Parallel Prairies: Good Monster Stories Aren’t Really About the Monsters...

In Parallel Prairies, Editors Darren Ridgley and Adam Petrash get readers acquainted with 19 authors of speculative fiction and their weird and wondrous tales inspired by Manitoba's landscape. In this foreword from the anthology, Ridgely and Petrash write about their intentions with the book, why good monster stories are never really about the monsters, and the amazing tales that lie at the geographic centre of the continent. 

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When we set out to assemble Parallel Prairies, we weren’t quite sure what to expect. 

We knew from our travels that Manitoba wasn’t without its speculative fiction writers, but we weren’t sure just how large the community was. Finding a wealth of talent with deep ties to the province, and putting all those authors between two covers, felt like a worthy endeavour—but would we find enough people for a whole book? If we put the call out, would anyone answer?

It turns out, we had nothing to worry about.

Manitoba is a province with a long history of mutual support, and we should have known better than to doubt it. The speculative fiction writers of Manitoba showed us who they are with this project, in print and in spirit. And for that, we are grateful.

Speculative fiction tends to get bogged down with labels. Yes, there’s “fantasy” but what kind? Urban? Portal? Epic? Yes, there’s science fiction, but is it hard sci-fi? Space opera? Looking at what we have in this book, we are less interested in what slot you’d put them into, and more about what they have to say.

To us, good monster stories aren’t really about the monsters. They’re at their best when they reveal something about the human condition. A dragon is a visual feast, with its hard scales, fearsome talons and steel-melting breath. But it’s the knights in those stories, grinding their boots into the mud and drawing their swords against tremendously bad odds, who teach us about valour. A ghost is terrifying and gruesome, but it’s the paranormal researcher (or unlucky homeowner) creeping through the halls, revealing only what a flashlight’s beam allows, who teaches us about fear. 

A dragon is a visual feast, with its hard scales, fearsome talons and steel-melting breath. But it’s the knights in those stories, grinding their boots into the mud and drawing their swords against tremendously bad odds, who teach us about valour. A ghost is terrifying and gruesome, but it’s the paranormal researcher (or unlucky homeowner) creeping through the halls, revealing only what a flashlight’s beam allows, who teaches us about fear. 

Real life, while full of its own wonder, slips into mundanity, with each person preoccupied with the day-to-day. A forest trail is pretty, and the air is fresh, but it becomes something more when one’s eye can imagine spirits, gnomes and elemental beasts hiding just beyond the ridge, or under a leaf. Speculative fiction is unlike myth in that its status doesn’t shift from accepted truth to fiction over time. But the messages remain.

That’s what we tried to do here: to rip open the portal to those other worlds and inject that magic into our own humble prairie province. What you’ll find in here runs the gamut: Stories of hidden faery worlds, of realms crossing into our own, of deals with the devil gone wrong; stories of far-flung futures where Canada’s Indigenous peoples congregate around a great fire among the stars; simple stories of love and loss under circumstances not like those of our world. Forget the categories. What you’ll find here are stories that are exciting, frightening, sad, and at times funny. They have things to say about who we are as individuals and as a community. 

In Manitoba, we find ourselves in a geographic centre, standing at the crossroads of a continent. Who knows what we might find at that intersection?

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About Parallel Prairies

The Canadian Prairie teems with life—not all of it of this world. Get acquainted with baby dragons, killer insects, faery kings, infernal entities and more, as 19 authors let the Manitoban landscape inspire weird and wondrous tales.

October 11, 2018
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