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2018 Sunburst Award Longlist

By 49thShelf
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TORONTO, ONTARIO (June 1, 2018): The Sunburst Award Committee is pleased to announce the 2018 longlist for the Sunburst Award for Excellence in Canadian Literature of the Fantastic. This year’s lists are comprised of a mixture of established authors, talented newcomers, and several past nominees. Below are the longlisted works, with links where available:
Dragon Springs Road

Dragon Springs Road

A Novel
edition:Paperback
also available: eBook Audiobook Paperback

“Filled with enchantment and intrigue” (Toronto Star) and “a great choice for a book club” (The Huffington Post), Dragon Springs Road takes readers on an evocative journey a century in the past and half a world away.

In early-twentieth-century Shanghai, an ancient imperial dynasty collapses, a new government struggles to life and two girls are bound together in a friendship that will be tested by duty, honour and love.

Abandoned in the courtyard of a once-lavish estate outside Shanghai, se …

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Malagash

Malagash

edition:eBook
also available: Paperback
tagged : literary

A precisely crafted, darkly humorous portrait of a family in mourning

Sunday’s father is dying of cancer. They’ve come home to Malagash, on the north shore of Nova Scotia, so he can die where he grew up. Her mother and her brother are both devastated. But devastated isn’t good enough. Devastated doesn’t fix anything. Sunday has a plan.

She’s started recording everything her father says. His boring stories. His stupid jokes. Everything. She’s recording every single “I love you” righ …

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Excerpt

>_

“A weight will lift.” My father has a big cup of crushed ice that he keeps tilting side to side. It hasn’t melted enough yet. “A weight will lift,” he says.

He’s tired of having to say “I know” in that reassuring voice, again and again. “I know, Sunday. I know.” So he’s found this new way of saying it. “A weight will lift. A leaf will fall. Fresh white snow will blanket this whole sleepy town.”

“That’s very poetic,” I tell him.

He tilts his crushed ice again.

“Sunday, you are my daughter,” he says, holding out his hand for mine. I take it. “You are my daughter,” he says, “and it breaks my heart that the day has finally come for you to learn this hard and simple truth.”

His face is very serious, which is one of the ways my father smiles. He pauses, as though he’s searching for just the right words. He isn’t searching, of course. Nothing comes easier to my father than teasing me.

“The truth is that we, each and every one of us, get old and frail, Sunday. We, each and every one of us, lie down in the winter of our lives,” he tilts his ice, “to make way for the baby skunks and the excitable little porcupines which are born in the spring.” He says this in his hospital bed, wearing a flimsy bathrobe. His face is deadly earnest. He thinks he is so funny. “Poking their heads up through the frost, because it is their time now, my darling daughter. It is their time now to glitter in the sun.” Squeezing my hand like on TV.

“That’s very poetic,” I tell him again.

“You said that already,” my father says.

Very poetic,” I say.

It’s my own fault for saying the same thing every day. I don’t want you to die. I don’t want you to die.

“Snow will blanket the town,” he says, solemnly.

“Snow in the middle of July?” I say. “Oh wow, like in a metaphor?”

“Sometimes the winter comes earlier than we want,” my father says. “Sometimes the sky—”

“Okay, enough with the—” I stop myself. This is infuriating. It is meant to be infuriating. My father smiles at the crack in my voice, takes a sip from his melting crushed ice. And once again, I can see that I am arguing against death itself. A stubborn child. A little girl. I don’t want a weight to lift. I don’t want a leaf to fall.

It doesn’t matter how stupid my father’s arguments are, how clichéd his metaphors. He’s on the winning side. The cancer is everywhere. In two weeks, maybe a month, we’ll have reached the end of this twisting garden path. And he will prove me wrong. A weight will lift. A leaf will fall. Fresh white snow will blanket this whole stupid town.

 

>_

I thought Malagash would be a small town, but it is not even that. One long road, a twisting red paved loop around the north shore of Nova Scotia. There’s a tractor sitting in a field. A dirt bike leaning up against a shed. We pass a pen of llamas, who look bored as hell. The Atlantic Ocean itself comes right up to drive along beside us. Then it slips away.

In the front seat I have my phone out again. The glass and metal object that was once my phone. I’ve got nobody left to call. Which is a relief, because I’ve got no energy left to pretend. There are only so many condolences a body can sit through. Only so many updates on what you’ve missed before you don’t miss it.

I use my phone to record my mother. The thunk of potholes. Shaky video glimpses of the cottages slipping past. The waif humming to himself. The trees rushing. It records everything it can while we drive through my father’s hometown for the first time. Prim little houses spaced for privacy, each sitting on its own beautiful view of the sea. There’s an old general store with a dying neon PIZZA sign.

My mother’s voice plays over the mud. The mud stretches out to the green-grey ocean.

“A community is the polite term,” she says. “An elephants’ graveyard for people.” Laughter in her voice, like when she teases us. This place is family to her. Neither Simon nor I have ever been here, but my mom and dad had a whole life. They lived here together, before Simon or I were born. With the phone up to the window, I record what I can. There is a church, a vineyard, an abandoned salt mine somewhere beneath us, a bible camp, a wharf where lobster fishermen once set out to sea. Maybe they still do? Another wharf. Another. Wharves always look abandoned. There’s a real graveyard on both sides of the church. “Those plots are as far as some of these people ever go,” my mother says as we pass.

 

Some facts my mother remembers:

“The road is red like this from clay. They used what they had. Look how red the dirt is, too.”

“When the tide is out, you can walk forever and only ever get up to your waist.”

“Those cottages there belonged to your father’s aunt Edie and uncle Harry. Separate cottages right next door to one another. Isn’t that perfect? It saved their marriage.”

 

There was no need to convince us to move here. We didn’t plead or fight. Our father wanted to go home to Nova Scotia, to die near his mother and his childhood memories. We wanted to be with our father. The math was simple enough. Take us anywhere, as long as we can be with him. Good riddance to the rest of it.

Everything we need is here. We have our clothes. Simon has his puzzles and toys, and I have my computers. We won’t be here forever, I guess. Just for the rest of my father’s life.

 

>_

I record my father’s voice on my phone. Audio, but no video. I’m too worried about the slightness of his arms, the paleness of his skin. I record his voice because his voice still sounds right. He sounds like my father, and it is my father I want to remember.

I record him on every visit. His jokes and laughter. His calm acceptance of death. His puns. The creak in his words when he talks about my little brother, the waif. When he talks about my mother. About me. I have never listened to anything as closely as I listen to these recordings. The ups and downs of tone. The reason for every small inflection. There’s so much meaning in every stupid little thing we say.

Sometimes I hold the phone in my hand. Sometimes I set it on the table, or on the bed beside him. So the sound quality varies. It can make him feel far away, when I listen at home. Like his voice is coming to me from behind a thick hanging curtain. But that is only because he’s still alive. When he is gone, these recordings will sound closer.

I record everything. Then I copy everything to a laptop that I’ve spray-painted gold. On the laptop’s lid, I’ve stencilled an old-fashioned cross in white. I know absolutely nothing about religion. This has nothing to do with religion.

I am thorough with my recordings, but organization is a struggle. I divide them into phrases, sentences. Each recording sliced into its parts. Sometimes just single words or sounds. Sometimes just a laugh. I have so many variations of his laugh.

 

quick_laugh.wav

sharp_final_laugh.wav

long_rolling_laughter.wav

longer_laugh_together_mom.wav

sad_laugh.wav

unexpected_laugh.wav

laugh_for_me.wav

 

But the most important thing is my father’s voice. The words.

 

poetic.wav

youre_my_daughter.wav

sunday.wav

sunday_sunday_sunday_monster_truck.wav

birds_and_bees.wav

sleepy_town_blanket.wav

handsome_old.wav

chickens.wav

a_leaf.wav

 

“A weight will lift,” he says. “A leaf will fall.” I am collecting my father’s words. “Fresh white snow will blanket this whole sleepy town.”

I built a database to keep track of it all. Every file gets an entry in the database. Each filename was associated with a written transcription and with a text field where I tried to describe the context. But that wasn’t enough. So I added text fields for content, for tone, for facial expression. There’s so much that needs to be remembered. Bemusement. Mock outrage. Metaphor. It is an unusable mess of data.

At night, I play long nonsense loops of his voice to myself before I fall asleep. Like a bedtime story. Like a lullaby.

 

>_

Our room is lousy with flowers. They’re on the wallpaper, the ceiling. Carved into the doorframe. They’re painted on the too-small chairs set in front of the bookshelf. This whole room feels so strangely lost in time, like an old photograph.

The waif and I share a bunk bed. He prefers the bottom bunk, worried that he might fall in his sleep. But it doesn’t matter to me. I don’t mind the top bunk. When I am up there, it feels cut off from the room, more private. And I don’t care if I fall.

If I had a choice, I’d prefer an actual bed, and my own room. And there are two more bedrooms on this floor, but they’re not for us. One is for our uncles, when they arrive; the other is for our mother. This room is ours.

I am a bit too big for the bunk, though. My feet push against the footboard, and there is no room for a computer. Let alone three. That was going to be a problem. So I cleaned out the closet. I made it mine. The door is not soundproof, but it is dark in there, and private, and I even sort of like that I need to hug my knees to my chest to fit. So now, while my brother sleeps, I curl up in front of the machines and upload my father’s voice. I make new entries in the database.

“Good morning, Sunday,” he says. “How was the flight?”

“Who’re you typing to on that thing? A boy? Does he know any knock-knock jokes?”

“How come the cat never comes to visit? Is she mad at me?”

“You are so wonderful, Sunday.” His voice is very quiet and serious on that recording. I have a whole special tag for the recordings where he says my name. And for the ones where he says he loves me. Sometimes serious, and sometimes laughing happily.

 

update recordings_db

set tone = 'laughing happily'

where filename = wonderful.wav;

 

“Don’t tell your mother or Simon, but I love you way more than either of them,” he says.

 

update recordings_db

set tone = 'dead serious'

where filename = loves_me_most.wav;

 

The small flowers on the closet’s wallpaper flicker with computer light.

 

>_

There’s an abandoned farmhouse across the road from my grandmother’s house. The wood is bleached grey, and its roof has caved on the right side, like the house has stumbled to the left. There’s no sense of desperation to the house. It doesn’t struggle. It doesn’t thrash, or fight against its collapse. It is an elephant that has come far enough and can go no further. The proud grey husk of an animal that has earned each crease in its hide. That has lived long enough. Here is his reward.

It’s getting dark now. The sky is the only thing you can see clearly.

I’ve been sitting and watching. I want to touch the side of that old house. To put my hand on its flank and feel something creak in those big hollow lungs. But when I stand up to walk down there, the dark dissuades me. The sky still has colour, and the stars have begun to show, but the ground and shrubs along my grandmother’s driveway are gone. Vanished.

The stumbling old farmhouse is just a silhouette against the stars now. That wouldn’t be such a bad way to die. To finally stumble and fall in a field, and to accept it. To be your own gravestone. It would be childish to struggle. Childish to thrash, or fight against your collapse. Childish to try and live forever. I can see my father out in that field, calm and quiet. I am the one still thrashing. I am the one who wants him to live forever.

“Sunday, dear, are you out there?” my grandmother calls from behind me. Inside the orange glow. “Sunday, how much potato salad do you want?” Another late supper. The clatter of cutlery on flowered plates.

Look at that house, so quiet and willing. If there is a good way to die, that’s it out there. Graceful and calm in the face of inevitability.

It feels generous, almost. Beauty and reassurances are not for ourselves. Of course death will come. And of course there is no good way to die. There is no peace. A weight will not lift. A leaf will not fall. But we can pretend.

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The Bone Mother

The Bone Mother

edition:Paperback
tagged : horror

LONG—LISTED FOR THE 2017 SCOTIABANK GILLER PRIZE!

Good Children Do Taste Better Three neighbouring villages on the Ukrainian/ Romanian border are the final refuge for the last of the mythical creatures of Eastern Europe. Now, on the eve of the war that may eradicate their kind?and with the ruthless Night Police descending upon their sanctuary?they tell their stories and confront their destinies. The Rusalka, the beautiful vengeful water spirit who lives in lakes and ponds and lures men and chil …

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Walkaway

Walkaway

A Novel
edition:Paperback
also available: Hardcover

Kirkus' Best Fiction of 2017
FromNew York Times bestselling author Cory Doctorow, an epic tale of revolution, love, post-scarcity, and the end of death.
"Walkaway is now the best contemporary example I know of, its utopia glimpsed after fascinatingly-extrapolated revolutionary struggle." —William Gibson

Hubert Vernon Rudolph Clayton Irving Wilson Alva Anton Jeff Harley Timothy Curtis Cleveland Cecil Ollie Edmund Eli Wiley Marvin Ellis Espinoza—known to his friends as Hubert, Etc—was too old …

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Tarry This Night

Tarry This Night

edition:Paperback

A powerful dystopian novel set during a new American civil war, about a polygamist cult leader and his followers.

In this eerily relevant, cautionary novel, a civil war is brewing in America. Below ground, a cult led by the deluded and narcissistic Father Ernst is ensconced in an underground bunker, waiting out the conflict. When the "Family" runs out of food, Ruth, coming of age and terrified of serving as Ernst's next wife, must choose between obeying her faith and fighting for survival. Cousin …

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American War

American War

A Novel
edition:Paperback
also available: Hardcover

Shortlisted for the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize
A Globe and Mail Best Book
A New York Times Notable Book of the Year
A Quill & Quire Best Book of 2017
An audacious and powerful debut novel: a second American Civil War, a devastating plague, and one family caught deep in the middle -- a story that asks what might happen if America were to turn its most devastating policies and deadly weapons upon itself.

Sarat Chestnut, born in Louisiana, is only six when the Second American Civil War brea …

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Excerpt

An ancient heirloom wristwatch lay upon a rock in the middle of the creek like so many of the functionally deceased things the refugees carried with them—the washed-out photos and the obsolete or corrupted stores of memory and the keys to homes long since bombed out or otherwise demolished—it bore a vital link to some distant, happier past.
“Used to be my grandfather’s,” Ethan said. “My mom’s gonna kill me if I don’t get it back.”
        “So go in there and get it,” Sarat said.
        “Don’t be gross. I’m not gonna step in shit.”
        Another boy whispered something in Ethan’s ear. He liste3ned and nodded.
        “Why don’ you get it, Sarat?” he said. “I’ll give you fifty bucks if you do.”
        Sarat shrugged. “All right.”
Once more she pushed the boys aside and walked away from the creek, toward the nearest tents. A few of the children followed, among them Ethan, who held Sarat by the wrist and warned her against telling any grown-ups.
“I’m not telling anybody,” Sarat said, shaking the boy’s hand loose. “Stop being so scared of everything.”
She walked between two tents, where an unused clothesline hung. She unhooked the metal holders on either tent and rolled the line around her fist. Then she returned to the creek. The children followed.
At the banks she uncoiled the line and tossed it into the ditch. On her first try she fired too far left and then overcompensated. But on the third throw the hook landed just past the rock on which the watch was stranded. Slowly she pulled on the line.
“Careful, careful!” Ethan cried from behind her. “You’re gonna knock it in.”
“Be quiet,” Sarat said.
        She tugged gently on the line until the metal hook rested on the rock just beside the watch. With surgeon’s hands she edged the hook closer until it dislodged the watch from its place. The watch began to slide down the polished side of the rock toward the stream, but caught on the edge of the hook. A couple of the children yelped in triumph.
“You got it!” Ethan yelled. “Pull it in, pull it in.”
        “Hold on,” Sarat said. “Give me that bat of yours.”
One of the boys picked up a baseball bat nearby and handed it to Sarat. With the line still in her left hand, she lifted the bat with her right. She held it as far in front of her as she could without losing her balance. Slowly she began lifting it up underneath the line to create a pivot point. Then she reeled in the catch. The hook lifted, the watch rising with it. As it came off the rock the watch swung and skimmed across the surface of the creek. Coiling the line around her wrist, Sarat pulled the watch in and set it on the ground.
She turned to Ethan. “Pay up,” she said.
The boys stared at the watch on the ground as though it had landed from outer space. Finally Ethan pulled a wad of Redbacks from his pocket and paid Sarat what he owed her.
The children began to disperse. Some of the boys revived their baseball game, a little further away from the creek this time. One of the younger girls, whom Sarat did not know, offered to return the clothesline for her.
As she made to leave, Sarat was approached by another of the boys, a fourteen-year-old from Georgia named Michael. She knew him only tangentially. He was the older brother of a boy named Thomas, who as a toddler had suffered a shrapnel injury that had frozen his mind at the age of two. The older brother had been sleeping in the same bed the night the Birds came, but through blind chance had escaped uninjured.
“Hey, Sarat—wait, girl, where are you going so fast?” Michael said. He pointed at the creek. “I’ll give you another fifty if you go in.”
The departing children halted. Sarat eyed them, and then Michael. He was wiry and lanky, swimming inside his too-big Sinopec Solar T-shirt, a hand-me-down from the Augusta docks.
Sarat said nothing.
“C’mon now,” Michael said. “You ain’t scared, are you?”
He had pasted on his face a smirk with which Sarat was well acquainted. She’d seen the same look on so many of the other boys’ faces over the years. A self-satisfied grin. It was the smirk of knowing he’d left her with an impossible choice—step in the river of filth or be labeled a coward.
Even then, at such a young age, she understood that smile for what it was: a mask atop fear, a balm, for the crippling insecurity of childhoods deeply damaged. They were fragile boys who wore it, and their fragility demanded manage. Sarat knew the boys better than they knew themselves. And she knew there was no winning this dare. That was the point—for there to be no winning, only different magnitudes of losing.
“How do I know you’re not lying,” she said.

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Sputnik’s Children

Sputnik’s Children

A Novel
edition:eBook
also available: Paperback
tagged : literary

A literary, genre-bending novel full of heart

Cult comic book creator Debbie Reynolds Biondi has been riding the success of her Cold War era–inspired superhero series, Sputnik Chick: Girl with No Past, for more than 25 years. But with the comic book losing fans and Debbie struggling to come up with new plotlines for her badass, mutant-killing heroine, she decides to finally tell Sputnik Chick’s origin story.

Debbie’s never had to make anything up before and she isn’t starting now. Sputnik …

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Little Sister

Little Sister

A Novel
edition:Hardcover
also available: eBook Paperback
tagged : literary

The farthest place you can go is closer than you can imagine.

Rose is a sensible woman, thirty-four years old. Together with her widowed mother, Fiona, she runs a small repertory cinema in a big city. Fiona is in the early stages of dementia and is beginning to make painful references to Rose’s sister, Ava, who died young in an accident.

It is high summer, and a band of storms, unusual for their frequency and heavy downpour, is rolling across the city. Something unusual is also happening to Ros …

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