brandon
Dry and cracked underbelly,
finish torn and laid waste by cold sunlight.
Many months pass leaving collective damage and sorrow.
A warm breeze?
An awakening.
Once again a use has been found. Rolled over
in delight I sit.

Livia Dreams

Written by Eleanor Gang
You are walking down a hallway, both sides of which are lined with closed doors. It is unlit, but you can see your immediate surroundings as though you provide your own illumination; yet you carry none.The hallway seems to go on forever. Despairing of ever reaching the end, you stop and consider the closed doors. They are indistinguishable one from another. There are no identifying marks, no numbers; even the doorknobs are identical. You remember the story of Ali Baba and the chalking of the houses by the blindfolded tailor and the resourceful servant. None of these doors is set apart, neither with chalk nor scratches or spots of wear and tear. You risk a glance behind you, but the way back is as dark as the path ahead. You no longer remember your place of departure any more than your destination. It seems as though you have always been walking down this corridor. On impulse, you grasp the knob of the door nearest you and turn it. The door opens easily and you are surprised, having expected it to be locked. You are momentarily blinded by sudden dazzling light and you see that the room is as big as the whole wide world. You cross a marble floor only to be stopped by a railing at the edge of a parapet overlooking a grand vista: mountains and valleys, rivers and lakes, grassy plains, verdant forests, rolling oceans. Far off in the blue, blue sky you see an eagle soaring on a thermal. You lean over the edge of the railing in an attempt to catch sight of what lies directly below when it suddenly disintegrates and you are falling, falling through the blue sky, through cold wet clouds, pine trees, a ploughed field, into the very ground, past rock strata, secret aquifers, through the Earth’s crust, its mantle, and right down to the fiery core of the planet itself, the heat oppressive, the pressure unbearable. Just as you fear you will be crushed or consumed by fire, you find yourself in the hallway, your hand still on the cool knob of the door.

You continue walking, wondering at your recent experience.You stop and try another door. This one opens onto a meadow filled with wild flowers under a blue summer sky. There are children playing everywhere, laughing, running, throwing and catching balls, gathering daisies and making them into chains. When they see you, they drop what they are doing and run to you, calling, “Mamma!” and give you a quick hug before running off and joining the others to continue their games. You are overwhelmed with emotion. Clouds move in and the sun starts to set. The blue sky is replaced by a pink overcast and three children come out of the gloom to face you. All the others have disappeared. You do not know these children; then you do. They are truly yours, the ones you aborted when you were in no position to have them, whose father was married to a woman he would not leave. You burn with shame and tears roll down your hot cheeks. They reach out to you and take your hands, pulling them so that you encircle the three with your arms. You draw them to your breast and they melt into your aching womb. The sun plunges into the meadow and you are plunged with it into darkness to find that you are back in the hallway, your fingers still on the knob of the door you just opened. You try it again, but this time it is locked and does not yield to your insistent twisting.

Once more you walk down the corridor, bringing your small illumination with you, cheeks damp with tears. You grasp a handle and pull open another door, stepping into the room beyond. Inside there is an ancient woman stirring a pot on a fire. The log walls are chinked with moss, the roof above you is thatch. There is a black cat on a rocker who opens one green eye to gaze at you incuriously before rising, stretching, then settling down to the serious business of washing its fur.The old woman at the fire stops her stirring and turns to greet you. On the table is a teapot, two cups, cream, sugar, a plate of biscuits. Everything is glowing with a soft golden light, the polished wood of the table, the copper pot on the fire, the mantle piece above. The old woman smiles and you are reminded of someone, but of whom? She does not speak, but motions you to a seat and pours tea. You are wary. You remember Persephone ate pomegranate seeds and was obliged to stay in the underworld, and for a brief moment you wonder if you have died. You raise the cup to your lips. The old woman opposite raises her cup to her lips. You reach for a biscuit. She does the same. You see a ring on the gnarled hand, identical to the one on your own, your mother’s engagement ring, one large diamond with two smaller ones on either side. Your mother is dead, has been for decades. She was still a young woman when you last saw her, younger than you are now. Is this her, aged a hundred years, living in a log cabin with a cat for company? Or is it you? The cat finishes its toilet and leaps onto the scarred, wooden tabletop. Your impulse is to shoo it off, but the old woman merely continues smiling and sipping her tea. The cat jumps onto you and you drop your cup to the floor where it shatters. The cat lands on your face. You cannot see and you cannot breathe. You feel as though you are drowning, suffocating, clawing at what smothers you and come suddenly awake in a darkened room.

For a moment Livia thinks she is back in the hallway, then realizes that it is her own bed, her own room. The faint illumination comes from the window where the false dawn is breaking. The dream clings heavily about her head and shoulders and she looks at her hands, her aging ringless fingers, and decides then and there that she will find a way to marry Arthur McGruder.

Sleep: A Haiku Collection

Only in our dreams
Can we fly to brightest light
And fall to darkness.

- Simon Smart
A foetus in the womb
Dreams about sucking its thumb
While it floats in space.

Whimpering, whining,
Running after dream squirrels,
An old dog slumbers.

I dreamt last night that
You and I became lovers.
It was just a dream.

- Eleanor Gang
Eyes are shut firmly
Sights are odd, irrational
Now I am falling

- Sam Zen

Nightmares : A Haiku Collection

There was this squid, right –
whose tentacles touched and
rubbed the parts it shouldn't.

- Chris Brandon
Always shopping malls,
miles and miles of dingy stores...
Horror: no way out!

- Etienne Domingue
Monster under bed
Saliva drips to the floor
Feeding time begins

- Nick Wilson
Six-fifteen a.m.
Before the alarm goes off
The machines are back.

- Eleanor Gang
Palms remain sweaty
Breathing comes hoarse and ragged
End is not the end

- Nick Wilson
Alien drives car
Like Fred Flinstone with his feet.
River of acid.

(Based off of a real nightmare my friend had when we were kids.)

- Chris Brandon
The dark is inside
where we cannot murder it.
We become victims.

- Mathew Stiffel
I wish that it were
But the horrible truth is
This is not a dream.

- Simon Smart
I open my eyes
Only to discover that
I’m back in grade nine.

We cannot get out
Bridge and Second Hall; taken
Drums, Drums in the Deep.

- Gordon Lambie

Waking: A Haiku Collection

Why now, oh why now?!
On the verge of finding her
I woke, despairing.

- Etienne Domingue

Awaken to find
Someone has replaced your head
With a bowling ball.

(My sick day haiku.)

- Gordon Lambie

Smothered in my hole
Tons of black earth crushing me
I hunger for brains.

- Mathew Stiffel

Awakened quickly
Cold sweats, pounding heart and fear
Alone in my bed

(Autobiographical from 2:20am today.)

Opening my eyes
I greet the day as always
With the words "Oh, Fuck"

- Nick Wilson

Why dost thou leave me
Sleep? For Oblivion would
I forsake the world.

- Eleanor Gang
Cryo sleep over
A fierce itching in my chest
Oh no, not again ...

- Jeremy Low

Escape never lasts
The jealous sun is too proud
To cede to night, dream.

- Bill Moody

The Man in my Dreams

I hadn’t dreamt in what felt like ages. At least, I hadn’t remembered my dreams. Apparently everyone dreams, but some of us just don’t remember. The last dreams I do remember where from when I was a kid. They were always nightmares, always of me dying somehow. It made me afraid of everything: stairs, trees, even oranges once. Except for the last nightmare. I don’t remember much from it, I was maybe eight at the time, but therewas a bright flash of white light and this … voice. It was saying something. I couldn’t hear it clearly, but it sounded familiar, like my father’s voice only… different somehow.

Since then, I haven’t remembered a thing from my dreams. I’d still wake up in the morning with a feeling of dread every other week, but apart from that, nothing. I figured I’d blocked it all out. Who wants to dream about dying every night?

Last week was the first time I dreamt –or remembered dreaming – in maybe 13 years. Anyway, it felt … real.

I was next to a small lake in the middle of an urban area. There was a man in a business suit sitting on a bench. When I noticed him, he started talking. He said, “So here you are again. You know I’ll just keep bringing you here until you remember, right? I tell you every night, and I still have to see you again the next day.” I was struck by the voice: it was the same as in my last childhood dream. “Actually, that’s not entirely true. This is the last time I’ll be able to bring you here, so I hope to God you’re going to wake up and remember.”

He was staring out at the lake. I didn’t understand what he meant, so I asked him, “What is it you want me to remember?”

I don’t know why I didn’t ask a more obvious question. It was the first thing that popped into my mind. He perked up when I said that. He sank back down and continued, “So you’re finally talking back. That’s good. Maybe it means you’ll remember. If not … well, it’s still nice to have some hope after so long.” He sounded happy, but his voice was bugging me, like I knew exactly who he was but couldn’t place him.

“Either way… you just need to remember this place. This lake. This city. Look around.”

It didn’t look at all familiar: just an average small town, with some bigger buildings in what I guessed was downtown.

“Why do I need to remember this place?”Again, I don’t know why I asked that. It’s like I was following a script.

He turned around to face me. His features were like mine, only older. His eyes, his voice, his build, everything was like I imagine I’d be in a decade or two.

And that’s when he told me, “You need to remember this place, because this is where you will die, and the last thing you’ll see is the world dying with you.” He turned back to the lake. I wanted to ask him what he meant, but then there was a bright flash of white light, like the sunrise times a million. Then there came the rumbling … And the heat. My God, the heat …

I woke up screaming, the picture of an atomic mushroom cloud stuck in my mind. Isn’t it funny how only a handful of A-bombs has ever been used, yet everybody in the West knows exactly what they should look like? I know what you’re thinking: It was just a dream. I’m panicking for no reason. It doesn’t mean anything.

Except, I moved to a new town this week. I recognized the lake. It’s right in front of my house.

I don’t know what I should do now.

Written by François-René Montpetit

The Beginning is the End

Written by Nick Wilson
The old – no, that wasn’t accurate – the decrepit man shuffled into the room and, with help from the nurse, stripped his clothes off and lay down on the bed. He looked up at the young woman, smiled, and said, “If I were the man I once was, I’d pinch your ass.” She smiled back, with just a hint of pity in her eyes, and replied, “Well, if you ever become that man again, you go right ahead.”

He barked out a laugh. “We both know that won’t happen, girl.” She just smiled at him again as she set up the IV. He did not even flinch as she missed the vein the first time and it occurred to her that his body was probably in so much pain, he hadn’t even noticed. It hardened her resolve and she started the drip just as the doctor came in.

“Good morning Mr. Flournay. How are you today?”

“I’m ready, Doc.”

“Are you sure? As you know, once we flip the switch, so to speak, there’s no stopping it and I can’t promise that there will be no pain.”

The old man looked at him. “When your body starts falling apart like mine has, you’ll understand.”

The doctor smiled at him. “I hope I do. I really hope I do.”

He started explaining the final paperwork and gathering the signatures – so many signatures! – for the legal documents as some technicians fiddled around Flournay, who just lay there as the good doctor droned on. Finally, the signatures and legalities fully explained, the doctor went to the control panel, flipped the safety cap off a large button and, turning to the patient, said, “This is your last chance to change your mind, Mr. Flournay.”

There was a pause, a long pause, silence save for Flournay's raspy breathing as the old man lay staring at the ceiling for what felt like minutes. Then he whispered,“Do it!”

The doctor pushed the button. The first chemicals entered Flournay’s bloodstream fighting the pain. Even so, the controlled substances coursing through his veins could not defeat it. Or was that just part of death, and there was no avoiding it? Flournay pondered briefly about pain and death, then wondered if his life would flash before his eyes. He thought of his childhood, skinned knees, the broken leg when he fell out of his tree fort, the teenage crushes, that first time with his first love fumbling in the cramped confines of her mom’s car, the anguish when that same car crashed a week later and took her from him, the ongoing pain of high-school after that, the parties in college, the drugs, the sex, the booze, the graduation, the degree, the job, the marriage, the children, her affair, then his, the divorce, the alcoholism, the sobering up, the second marriage, the uneventful but happy years, her cancer, her treatment, her death, his slide back into alcoholism, the regret, the anger, the growing pain; everything that had led him to this day, to this place and was followed by the thought, “Would my life have flashed before my eyes if I hadn’t wondered if it would flash before my eyes?”

The pain began to recede. It started at his feet, slowly working its way up his legs. Pins and needles, followed by a numbness, followed by... nothing. It traveled up to his pelvis, up his chest, his lungs and heart (thank god!), his shoulders, up his neck.

The nothingness reached his chin, jaw, and cheeks. He started to panic. His eyes darted around franticly, his neck muscles refusing to respond. They weren’t there anymore as far as he could tell. His eyes found those of the doctor, looking at him with a look of pity, concern, and... admiration? The nothingness continued, his eyes stopped moving, dimmed to black, and then...

Nothing. Not even nothing. Less than nothing.

I’m dead? I can’t be dead. I’m still thinking. I think therefore I am. Unless this is Heaven. Or Hell. Maybe it’s Hell. Nothing for eternity, except a thought in the darkness. Just my thought in the darkness, all alone. All alone. Maybe that’s the meaning of l-

Pain exploded around Flournay and through him as every bit of his body simultaneously went from nothingness to full-on feeling, the nerves overloading his brain as though they had never carried any signals before. He gasped for breath, lungs clamouring to inhale, to fill to capacity, and his scream echoed off the walls at the terrible pain of their first exhalation. Eyes snapped open, staring with brutal clarity at the ceiling, tears running down his cheeks as the brightness of the room overloaded his optic nerves, the doctor running into the room, the technicians madly pressing buttons and whipping tubes and monitoring sensors from his – his – body, the nurse holding his hand and brushing the hair back from his sweat-stained face, the EEG monitor showing his pegged heart rate...

“Well, Mr. Flournay, it looks like you’re feeling better.”

The doctor was scribbling a few notes on his clipboard.

“I have to say that you were a bit more... dramatic than usual shall we say? But your test results are fine, and you can go home immediately.”

“Thank you, doctor.”

“Just remember, you have a good 70 years or so of experience to forget. Remember, your body is capable, but it won’t be if you don’t use it.”

Five minutes later, Flournay was looking out over the clinic’s parking lot from the wheelchair the nurse had used to push him to the door. Flournay sat in silence, taking in the air, the trees, when her voice interrupted his thoughts.

“Did it... did it hurt? When you died?”

“Yes. Just about the worst thing I’ve ever experienced. I don’t recommend it. Unless of course, you find you have to.” She laughed and he joined in, his laughter growing louder and stronger, finally trailing off moments before the taxi arrived. He quickly stood up, picked up his suitcase from next to the wheelchair and started to the cab.

“Mr. Flournay?” He turned back to the nurse. “Aren’t you forgetting something?” He looked at her, puzzled, as she turned away from him. She stood there for a second, then a smile broke out on her face as she felt the gentle pinch. She turned back to him. “Have a great life, Mr. Flournay.”

He smiled back. “Thank you. You too.”

“I plan to. And I’m still on my first one.”

He smiled wider. “So am I.

Morpheus Rejected or We’ll Sleep When We’re Dead

Written by Sheila Quinn
Lolling through tea-time, alight with the perks of sundown……

A long-standing routine,
the self-imposed nightly binding of my Isaac.
Only a loving deity rarely intervenes, and alas my sweet Isaac perishes,
and I don’t miss him until it’s too late, at my own hands demised.

Twilight, midnight, late night,
I offer him up.
To industrious nothingness, to the frantic results of procrastination.
To motherhood.
To satisfaction. To seduction.
To satisfaction again.

I give up,and night after night he is sacrificed.
I care, but not enough to cease and desist.
Ease and insist.
Please don’t resist.
I don’t need you anyway.
We’ll be together in death, because,

with you I’m restless.

But I miss you most
at new-found oh-six-hundred internal alarm,
eyes open and craving you.
I only want you when I can’t have you.
Even though I know….
How good you are for me.
How right you are for me.
You’ll only find me falling into your arms
by accident or because
I was out of options.


Etienne Domingue speaks with an accent of nowhere and never; he has two second languages and no mother tongue.

Chris Brandon wants to remind you that your grandparents have had more sex than you.  Try not to picture it. I said try not to. Jeez.

Sam Zen is a musician and wordsmith currently  working in the forms of Haiku Thursdays and television comedy. He enjoys cookery, kookery, bass guitars, craft ales, and fine beards.

Nick Wilson has been known to ride down mountains on a unicycle, and once read Beowulf in Anglo-Saxon for fun (well, 3/4 of it). He hates cancer and veggies.

Jeremy Low is a skeptic, anti-theist, and gentlemanscholar. His interests include science, anime, and British comedy. He lives in Southern Ontario.

A Titan undercover as a Bishop’s student, François-René  “Little Mountain” Montpetit enjoys smiting the wicked, nefarious plotting, and playing video games – mostly the last one.

Simon Smart is a distant islander who doesn't belong in this strange land. He has just written a book and is hoping people will buy it.

If Eleanor Gang could be granted one wish, it would be to be tall enough to reach the top shelf at Provigo without standing on the bottom one.

Mathew Stiffel is as old as the universe and never wants to grow up. He cares a lot about not caring about very much, and has a forbidden romance with the Oxford Comma.

Gordon Lambie teaches High School English and enjoys writing on the side. He writes a weekly column for The Sherbrooke Record and self-published a poetry collection, New Bright Idea, in 2010.

Bill Moody is just this guy, you know?

A 30-something, pop-culture-mad mother of two, Sheila Quinn is also a Townshipper, deejay, journalist, and thrifter with a thing for lemon meringue and rockabilly.

Chief editor:  Eleanor Gang
Graphic editor, logo & web designer: Zoe Nadeau Boucher
Cover illustration: Chris Brandon
Additional editing & event coordination: Etienne Domingue 

Issue 2 Launch

Iris invites you to a live story-telling and poetry-reading event at the Foreman Art Gallery on Saturday, October 15th, 3PM.

Paper copies of the magazine will be available by donation; proceeds from this issue will benefit the graduating art show.

Happy 70th birthday, Anne Rice!

Sure, vampires are all the rage these days. But before Stephenie Meyer extended the audience of unspeakable blood rites to include the tween demographic, there was The Vampire Chronicles.

Love or hate sexually-ambivalent, photophobic antiheroes, The Vampire Chronicles have indubitably left a mark on the neo-gothic imagination. Anne Rice’s fiction is at least interesting in that it sometimes features narration done in the epistolary style, in keeping with the great tradition of Victorian horror.

Quel Hobbit re! Happy Hobbit Day!

Today is Bilbo and Frodo’s birthday, observed by Tolkien fans across the globe.

While modern readers need not be reminded of Tolkien’s contribution to the fantasy genre, they may be interested to learn more about the master’s stance on myth-making. Tolkien’s creative philosophy is most vividly outlined in Mythopoeia, a poetic manifesto addressed to C.S. Lewis some fifteen years before Narnia.

Tolkien's legendarium was expanded in 2007 with the posthumous publication of The Children of Húrin. The introduction of a new cast of credible female characters can be counted as The Children of Húrin's chief literary breakthrough: such characters were arguably absent from the other episodes of the Ring saga.

Peter Jackson's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey should make its theatrical debut in early 2012.

Happy 145th birthday, Mr. Wells!

One of the fathers of modern science-fiction, Herbert George Wells is perhaps best known for The War of the Worlds.

The Time Machine exemplifies Wells' exquisitely descriptive style: his depictions of Earth’s future, though wildly inaccurate by modern science, raise doubts as to the possibility of a meaningful life in a temporally infinite universe.

Like his fictions, Wells was  ahead of his time: he was a socialist and a supporter of the suffragettes. Unlike fellow science-fiction author Aldous Huxley, Wells actually did support eugenics openly, though The Island of Dr.Moreau displays a complex and nuanced appreciation of the promises of the life sciences.

For a good taste of Wells' rich expressiveness, Iris recommends Orson Welles' radio dramatization of The War of the Worlds.


"We, the disillusioned youth of this twenty-first century, do hereby issue the following ultimatum: the Peoples of Earth have one year (effective from the publication date of this document) to recover their various space programs and establish permanent settlement on the moon. After this period of one year, if our conditions are not met, we will destroy the moon outright, as the people of Earth will have proven that they care more for internal struggle than outward expansion and survival."

It had started as a joke. The writers stood by the essence of their words, certainly, but the concept of blowing up the moon was really just meant to sensationalize the document a bit.

It came out of many nights of frustrated conversations: a manifesto crafted by jaded, post-space-age youths in the very living rooms where their parents had watched NASA’s momentous small step for a man. A small step for mankind as well, as it had turned out.  “If no one on this planet is willing to step up to the plate and take humanity back to the moon, then we, the youth of this world, see no reason why it should continue to hover there nightly, mocking us with its relative celestial proximity.”

Having been allowed to grow fat on depictions of the distant stars fed to them by a dying golden age of science fiction writers and filmmakers, each felt the wretched raw burning of dreams denied, and poured that disappointment into their joint declaration.

It went online at 11:35pm, March 31, 2014. Not one of the five ever considered the effect that timing might have until it was too late.

On any other day their letter would have passed quietly into the vast reliquaries and sub-crypts of the Internet without a thought shed on the matter by the common YouTube junkie or celebrity blogger. Yes, any other day, and the joke would have stayed a joke and the humdrum days would have piled one upon the next unto eternity. As it was, however, April Fool’s Day made the whole thing all too real.

The vast collective of minds plugged in on the morning of April 1st, on the lookout for the great internet pranks of the day, honed in on the Manifesto and spread it like herpes to all corners of the earth. In a matter of hours, 4 out of 5 college students in North America had read and re-read the ultimatum and proceeded to pass it along to all their friends and family via their social network of choice.  By noon it had been translated into 14 different languages (with varying degrees of accuracy). The hashtag #blowupthemoon was trending globally on Twitter as the writers awoke the next morning. The story made the international news media in 17 different countries.

It was startling, but it was also April Fools’ Day.

The next day, people were still talking.

Three days after the publication of the document, there was a small gathering of young people carrying picket signs plastered with pro-moon messages outside of NASA headquarters in Washington D.C.
By the end of the week there were several hundred gathered, and similar crowds growing in other countries around the world. Governments were calling on their people to be reasonable in the face of what had clearly been intended as an April Fool’s joke, but a generation raised on the explorations of Jim Kirk and the writings of Clarke and Asimov would hear nothing of it. They, too, wanted to see Humanity ascend to the stars; joke or not, this manifesto spoke to the longing and the disappointment kindled in all of their hearts.

The whole time the writers never felt any reason to be concerned; despite their fascination with the worldwide fervour their ideas had spawned, they were confident in the fact that no one had the power to obliterate the moon. Movements were beginning to spring up in small towns; the Moonbombers (sometimes referred to as moonboomers) and their counterparts, the “Concerned citizens for the protection of the moon” were the two most common in North America, but every town had variants. Almost no one gave the groups more thought than they would the Kiwanis Club or the Shriners.

While some countries held stubbornly to their principles, others saw room for changes to social policy in light of the changing interests of their various peoples. The Middle East was almost eerily quiet as the Arab nations and Israel refocused their militaries to begin their own space race. The Russians and the Japanese produced a collaborative design for a device which could significantly diminish the concentration of harmful radiations within a variable radius. The International Space station underwent rapid expansion (entirely through private-sector funding) to accommodate the new Boeing “Stargazer” space planes which were also being rushed into development.

The momentum unleashed by the simple act of writing an open letter was unbelievable to the five young writers, and things had almost gotten to the point where they felt silly to have published their work anonymously as the anniversary of the ultimatum rolled around. It didn’t really matter, of course. They all agreed that the betterment of humankind was far-and-away more important than any kind of fame and recognition. No single group had ever so drastically and positively altered the course of history in such a short a period of time, and each knew that, without needing to have international media attention.

On March 31, 2015, the five gathered for a quiet celebration of all that had come to pass in the last year. As late-night talk-show hosts ran gag-reels of apocalypses gone by and marvelled at the progress humanity had made in the name of what, again clearly, had been a joke, the writers gathered in the back yard of the very house in which they had drafted their declaration. They shared champagne and gazed up into the starry sky at the moon which had inspired everything, laughing.  Humanity had not made it back to the moon.  No matter how quickly the machine moved, one year was not enough time to get that far, having started cold. Amazing strides had been taken though, unbelievable steps to a better tomorrow. They looked together at the cratered orb glowing above their heads. One raised his glass to make a toast, and suddenly the world shook and light filled the sky, brighter than day.

Ridiculous as it was, they couldn’t help but turn, each to the other, and ask,

“Did you...?”

It had started as a joke, but gazing horror-struck at the burning chunks of the moon flying wildly in all directions, the five knew that someone, somewhere had taken them far too seriously.

On April 1st, 2015, the real work began.

Written by Gordon Lambie

I have gotten over my fear of thunder

Written by Chris Brandon
i have gotten over my fear of thunder
maybe -
She stammered out as She jumped up
reaching out Her hands
grey clouds
heavy, just out of reach
as if they might strike Her down
as if
She could fly
into sound.
i was the only witness to Her
unless you count the lake.
brooding and omniscient – forever.
Her reflection getting tiny as
the cold grey light
touched Her pale skin
with the wind that
played music in Her hair.
the Thunder
and so
did i.


Written by Shanna Pauline Bernier
She stood next to the clock and stared at its unmoving hands. It had been working moments before; now it was motionless. Something about the stillness in the room was very relaxing.  All she could hear was the sound of her own beating heart. She looked very serene, her shoulder-length hair set as nicely as the other housewives from her neighbourhood, polished and prim in a green dress one might wear to church. All around the room lay the bodies of the fallen soldiers – those whom she thought of as soldiers, whom one might have described as agents, guards, or minions. They were all still, unmoving, as though frozen. Their destroyed weapons lay beside them in a heap: it was a strange, bloodless scene with only a few visible scrapes on the men. It looked as though they had all died of broken hearts.

The woman looked up from the clock face and out the window. They were high up, perhaps on the 15th floor. Some had made the mistake of trying to take the elevator to escape.  That scene would not have been bloodless. The woman might have felt remorse, but she also felt that other people’s fear had led to this, that it was not something she needed to feel guilty about. She gazed out the window and remarked to herself that the buildings around her were starting to reboot. Lights flickered above her and the silence was broken only by the sound of an alarm beeping in the distance. She could have been in any building, but she had chosen this one. She walked out of the space full of fallen men and into an office unfamiliar to her, but the same as any other office. The woman stepped into the space and saw a desk, a phone, a computer, a standing lamp, a swivel chair... None of this was her world, but it all felt right.

She glanced at the bookshelf, admiring the broad selection of 19th century literature, then stepped towards the desk and touched the phone. A shot of powerful electricity pulsed through her veins: her mind was filled with conversation, numbers, codes, information and power. The woman withdrew her hand, stepped back out of the office and glanced up to find the sputtering emergency exit sign. She began descending the stairs.

Somewhere around the 3rd floor she heard people coming up and went through the door into a deserted accounting firm. Computers and printers began to buzz and squeak as she walked past them, errors flashing on every monitor. She looked into one of the offices and saw a large TV with a blue screen displaying the word “help.” Well-manicured fingers reached out and felt the raised hairs of static electricity between her and the display.  Had she been at home sitting in front of a screen like this only yesterday?  Had she mindlessly watched the news while she cooked supper and counted the killers she saw as almost imaginary? Today she was different. Today the woman was alive.  Voices began to draw near again, and as the TV turned black she ran down the shadowed hallway towards the emergency stairs and a new beginning.

In the Beginning

Written by Simon Smart
In the beginning, before the gods sculpted humankind from clay, they made the first people. The first people were made not of clay, but of gold.

The people of gold were immortal and the gods gave them great powers. They grew and flourished, and for a while the gods were pleased.

The people of gold grew stronger and stronger. They reached for the heavens, eager to become as gods themselves. The gods saw this and looked on their creations with fear.

The gods cast down the people of gold and took away their golden bodies, hiding them deep under the earth. The gods looked on the golden souls that remained and could not bear to destroy them. They would start anew and build a new people out of clay. Then they would put golden souls into clay bodies.

The gods made many people of clay. They did not shine like the people of gold. Their bodies were fragile, and their souls dull and cold. The golden ones did not belong among them.

The souls of the golden people still live today. The gods made them to last forever, after all. In their dreams they reach for the heavens, remembering the beginning.

Écorcher la Nuit

Written by Erik Wackernagel
The sterling intensity of this swollen night opens out like a flower
Beckoning, thrusting into the first falling spears of the morning light
Opens like a star bursting in joyous agony in the eternal song of
The flame churning inside its gut
And coming
And coming
Through our ears and nose and eyes and throats
The luminosity of a million suns
Dancing a twisted tango
Burning out in little lanterns over the charred blanket of a summer’s night
A winter’s night
Snowflakes turning pirouettes on the silent wind
Glistening in icy reflection of the horrid fires above
Snow falling like a shower of broken glass over the crude body of an asphalt cookie sheet
Bouncing and tinkling o’er the ground like raindrops and marbles
And prickling down into the impermeable black membrane of hell
Some sickly heidegger swimming in the ocean ooze of being
Where life may refuse to be stamped out by the shuddering folds of dark
Thick in the sweat of a dream of a river
Flowing between bodies
Little geysers sending drops and showers
And thirsty pores sucking down their fill
Licking saline streams and hard nipples beckoning in the never
A shooting star may sit a million years in nulle part
Just to swim a catapult stream arcing a lover’s back across the sky
A fire born for one beaming moment
One movement
For those who dare swipe at the jaws of the heavens
And cackle the grinning maw of a skeleton
To know that one who lives in death
Is a flower
Roots crackling whips on wind electric
The lightning flare of suckling fibres twisting a faint medusa
Revel in the wanting darkness grotesque
Over the sunken ashes of a house of mirrors
The real horror
To those who have learned to fear
Is the bathhouse of terrors
Swimming in steamy saunas and sultry waters
With snakes and feathers, fucked up grins and leather
Smacking the bars on a cage of desire
Plunging in pools of moonlight and stretching limbs in the velvet
To walk fearless in the midnight of good and evil
Stars fires limbs lovers tired sins

City leaving lights bereaving

Written by Chris Brandon
City leaving lights bereaving,
obeying the spectacle of air and sound,
slowly repeated to ears resting on the closed heads of martyrs.
Unwilling at best to make tools of voices.
Lights leaving it all to air and sound to go on repeating.
Bludgeoning on


Red Spectre Kill

Written by Erik Wackernagel
We have placed the luminous spectrum under house arrest,
Fearing the risk of wildcat paw bats
On the part of colours, autonomous agents
Infecting the quickest port of entry to the human mind.
Once colours are moving, they blow through
Reticent windows like crumbling old napkins;
Popping paparazzi shots in mirrors
That we had forgotten.

There is no catching a beast
Who slingshots itself riding airy cheetahs with
Six-packs of M-80’s for feet.
Sexless, there is no fooling it with the
Mimicking tongues of orchids,
Much as we might like to see wild mating
Forces colliding at the speed of light.
Colours are a breed hard to tease.
They laugh at the ease
with which clumsy fingers catch rodents.

The momentary leap through the solar system
Does not make me cringe,
As the crimson of lips expelling tingles
Despite the closing of eyelids.
Sparks tickling the orange glands in Floridian taste buds
Quickly sketch the allure of carbon
Clinging to metal-skinned potatoes,

Yet they can’t explain why
The human fires clutching to the bounds of imagination,
Strange in time and home,
Are white, and why the sun draws goosebumps
To arms seeking liberty in July.

The film will continue, despite the arresting
Silence of colours.
Gradient senses forget their old velocity;
Limbs settle thirsty in antebellum poses.
Faces are not sought for their expressionism
In the graphic science of terror. Strangely,
Blood is a poor mock-up for blood in the moving lens.
Beets crack the dry western earth in
Ghastly whims to clutch white blouses that collect
The sparse and quivering residue of the colour wheel.

The rainbow shrinks from the pressure hose
Spraying the Kindergarten. Abstaining words
Shut up the gathering climax speed of skeletal
Queers collecting in the water ducts,
Populating the paving stone landscape, haunting
Pumpkin-eyed families.
Colour-eating goggles lie in shadowy patience
In birthing clinics.

The Theater of Cruelty, born in white halls,
Sniffing bleach and tactile blackouts,
Offers murmurs to a tonsilly collection plate,
Where pupils leak into homeless death orgies.
New doctors gently peel away light wave receptors,
Nails plucking cheese wax.

The curtains kiss with the first tap of cold light.
Infants incubate by the dozens in the cinema;
Seats menstruate old strips of velvet robbed of blush.
Hue-drained thighs stretch and lift off from the resting place.
Stand and applaud. The whites of their eyes meet
and embrace in quiet abandon. In padded walls
Stained only with the off-gassing of odd dreams –
Together we have seen the solution.

The exit lights flashing
Cast the pale glow of 1939
On summery flesh filing in the doorway.
The narrator chooses to remain anonymous.

A Bedtime Creation Myth for Atheist Children

Written by Eleanor Gang
In the beginning, the gods argued among themselves as to which was the greatest of them all.

At length, Hosheck of the Dark said, “Let us hold competitions to determine who is the mightiest,” and each god came forward with a different test, certain that he would win over his brethren. But, being gods, they were equally powerful and none was stronger than the others, until Planck of the Light said, “I bet that I can swallow all of you at once.”

His fellow gods laughed; but he was most serious in his challenge. At last, radiant Raliaphnis said, “I will be the first to enter your maw.” As he disappeared into Planck’s mouth, Florianis of All That Is Matter volunteered to be next, and in this way, each of the gods was eventually swallowed until only Hosheck remained.

“You know not what you do,” he warned Planck. Planck smiled serenely and said, “Nay, I know entirely too well what I do, brother.” He grabbed the god of the Dark and shoved him in with the rest.

Now full of the the entire pantheon of existence, the belly of Light expanded under enormous pressure, and, no longer constant, Planck exploded, erupting into the void. The disintegrated deities formed time and space as we know them, and the universe is still expanding to this day.

And that, children, is how the universe began: a big bang, with no god to guide it.

Issue 1 Launch

We fêted the launch of our inaugural issue on September 17th, 2011 at Café Java.

These whispers are a secret passage

Written by Chris Brandon
These whispers are a secret passage like the kind you find when you’re a little boy: where they lead, you’re not sure but you know they mean something. You know they go where you need to be, where things are better, where it doesn’t hurt anymore.

Sometimes the things you know are things that can be taken away.

Sometimes you just don’t even know what you know.

The Bird and the Wizard

Written by Adrian Downey
PART I - In which we meet a giant bird and a man with dark skin who likes to wear purple.

The bird-who-lived-forever spiralled downward and landed hard on the ground, sending a cluster of shimmering black feathers into the air. Before the mammoth ruler of the sky could collect her strength to move, the Wizard-who-had-read-too-much threw himself at her chest, shoulder first, and seized her throat with his strong ringed hand.

The Bird’s vision began to dim.  She knew the end was near. Forty-seven lifetimes had passed in the blink of an eye, but the Bird still remembered the day she had hatched. On that day she had been given the name Kanya, which meant beauty, and indeed she was beautiful: a veritable paragon of wisdom and grace. When she died the first time she was not afraid even though she did not suspect she would rise again. It was only afterwards, at the beginning of her second life, that Kanya began to search for answers.

Just before her vision faded to black, Kanya dug deep into her reserves for the energy to shake the tiny Wizard-man from her body. Her enormous beak issued a low guttural howl: a challenge to her purple-robed adversary.

It hadn’t always been like this: in the beginning the two had been allies, for the Wizard was like Kanya. When first they met, each had already gone through three lifetimes, and for many years afterward they protected the world together. But nothing lasts forever; forty-seven incarnations had led to this moment. For the first time since they had discovered the secret of their destiny – and one another in the process – neither was entirely sure what would happen next.

The Bird abruptly clamped her beak shut.  The silence was like a counterpoint to the harsh, biting tones of enchantment that spewed from the parched lips of the Wizard, echoing through the barren desert in which they fought. Kanya’s eyes darted around the empty space in a frantic search for the spell-weaver. The chanting grew louder and less comprehensible; she felt her pulse quicken. Suddenly dying seemed very frightening.

Even though death was no stranger to her, Kanya felt certain that this time would be unlike any other and she wasn’t sure that she could come back. The afterlife is not something to which the seemingly-immortal give much thought.  After so many years of seeing death as only another arbitrary milestone with which to measure the passage of time, one begins to think of oneself as beyond such things.

The Bird’s train of thought was broken as the Wizard burst through the ground in front of her, sending jets of golden sand toward the sky. The Bird’s reflexes were keen and although her body was massive, she moved with a grace and speed unmatched by even the smallest and nimblest of creatures.  She launched herself at the Wizard, attempting to snap the tiny, human-shaped thing up in a single bite, but this was exactly what the swarthy spell-caster had been expecting. The second her giant beak touched the Wizard’s dusty robes, Kanya burst into flames.

In that instant each combatant recognized the fundamental difference between them. Kanya was a creature of strong action: of doing and creating, of existing in the moment. The Wizard, on the other hand, was one of deep thought, of planning and learning. He existed in his mind, and in the end it was his patience and the Bird’s impulsiveness which caused the ancient avian to be destroyed.
Kanya’s death was painful to watch. All the grace and beauty the creature had shown in life were misplaced in death.  She flailed about helplessly, issuing periodic yelps similar to that of a peahen who, having failed to protect the nest, must watch as a scavenger takes off with her eggs. The scent of scorched feathers wafted on the air as the once-immortal giant, crashed to the ground. The atmosphere seemed to constrict at the moment of her passing, as though the sky protested the death of its one and only master.

Epilogue (Origins)

In every ending there exists also limitless potential. It is the only thing which can ever be perfect, and the pursuit of such perfection burns the young from the vibrant beautiful people they are into the charred, desolate souls they become when they realize they will never live out their dreams. Those who survive this are as logs of ebony; their outside is soft and ordinary by all account of what a log ought to look like. Their hearts, however, are black as coal and strong as adamant.

Two things occurred to Kanya when she found her spirit trapped in a male, human-shaped body made mostly of water, in a strange land which she had never before seen. First, that she still existed, which was always a pleasant surprise, though she would have to sever any connection to her former existence to embrace her new life. Second, that she would have to harden her once beautiful heart to the world if she wished to survive in the harsh reality before her.


Tyler  Kolody  is a second-year psychology student at Bishop's University. He is a self-proclaimed nerd who enjoys reading, playing video games and preparing for the zombie apocalypse.

A fresh-off-the-shelf graphic designer, Zoe Nadeau Boucher specializes in 3D conception and multimedia.  She believes that paper can be just as interactive as Facebook.

Chris Brandon wants you to think of a black monster truck on fire driving over stolen police cars filled with old wedding cakes.

For Shanna Pauline Bernier, writing is an infrequent but enjoyable hobby. A graduate of Bishop’s University in Arts Education, she also enjoys painting, mountain climbing with her husband Gordon, reading post apocalyptic books, and pie.

Simon Smart is a distant islander who doesn't belong in this strange land. He has just written a book and is hoping people will buy it.

Erik Wackernagel  has been writing intermittently since the autumnal equinox of 2002, alternating words with hieroglyphics.  He is currently investigating the use of encryption in modern literature.

Bill Moody  is currently studying German and Japanese at Bishop’s University. He likes to write and draw. On clear nights, when the moon is full, his teeth sort of maybe get sharper if you look really, really close, after a few beers.

Gordon Lambie teaches High School English and enjoys writing on the side. He writes a weekly column for The Sherbrooke Record and self-published a poetry collection, New Bright Idea, in 2010.

Everything Eleanor Gang writes is true to varying degrees. Her next indispensable wardrobe item will be a bathrobe conspicuously covered with cats.

A student of Contemporary Religion at Université de Sherbrooke, Etienne Domingue  is uncertain about serial commas. He collects undergraduate credits, deities and hats.

Adrian Downey paints with all the colours of the wind. His spirit can only be tamed by his burning ambition to be financially unsuccessful. He does not like wearing shirts.

Editing: Eleanor Gang 
Logo and web design: Zoe Nadeau Boucher 
Cover illustration: Chris Brandon 
Advertising, PR and event coordination: Tyler Kolody & Bill Moody 
Additional editing: Etienne Domingue