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Fiction Short Stories (single Author)

Mariner's Guide to Self Sabotage


by (author) Bill Gaston

Douglas & McIntyre
Initial publish date
Aug 2017
Short Stories (single author), Literary, Black Humor
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Aug 2017
    List Price

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"In this new collection Gaston's range is so wide, his technique so masterful, his tenderness, humour and intelligence so finely measured that he stops my heart."

--Barbara Gowdy

A Mariner's Guide to Self Sabotage is populated by the lonely and alienated, holders of secrets, members (or would-be members) of shadowy organizations, screw-ups, joyriders and runaways.

Architects of their own destruction, Gaston's characters provoke an almost mythic response of simultaneous disbelief and recognition, as they painfully, deliberately, stubbornly carve a path for themselves, questioning every turn. Yet somehow, in spite of themselves, they sometimes manage to stumble into peace and even wisdom.

This set of ten cautionary tales showcases Gaston's range and narrative versatility, moving seamlessly from the funny to the poignant to the surprising and absurd. The stories revel in the ironic and contrary, from a vegan working at a fish farm to a man getting his boat fixed the same day he plans to sink it to a man exchanging the keys to his Lincoln for a goat.

Gaston has a gift for making ordinary moments feel transcendent, capturing the everyday to such a precise degree that it becomes universal. A Mariner's Guide to Self Sabotage shows how the sublime sometimes reveals itself in the moments most people would rather put behind them.

About the author

Bill Gaston grew up in Winnipeg, Toronto, and North Vancouver. After spending a dozen years in the Maritimes, he moved to Victoria in 1998 to teach writing at the University of Victoria. He has published a collection of poetry, several plays, three story collections, and three novels, with a fourth, The Good Body, due to appear in spring 2000. "Where It Comes From, Where It Goes" won the 1998 CBC/Saturday Night Canadian Literary Award for fiction and was published in Saturday Night in May 1999.

Bill Gaston's profile page


  • Short-listed, ReLit Award for Short Fiction
  • Winner, City of Victoria Butler Book Prize

Editorial Reviews


“It’s gratifying to read something written with such self-contained confidence. It may be that Bill Gaston is so skilled at what he does that comparing him to the masters of Canadian literature is beside the point; better to flag any younger writers who approach his level of craft and imaginative empathy.”

Quille & Quire


“With stylistic command and heart-wrenching insight, Gaston has been a writer’s writer for too long. This collection of stories continues the Victoria writer’s chronicling the lonely and the outcast, individuals struggling for meaning and significance in a hostile, frequently surreal world.”

National Post's NP99


“In 10 life-defining situations, master storyteller Bill Gaston expertly casts the reader squirmingly close to dubious protagonists. These disquieting, elucidating short stories address contemporary issues and are usually discernably about Canadians. There are lessons to be learned here — vicariously, happily for the reader.”

Winnipeg Free Press

“In A Mariner’s Guide to Self Sabotage, Bill Gaston’s variety of milieus – a northern B.C. salmon farm, a Vancouver corporate party – are rendered in utterly immersive ways...”

University of Toronto Quarterly

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